Category Archives: INBOX

Twofer: A Win at The Garden, on to Cleveland

kyrie

The Timberwolves travel to Cleveland tonight to face Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers. Artwork by Holly Grimsrud (hollygrimsrudart.com)

Andy G: Last night, the Timberwolves beat the Knicks and improved their record to 3-0. This marks only the second time in 25 seasons of franchise existence that the team won its first three games. Setting aside what that statistic says about the past, it is a small, early accomplishment worth feeling good about on the season’s first Monday morning. An undefeated start is especially impressive considering that the Wolves faced Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony in consecutive matchups.

The Wolves won the game at the foul line, where they made 29 out of a whopping 38 attempts. (The Knicks only shot 13.) After a blowout first quarter of steals and pass-ahead assists to Brewer and Love, it was all about survival. Carmelo eventually started making shots and the Knicks cut the deficit to 2 with 4:48 to go. But Kevin Martin converted a technical foul free throw, followed it up with a three-pointer (his fifth of the night; he scored a wildly-efficient 30 points on 12 shots) and the game never got close again.

Patrick J, what’s up with the crazy free throw disparity?

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Timberwolves Season Preview: The Trent and Mikey Version

pekswingers

Pek is so money. But does he know it?

The NBA season is less than 24 hours away. The Timberwolves begin theirs on Wednesday Night versus the Magic. For the past six months we’ve relied on secondary sources to satisfy our appetite for pro basketball:

The Timberwolves-less playoffs and Miami’s championship repeat. David Kahn’s departure and Flip Saunders’s arrival. The draft. The Vegas League. Free agency and welcoming Kevin Martin to Minnesota (and welcoming Corey Brewer *back* to Minnesota). Pek’s new contract. Rick Adelman’s eventual, inconspicuous announcement that he will return to coach another season. Media Day. And, most recently, the training camp and preseason.

Beginning this week we can get back to the real stuff — the primary stuff. The games that actually matter.

In Case You Missed Them: There are a ton of great preview pieces out there. Hardwood Paroxysm and SB Nation put together comprehensive collections of team-by-team previews. Kevin Pelton forecast the Wolves season for ESPN Insider. (SCHOENE!) Bill and Jalen recorded short videos for The Grantland Channel for each team, which have been highly entertaining and mostly insightful. Bethlehem Shoals posted 30 Teams, 30 Questions preview for GQ that you have to check out. And the great Britt Robson has commenced a three-part NBA Preview at MinnPost, to include a Wolves-specific piece on Wednesday.

The bottom line is, if you want to be familiar with the issues facing the Timberwolves or any other team heading into the 2013-14 season, the information is out there for you.

Here at PDW, we’ll outline the basic discussion topics and add our two cents on the upcoming Timberwolves season. As always, thanks for reading.

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Basketball Combat: What’s Cool and What Isn’t

Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball

Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball

Andy G: I don’t remember the 80s Pistons very well. I know they won back-to-back titles, I know the names of their core players, and I know they earned the “Bad Boys” nickname for physical play that often crossed the line into dirty and dangerous tactics. Especially against Michael Jordan. Bill Laimbeer in particular was known for being a controversial “enforcer” type. There was an NES game named, “Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball,” set in the future with Laimbeer commissioning a basketball league without rules and — importantly — WITH weapons. Larry Bird told Bill Simmons that he carries a grudge to this day against Laimbeer for the cheap shots he took against his great Celtics teams.

So I had a basic understanding of what the Pistons — and Laimbeer specifically — represented in the 80s NBA. But until reading David Halberstam’s “Playing for Keeps,” I didn’t realize the full extent of just how unlikeable “Billy Lamb” really was, as an NBA player.

