Timberwolves 108, Spurs 95: At the end of the day

Benjamin Polk —  April 18, 2013 — 15 Comments

When we watch March Madness we watch very young, extraordinarily gifted men burn like roman candles. It is a carnival, less a display of basketball prowess than an ecstatic frenzy. We see the spirit carrying the body to places it literally cannot go. There are shows of incredible effort and passion, fevered battles for loose balls, defense played on the edge of exhaustion, wild last-second drives to the hoop. But also: shots crush the back iron; muscles drown in adrenaline; so many turnovers. The tournament is like the most spectacular party you barely remember, the one where the floor bent to the beat of the music, where you could not speak, only scream, where your veins ran with gold, where you loved everybody.

The NBA regular season, in contrast, is more like an adult life, albeit one performed by humans possessed of mind-altering physical grace and skill. Dr. J. once said: “Being a professional is doing the things you love to do on days you don’t feel like doing them.” (And that is probably the most optimistic definition possible: doing the things that you love on any day at all–much less in a professional capacity–is a great luxury indeed.) When we watch the NBA we certainly are privy to moments of transcendence, as we also occasionally are in our daily lives. But the deepest appreciation of the Association stems from observing the everyday and the habitual. The way point guard turns the corner on a pick-and-roll; the way an offense mutates and grows; the way defensive intuition and cohesion evolves over time.

As in life, there are days in an NBA season that fail to inspire the fullness of passion, that fall between the cracks and just seem to lack intrinsic meaning. Today was one of those days. Even the games that bore on the playoff race–like that Utah/Memphis matchup–seemed a little desultory, seemed to a share a bemused, forgotten quality. Being extraordinarily competitive people, the players can’t help but compete despite the strange sense of permanent garbage time. This is how that feels when everything has already ended: it feels like Quincy Pondexter taking stepback jumpers; it feels like Chris Johnson going baseline and throwing down–hard–on Aron Baynes.

Of course, certain things were decided on Wednesday night. The Timberwolves won their 31st game, crowning the franchises most successful season without Kevin Garnett. With one of their finer outside shooting performances of the year (12-29 from three), they narrowly avoided sinking below the dreaded 30% mark and ascended from historic awfulness to the ranks of the merely terrible. Ricky Rubio narrowly missed becoming the NBA steals leader.

Mostly, though, things were strange. The ball wobbled into the basket off of fingertips and wrong-footed afterthought heaves. J.J. Barea dueled with Patty Mills. Derrick Williams threw down a two-handed 360 and no one really noticed. Chris Johnson did his amazing thing. In all of that, it was a fitting end to a confusing year. I’ll say it again: their most successful non-KG season ever. There will be time to sort through the wreckage in the coming weeks, but right now I’d just like to savor that thought. It fell far short of our brightest hopes. It ended before it began. It hinged on a poorly performed knuckle pushup. And yet it was a strange kind of success. Wolves’ fans, welcome to your world.

Benjamin Polk

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15 responses to Timberwolves 108, Spurs 95: At the end of the day

  1. Wolves played agains SA, not Utah…

  2. Ben, just want to say I love the AWAW posts and don’t mean to criticize but last night was against the Spurs dude, not the Jazz!

  3. Got it. My bad.

  4. FromEurope guy beat me too it and I was on at 3.53am!

  5. Well, here in Europe was in the morning, so no overnight reading. I get used to read this blog during my breakfast, after I found it following an ESPN-reference (“First cup”) about Ricky Rubio. You guys are done a great job with this blog!

    I hope next season is not so frustrating like this one, I already knew what is supporting a small football (ups, I meant, “soccer”) team and now, thank you guys, I know what is supporting a small NBA team…

    PS.- As an improvement: ESPN.com does not contain always a video with the Wolves hightlights, but NBA.com does. Maybe you can link them also.

  6. Im also from Europe and sometimes they do post some kind of highlight of the last game.However, the beauty of this blog is the liberty benjamin , zach or steve take to explain some aspects of the wolves reality including movie or music references.They could post a highlight reel of the last game if they want to but instead they prefer to analize wolves life in their own ,sometimes unconventional, way.

