Preseason Game Four Preview: Haifa vs Wolves at Target Center
After tonight, we’ll be halfway through the preseason madness, which means we’re halfway to the start of the regular season. Hooray for hoops!
I don’t know that there is much I have to say after last game that won’t be said in a Pekovic article I’ve got posting sometime tomorrow. So I’ll turn your attention to the Hollinger forecast for the Wolves he posted today. He’s got the T’Wolves finishing 45-37, third in the division, and seventh in the Western Conference. This sounds like a pretty great scenario for the Wolves.
We don’t need to get into a lot of preseason predictions but every advanced stats person seems to be projecting the Wolves for big things this year. And by big things I mean making the playoffs and winning a healthy number of games. Here’s an excerpt from the Insider article from Hollinger:
The biggest reason for optimism in Minnesota has less to do with Rubio and Love, and more to do with Darko and Johnson.
Here’s why: If the Wolves can just replace all the crappy players they used last season with average ones, they should have a really good team. It’s pretty amazing how many minutes this team gave players who had no business being in a rotation, let alone prominently figuring in one. Milicic started 23 games; Johnson, unbelievably, started 64.
That’s not all. Go down the list, and you’ll see Tolliver, Milicic, Johnson, Ellington and Webster all had single-digit PERs, and those five players played nearly 5,000 combined minutes. Beasley and Williams killed the Wolves with their shot selection, but they played another 2,500. That’s 7,500 minutes devoted to nonperformers. To put that in perspective, it nearly quadruples Love’s playing time.
This season the Wolves are replacing a lot of that performance with real basketball players: Kirilenko, Budinger, Shved, Cunningham and Stiemsma all should be improvements on the players they replaced. The new wing players provide particularly massive upgrades, while also allowing the Wolves to play a more traditional backcourt. (They started two point guards for most of last season because the wings were so bad.)
While I don’t have high expectations for Roy, anything he gives them will be gravy. And then there’s Williams, who one has to think will show more shot discipline (and, hopefully, accuracy) in his sophomore season.
There’s a lot of good stuff in there, so I recommend clicking the link and checking out John’s entire preview (if you have Insider, of course). I’m trying to remain cautiously optimistic. Over/under for Wolves’ wins this year seems to be around 39.5 for a lot fo places and I think 40 or 41 seems like a fair estimation without going overboard. If Rubio was going to be healthy all year, I’d be through the roof and being completely insufferable preaching the Wolves’ success.
But alas, I can’t bring myself to those lofty exultations just yet.
For today’s 3-on-3, I brought back Noam Schiller of Hardwood Paroxysm. He’s a noted Israeli basketball fan, who loves cheering for a horrible Hapoel team. That Hapoel team employs old friend, Craig Smith. He knows the Wolves’ opponents tonight better than just about any basketball writer there is out there. I also had Steve McPherson come back for some 3-on-3 action, mainly because
he’s a newbie to the site and didn’t have a choice he just did a great email exchange with Noam about the matchup and the greater state of everything Minnesota and Israel basketball.
Let’s get it on.
1. We’ve seen plenty of international teams hang with their NBA opponents in the past week. But other than Pat Calathes, Donta Smith, Cory Carr, and James Thomas, there aren’t a lot of names most basketball nerds that pay attention to college ball might recognize. Does Haifa have a real chance at taking down the Wolves tonight?
Noam Schiller, Hardwood Paroxysm: Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong, Haifa is nowhere near the level of any NBA team, but that was the case Thursday against the Warriors as well, and that was a four point game with 2 minutes to go. Lax preseason rotations can be a part of this – Festus Ezeli played 33 minutes for the Dubs and we might see the same from Jermaine Taylor – but it’s mostly an effort thing. If Haifa win, they get immense prestige back home, and some of their American players will want to prove they were slighted when denied the chance to play in the NBA. If the Wolves win, they might get to go home earlier. It’s the sad truth about intercontinental games and will continue to be so until we get a legit NBA vs. Europe tournament with actual implications.
Steve McPherson, A Wolf Among Wolves: Can you say trap game? I think it’s absolutely possible because this is the preseason, where teams rest players because they slept on their arm funny (more on this in a moment). I can foresee a situation in which Haifa maybe pulls into the fourth quarter just behind or tied with the Wolves and then gives it their all for a quarter while the Wolves kind of yawn and try lineups that feature Lou Amundsun at PG and Barea at C, just ’cause. I guess, though, that because the game is at home it becomes a lot less likely. If the Wolves feel like they have to rouse themselves from preseason torpor to not get beaten on their home floor, Haifa’s in trouble.
