Kemba Walker has the (second) meanest crossover in the East.
Your Minnesota Timberwolves will be playing basketball tonight against the Charlotte Bobcats at Target Center. Tip is at 7 P.M. CST. The game can be seen and heard through the usual channels.
The Wolves are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at home. Former Wolf Gerald Green–a longtime Punch-Drunk Wolves favorite–hit the game-winner on a tough baseline jumper with seconds remaining.
One question to ponder after the Phoenix loss is whether the Wolves have chemistry problems. (Eds. Note: No, not the Breaking Bad kind of chemistry problems, at least that we know of.)
Tempers flared on Wednesday after Rick Adelman pulled J.J. Barea with 8:07 to go in the 4th quarter. Barea, a player whose passion and intensity run so thick that they’re palpably evident even in pre-game warmups–the sideline-to-sideline defensive shuffle-suicides J.J. does each night as part of his pre-game ritual is all you really need to see–was visibly upset and stormed off the court, cursing in at least two languages. (Eds. Note: Barea was in fact cursing in three languages, if you count Spainglish.) The next thing you know, neither Barea nor Dante Cunningham joined the team huddle during a timeout.
Kevin Love, the team’s best player by orders of magnitude and an League-wide MVP candidate, didn’t appreciate Barea and Cunningham’s lack of team spirit. But Love himself was moody, and it doesn’t take a trained psychologist to deduce that Love appeared to be projecting frustration with his own sub-par performance onto Barea and Cunningham.
Love is serious about his image and is protective of his NUMB#RS. This video is by now a cliche, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean anything.
Kevin Love’s image took a hit on Wednesday night’s loss. In one of the Wolves’ few nationally-televised games of the season–Love played downright bad basketball and looked nothing like an MVP candidate. In fact, Love’s performance was sub-par on both ends: he shot 4-20 from the field, and got lit up by Suns three-point specialist Channing Frye after repeatedly failing to close out on Frye three-point attempts. Love’s failure to close on active shooters like Frye and Ryan Anderson is not a new phenomenon, and is one of the few aspects of his game for which he can be legitimately criticized and for which he is not called out enough by writers, many of whom give him the benefit of the doubt because they love Love for his fat stats.
The Wolves play at Philly tonight. I’m sure everyone involved is happy to be outside of Minnesota where the temps are so cold that the Governor canceled school (and apparently Minneapolis has already done the same for tomorrow). The game is at 6:00 CST and can be seen on FSN and heard on 830 WCCO.
Yesterday Andy G and I ended up with a LONG email thread on this year’s rookies. We decided to post an ABRIDGED version of our tongue-in-cheek assessments of the top 10 picks in last year’s draft. Because, you know, it’s never too early to publish knee-jerk reactions on the Internet about players you’ve barely seen.
Without further adieu:
10. Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento Kings
JIMMER! The BYU sensation is off to a slow start. Although I expect improvement, the early signs are not good. Jimmer averaged 29 points per game, last year. That number is now down to 7.6, and only 11.9 per 36 minutes. What’s worse, he’s shooting a miserable 34 percent from the floor, and only 28 percent from downtown, where he KILLED IT in college (and well beyond the pro three-line).
In his defense: He’s ALREADY undergone a coaching change (BOOGIE!) and he’s playing with some world-class BALL STOPPERS in Tyreke, Thornton, and JOHN SALMONS! I half-predicted a King resurgence this year, and so far, they’ve made me look like a fool. Jimmer is not in anything close to an ideal scenario and the numbers are playing that out. – Andy G
9. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats are WAY lucky Kemba fell to them at #9. The only thing not to like about Walker’s season so far is that Paul Silas isn’t starting him. But that’ll come. Before the draft, I didn’t think Kemba had the scoring and passing ability necessary to star in the NBA. When his stock slid and it was Michael Jordan who finally picked him, I was sure MJ had himself the next Nate Robinson.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Walker should supplant D.J. Augustin as the Bobcats’ starting PG before season’s end and he’s sure to connect with blog favorite BYRON MULLENS for more of these.
Kemba’s numbers aren’t staggering—he’s shooting only 38% from the floor and averaging 11.3 ppg (17.5 per 36)—but you can just tell that some guys can play and Walker is one of them. (Brandon Jennings is another. Apparently they bring out the best in each other.) In hindsight, I’d take Kemba third in last year’s draft. – Patrick J
8. Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons
We’ll see the latest COACH CAL product on Wednesday Night at Target Center. As a young scorer, he’s off to a nice start. Knight’s set-shot is falling at a 41.4 percent clip from downtown and he’s scoring 11.9 points per game (14.1/36 minutes) as a very-young rookie. He’s got a great NBA point guard body, but doesn’t seem to have point guard instincts. Or maybe I’m just spoiled from watching Ricky Rubio. Either way, Knight is off to a decent start–more as a scorer than passer. On that terrible, aging Pistons team, he should be committed to as the number-one guard even more than his 30 minutes/game suggest. Oh, and he’d be wise to pass the ball to Greg Monroe. That’s a way to gather easy assists. – AG
7. BISMACK BIYOMBO, Charlotte Bobcats
Well, at least MJ went 1-for-2 in this draft. – PJ
6. JAN VESELY, Washington Wi-ZARDS
Jan is the worst player on the worst team in the NBA. What does he have going for him?
It’s unclear what’s going to happen first, the next full lunar eclipse or Jonas suiting up for the Raps. – PJ
4. TRISTAN THOMPSON!, Cleveland Cavaliers
Twenty-year old bigs who produce 16 and 10 per 36 minutes are nice to have. It’s even nicer when they shoot better than 50 percent from the floor and have a motor like a Dodge Charger.
But Tristan needs to touch up his free throw shooting and learn to pass. His team is trying to be competitive—the Cavs are currently sporting a 6-6 record—so he’ll have to earn his minutes. 18 mins/game won’t be enough to make a splash, but Tristan’s time is coming. – AG
AK is in a logjam in Utah’s frontcourt, competing against Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors for tick. He’s only playing 13.5 mpg and averaging 4.4 pts, but his still-decent PER (16.6) shows why the stats kids still believe Anus will come out smelling like roses. -PJ
2. Derrick Williams, Wolves
In many respects, Derrick Williams is what we thought he was. He’s a power forward with perimeter skills and leaping ability.
What we don’t know: Does Derrick Williams have a post game? Will we ever find out? Will he be traded for a veteran wing player?
Lots of question marks. He seems like a hard worker who will have a long-and-productive career. Without a DOUBT, he’s better than the recent Syracuse picks. I’d say there’s a real question whether he stays in Minnesota, though. Unless Love makes it CLEAR to the front office that he’s headed elsewhere in the future, I think there’s a positional problem for Williams that will never be quite fixed. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s dealt sometime before this deadline, or around draft time 2012, perhaps to get the Wolves a lottery pick. Of course, he’ll need to snap out of this recent slump to have much value. I’ve got confidence in him, but does Rick Adelman? – AG
1. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Irving is what we thought he’d be. He has put up nice numbers—his 17.7 ppg rank first among rookies and his 5.3 apg rank second to Ricky Rubio’s 8.3 apg—and is as EFFICIENT as was billed: Kyrie’s shooting 42% from range, 87% from the stripe, and sporting a PER of 22.3.
Beyond the numbers, what’s really impressive is how comfortable Irving looks after playing only 11 games in his college career. As great as Ricky Rubio has been for the Timberwolves, it’s not obvious that Rubio is or will be the better player. They should have a fun rivalry, starting with competing for this year’s Rookie of the Year award. – PJ