Return from exile: Wolves declare war on Texas

Myles Brown —  January 3, 2012 — 16 Comments

This is uncharted territory.

Our pups aren’t supposed to defeat two Western Conference powerhouses in as many days. Those leads should’ve dwindled in the waning minutes and we should’ve been satisfied with an effort exceeding the cost of admission. Our progress was to be a slow and encouraging exercise in character development, but now we’re faced with a host of new questions in the wake of such excitement.

Yes, they’re only two wins. Yet given their quality, we have to face the distinct possibility that this team has improved.

Is this new found success a byproduct of the lockout? Our opponents weren’t afforded a training camp and the travel of this truncated schedule is surely wearing them thin. Meanwhile, the furthest we’ve strayed from the stimulating confines of Target Center is Milwaukee.

We’d also be remiss to ignore the aberrations contributing to this ‘winning streak’. Wes Johnson will miss another shot this season. We won’t shoot 60% from the field every game. Our opponents best player won’t break his finger every night. And can we really rely on Michael Beasley to be a stabilizing presence?

Then again, why question anything? Don’t we deserve to win? Why not just shut up and enjoy the ride?

Well, as you’ve likely heard by now, our win on Sunday was the first in 295 days. The same can be said of the winning streak. For the duration of that dry spell-and some time preceding-we’ve been the butt of countless jokes, subjected to applauding menial accomplishments and left to wonder what fresh hell awaits us upon the departure of another franchise player. So to falsely presume those days are behind us would undoubtedly be our greatest disappointment.

For now, it’s best to focus on what is certain: Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are the future of this team. They’re an unorthodox duo; neither are traditional scorers nor lock down defenders. But their expertise transforms a team of castoffs and misfits to suitable, albeit temporary, complements. Love’s ridiculous rebounding limits possessions for opponents and adds opportunities for his mates, a priceless effort for any team. His shooting spaces the floor and his ball movement keeps the defense honest. A previously nonexistent post game is making a steady crawl towards respectability and there are even signs of his much maligned defensive game rounding into shape. What were once grumblings of whether we could afford to offer a max contract have become laughably obvious. Now the only question is how opposing defenses will contain him.

Monday night, Gregg Popovich didn’t have any answers and admitted as much.

“Well, [we do] the same thing everybody else does. You do your best to guard him. There’s no magic, he’s an All Star player, he’s a great player. You do a variety of things on pick and roll, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. You don’t stop great players.”

Of course several questions remain about Rubio, however they’re now regarding how good he’ll be rather than if he’ll succeed at all. Sure, concerns of his ability to matchup with the world class athletes at his position are valid defensively, but his offensive game is nothing short of uncontainable. These are his first two weeks in the NBA; he’s already seen a defending champion, two title contenders and three of the league’s best point guards. We’ll be damned if he didn’t confound them all. So scratch those old scouting reports, he’s literally playing in a different league now. The two man and transition games the NBA thrives upon are such strengths for Ricky they defy consistent trapping from any defense, leaving him with a bevy of scoring options. Many of which he will convert.

Granted, he will turn the ball over quite often, but honestly…what’s the difference between Rubio’s pass selection and Kobe’s shot selection? Especially when only of them actually empowers their teammates? We take the good with the bad and so far, the scales have violently tipped in our favor.

Again, these opening weeks have brought some of the greatest tandems our game has to offer and our earthbound, abnormal duo kept pace with them all. Everyone is surprised, except them, as Love explained after their latest win.

“I think we complement each other because we are unorthodox. For me it’s getting in there and getting rebounds upwards of 14, 15 rebounds a game and then also being able to shoot the three and play inside/outside. It’s an unorthodox style, I’m not necessarily playing above the rim much, but it’s still effective. Ricky too. Playing with Luke, he’s going to learn a lot from him on being a pro, being a veteran and he’s going to keep getting better every day. So I hope people keep saying that he can’t shoot, cause he’s gonna keep knocking em down. He’s unorthodox too, he’s a guy that’s not extremely athletic. But he’s lengthy, he has enough size and he’s a very heady guard.”

 

 

 

Myles Brown

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16 responses to Return from exile: Wolves declare war on Texas

  1. The biggest questions now will be how this team responds on the road. We have been horrid away from the Target Center for years.

    The worst part about the shortened season for the Wolves is now Love cant shatter the most double-doubles in a season record with 82.

  2. I never like it when pro athletes (or anyone else for that matter) describe themselves as ‘very athletic’ or not. These guys are all very athletic. That is why they are professional athletes. Sure, Rubio is a very different kind of athlete than Lebron, but he’s still going to run circles around any weekend warrior.

    Now, talk about some of the tubby pitchers in MLB, maybe there’s an argument…

  3. I’m trying very hard to remain cynical about the Wolves right now and I’m having a hard time. And that’s a wonderful feeling.

  4. This team looks fired up and hungry. They also seemed determined to play solid defense. Marko is doing a great job in the short minutes he gets. He knows his zone on Defense and is taking good open shots. The Wolves need to win these next home games against mediocre teams and take that confidence on the road and get over the next hump. A road victory. I am already hearing people scream playoffs. Hold up everyone, there still is a long way to go!