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: Maybe I’m just crazy or stupid or something, but I really don’t think Haifa will compete with the Wolves for the entire game. This is the only home game left in the preseason for the Wolves and just about everybody will be available for the game tonight. I’dbe shocked if the Wolves don’t blow Haifa out of the water by sometime in the third quarter. I don’t expect the starters to play starters minutes, but I think we’ll see a heavy look into the offense Adelman has tried to implement, and I think it will be a great look.
2. You guys had a great email exchange about this matchup a few days ago. What’s the one thing you took away from that conversation?
Schiller: It tickles my fancy quite a bit that European sports are mostly capitalistic by nature while American sports are socialistic bordering on communism. In Europe, the best teams are always the best because they have enough money to buy lesser teams’ best players, and there is no cap to prevent this; in the US, drafts provide talent to bad teams, the cap severely limits the effect of free spending, and public opinion was shockingly pro-players, aka pro labor, in the lockout. It’s a funny reversal of traditional financial roles.
Also, I didn’t mention this in the piece, but in Europe, everybody blames the American players from bringing flopping into the game. OK, nobody does. But ixnay on the enophobiaxay.
McPherson: I think I learned that European basketball is to the NBA as WWI dogfighting is to jet dogfighting. It just seems so wacky! Leagues named after national lotteries! Teams named after NBA teams (Haifa were called Maccabi Haifa Heat for a while)! It’s like Little League run by millionaires and full of aging NBA almost-weres and young has-beens and never-weres. It’s all so punk it makes the NBA feel like Nickelback.
Harper: I’m with Noam on this one. The capitalistic nature of European and international sports seems like it would be the most natural fit for the American sports leagues, and yet we’re left with our politically correct tendencies to try to get everybody a trophy and destroy all sense of competition through a realistic setting. In real life, there are people with more money that can outbid you in an eBay auction for a Moochie Norris bobblehead without a cap limit. If the NBA was like this, then market size would truly matter more than who the owner is and what management he’s hired. And by the way, I WON that Moochie Norris bobblehead years ago and haven’t regretted it since!
3. Kevin Love apparently injured himself whilst sleeping the wrong way. What’s the most embarrassing way you’ve ever hurt yourself?
Schiller: 8th grade Home ec. I carefully and responsibly took a cookie tray out of the oven while wearing an oven mitt on my stronger right hand, and then slammed it into my exposed left forearm. It seared into my flesh so badly that if you know it’s there, you can still see a small scar. Also, when I went to the nurse’s office during lunch I forgot my sweatshirt in the cafeteria and never saw it again. Not a great sequence.
McPherson: First of all, I have totally injured myself sleeping before. I’m weirdly flexible and I actually had to change my sleeping habits after I woke up one morning with a deep twinge in my left shoulder, so I totally empathize with Love. But that’s not the most embarrassing way I’ve hurt myself. As someone who doesn’t rescue people from burning buildings or carry heavy stuff for a living, pretty much every way I hurt myself is embarrassing, but a couple years ago I was at my gym (CrossFit Saint Paul) and we were playing dodge ball to warm up. Like an ass, I was goofing around and jumped up to throw the ball, but when I landed I twisted my ankle, which happens all the time for me because my ankles are basically rubber bands. No biggie, except that I also have this thing called vasovagal syncope, which basically means when certain things (like twisting my ankle or biting my tongue) happen, I will occasionally pass out. Which I did. And had a little seizure. While playing dodgeball.
Harper: I’ve definitely injured myself sleeping. When I was in the fourth grade, I fell asleep in the brutal Sacramento summer heat with a fan point directly at my head. Well, the cool air combined with the sweat on my neck and essentially froze my neck muscles overnight. I woke up the next day and couldn’t move my head from side-to-side. I had to walk around like I was wearing a neck brace for two days. But more embarrassingly was in high school when we were coming back from P.E. class. There were parking posts in the middle of the lot outside the gym, and a low hanging chain was stretched between them. The chain couldn’t have been more than a foot above the ground. I decided to try to jump over the chain whilst imitating a ballerina. My foot caught the chain because I was being an idiot, I fell to the ground, and fractured my left forearm. Good times!
Place: Target Center in Minneapolis, MN
Time: 7pm Central Time
Viewing and listening pleasure: Confirmed the game is on FSN tonight. There isn’t any radio listed on the team’s website.
Records: Wolves are 2-1 and Haifa is 0-1.
Just one Pek on the confidence meter, but do you really need more than one Pek? Exactly.