Author Archives: Patrick J

A Few of My Favorite Things: The Volume Scorers Edition

J.R. Rider

Coronavirus lockdown has taken us from a state of “I’m addicted to my iPhone and frenetic news cycles” to “I haven’t seen NBA basketball in two-and-a-half months and ‘I can haz NBA classic games?’” In the absence of the present-day NBA, we’ve been taking a deeper look at the past. At risk of heresy–and as much as I wish COVID-19 hadn’t forced the league to suspend the season–I can say that I’ve enjoyed the looks back. While the ESPN documentary The Last Dance, on Michael Jordan and the Bulls, captured the most attention, the Timberwolves have also had an interesting history, replete with bumbles, stumbles, heroes, villains, and other sundry characters. The time off from normalcy has forged some kind of interest in revisiting the Wolves’ weird history and some of the team’s most-interesting characters. 

I’ve been watching the Timberwolves obsessively since the team tipped off its first game on day one of the 1989-90 season ‘til the novel coronavirus put the team out of its misery in March. Since then, I’ve been reading and thinking about how to synthesize 30-plus years of Wolves watching from my own selfish fan’s perspective. Not scientifically, but in light of the oddities and things I’ve found the most interesting in my mind’s own catalog. Hopefully my fever dreams and ramblings will amuse you also. 

Be forewarned: lots of opinions and takes will follow. No, you won’t agree with all of them. But that isn’t the point. Some might fly over your head. Others might go under-the-radar as extreme Wolves-geek esoterica. Some might seem silly. It’s free content, so what do you have to lose? Buyer beware.


Volume Scorers

This edition of A Few of My Favorite Things discusses Wolves players whom I consider to belong to one important category of my favorite things–volume scorers. After all of you efficiency nerds stop rolling your eyes and fidgeting with your TI-86s, I hope you’ll enjoy the ride. No, this listicle won’t take you to the hallowed nirvana of hoops efficiency, but it might jog some memories you can jam to while you await the return of real, live, basketball.

So, here is the short list of *my*–not necessarily your–favorite volume-scorers who donned a Wolves uniform, along with a few random stats that jumped out at me in revisiting their basketball-reference.com pages and some video for those of you who are visual learners or simply appreciate the craft.

Jamal Crawford: J-Crossover had the best handle of anyone who made the list; yes, that means something to me. Brought in by Tom Thibodeau before the 2017-18 season, Crawford played just one season in Minnesota. While wasn’t even a starter, he was the guy who came off the bench to provide buckets. Did he play defense? No. Were his peripheral stats good? Nope. Again, that isn’t the point. This is about volume scoring and the art therein as seen through one observer’s eyes. Aside from handling the ball better than you everyone, volume-scoring is J-Crossover’s basketball mantra. Crawford, who had not retired but remained unsigned when the 2019-20 season was suspended, is probably in a gym somewhere in the Seattle area embarrassing people and teaching his craft to the next generation of Pacific coast ballers. One can rest assured that J-Crossover is *still* a fierce bucket-getter and will be until he’s a very old man. (Editor’s note: Sort of like a real-life version of Uncle Drew, perhaps, with far less grey hair.) Crawford deserves remembrance from Wolves fans for bringing that energy to ‘Sota for a year. Here’s a reminder of some things J-Craw did in his lone season in ‘Sota:

  • James “Hollywood” Robinson: There’s a very special spot in my heart for James Hollywood Robinson, who was one of the Timberwolves’ first–and most brashly unrepentant–volume scorers. He also had the coolest nickname of anyone on this list whose literal nickname isn’t “Ricky Buckets.” Robinson did two stints in Minnesota, in 1996-97 and again 1998-99. Hollywood had his limitations: he never started full-time or average double-figures. In fact, Robinson shot at a sub-40% clip for his career. But whatever he lacked in substance, he made up in style, specializing in high degree of difficulty shots for which a fan can forgive a showman on a below-average team. And he made some mediocreish Wolves teams at least a little bit more fun to watch. At 6’2’’, Robinson was an unconventional shooting guard before the “combo guard” had really come back into vogue in the early 2000s. He made the Star Tribune’s “Moments of Glory” series for scoring 23 points in 9:35 minutes in the fourth quarter of a game he tilted from a blowout loss to…well, it ended as a 12-point loss to the Terrell Brandon-led Cavs. Repeat with me: 23 points in 10 minutes. That projects out to 110 points per 48. Wilt Chamberlain, eat your heart out. A final thing about Hollywood that should be enough by itself to vouch for his elite showmanship: someone (Editor’s note: Maybe him?) uploaded a video to YouTube entitled “Greatest Dunk Yell Ever.” (Editor’s note: Robinson also has some ridiculously cool college highlights from his time at Alabama, if you’re feeling adventurous.) Check it out.
  • Rashad McCants: Rashad McCants played for some truly putrid Wolves teams: in his four seasons in Minnesota, spanning from a relatively small role on the Transition to The Lottery 2005-06 squad to the miserable teams of subsequent seasons, until the Wolves traded him midseason to the Kings in 2008-09. While McCants was in town, the Wolves never won more than 33 games. McCants seemed to revel in the role of “volume-scorer-on-a-bad-team.” Did McCants actively make the team worse? Maybe, maybe not. It’s complicated. Okay, okay: there’s reason to suspect he did: in his rookie season–the 33-win-season–he had the likes of KG and the late, great Eddie Griffin on the roster alongside him. By the end, McCants was surrounded by this group, which was so bad collectively it is difficult to pinpoint the blame. (Editor’s note: I appreciate Brian Cardinal and Craig Smith as much as anyone, but rookie K-Love wasn’t like current K-Love and the team’s pieces didn’t fit together well.)

But Shaddy McCants had a knack for getting buckets, with a tough-to-defend rocker step, a well-developed post game, and a soft jump shot at his disposal. At 6’4’’, McCants looked a bit undersized for a shooting guard, but this bag of tricks enabled him to consistently put buckets on the heads of bigger defenders. After a foray into acting, McCants washed out of the league after a brief sojourn in Sacramento and was last seen carrying the Trilogy, of Ice Cube’s Big3 league, to the league’s inaugural championship in 2017. Here’s a video of McCants’ glory days in Minnesota.

  • Anthony Peeler: AP came to the Wolves after stops with the Lakers and Grizzlies. He was perhaps not as much of a chucker as the others in my top-5, and he played a valuable role with some solid KG-led Wolves squads between 1997-98 and 2002-03. Peeler wasn’t a big scorer–he didn’t average double-figures in his overall tenure with the Wolves–but Peeler’s game and gravitas strongly indicated a volume-scorer’s mentality, which is what initially fetched my attention while he was a college star at Missouri in the ‘90s. Also, the music in this highlight mix:
  • Ricky “Buckets” Davis: Ricky “Buckets” Davis, aka “Grits N Gravy,” aka “Slick Rick,” was volume-everything. Davis, who played at Iowa (!), was primarily a gunner, and he infamously demonstrated how much of a statshound he was when he took and intentionally missed a buzzer beater at the opposing team’s hoop so he could scoop up a cheap rebound needed to consummate a meaningless triple-double he ended up notching that night. In reality, Davis was actually a surprisingly good–if only an occasionally willing—passer. That said, few among Ricky’s sizable fanbase were tuning in to see him getting nifty assists. They were there for the buckets.
  • J.R. Rider: Last but not least is my favorite volume-scorer in Wolves history, Isaiah “J.R.” Rider. What separated J.R. from the rest is that, with the exception of Crawford, he was not only a volume scorer, he was also a really competent NBA player. The kind that can help a good team while doing his thing. See, most volume scorers are just niche guys–sometimes, they’re derisively called ”professional scorers.” You’ve seen the type, and you know it when you see it. They’re skilled craftsmen at the art of getting buckets. But they can’t offer the full suite of tools one needs to stand out in the league. Many, like Robinson and McCants, are undersized; some are unathletic; others just can’t defend anybody. These are players who might make a useful 6th man on a decent team. These abilities are what separates Rider, who started his turbulent nine-year career in Minnesota, and went on to lead some solid Portland teams in scoring en route to a playoff berth in each season he played there. The 1997-98 Trailblazers, for example, were a solid 46-36, and Rider led the team in scoring at 19.7 points per game (five points more than their second-leading scorer, Rasheed Wallace). To be sure, in the ‘90s the NBA wasn’t the high-scoring league it is now. But Rider still filled it up. You can check his resume: J.R. led the NCAA in scoring his junior year at UNLV before being drafted fifth overall by the Wolves before the 1993-94 season. In his three seasons in Minnesota, he either led or was tied for the team’s highest average ppg each year while winning a memorable dunk contest as well–a further testament to the kind of flair and showmanship that radiated from his body whenever he stepped on the court. 