  5. just have to put in a plug for how well ridnour played last night. i was pessimistic about playing rubio and ridnour together, but they’ve looked great in the 4Q alongside each other. and while you try to temper enthusiasm for the last couple games (wes’ shooting, etc), it’s hard not to get excited bc we have yet to reach our ceiling.

    yes, the kool-aid is currently dripping down my chin.

  6. Glenn,

    You are totally misunderstanding the use of “athletic.” In this instance, it is a basketball specific term used to decribe a players skill set. No one is claiming that Rubio is unathletic compared to the general population. However, on the court, he does not have the athletic skill of some of the other guards.

  7. I must say im a little disappointed. Well written article but why so cynical. Its been so long since I watched a game and loved what I saw let’s enjoy it while we can cause yea it might change but at the moment we are undefeated in 2012 with some winnable games coming up next so why not say the playoffs could happen. We are young and have a lot of depth which will help us all year and we look hungry. So yea im going to scream playoffs and if they don’t happen that’s ok cause we should get better.

  8. 800 words and you don’t mention Adelman? The guy who nearly beat Kobe and Shaq in their prime with Weber, Bibby, and Christie? The guy who took Kobe and Pau to 7 games with Brooks, Scola, and Battier? The guy who, other than Popovich, is now the best coach in the league? Kevin Love was a monster last year, and the team sucked. Rubio isn’t the difference. Rick “Basketball MacGyver” Adelman is.

    I don’t know if there are many people like me, but I just root for whichever team Adelman is coaching. Now I’m a T-Wolves fan. We’re all in for a pretty awesome ride. As long as Kevin Love doesn’t break something (Yao, ugh), this team should go deep into the playoffs next season.

    One other thing: I don’t know if you remember Vlade Divac from the Kings’ playoff years, but he was the savviest big man I’ve ever seen. I think Adelman’s experience with Divac will be really good for Kevin Love’s post game.

  9. Bullets fan in Virginia here jumpin on the Love/Rubio/Williams/Barrea bandwagon.

    If Beasley gets it together, this is an exciting young playoff team.

  10. Jacob:

    I don’t feel I’m cynical, just cautious. I’ve sat through similar spurts of wins over the past four years, only to watch them devolve back into record breaking losing streaks. I want this team to succeed as much as anyone, but Im not as blindly wedded to the idea that we’ve turned a corner. This doesn’t mean that I’m so soulless that I’m not excited about our brand of basketball and a return to relevance. Just searching for the proper perspective.

    Joethe:

    I probably won’t ever touch on all of the aspects of any given victory. Given the length of even this shortened schedule, there will be plenty of opportunities to touch on all of them. And again, having sat through Randy Wittman AND Kurt Rambis, trust me: I am greatly appreciative of the stability and vision Adelman has already brought to this team. We’ll certainly be visiting this topic at length later.

    Everyone:

    Im glad we have something positive to discuss here and appreciate you all as readers. I want to offer a quick apology for not addressing these wins separately, but presumably like many of you, I was really fucking hungover on Sunday and couldn’t muster the proper effort. A one time indulgence I hope you’ll excuse and return for more good times. Thanks, guys. (And girls?)

  11. Myles – I was at the Wolves/Mavs game on new years day and it took a while for the crowd to really get into it. Im guessing alot of fans felt the same way you did when they woke up that morning. Alot of drunks coming over from the viking game as well. Great game though!

  12. I’ve been to a few games over the past few years. Never seen the energy I saw on opening night. When everybody stood up and roared at the end when we made baskets and almost beat thunder. The appreciation before the game for adelman. This is indeed an exciting year and for once I can watch with pleasure and talk with pride about the games.

  13. If the TWolves beat Memphis and Cleveland, then I think we’ve seen even more of the effect of Rick Adelman on the team. And if they win those two games — certain losses, based on previous seasons — then I’d be hard-pressed not to consider playoff possibilities. Protect the ball, hit your shots, give a bigtime effort — I like where that leads.

  14. BTW, did anybody notice how much more focused and intense Darko was when he didn’t get a call? He got very aggressive and even — and I’m not making this up — RAN THE FLOOR, just two minutes after playing defense on Tim Duncan that consisted after half-heartedly waving “hello.” It made a big difference, but also reinforced an obvious continuation of a problem with the squad that’s a holdover from last year — he plays hard when he wants to play hard. I’d love to see Adelman fix that.

  15. Slobodan Chutzpah January 4, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Lest we forget (which has obviously already happened),Rubio was voted the Spanish League’s defensive MVP a couple of years back. And this in a league in which defense is actually a priority night in and night out.

    The boy Canon play D against anyone. I don’t quite understand why he’s been so, I don’t know, unferocious on D thus far. NBA ways rubbing off on him? Coaching staff telling him to save himself for offense? That guy used to go after ppl.

  16. Slobodan Chutzpah January 4, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Oops, autotext FTW. “The boy can play D…” obviously.

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