From Halberstam:

What [Jack] McCloskey and [Chuck] Daly soon noticed about [Bill Laimbeer] was that he seemed to have little love for the game of basketball itself; indeed, Daly was never sure he even liked the game. He was a terrible practice player, and before games, when he was being taped, he often complained to…the trainer about the degree of mental fatigue he was suffering from, as if he could not play one more game. He was the first person to leave the gym every day after almost every workout, almost never sticking around as most players did to work a little extra on their shooting.

Laimbeer was not an easy person to deal with. He was a verbal bully off the court and something of a physical bully on it. He was deliberately rude to reporters in the Pistons’ locker room, and when, before a game, the time alloted to journalists there was coming to an end, he did his own countdown…He was a dirty player, and he knew it; it was the only way, given his physical limitations, he could stay in the league. Sometimes he boasted of what he had done after a game–the cheap shots he had gotten away with and how it had caused a more gifted player, say, [Robert] Parish or [Kareem] Abdul-Jabbar, to lose his cool. “It’s a mental game, not a physical one,” he would say. He was despised in most other arenas by opposing fans, and many opposing players actively disliked him, believing he was quite willing to inflict career-ending injuries on them if it suited his purpose and that he would do it casually, out of what seemed like innate malice.

Nor did he make it easy on his own coaches and teammates. He often seemed unusually spoiled. He was willfully rude to the coaches, even to Daly, who was giving him his big chance, and in the constant byplay between coach and players he not only failed to be supportive of Daly but often seemed openly dissident…As for his teammates, he was often blunt and rude with them in the locker room, flaunting his conservative politics. If someone mentioned his lack of grace with them, he would say, “I don’t plan on having any of these guys as my friends when I’m finished here.”

Laimbeer and [Isiah] Thomas roomed together during their first camp, and Thomas thought that Laimbeer could not have been more different from him: tall, white, upper middle class. His father was the head of a company, and therefore Laimbeer was said to be the rare NBA player who for a time did not make as much money as his father. He was a Republican and an atheist, whereas Thomas was ghetto-reared, black, a Democrat, and seriously religious.

My question to you then is:

Bill Laimbeer: Most uncool player ever?

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INBOX: Wolves Preseason: Minnesota Loses to Toronto 104-97, Now With More Othyus Jeffers

Patrick J: The Wolves were defeated by the Raptors last night 104-97. The Raps are a surprisingly good 3-1 on the preseason.

A few notes:

*Kevin Love: Kevin Love played like Kevin Love. He looks more and more like Daniel Plainview by the year. Which is actually pretty cool, because that’s the kind of ruthless competitiveness the Wolves need in order to become an elite team in the Western Conference. Love played well in the minutes he got last night, shooting 9-19 (Eds. Note: Many of those missed shots were misses of his own putbacks, for which he got credit for offensive rebounds, which eventually led to makes.) K-Love is in great shape, and, barring injury, he should be a shoo-in on the All-Star team this season.

*Ricky Rubio: Ricky shot like Ricky, which is to say, 0-7. But he made an impact whilst on the floor, finding open cutters and shooters unlike any other Wolves player entrusted with the ball whilst Ricky was on the bench. Ricky had 6 assists in 28 minutes, and this was good for a +8. He’s (obviously) a very legit point guard coming into this season, and will only improve when he has real wing options off the pick and roll. (Chase, get well soon! You too, Kevin Mart!)

What’s your take?

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INBOX: The Wolves Preseason Offense Edition

Here's a snapshot of what the Wolves' offensive sets have often looked like

Here’s a snapshot of what the Wolves’ offensive sets have often looked like. Hi-Tech stuff here (don’t mind the DVR pause bar).

THE WOLVES SO FAR

So, there’s been a lot written already about the Wolves and the players’ individual performances so far during the preseason.

The Offense

Patrick J:  One angle that has gotten less attention is some of the sets that the Wolves have tried to run – with, shall we say, “mixed” results.