Conclusion: Honorable Mentions

These are some other guys I thought about adding to the list but ultimately left off for various reasons. Troy Hudson probably deserved more love in this article, but c’est la vie. Rest assured, he could get buckets.

  • Shabazz Muhammad
  • Tony Campbell
  • Troy Hudson
  • Gerald Glass

Till next time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Timberwolves

The Punch-Drunk Podcast (ep. 17): The Preseason Edition

jmp 004 Timberwolves Media Day

Commentary on the Minnesota Timberwolves and the National Basketball Association.

Continue reading

Comments Off on The Punch-Drunk Podcast (ep. 17): The Preseason Edition

Filed under Podcasts

The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Episode 16

In which we discuss the Timberwolves near the season’s end point, player development, potential draft prospects, and more.

Comments Off on The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Episode 16

Filed under Podcasts

The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Episode 15

Ricky Rubio has been the subject of recent trade rumors

Ricky Rubio has been the subject of recent trade rumors

In which we discuss the Timberwolves at the midseason point, Ricky Rubio trade rumors, how the Wolves’ young core compares to others, and potential 2017 draft prospects.

1 Comment

Filed under NBA Draft, Podcasts, Timberwolves

INBOX: Over/Unders, Pek, KG

Nikola Pekovic’s injuries could force him to sit on the Wolves bench for the entire 2016-17 season

Nikola Pekovic’s injuries could force him to sit on the Wolves bench for the entire 2016-17 season

Timberwolves training camp opens on Monday with their annual Media Day. Once the players and coaches are on the floor, doing actual basketball stuff, we’ll be better equipped to carry on substantive Wolves discussion. Meanwhile, there are a couple of team issues and one gambling-related Wolves item to kick around in these final dog days of NBA offseason. 

Over/Unders

Andy G: Vegas released its NBA over/unders. That’s always a fun and interesting wrinkle to the “gearing up for the season” #process.

Let’s cut to the chase:

The gamblers set the Wolves at 41.5 wins.

They won 29 last season.

They won 15 the season before that.

Is picking 42 or more wins a crazy proposition?

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under INBOX, Timberwolves

INBOX: Thoughts on Kris Dunn’s Upcoming Rookie Season

 

Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn

 

Kris Dunn’s rookie peers recently selected him as “most likely to win NBA Rookie of the Year.” Yes, that sounds a lot like a high-school yearbook superlative.

Believe it or not, the superlatives do not always reveal the truth: the 2015-16 equivalent was 76ers big man Jahlil Okafor, who had all kinds of times. But he was not nearly as good as Karl Towns.

So, what have we got here? Much ado about nothing? Or does Dunn’s selection (probably) portend special things for his career? It’s early, but it’s the internet. So why not discuss? We discuss some initial thoughts on Kris Dunn below the fold.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Timberwolves

The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Episode 14

pingpong-lbj-2003-apjpg-2b589226cc1538be

In which we look ahead at the Wolves options in the NBA Draft.

