Timberwolves 93, Wizards 72: united for change

Benjamin Polk —  January 8, 2012 — 6 Comments

Well, the Washington Wizards are just a  mess. John Wall, the future of the franchise, glowers his way to a 3-10 shooting, four-turnover loss. Nick Young devours shot clock searching for just the right contested, long-range jumper.  Andray Blatches and JaVale McGee wallow in their own sulky goofery. Possession after single-pass possession are wasted. Opposing ballhandlers sail to the rim.  Corrosively bad vibes emanate. We offer a little sigh of gratitude that this is not our team to cheer or discuss or play for or coach.

And yet, much of this game’s first half exuded that odor familiar to Wolves’ followers: an opponent already half-beaten before the opening tip given new life by the Wolves’ trademarks of turnovers, foolish decisions and lack of perimeter dynamism. Luke Ridnour failed to generate purposeful ball-movement. Wes Johnson and Wayne Ellington were uncreative and anemic. Darko dropped passes, fell for the up-fakes of much shorter players, missed bunnies, competed meekly for rebounds.

But then Ricky Rubio entered the game and things felt somehow changed. It’s not as if Rubio played perfectly. As he tends to, Ricky sprinkled more than his share of ill-advised passes and bricked mid-range jumpers into his array of inspired plays. (It’s well worth remembering that Rubio sports the worst turnover rate of any of the league’s top 30 point guards.) But Rubio’s ability to create passing angles with his ballhandling was pretty remarkable. Suddenly, the Wizards defense was forced to collapse and recover, to rotate smartly and make hard choices (stay at home on shooters or protect the basket?).  Jump shooters were suddenly wide open and running off of screens with an easy rhythm. Lanes to the hoop were suddenly breezy and broad.

Single game plus/minus stats aren’t always meaningful, but in this case Rubio’s (and Derrick Williams’) +29 explain the game pretty well. When those two were in the game, the Wolves were actually playing basketball, were actually able–and this has been a rarity among recent Wolves’ squads–to take advantage of a lesser team’s myriad mistakes.  Most impressive to me has been Rubio’s poise in the face of athletic, pressuring NBA defenses.  When the Wizards trapped, he unhurriedly moved the ball to the open man. When Nick Young bodied up on Rubio 30 feet from the basket, Ricky calmly blew past him into the lane, spun in midair and found Williams for a wide-open three.

If it’s easy to have a little contempt for the Wizards’ performance on Sunday, it’s probably because the hallmarks of that performance are like grotesque versions of our worst Wittman or late Rambis-era fears. Players who lack trust both in one another and in their coaches. Interminable disconnected, one-on-one basketball. Grim fourth-quarter faces as the opponent coasts to another easy layup. The Wolves are nobody’s idea of a playoff team and their future is by no means secure but it’s feels pretty good to entertain the pleasant notion that those rough days are behind us.

Benjamin Polk

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6 responses to Timberwolves 93, Wizards 72: united for change

  1. Rubio and Derrick Williams are a couple made in heaven. I can not wait to see both as starters. Because that`s the cornestone of the franchise: Rubio-D.Williams and Love. You MUST build your team around them.
    Even when I would love to say Webster, Barea, Randolph. I must say that those 3 are the ones that the team should not trade never in any possible trade.
    I would love to have your opinion Zach.

  2. I believe this team is one consistent wing scorer, and a reliable center, away from being a very competitive playoff team. I would love to get J.J. Redick from Orlando and give him starting minutes in Minnesota. I think we could get him relatively cheap as well, maybe Ridnour, Anthony Randolph (they’ll want prospects for when Howard leaves) and a second round pick or take some sort of contract they don’t want, I don’t know for sure how to make that trade happen but I think we could do it. Then depending on our draft position I would look at taking Cody Zeller from Indiana in the draft. He is a smart, hard working, and I think he fits our system well as a center. He needs to add some weight, though, to be able to bang in the block with NBA mammoths. To finish it off, I’d trade Beasley and Ellington/Johnson (whichever fetches more), for whatever I can get, and I’d move Derrick Williams to the starting SF position. Starting lineup of Rubio/Redick/Williams/Love/Zeller for the whitest team since the 60’s with Barea, Ellington or Johnson, Tolliver, Milicic, and whatever we get from trading Beas and one inept SG, coming off the bench. I love Beasley as a backup SF and would love to keep him on in that role, but I don’t think he’d be happy with that, and I feel like he is already a drain on this team psychologically. I’d hope to get a solid veteran for him, a quality bench player.

  3. Yeah, we can only hope the other 28 teams have an off day for Minny’s next 28 games.

    Rubio. If that kid finds the scoring swag he had in 2008 with DKV, look out NBA (OK 10ppg in only 20mpg isn’t much but he was a legitimate scoring option). His turnovers worry me the way D-Wade’s or CP3’s turnovers worry me, which is not much because it comes from ambitious passing and steal attempts indicating great vision and feel for the game only needing a few tweaks in timing to be perfect.

    I agree with letting Beas come in off the bench despite his ravenous need for a massive amount of shots to get going. He can come shooting off the bench for about 20 points in 30 shots (yeah, that bad at times, right?) in the span of about 20 delirious minutes before Adelman sits his ass down again. At least the flow is not heavily affected, the other wolves’ “team oriented” scorers get their minutes while Beas is on the bench and he gets his shots when they sit, so everyone’s happy.

    I’m a believer that D-Will can learn to cope defensively with SFs as he’s certainly athletic enough. If he does and gets his shooting and rebounding on, wolves will be solid. Size does not bother me much since he does need to be strong to guard the likes of Melo and Lebron.

  4. Let’s trade Love and Ridnour for Howard(and sign him) and Redick. Let Williams play PF. Perfect!

  5. Randy Crouton:
    How much do you drink? Please stop a little bit. You are going to trade an unique talent for a defensive center (a great one yes but still). If Love makes a great improvement on the defensive end, he can be a legend of the game for sure.
    I would never ever do that move. Williams will be great once he adapts his game to the SF.
    Would you do that move, Zach?

  6. JP,

    If you can get Howard for Love + filler (i.e. not Rubio or Williams) and convince him to sign you do it. The man is at worst a top 3 player in the NBA. Saying defensive center is simply underselling his impact on the game. I love Love (top 10 player in the NBA) but Howard and LBJ are simply too good to pass up if you could legitimately acquire them. I will be surprised if Williams ever plays much SF, every time we bring him in, Love either sits or plays Center.

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