Timberwolves 98, Mavericks 113: Horse Latitudes

Steve McPherson —  January 14, 2013 — 13 Comments

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Hold onto your hats; this is about to get real personal. Because honestly, I don’t think anyone’s particularly interested in trying to break down just why the Wolves lost to the Mavericks tonight. Maybe not even Mavs fans. Brand had a throwback game with 20 pts and 6 rebounds. I know plus/minus is kind of wonky for individual players in individual games but O.J. Mayo was +THIRTY in this one. Darren Collison threw down a dunk with 30 seconds left and Dallas up 16 points so yeah: screw that guy.

But did the Wolves confront Collison like the Bulls did when Lillard dunked on them with the game in the bag? Nope. They probably felt they deserved it. For the Wolves, the questions this game provokes are things like: when is Rubio going to start; why isn’t Derrick Williams starting; how can Barea be both our best offensive and defensive player (and he actually is the best guard we have defending the pick and roll); and why bother?

And believe me, I would love to see Rubio start, but I’m sure that’s not going to happen until they’re absolutely sure he’s fully back. It would be terrible to see him break down just in the name of shaking things up. And Williams has been genuinely impressive off the bench, yet I still think the team feels like they have to bring him along at just the right pace. Ladle too much onto his plate and we could see him regress. As for that last one, I have no good answers. Maybe there aren’t any.

And maybe that’s why this is beginning to feel like the awful inescapable static that pervades and makes indecipherable the end of a relationship. Now I don’t know how most people get through the death throes of a long-term relationship, but I got through mine like a mewling, drooling, useless kitten, unable to even figure out what I was supposed to do when I woke up every day. Even the most basic actions suddenly seemed freighted with significance, as if the right way of holding my hands, the right way of saying the same things I’d always said could become the thing, the ward that could stop this fraying.

But of course, it couldn’t. Every break broke the wrong way. Every glimpse of even the most basic feeling of normalcy, of being on track, was quickly decimated and swept away by a tide I had no control over. That’s what watching the Wolves has felt like these last few games. Every move feels like the wrong one. Acting on instinct leads to disaster. Careful planning leads to disaster. This leads to careful planning of the most instinctual things which leads, of course, to disaster.

There are reasons for the Wolves’ struggles, stats both commonplace and advanced that point to trouble with consistency, with shooting, with plugging holes due to injury and then working injured players back into lineups. But basketball is also an emotional landscape, a collective effort by people to make something together, and sometimes it just falls the fuck apart.

Is it hopeless? No, even if it feels that way. Can I point to reasons for hope? Not really, except knowing that change happens whether we want it to or not, and it breaks both ways. Right now, facing another long injury recovery from Kevin Love, the prospect of watching Rubio play his way back step by shaky step, and a team that feels hollow and wrongfooted almost all the time, we’re in the horse latitudes, that stretch of ocean where the winds die and you drift.

Let’s just try not to eat each other before we make it out the other side.

Steve McPherson

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13 responses to Timberwolves 98, Mavericks 113: Horse Latitudes

  1. Send me a note when the Wolves start playing decent ball again. Their offense is so awful right now.

  2. This team is an embarrassment. Injuries are one thing but to play with absolutely no heart or effort is unacceptable. Teams are laughing at Kahn right now, more than usual because they know he’s desperate to make a trade

  3. Wonderful post Steve. I think you described well the love fans have for the team even when any hope of relevancy seems to have been lost due to things outside of play on the court (injuries mainly!). Even though this team probably won’t make the playoffs I think as fans of the team we can still have hope that the future is still bright.

  4. I’ve been trying to think of what to say about the Wolves recently….you’ve summed it up perfectly and much more eloquently than I ever could. I think the worst thing is the feeling of powerlessness. These guys in Wolves’ clothing aren’t really going to win many games, no matter how hard we shake things up….but…like you….I’d far prefer to see Williams start (see if Dante can find his inferno again) and I think I’d even try JJ for a little while as opposing teams are just picking on Luke just now. It’s tough on the Wolves and tough on their fans…but hey, I suppose that’s what makes us fans?

  5. This team needs resolution on Brandon Roy pronto and at least one more warm body that can contribute (even 5 minutes). Hayward is not that guy and neither is Lou.

  6. Why is the team losing? career backup starting at PF, an over matched rookie starting at SG with no NBA legit backup, No one off the bench (that matters) at SF or C. An absolute fear of playing their number 1 pick from last year for any real minutes. a complete mess at the PG position = what we have.

    I love DC don’t get me wrong (think we should have kept AT and skipped Lou but that’s spilt milk) but he is not a full time starter. the PG position should be the one position of strength for this club, but Luke’s Back, JJ’s pick your body part, and Rubio playing himself back into NBA shape negates any strength we may have had there. SG is still (for I don’t know the 10th year in a row? I lost count) a complete wreck.

