Timberwolves explode into regular season

Benjamin Polk —  October 23, 2010 — 3 Comments

Photo by Chris Wild

Well maybe you can’t call 31 foul, 43% shooting night an “explosion.” As Andrew Bogut remarked, “it was pretty boring.” But the Wolves did beat the Bucks in their final preseason game, 119-118 and raise their exhibition record to a sparkling 6-2. Light them fireworks.

  • Highlights and box score of the whole torrid affair are here. I like the fact that a highlight clip of a Wolves overtime win includes two clips of Bogut absolutely demolishing Wayne Ellington.
  • I bet you’re wondering, as we have been, just what meaning this fine record holds for the regular season. Well, Ethan and Beckley at Hoopspeak rapped about just that topic (or, more accurately, the media discourse surrounding that topic) in a recent episode of their transcendent “Mama There Goes That Meme” series. I am not too proud to admit that I am jealous of nearly every element of this idea; that title is so good it makes me want to cry. Here’s the snippet of their conversation that aligns most closely with my own personal opinion on the matter. There’s also a line about “the sound and fury of this ‘Emo-Gil as a SG’ meta-narrative” which is really great and I wish I had written:

Former child star and TruthAboutIt.net head honcho Kyle Weidie told me the he watches the preseason carefully, but never consults the scoreboard to see how the Wizards are whirring. His theory is that the results of preseason play are meaningless, but to the trained eye, the content of each game is rife with significance.

  • And if you were interested in some actual data that might shed some light on the subject, we’ve got some of that for you too. 48 Minutes of Hell recently examined some studies on just this topic and left us with this:

The preseason is a significant factor for predicting regular season success. In fact, preseason performance is comparable to regular season performance for predicting future wins and losses. After accounting for the number of starter minutes played, the difference becomes even smaller.

I have no doubt about the accuracy of this conclusion in general, but in the case of our Wolves I’m gonna have to file this in the “isn’t it pretty to think so” drawer. I think this calls for a mood of cautious optimism.

  • Speaking of which, here is our friend Britt Robson’s Northwest Division preview at SI.com. Yes, he picks our Wolves to finish fifth in the division. That’s because its close to an inescapable fact and he would probably never get to write about basketball again if he did anything different. But he still has some nice things to say:
This year’s roster is longer, quicker and much more to coach Kurt Rambis’ liking than the 15-win squad of a year ago. Stealing Michael Beasley from Miami, drafting silky scorer Wes Johnson and belatedly giving Kevin Love the minutes and respect he deserves are on-the-court positives. Now if only Darko Milicic, Love and Serbian rookie big man Nikola Pekovic can offer up a semblance of resistance when defending the paint.

I’d say we’re agreed on all counts.

  • Aw dang, here’s a nasty little word for MN sports fans. David Stern recently floated the idea that contraction is a possible result of the NBA’s next collective bargaining agreement. No names were named, but I distinctly heard the city of Memphis shifting awkwardly in its chair. Strangely, though, the commish all but admitted that talk of contraction was little more than a negotiating ploy. “It’s a good word to use,” said the little man, “especially in collective bargaining”.

Benjamin Polk

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3 responses to Timberwolves explode into regular season

  1. Mmmm… not so sure about the preseason math from 48 Minutes… unless the Lakers preseasons are historically the exceptions that prove the rule. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with winning, no matter what time of season.

  2. The preseason stuff makes sense to me. As I understand it the analysis essentially suggests that for young or rebuilding teams, preseason success (or failure) is a good indicator of future success (or failure). For veteran (read: successful teams), preseason records are often a mixed bag of predictive value, as they know who they are and what roles each guy is going to play. In other words, they don’t play their best guys that much. Younger teams need to build chemistry and decipher rotations, hence you get more of what you see in the preseason in the regular season with those teams (that is, record correlation).

  3. biggity – I’d definitely agree that it’s a better indicator with young teams. Also, every coach treats the preseason differently. For instance, the other night in a Golden State vs. Lakers OT game, Keith Smart played Monta Ellis for 53 minutes. I can’t imagine Jackson doing that (or Rambis for that matter). Phil has always looked at the preseason as a learning period, integrating new players (this year Blake, Barnes, Ratliff, Ebanks and Caracter) into a tricky system, going over the most fundamental aspects of the game in practice with vets and newcomers alike. I think he’d just as soon take a loss as a win as long as lessons are learned. Same goes for Pop (again, mostly older teams as you mentioned).

    All that said, I think the Wolves’ preseason record is very much an indicator of chemistry & confidence-building.

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