Timberwolves 103, Nets 88: the stars go out
One of our culture’s great coups has been to extend the deep allure of celebrity to the everyday. It’s not enough to appear pristine and beautiful in films or photographs, or even on red carpets; there is now an aesthetically polished, celebritized way of doing things like sitting in a restaurant, gossiping about your terrible friends, holding your Starbucks cup, getting into and out of cars. But when you see it up close, outside the carefully crafted lens of TV and awesome magazines, that seamless celebrity world comes unglued. The polished spectacle starts to look as depressing and boring as it really is.
One sight of Kim Kardashian at the Target Center on Saturday should have made that fact even plainer. Even a person as apparently superficial and un-serious as our Kim, whose only real work seems to be making her life appear to be as charmed and sumptuously fascinating as possible, sometimes finds herself in chilly, thinly lit Minnesota, watching some dull, uninspired New Year’s Day basketball.
That Kris Humphries, local MN legend, magnificently biceped Ken doll and Kim’s reported gentleman-friend, has a starting job for the New Jersey Nets should give one a clue to just how thin that team’s roster is. The Nets are still languishing in their post-Kidd/Frank, post-beautifully-impossible-LeBron-fantasy, pre-Brooklyn purgatory; at the moment they are a decidedly terrible basketball team. And much of Saturday’s game was played like the dreary, sparsely attended, hungover contest between sub-mediocre teams that it was.
The first half was particularly unpleasant. There were certainly lots of baskets made and lots of points scored, but that fact obscures a less seemly side: the turnovers; the poor spacing and stagnant offense; the slow and missed rotations; the lackluster effort. When, in the third quarter, the Wolves were able to summon some basic basketball competence the Nets withered. But although a routine, unlovely victory was probably not much fun for Ms. Kardashian (or anybody else for that matter) to watch, it has to be an encouragement for Wolves fans. We don’t get too many of those around here
- To be fair to Kim’s fella, he is having a pretty decent season so far (PER of 17.59, rebound rate of 21.6, true shooting percentage of 56.%: all solidly above average). And although he was crazy for Kevin Love’s pump fake, Humphries troubled Love on the glass with his considerable strength and athleticism. As a matter of fact, during the first half in particular Love seemed to be coasting along, just trying to get through the game. I mean, I understand: I was just kind of coasting on Saturday myself. But I didn’t have to wrestle with Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries, or rotate to stop Devin Harris from getting to the basket. As we’ve seen before, without exceptional effort Love does not perform any of these tasks particularly well.
- Did anyone else notice how bad Derrick Favors was on Saturday? Favors appears to have lost quite a bit of weight since the draft, which should improve his mobility, but he still seemed listless and lost in the open floor and on the glass, the two areas in which he was supposed to thrive right away. And he was simply overwhelmed on defense. Favors took turns guarding Love and Michael Beasley and both guys drove past him like he was standing still. Have you ever seen Love destroy a defender with his lightning quick baseline drop-step? I hadn’t either, until I watched Favors attempt to check him. I know Wes Johnson had a rough time staying with Travis Outlaw and Sasha Vujacic, but after watching Favors I have a new appreciation for our guy.
- The Nets were switching on screens for much of the second half, gambling that the inexperienced Wolves would not be able to take advantage of the resulting size mismatches. They gambled correctly. Often, the Wolves big men (particularly Love) were unable to seal the smaller player in the post. Other times, the Wolves’ point guards failed to recognize the mismatch in the post and either took contested jumpers or dribbled into traffic. On still another occasion, when Darko was matched up against the not very tall or strong Ben Uzoh, Love cut directly into the lane toward Darko, bringing a double team with him. But in every occasion, the Wolves failed to act decisively. “Whatever they do I’m telling them they gotta do it quick,” said Rambis. “Because what they end up doing is holding the ball, holding the ball, holding the ball, holding the ball. The shot-clock’s running down, the other team is locking in to what we want to do and then it’s very difficult to make a play[…]and we haven’t learned that yet.”
- Darko sure does put together some strange games doesn’t he? The gray-faced Serb was in foul trouble all night and seemed to be struggling with a sore back. He managed just two rebounds in his 20 minutes and 12 seconds of play and his defense was it’s old tentative self. But he simply tortured both Brook Lopez and Johan Petro with his jump hook. Darko hit eight of his nine shots and made use of hesitations, shivers and supple drop-steps to get his clean looks at the hoop. In all cases, he was decisive and efficient with his moves in the post. Darko is a confounding bundle of moving parts, soft tissue, insecurity and bewildering, isolated flashes of selective confidence; what a strange machine this guy is.