1 Comment

Filed under Podcasts, Timberwolves

Remembering Rambis: Some High (But Mostly Low) Lights of the Kurt and Kahn Era

Kurt_Rambis

Andy G: So Kurt Rambis is somehow coaching an NBA team again, and that team plays at Target Center tonight. Knicks vs. Wolves. It’s natural to use this chance to look back on his time in ‘Sota. Kurt’s first Wolves team won 15 games. His second Wolves team won 17 games. I’d imagine no franchise in league history has gone consecutive seasons without winning even 18 games, but I don’t know that for sure.

Let’s cut to the chase: What was your favorite “lowlight” of the Rambis Era? (Eds note: Should we really be calling this the “Kahnbis” Era?Was it starting Darko and Ryan Hollins over Kevin Love for much of the 2009-10 season? Because that one is pretty hilarious especially if — like us — you’re not a K-Love fan.

Patrick J: My favorite lowlight of the Kahnbis era was what it did for the self-loathing crowd, writ large, which makes up much of the (hardcore) Timberwolves fan base. (Eds. Note: You know who you are, guys, it’s okay.) So let’s drill down: There were two big moments for me. First, the Kahn molecule fused with the Rambis one to create Kahnbis. That is, David Kahn got to have a large say in a big decision that shaped subsequent years of the franchise’s prospects. We know how it turned out. Still, if you’re Vegas, you love David Kahn The Gambler. Second, Kahnbis criminally shat on Kevin Love when the majority of the fan base could see that we had something in Love. It did nothing to humble Love – and it probably emboldened him – but it was entertaining in that je ne sais quois shadenfreude way. (Eds. Note: Insert other passive aggressive foreign words here.) The memory that stands out is Rambis taking perhaps the worst possible paternalistic to Love, which was one part dismissive and another part passive-aggressive. As much as I dislike Kevin Love – not because I don’t respect his skills, but because of most everything else – would it have been possible to treat him worse? And what should we think more of Love for becoming what he is – as imperfect as that is – in spite of the “coaching” Kurt gave him?

Continue reading

Comments Off on Remembering Rambis: Some High (But Mostly Low) Lights of the Kurt and Kahn Era

Filed under Timberwolves

Fun with the Eye Test

LSU's Ben Simmons

LSU’s Ben Simmons

Eds. Note: We decided to watch two of the highest touted players in this year’s upcoming NBA Draft, LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram. We basically flipped back and forth between the games and did ad-hoc eye tests of the two players. Be warned: This is not an analytics piece, it’s a fun comparison piece. Your mileage may vary. Have fun.

Continue reading

Comments Off on Fun with the Eye Test

Filed under Timberwolves

The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Episode 13

In which we discuss this and more.

Histogram of Death

 

Check out out on iTunes.

Comments Off on The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Episode 13

Filed under Podcasts

INBOX: Why is Shabazz Muhammad Struggling So Far?

CREDIT: Todd Bigelow (Photo by Todd Bigelow /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

CREDIT: Todd Bigelow (Photo by Todd Bigelow /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Andy G: Any theories on why Shabazz Muhammad is struggling so far? After his 2014-15 breakout season was interrupted by injury, Shabazz came to training camp in the best shape of his life. Big(-ish) things were expected. Certainly bigger than what he has shown in the Wolves’ first seven games.

Patrick J: I have several theories, some of which are better than others. In no particular order:

(1) His playing time fluctuates and he doesn’t know his role.

(2) He isn’t playing to his strengths like he used to because he “expanded his game” over the summer and is still trying to figure out when/where to use his new skillz within the framework of his role.

(3) He isn’t used to playing with ball movers like Rubio and Towns. Those guys are obviously a net + for the offense, but Bazz came up playing without any good passers, so he focused all of his attention on being a junkyard dog who made his own offense from offensive rebounding and general relentlessness rather than exploiting good spacing and passing from talented teammates.

(4) Some combination of 1, 2, and 3.

(5) He’s afraid that if he makes a mistake, Smitch will pull him. (Bazz needs to play off of instinct. If he thinks too much, he’s a step behind everyone else and consequently struggles.)

