Don’t have much time for today’s preview, so just remember what I said in the game recap for the first game against the Pacers and then assume that I was going to gush about Ricky Rubio’s awesomeness and Nikola Pekovic’s strength.
We do have a 3-on-3 today though. I asked Steve McPherson of AWolfAmongWolves fame and Noam Schiller of Hardwood Paroxysm and Hapoel Jerusalem fame to answer some questions about the state of the Timberwolves, fan favorites and how to drink in these preseason results.
1. Is there any one thing you take away from the first preseason game that has you particularly giddy or worried?
Steve McPherson, A Wolf Among Wolves: I guess mostly I’m worried that the Wolves aren’t going to play every game against the other team’s bench. And of course, all preseason play, like Summer League play, has a mirage-like quality to it, and not just because the League Pass feed from the FARGODOME (this is actually the way it’s written) looked like it was being shot through the heat rising off the asphalt on I-94 between Minneapolis and Fargo. Yet it was encouraging to see the variety of looks the team was capable of, even with Ridnour out. A big key for any team is multi-dimensionality, and it seems like maybe the Wolves have that. I’m not talking string-theory levels of dimensions, but at least a 2D drawing of a 3D cube like you used to doodle on your notebooks in junior high study hall.
Noam Schiller, Hardwood Paroxysm: It has to be Brandon Roy, right? The first game coming back from an injury is often misleadingly good with adrenaline making up for the lack of functioning body parts, so tread with caution, here. But even with those caveats, if Roy can give 13 efficient points in half a game all season, the Wolves have themselves a coup.
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: I’m a little worried about free throw shooting. That’s probably far too paranoid of me, but I fully believe that to be a successful team at the line, you need to start strongly there (even in the preseason). Free throw shooting is the most mental aspect of the NBA and any sense of doubt can really throw you into an odd pit of despair. I doubt they’ll miss a third of their attempts from here on out, but you just want those good results happening right away to feel better about it.
2. Is it satisfying seeing the Wolves win preseason games? They’re meaningless but is there some currency in learning how to win even meaningless games?
McPherson: I think it is satisfying, at least for this specific team, because so much has been made of changing the culture of the Timberwolves and how the roster overhaul accomplished this. When the team hit the skids last season, there was this palpable sense from a certain corner of the roster that they’d been here before, a certain “Here we go again” feel to it. If you want to make the culture a winning culture, you take every win you can get, however it comes.
Schiller: Not when Lance Stephenson gets 25 minutes, Jeff Pendegraph gets 22, Sam Young gets 20, etc. The preseason is for mixing and matching, figuring out who can grab rotation spots 9 through 12, and getting used to new elements of the playbook, and while one always prefer winning to losing, it’s hardly the sort of wins that develop a positive culture in the organization.
Harper: Normally, I would say know but for a young-ish team that hasn’t really experienced any success, except for the occasional veteran from different parts around the league, it does seem to matter a little. You want to change the culture when you’re a perennially losing franchise, and that’s obviously what the Wolves have been. Even small victories like the first game of preseason or a win tonight on the road could help add up and get the right taste in the Wolves’ mouths.
3. More likely to be the fan favorite this season: Andrei Kirilenko or Alexey Shved? Why?
McPherson: Shved is more likely to be the fan favorite this year, simply because if he steps up and fills in for Rubio with some of the same alley-oop drama, plus actually shoots the ball well and piles on the English malapropisms, he will be beloved. But Kirilenko may ultimately be more important and underappreciated. Beyond Shved, the Wolves still have Ridnour and Barea to run the point, and both of them are capable (if occasionally exasperating) vets who can do the job. Beyond Kirilenko, there’s just Budinger and Williams, neither of whom can boast the kind of track record that Kirilenko has. So as it often goes, I expect Shved to garner the fans’ acclaim with highlight reel plays and little to no defense while Kirilenko does the work dishing, hitting the glass, and playing D.
Schiller: Shved. By all accounts, AK47 rediscovered his mojo during his season abroad, but he still tends to roll on the mopey side of things, and that can be antagonizing. Alexey is young, he is unknown, he has floppy hair, tries dangerously risky passes just for flash, and converts alley oops – all fan favorites.
Harper: I think I’m going with Kirilenko. I got incredibly giddy watching him operate in Adelman’s system the other night and seeing him fly all over the court on defense. He’s a guy that makes plays and doing so on both ends (especially if this team is as bad defensively as the roster projects) will resonate with fans. Also, HE TOOK A PICTURE ON A JET SKI NEXT TO A PIG.
Place: Conseco Fieldhouse (I’m not calling it something else) in Indianapolis, Indiana
Time: 6pm Central Time
Viewing and listening pleasure: Don’t believe there is any TV or radio for this broadcast, although we might get lucky with League Pass again (there’s nothing on the schedule though. Where did I leave my keys? Do giraffes smell fear?
Records: Wolves are 1-0, Pacers are 0-1, and the preseason championship is still within grasp.
Still going strong at five Darkos for confidence right now, especially after the first game victory. ALL DARKOS EVERYTHING.