Holy cow there were a lot of fouls in this game. 69 of them, and I don’t even mean that in some kind of eyebrow-raised, sexy way. I’m not a mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that means a foul every 45 seconds or so, which is just unreal. Couple that with terrible free throw shooting by both teams (63% for the Bulls and 67% for the Wolves) and you’ve got the recipe for the above score.
I actually have something to say about the preseason in general, and why it’s shortchanging it to say it’s “meaningless,” but let’s get to some of the more fun parts of tonight’s tilt.
- The matchup between J.J. Barea and Nate Robinson had to be the most adorable in the NBA since Muggy Bogues guarded Spudd Webb in a preseason game in October of 1988 (I made that up—please do not look it up). But seriously, any notion that Barea is 6’0″ tall and thus three inches taller than Robinson was resoundingly debunked by seeing them more or less eye to eye. I kept waiting for the guy in charge of in-arena music to start bumping the theme to “Muppet Babies” every time they squared up against each other.
- All night, the Bulls played Joakim Noah on Dante Cunningham and Carlos Boozer on Nikola Pekovic, which was a weird crossmatch—as Britt Robson observed—and even more strangely, the Wolves didn’t try to take advantage of it by dumping it down to Pek. Pek, by the way, looks every inch as ripped in person as was reported. Under his biceps are just more biceps. And possibly other people’s biceps.
- Shved really hit his stride in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points in a variety of ways, including a couple threes and a nice lefty scoop on a drive to the basket. I kept watching him on defense to see how bad he might be on that end, but he acquitted himself reasonably well, I thought. Not spectacular, but it seems like if he can just not be a negative of defense he’ll be fine. More on him in a moment.
- Luke Ridnour and Kirk Hinrich are basically Street Fighter II palette swaps of each other, like Ryu and Ken. I think maybe this makes Steve Nash Akuma.
- Roy looked good again, although it wasn’t exactly encouraging to see him wincing every time he got up from diving for a loose ball, which, while we’re at it: WHY ARE YOU DIVING FOR LOOSE BALLS IN THE PRESEASON WHEN YOU HAVE NO KNEES? He ended up with 13 points and led the team with 4 assists. Your points and rebounds leader was Pekovic, who scored 16 and pulled down 17 boards. SEVENTEEN. Thanks to Joan Niesen, I learned that that is the most by a Timberwolves player in the preseason since Al Jefferson had 17 in 2007. Which means nothing.
Which brings us neatly to the whole meaning nothing thing. Just because something doesn’t show up in the final product doesn’t mean it’s without weight or meaning. I teach writing, and I hammer home the benefits of the rough draft. Until you get your ideas out, until you get your voice on the page, it’s almost impossible to know what you have. Trying to shape what you’re saying as it’s coming out is a sure path to writer’s block, or at the very least tripping yourself up. You can write sentences, paragraphs, entire pages and chapters that never make it into the final work, but they’re still there. The work you did to make them is still there.
Preseason isn’t all that different. The coaches, the players—they need to see what’s possible with what they have. So maybe the overall texture of a preseason game is uneven, rough, nothing you’d want to save. But there will be little elements you begin to understand better. Maybe Shved’s little explosion in the fourth shows Adelman he can be trusted, shows his teammates that he might be able to step up when it’s needed. Roy and Cunningham executing clean pick and rolls is something you can cut free of this game and carry forward into the next draft. And just as it is with writing, you might carry something forward and discover it doesn’t work at all in the final draft. And that’s fine—that’s part of the process, too.
The title of this post comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson. The pieces of this largely new team aren’t going to come together without many levels of work, from drills to practices to preseason games to the real thing. This team is going to learn gem-tactics by practicing sands.