Minnesota Timberwolves Media Day

Tonight’s game was goofy.

On one hand, it would be easy to shrug off tonight’s 103-86 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Wolves were down to just 10 available players, had a pair of teenagers in their starting 5 (to be fair, so did the Bucks (tonight was the first time in NBA history 4 teenagers started in a game)), had many playing way out of position, and had Thad Young, its only returning player, come back noticeably (and understandably) rusty. They played hard, but got beat by a healthier team.

On the other hand, they were in the game for 3-plus quarters, and let some bad defense get the best of them. To be fair, the limited options Flip Saunders had to work with forced some guys to play more minutes than they’re used to. They got gassed towards the end, and when you get gassed, you foul. Brandon Knight took and made 8 of Milwaukee’s 13 free throws in that final quarter, where the Wolves were outscored 31-16.

Past the game itself, the storylines were surprisingly ample for a Bucks-Timberwolves game. Let’s look at a few:

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Saturday night, Target Center was home to some zone defense, full-court presses, half-court traps, a 6’8, 215 jump shooter playing backup center, a bunch of 19, 20 and 21 year olds on the floor together, and clown-show refereeing that left both teams, their coaches and the home crowd perplexed at every turn. A college game, perhaps? Nay, it was the Wolves’ 12-point loss to this season’s nicest surprise story, the Sacramento Kings. Continue Reading…

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(Once upon a time, friend of the program Matt Moore wrote a wonderful post about why the Oklahoma City Thunder fell short against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs last year. He looked at everything: the departure of James Harden; the perpetually woebegone Scott Brooks; the injury to Serge Ibaka. All of it. And what he found is that none of that was really to blame, although each thing certainly plays its part in ways. At the bottom of all of it, the Spurs were just better. So just take that article and in place of the Thunder — a team with one of the two best players in the league, two of the top 15 or 20 and probably three of the top 40, plus many years and many playoff runs together — and substitute a Wolves team whose ten available players together have played 297 minutes (or roughly six games) more than Tim Duncan alone. They played the Spurs tonight and lost, badly. To quote Gregg Popovich from after the game, “It wasn’t a fair fight.” Wiggins got aggressive and good in the third quarter, Bennett had a career high with 20 and several strong dunks. That’s my recap.)

Earlier today I needed a break from basketball-related activities. This is maybe something that sets me apart from your real “hoops junkies,” which I am definitely not. I am not a “cannot get enough of basketball” person. I can get enough. So I just wanted to dial up a movie on HBO GO and watch it, maybe take a little nap along the way. Continue Reading…

Like Parquet Courts (or, now, Parkay Quarts), the Timberwolves seemed keen on counting down the days until it was time to head back. After a road trip that nearly totaled 3 weeks, they returned with a slew of injuries and sickness, with the absence of Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf to show for it (along with Thad Young, who remains with his family following the passing of his mother).

Even on a depleted roster, things can go right for a team when its most experienced plays well. Tonight, Mo Williams and Kevin Martin combined for 51 points on 19-29 shooting against a Knicks defense that seemed to take the Wolves’ recent history with the 3-point line a bit too seriously.

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True story: I could find exactly ZERO pictures of Knicks-Wolves games that had any players who would actually be playing tonight. So you get Kevin Love and MWP.

With the Timberwolves set to square off against the visiting New York Knickerbockers tonight, I exchanged email questions with Knickerblogger‘s Robert Silverman so we could each learn a little more about one another. My responses to his questions are up on Knickerblogger right here, and his to mine are below.

For as long as I’ve been following them (which dates back to the late ’90s), the Knicks have always seemed to have a “we don’t rebuild, we reload” attitude that has resulted in a lot of hand-waving but not a lot beyond first round playoff exits. Is there some sense that with Phil Jackson the team is actually building something now instead of just paying it lip service, even if the early returns are not great?

So far, without a doubt. For the most part, fans are aware that this is going to be a transitional year, filled with nights where the team looks downright terrible. In a related story, as I’m writing this, the Milwaukee Bucks closed the second quarter on a 22-6 run, and the Knicks couldn’t stop anyone from getting to the rim, were absolutely walloped on the glass and got shredded from downtown by some dude from Jonathan Fire*Eater. Wait, that was Ilyasova? Lawdy. Anyhoo, yes, the pains from growing will be legion, but having faith that there’s an actual plan in place as is infinitely preferable to the world’s saddest free agency carousel, with the likes of Allan Houston, McDyess, Starbury, Steve Francis, Eddy Curry and STAT posited as franchise “saviors,” but instead just clogging the cap, glumly slumped on too-small plastic horses. Continue Reading…

A long time ago left my home
Just a boy passing twenty
Could you spare a coin and a Christian prayer
My luck has turned against me

-Gillian Welch, “One More Dollar”

I’m a sucker for folk music, so I am leading off this recap of the Wolves’ fifth straight loss with the lovely “One More Dollar” by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, as performed live on The Prairie Home Companion (where my Garrison Keillor fans at?), in an attempt to buoy your spirits and stoke the embers of your parochial fire. Listen to the song. Gorgeous, right?