  7. Good to see improvement, albeit gradually. Two steps forward, one huge step back. Next year…

  8. pagingstanleyroberts April 23, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    I had to post about the Trade Value column and the blog post on Grantland about the Wolves. Mostly, I have questions that one of the writers hopefully can answer:
    1. The Wolves didn’t cut Webster and Darko because they needed cap room for the Batum offer sheet, did they? I assumed it was a formality that coincided with making that offer sheet because they were seeking Webster or Darko trades. They were amnestying Darko no matter what, and Webster would’ve had to be cut either way. Maybe they hold on to Wes if they hadn’t signed Roy and therefore didn’t need extra cap space for AK, but they couldn’t have kept Webster.
    2. I’m not really worried about the whole Love thing because I have no control over it, but do the national guys know something about him and his future that the local guys don’t?
    I don’t have a problem with them being called out on their bungling of the ’09 draft and the subsequent picks, but making things up just riles up the conspiracy theorists and the people who think Bill Simmons is a real journalist and trust him.

  9. I really enjoy your blog. i am from MN and saw the first victory against Barkley and the 76ers. What do you think about keeping Kahn no matter what Coach does. How do you assess his leadership of the Wolves?

  10. I’m not really worried about the whole Love thing because I have no control over it, but do the national guys know something about him and his future that the local guys don’t?

    Not really. They really just don’t want Love to stay in Minnesota. It’s been awfully sad this past season to see the attitude that suggests that a small market team doesn’t deserve its own superstar. Most of the feature articles on ESPN this season about the Timberwolves that didn’t concern injuries were about which big market team should get to pick over their assets. Obviously, Kevin Love should go to the Bulls/Heat/Lakers. It’s just a matter of what leftovers from those teams the Timberwolves should take to give Love up. (Carlos Boozer! Disenchanted Chris Bosh! Injured and soft Pau Gasol!) If the Timberwolves resist this, it just shows once again that Kahn has no idea what he’s doing.

    Also, the amusing thing about the Bill Simmons article is about how holding on to Webster and Darko apparently would have been the right thing to do in that situation, according to him. Cutting dead weight apparently only exacerbates prior bad decisions, whereas keeping said dead weight on your roster is the right thing to do.

    You also have to remember that David Kahn used to be a sportswriter, and thus it’s probably not a coincidence that a lot of people covering basketball instinctively hate him. That 2009 Draft article is a perfect example of it. Seriously, that was four years ago. What the hell was the point of bringing that up again? Is that the most important thing Simmons could be writing about with regards to the NBA or the NBA Draft? And all of them ignore the story behind why they took Ty Lawson because it hinders their narrative, that narrative, of course, being that Kahn’s an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing.

    It’s amusing, because I’m hoping that Kahn doesn’t get fired just to deny these petty sportswriters that satisfaction. I have an emotional investment in Kahn’s performance that goes beyond simply how he benefits the Timberwolves.

  11. I’m with you Charles. Kahn hasn’t been perfect with picks but who exactly has? He inherited a horribly managed situation and was able to turn dead weight and no cap room into mostly the opposite all while trying out flyers on people that happened to not work out. IMO Simmon’s take on the 2009 draft has turned pathetic and he’s still bitter about not being considered for the GM position (in which he was trying to play off as a joke bid but seriously wanted to be considered). People complaining about the Ty Lawson pick is a perfect example of taking random articles as fact and not paying attention to what is actually happening. People seem perplexed about the Wolves being pre-arranged to pick for Denver and overlook that fact in almost every article.

  12. Simmons is a little over the top with his Kahn hate and probably doesn’t give Kahn enough credit for how he has tried to build the team with reasonably priced FA acquisitions. However, without resorting to excuses that cover the entire spectrum of the human condition like “nobody’s perfect”, the facts show Simmons has a strong argument. The outgoing terrible administration drafted 2 of the Minnesota’s 3 best players in one draft, 2008. Without Pek and Love this team is godawful (which is easy to prove given the massive sample size of games where they both have been injured, in which the team was godawful), so what credit is there to be given to Kahn other than that he was gifted a couple of good players and put a terrible team around them? Kahn had nine – yes nine – first round picks including 4 in the top six in the past four drafts, and armed with draft resources that a Presti or a Morey would have used to build a contender from scratch, has successfully drafted one starter (who has played 1 1/2 seasons since being drafted four years ago) and one guy whose floor is the poor man’s Beas and whose ceiling is the rich man’s Beas and even in a lost season couldn’t get much PT unless Adelman had nobody else to play. Only two of a possible 15 draft picks after just four seasons are on the team and two of the high lottery picks had to be packaged with picks just to be given away. In the same time frame the Clippers have turned their picks into DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe. Even “terrible” front offices like Charlotte and Washington – with far fewer than nine first round picks — have each drafted more starters and rotation players than Minny during the past four drafts. So if you are indeed defending Kahn based on the argument that he has not been a very bad aggregator of talent with the resources he had, please show me some actual evidence not “Simmons is pathetic, nobody is perfect” which is a complete ad hominem non-sequitur.

