On Friday night, the Wolves made it clear to both the Bucks and a pleasantly surprised home crowd that this is no longer a fifteen win basketball team. Unfortunately, on Saturday night the Memphis Grizzlies reminded us just how far we have to go. Of course chances are between the Hallow-eve holiday and this being the sole non-televised game of the NBA schedule, you probably didn’t see it. Good for you. No, really. The difference between the two nights was simply a matter of personnel. Brandon Jennings was kept out of the lane with relative ease and a recovering Andrew Bogut was denied positioning by an active and alert defensive effort from the home team. But as expected, a repeat performance with OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay didn’t go as well.
The athletes on this year’s unit provide more defense than past incarnations of small ball, but we still have to accept that on some-actually, many-occasions that won’t be enough. The tempo of last night’s match up was perfectly suited for Mayo & Gay who were more than a handful for any Wolves defender as they continually slashed wherever they pleased and rose over whoever they wanted. Michael Conley conducted a masterful floor game and Marc Gasol reminded Darko what a center really looks like. Memphis just was, and is, better. There was no shame in this loss, the Wolves were simply outmatched. However, in order to overcome such odds in the future there are some areas in which our pups have to show growth, while others need immediate correction.
Even Jeff Foxworthy knows that if you’re on your second stint as a Wolves backup point guard in the past three years, then you’re probably on your way out of the league. Maybe he told Sebastian Telfair, because Bassy certainly has the look of a man playing for a contract. The trash talking, the over dribbling, the quick trigger, the forced and unnecessarily flashy passes all are indicative of a prideful defiance he must feel is necessary in order to establish himself. I don’t. And I like him.
I’ve always been willing to overlook his size and poor shooting, because as a backup point he’s provided the stability and clarity of vision that our starters may have lacked. He utilizes proper spacing, moves with purpose and takes care of the ball. Well, he used to. You see, there’s a fine line between probing the defense in order to create open shots and pounding the air out of the ball only to pass as a last resort. Similarly, there’s another line between asserting and exposing one’s self. Bassy has crossed them both. I understand that his time is short considering that Jonny Flynn will be back demanding minutes soon enough, but in order to remain in the rotation Telfair needs to play to his current strengths, not try to create new ones on the fly.
Kevin Love, on the other hand, is someone who could stand a few new tricks. I understood and mostly agreed with Kurt Rambis’ decision to take Love’s talents to the bench on opening night. While he is clearly an outstanding boardsman and stellar distributor, he’s also an underwhelming defender and has quite a limited offensive repertoire. Presumably, these things will correct themselves in due time, but until then they’re stunting his development. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the fluid postwork of Al Jefferson, but it’d be easier for Love to show off that passing if he could command a double team, or least get a defender to turn their neck every once in a while. And not unlike Al, he’d be able to stay on the court longer if he could make more of a contribution on the defensive end. These are both integral aspects not only to his success, but the entire team.
Let’s be clear, Love is going to be an excellent player for a contending team one day, hopefully one right here in the Twin Cities. But ultimately, it will be as a complement, not a centerpiece.
Until then, stay thirsty my friend.