Know what wasn’t gorgeous? Pretty much everything about Minnesota’s shellacking at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks last night.  Continue Reading…

(via Getty)

(via Getty)

I don’t know how many of you watch the show “Sons of Anarchy” but I’ve been fascinated by the character Juice Ortiz [probably some spoilers in this but I haven’t written it so I’m not positive]. Other than Opie, who was my favorite character on this show, Juice has kept my attention throughout the duration of this series. I’ve been completely enthralled with overall story arcs on this show and I’ve been checked out on plenty of story arcs over the course of the seven seasons. Characters have lost me left and right.

I’ve never been all that in to Jax’s character, even though early on in the show he was like a young lion trying to figure out how to rule the jungle. Once he broke through to the leadership role and started his family with Tara, his struggle just didn’t grab me at all. The story arc of Gemma has always been boring. She’s an awful, power-hungry matriarch who will do anything to protect her family. The secret though is the family she’s protecting isn’t her actual family but the mythical family of controlling the club like she’s done for decades. It’s the same cycle every season with just new dastardly ways in which her subversive nature breaks through. Yawn.

And while I love Bobby, Tig, Happy, Chibs, Piney, and Clay [he would rank third in my character rankings], only Opie has been able to surpass my fascination with Juice. The Juice storyline has given his character the most depth on the show and we’ve seen the most range from this actor (Theo Rossi) in portraying that character. While I want to see the finality of the close of this series, I probably would have ejected shortly after Opie’s exit from the show had Juice not been so compelling.  Continue Reading…

(Getty)

(Getty)

Earlier on Friday, I had a big long-form feature about Andrew Wiggins on CBSSports.com posted. I traveled to Brooklyn last week to follow the team on part of their road trip. I attended the Wolves’ win over the Nets, then followed them to Orlando, and came back to Miami with them. Part of the purpose of this trip was to try to write about Wiggins and the development process of creating a star. I was able to spend time and talk to some friends around the team, talk to scouts, coaches, players, and media members from around the league, and try to get a handle on just how realistic and great Wiggins’ potential development could be.

A very cool part of the research of this piece was running into David Thorpe of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Florida and ESPN.com. I’ve known David for a few years, and he’s worked with dozens of NBA and international players, including Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer. He and I sat down to discuss Andrew Wiggins’ potential and the process of developing such an exciting prospect. His answers were incredible and he offered up great insight. I decided to post the full Q&A here, since I could only use so much of what he said in my piece on CBSSports. Hope you enjoy both the conversation, and the post on Wiggins:  Continue Reading…

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If you were upset at last night’s 113-101 loss to the Houston Rockets, then we may have a problem — a whole lot of the Wolves’ losses this season are going to look like this, especially to clearly superior teams. With the win, the Rockets improved to 7-1 on the season, including 5-0 on the road, tying them for best record in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors and the Memphis Grizzlies. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be watching a Houston-Toronto Finals in June, but it does mean that the Rockets, who were already an offensive juggernaut, seem to have turned up the defense just enough to make a big leap in overall quality.

But on the Wolves’ side, here is the texture you should get used to, especially as long as Ricky Rubio is out: Teams don’t have a ton of tape on tendencies for guys like Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and even Shabazz Muhammad, so early on in any given game you’ll see them getting by on athleticism and surprise. For example, if you don’t think Muhammad’s coast-to-coast dunk (which was awesome, incidentally) wasn’t the product of no Rocket player thinking he was going to do it, you’re crazy. Continue Reading…

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In two weeks, the Minnesota Timberwolves will reevaluate Ricky Rubio’s ankle. He’ll be on crutches during that time and then we’ll see how the swelling and ligaments are progressing. Optimistically, I’d say the Wolves are looking at a four-week recovery overall for the significant/high ankle sprain, and six weeks may even be the more likely scenario. That’s simply a guess based on covering injuries like this and talking to a couple of people who are smarter about it than I am.

In the next 4-8 weeks, or however long Rubio is sidelined, Zach LaVine will likely be the starting point guard. Flip Saunders is wary about playing Mo Williams more than 25 minutes a game due to advanced age in the NBA and not wanting to wear him down. When the Wolves made the decision to keep Glenn Robinson III over J.J. Barea, they knew the risk of injury at the point guard could thrust them into a situation like this. And it’s a great chance at developing LaVine in a way they probably didn’t believe was a likely scenario. Saturday night against the Heat, we saw a lot of what the process should and likely will look like during Rubio’s down time.  Continue Reading…