  13. I wasn’t defending Kahn. I was answering a question about why the national sportswriters are and have been so adamant about how the T-Wolves absolutely must trade Kevin Love and how this is going to be a clusterf*ck of epic proportions for the team.

    And I think the context of why those same sportswriters seem to have a massive hate-on for David Kahn is part of why that’s happening. And it’s not because he’s a crappy GM. That’s just pretext, It’s much more visceral.

    It’s not because they give a damn about the Timberwolves. They just hate David Kahn. If you disagree, look at that trade Simmons proposed for Kevin Love. Not only do the T-Wolves give up their best player, they do it in exchange for the garbage contract that every Bulls fan has been fuming over for what seems like forever. Oh, and Luol Deng too, because Chicago’s gonna have trouble resigning him anyway with all their talented guys. And rather than spend even one sentence on why the T-Wolves would want to do this deal, he forgets what he was writing about and goes on raving about how great the deal would be for the Bulls and why they’d want to do it. Again, he’s not slamming Kahn or urging the trade of Love because he cares about what happens to the T-Wolves. He couldn’t give any less of a damn.

    And this is not new. Hell, this is the third time this season I’ve seen a “Wow, Love’s really good, Minnesota’s got to trade him somewhere relevant” article.

  14. Just to be clear, I never said Simmons was pathetic…I said his assessment of the Timberwolves 2009 draft was turning pathetic. I base my opinion on him mentioning it every chance he can. I enjoy his column but get agitated when he says the same thing over and over at least once or twice a year. He should get over it imo. I don’t strictly look at “stats” as a basis for my opinions. I base my opinion of the situation he was given on the horrible track record and situation he was left with to clean up. I’ll never forget the interview with McHale and Flip a few years after KG started to blow up where they admitted they picked KG on a whim and if it didn’t work out they had the “excuse” of “well it’s our first draft” (sorry I don’t have the link for the specific interview but I saw it on FSN and it does in fact exist). Granted McHale drafted Love (after almost screwing that up by toying with the Grizzlies pick but they finally caved later that night) but the KG whim and us almost keeping Mayo over Love isn’t anything special imo. Pek pick was great though….love that one.

    I guess I give Kahn too much leeway as far as criticism goes because everyione seems to overlook other factors that don’t show up in the “stat columns”…like, Rubio repeatedly saying he wouldn’t come to Minnesota (or anywhere really) and only working out for Sacramento before the draft. Even while all media and rubes like us were telling him not to draft Rubio he did it anyway and it looks to be the right decision. He admitted taking Beasley with 2 second round picks (which is usually junk) was a low risk/high reward type of move and for some reason most everyone thinks it was a huge issue. We tried, it didn’t work, we move on. He wanted to see if he could get anything out of Randolph (whom he said he liked before he was drafted)…nope. He’s just trying out things with no regrets and imo that’s worth noting. People can point to the fact that we could have had Stephen Curry instead of Jonny Flynn with the bonus of hindsight. I agreed with not taking Curry because he was so frail in stature and could be too injury prone. Up until this season that seemed to be the case. I just believe he gets unjust criticism in a lot of areas that don’t have much to do with his job duties. Has he messed up on some picks? Yes, but he also has the team in a way better direction as opposed to giving Troy Hudson, Marko Jaric and Mike James decent money…not to mention picking up gems like Ndudi Ebi and the headcase Rashad McCants.

  15. pagingstanleyroberts April 25, 2013 at 10:33 am

    To clarify, I was mostly referring to the national guys’ opinion that Love wants out now, which differs from local opinions that are more nuanced. In this case, it’s not clear whether those national sources have more direct access to Love than the local guys or they’re just jumping to conclusions.

    For the record, I don’t want Kahn back. While the criticism of him has indicated that he deserves an F for his moves, which I disagree with (ownership has had at least some input before Adelman took control), it’d be generous to say he deserves a C-. Mostly, I have no interest in defending him against criticism even if it goes overboard; he gets paid a lot of $ to deal with that pressure himself, and he could’ve avoided it by doing a better job. I just think we can expect more out of a front office than what’s been provided since the franchise’s inception. Despite the lack of lottery luck, they have been lucky at times to have a player drop lower than he should (KG, Ricky) or have another owner overrule his GM and make a trade (Heisley in the Mayo-Love swap).

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