    But all that said, Adelman > than Porter as head coach and it’s not even close.

    I hope the trade market picks up after today and some help is on the way, but from seasons past we as Wolves fans know all to well, this front office is not above throwing the towel in early on a season and waiting until next year. Let’s hope this is not another one of those years and we actually try to plug some holes until we can get everyone back.

  7. Murph – Settle down dude. When a team takes on the injuries it has, it is hard to stay afloat. They dont have anyone that can score 20 pts a night consistently. Nobody has stepped up and said, “follow me, I got this” They rotate the ball very well but I see alot of players turning down open shots. Its one thing to be unselfish and its another to be scared to miss a shot. I think you have to consider going with a different lineup. barea, Ridnour, Ak, Williams, Pek. Still got some decent depth off the bench.

  8. I agree with Shawn. I’m not fan of Kahn, but no one who knows anything about the NBA is pointing the finger at him right now saying “What an idiot. He didn’t build a team that could contend for the playoffs considering Love broke his hand twice, Rubio struggled to come back from an ACL, Budinger tore up his knee, 3 other players had season ending injuries and a few old guys have tight backs any given night.” Just think where this team would be without the moves Adelm–, I mean Kahn made this offseason. No Kirilenko, Shved, Cunningham? That’d be tough. You can’t argue that the management of this team is going in the wrong direction, regardless of who’s actually making the dicisions.

    I think Steve’s article sums it up well. It’s tough to find any combination of five guys who can compete at both ends right now, which is leading to a lot of second guessing. It got exhausting last night watching us work so hard to move the ball without being able to produce a better shot than a long Dante Cunningham jumper (of which I’m usually a fan). It’s tough to swallow.

    I find myself looking forward to next year with optimism, but it feels like almost the exact same optimism as we had looking forward to this season – only with uncertainty for Pek, no Roy and some of our key veterans one year older.

    On a different note, interesting that the Timberwolves office chose last week to make the “playoff promise” to season ticket holders- renew now and get 10% off next year’s tickets if we don’t make the playoffs this year. So I guess it’s a little more money in our pockets, a lottery pick and we look forward to next year….again.

  9. There’s something that intrigues me about this story… “How can Barea be our best offense & defense player?” Well he is my friend. Maybe there’s your answer. Heart my friend… maybe not height but heart… hopefully he gets traded…

  10. I hate to bag on Terry Porter who is working under trying circumstances, but he is in over his head. Pek needs the ball more for starters. Porter also has this tendency to leave the second unit or the starters in a minute or two long. This happened yesterday with the second unit in the second quarter and the game before that the same thing. The combations of players that are playing do not fit that well together. I do not see why they do not start Ricky and still keep him at 18 or so minutes a game. Just play him 9 min first quarter, 6 min 3rd quarter and 3 min 4th quarter. Start Ricky, Luke, AK 47, Williams, and Pek. 2nd unit Shevd, Dante, Barea, with some minutes for stesma. Just give those combinations a try and give Pek the ball twice as many times as he gets it now and profit.

  11. Matt – You cant start Ricky right now. He looks slow and sluggish and favors that knee to much. He is not liking much contact right now because of this. At this point he is more of a liability until he can get his legs stronger. Lets switch Rubio with Barea in your starting lineup for now. Ricky will eventually start but it may not be until next year. Crazy Karl – Dont give up on the season just yet. Its a long season yet. Kahn is crazy and could pull some outrageous trade any day.

  12. Nice post. I’m chuckling here. And not desperate enough to eat anybody yet. I think Williams will start when Rubio starts. Makes sense to have them on the floor together as much as possible to hopefully develop some chemistry. Should be fun to watch. Bumpy for awhile, I’m sure, but I hope we see some progress from those two over the next month. And that Shved gets some confidence/swagger back.

  13. Shawn, I think ricky works better with pek then barea does. Barea kind of dominates the ball and would keep it out of Pek’s hands too much. Ricky would put it in his hands. I also like derrick williams with ricky. You have AK-47 to provide some defensive and rebounding help. I like both Ricky and Barea, but they should not be playing together as much as they do right now in my opinion. I agree with you that Ricky is still gimpy and clearly not 100%, but he still would only be playing 18 minutes per game and the focus of the offensive when he is in there is Pek and they have three solid outside shooters with a couple of players that can finish around the basket.

    The second unit has barea to provide offensive with Shevd creativity to spell him here or there. Dante would play defense and hit a few open jumpers and board. Then you have AK-47, Luke or a bench player for the three spot with Stesma/Pek 5.

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