(6) Personal issues we’re unaware of.

What say you?

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under INBOX

The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Ep. 12: A New Day

In which we discuss Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio, and early impressions on the 2015-16 Wolves season.

(Eds. Note: We taped this yesterday. As usual, we had some technical difficulties during this one. ymmv.)

Subscribe on iTunes.

Comments Off on The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Ep. 12: A New Day

Filed under Podcasts

The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Ep. 11: The Offseason

In which we discuss Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett’s Team Canada exploits, Carmelo Anthony’s early free-agency recruitment of Kevin Durant, and offer (tongue-in-cheek) “sneaky 2015-16 predictions” for each player on the Wolves’ roster.

(Eds. Note: We had some technical difficulties during this one. ymmv.)

Subscribe on iTunes.

Comments Off on The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Ep. 11: The Offseason

Filed under Podcasts

Vegas, Baby, Vegas: The 2015 Timberwolves Summer League Edition

Towns and LaVine, postgame antics

Towns and LaVine, postgame antics

The last time we posted, it was June 29, and Andy G mused about the Wolves’ 2015 draft, in which they selected the much-haralded Karl-Anthony Towns #1 overall and pulled off a trade to get back into the first round to draft Apple Valley native and Duke Final Four hero Tyus Jones at number 24.

Much of the reaction to the draft fell into a few different bins. One bin could be called “Yay, we took Karl-Anthony Towns #1!” This encompassed most of Wolves fandom, at least that segment of which is most active on Twitter and websites like Canis Hoopus. Towns was the consensus top player overall and Wolves brass finally made the obvious correct choice: they got the player that analysts and smart fans expect to be the best player from this draft. Towns fills a position of need for the Timberwolves. Nikola Pekovic, the brutish but oft-injured Montenegrin who is under contract with the Wolves through the 2017–18 season, has foot injuries that may end up threatening his career. He can’t be counted on as an integral anchor for the Wolves at center as the rest of the team blossoms under the leadership of rising stars like Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio, not to mention intriguing prospects like Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine. Kevin Garnett is also back in the fold, on a two-year, $16 million deal. But Garnett cannot be fully counted-on either, for he is too old and too often injured. His return appears more as foreshadowing his move into ownership and management with Flip Saunders and Glen Taylor than it does a productive output on the floor this season or next. The bottom-line is, the Wolves had a need at Center. As a marvelously skilled big man, Towns should eliminate that need altogether.

A second bin of Wolves draft-related conversation could be called “We took Tyus Jones! He’s from Minnesota!” I’ll talk a bit about Jones first, and then discuss my reactions to Karl Towns.

Continue reading

Comments Off on Vegas, Baby, Vegas: The 2015 Timberwolves Summer League Edition

Filed under Timberwolves

Because everyone else is doing it

The Wolves got lucky

 

After last season’s stank tank, the Wolves got lucky in the lottery for the first time in their history. With the first pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Karl Towns of the University of Kentucky (Adam Silver voice).

The Wolves got their man. They gave the people what they want. The celebration is on. Enjoy the moment.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under NBA Draft

NBA Draft Notes on Duke’s Prospects, from a Dookie, Part II: The Justise Winslow Edition

Justise Winslow

Justise Winslow

(Eds. Note: This is the second part of a three-part series of guest posts from friend of the blog Jon Wallace (@jonwallace3), a Duke graduate, current Washington, DC resident, great American, and die-hard Blue Devils fan.)

Part I: Jahlil Okafor

Draft Notes from a Dookie

Hi again, I’m Jon W. You might be familiar with me from Part I of this series, on Jahlil Okafor’s NBA prospects, or from the post I wrote here a while back in which I compared and contrasted John Wall and Ricky Rubio.

Please excuse my brief indulgence into the draft and NBA career prospects of the Duke early entry candidates from an unabashed Duke homer. This team has been one of my favorite sports teams to follow in my lifetime so there is no way I can be unbiased in the evaluation of these three players. That said, I will try to give you my honest and candid opinions as to the strengths, weaknesses, and NBA prospects of Jahlil Okafor, rising prospect Justise Winslow, and Minnesota native Tyus Jones. There’s bigtime interest in these guys in Timberwolves circles–and for good reason.