The set basically looks like this: Ricky takes the inbounds pass, dribbles past half court, quickly passes to a wing and cuts through to the strongside corner. The idea is that a post–often Kevin Love–will make himself available for a high-post entry. Then, the ball is in Love’s hands and the offense flows from there. The idea, I think is that Love will either be able to score the ball from the elbow, take a dribble and pass or score, or drive the ball off of a jab fake and get to the rim.

This offensive set seems to meet with limited success. The fly in the ointment is Ricky. Two reasons: (1) he isn’t great without the ball in his hands, and (2) he isn’t a credible threat to make a kickout catch-and-shoot opportunity from the corner. So, his defender can basically fade to crowd the high post and make the options for the high-post man that much more difficult to execute.

So, if this is to be one of the Wolves’ go-to sets, can it work? Should Kevin Martin basically have the Rubio responsibility–if and when he’s healthy again–to put a real threat in the strong-side corner? What gives?

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INBOX: Are the Heat still hated? (Now with more Ricky Buckets and Master P)

beas & lebron

The Heat welcome back the affable-but-troubled Mike Beasley. Does this pickup, along with the Greg Oden signing, flip the script on whether to cheer for the Heat?

Andy G: In I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman devotes a chapter to hating rock bands.  He runs through a list of every band he’s ever hated, explains the specific point in his life, and why that particular group evoked irrationally negative feelings from him.  The chapter is largely focused on The Eagles.  In the end, Klosterman forms the discomfiting conclusion that he now no longer possesses the capacity to hate rock bands.  Even The Eagles.  (He included the band three different times on his list.)

He explains why this is problematic:

Being emotionally fragile is an important part of being a successful critic; it’s an integral element to being engaged with mainstream art, assuming you aspire to write about it in public.  If you hate everything, you’re a banal asshole . . . but if you don’t hate anything, you’re boring.  You’re useless.  And you end up writing about why you can no longer generate fake feelings that other people digest as real.

Klosterman goes on to explain his “brain’s unwillingness to hold an unexplained opinion,” and articulates a general feeling that I’ve struggled with on this blog.  Caring about sports — or art — is not a rational exercise.  Hating a professional athlete or sports team is as dumb as hating a rock band.  Hating a professional athlete is as irrational as loving one.  Those are emotions far too strong to hold for people that don’t even know that you exist.

Reading that chapter reminded me of the Miami Heat and its best player, LeBron James.

I hated The Decision. I hated LeBron’s *decision* itself to overlap his talents with Dwyane Wade’s, I hated the primetime stomach-punch to Cleveland, and I hated the Kobe rip-off, “taking my talents” delivery pitch. I hated everything about LeBron exercising his rights as a free agent.

Four things about Heat Hatred:

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Offseason Jottings: Best Jerseys, DeJuan Blair, and the Timberwolves

The Original King

The Original King

It’s deep offseason. There isn’t much happening. So we jotted some notes on a few topics in typical INBOX fashion. Check it out below the fold.

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INBOX: The “We haven’t discussed Kevin Love in a while” Edition

Kevin Love and Jonah Hill: Studies in Weight Fluctuations

Kevin Love and Jonah Hill: Studies in Weight Fluctuations

The roster is mostly set. (C’mon, Pek, sign that dotted line…) The coaching staff seems to be in place, replete with a (David) Adelman for Billy Bayno swap and Shawn Respert proxying for the late Pete Newell as the Wolves new big man coach instead of teaching Ricky Rubio how to make a jump shot.

That said, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. Rick Adelman will be back. The Wolves lost a wing, but added a pretty good one to replace him. Two or three actually, depending on how Shabazz Muhammad plays out. Most important, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and others whose major, or niggling, injuries derailed the Wolves’ 2012-13 season are all reportedly healthy for 2013-14.

So now you’re looking at a rotation that might be something like this:

PG: Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved

SG: Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved

SF: Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad

PF: Kevin Love, Dante Cunningham, Derrick Williams (!)

C: Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Chris Johnson

Our team should be pretty good.

That’s a nice segue into today’s edition of Punch-Drunk Wolves’ INBOX feature.

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