I’ll spend this post on Winslow–who is the most athletic of the three and is projected to go as high as fourth overall. Part III of this series will be on Tyus Jones. Read on below the fold for more on Justise Winslow.

Continue reading

Comments Off on NBA Draft Notes on Duke’s Prospects, from a Dookie, Part II: The Justise Winslow Edition

Filed under Guest Posts, NBA Draft, PDW ASSAULT

NBA Draft Notes on Duke’s Prospects, from a Dookie, Part I: The Jahlil Okafor Edition

Jahlil Okafor: Future Timberwolf?

Jahlil Okafor: Future Timberwolf?

(Eds. Note: This is a guest post from friend of the blog Jon Wallace (@jonwallace3), a Duke graduate, current Washington, DC resident, great American, and die-hard Blue Devils fan.)

Draft Notes from a Dookie

Hi, I’m Jon W. You might be familiar with me.

Please excuse my brief indulgence into the draft and NBA career prospects of the Duke early entry candidates from an unabashed Duke homer. This team has been one of my favorite sports teams to follow in my lifetime so there is no way I can be unbiased in the evaluation of these three players.

That said, I will try to give you my honest and candid opinions as to the strengths, weaknesses, and NBA prospects of Jahlil Okafor, Minnesota native Tyus Jones, and rising prospect Justise Winslow. There’s interest in these guys in Minnesota.

This is for good reason. I’ll spend this post on Okafor–who is the most realistic future T-Wolves player, and the best prospect of the three. My next two posts will be on Jones and Winslow.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Guest Posts, NBA Draft, PDW ASSAULT, Timberwolves

Punch-Drunk Podcast: Wiggins, LaVine, and the Season

In which we discuss Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, and Sean (Mc)Sweeney.

Check out the podcast below the fold and subscribe on iTunes!

Continue reading

Comments Off on Punch-Drunk Podcast: Wiggins, LaVine, and the Season

Filed under Podcasts

INBOX: The Lows and Highs of the Timberwolves’ Stank-Tank and Rick Adelman vs. Flip Saunders

Rick and Flip

Rick and Flip

The Lows and Highs of the Wolves’ Stank-Tank

Andy G: You and I are in complete agreement on the initial question of whether the Timberwolves are (and have been) tanking, this year.

They are.

We don’t need to beat that dead horse.

But let’s talk a bit more about what their tanking methods have done — both good and bad — and what they tell us about this team, its coach, and its future.

I’ll let you start: with respect to the tanking the Wolves have done this year, what parts have bothered you most, and are there aspects (aside from the boosted draft position) that you think have had positive effects (whether anticipated/calculated, or not)?

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under INBOX

Some Thoughts on What the Kevin Garnett Trade Might Mean to Kevin Garnett

Prelude: Garnett’s Homecoming

What will Kevin Garnett’s return to Minnesota bring to the Wolves and the state of basketball in Minnesota? The trade still has everyone excited. Some of it is sentimentality about “The Kid” who grew up in front of our eyes. He became the franchise’s best player ever, brought the Wolves to the playoffs eight straight times and to the brink of the Finals once. He was our team’s only league MVP. A lot of the best (and a few of the worst) moments in team history are tied up in Kevin Garnett, and his time spent in a Timberwolves uniform. There’s going to be a buzz when The Kid returns to the place it all began.

There’s been some discussion of Garnett’s likely impact on the team, but little about what Garnett might be thinking about coming back to Minnesota. How does he see this affecting his legacy? What does he want to accomplish. It sounds like he wants to become an owner of this team, but why ownership? And why own the Wolves? You know he’s a student of NBA history and that he thinks about this stuff—and takes it seriously.

Garnett himself has been mum about what his end game is in Minnesota. I delve into some possible angles below the fold.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Features, Timberwolves