Timberwolves 112, Pelicans 110: Mainlining the Secret Truth of the Universe

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 02: Pyrotechnics go off in the arena as Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors stands for the National Anthem before their game against the Memphis Grizzlies at ORACLE Arena on November 2, 2015 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“Yeah, back then, the visions, yeah most of the time I was convinced… Shit… I’d lost it. But there were other times… I thought I was mainlining the secret truth of the universe.” – Rust Cohle, True Detective


“A message denotes a specific, concrete statement about the world. But the forms of our media, including the symbols through which they permit conversation, do not make such statements. They are rather like metaphors, working by unobtrusive but powerful implication to enforce their special definitions of reality. Whether we are experiencing the world through the lens of speech or the printed word or the television camera, our media-metaphors classify the world for us, sequence it, frame it, enlarge it, reduce it, color it, argue a case for what the world is like.” – Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death


“With the sixth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select Jonny Flynn from Syracuse University.” – David Stern, 6/25/2009.


The way you experience something affects how it ages in your brain, whether you love it or hate it or remember or forget it, whether it becomes a fond memory or a painful reminder. This isn’t just true for the events of your life; it also applies to the music you listen to, the shows you watch, even the sports teams your root for. The medium is important – whether you’re seeing a game live, watching on TV alone, or cheering on your team with friends in a crowded bar – it all becomes inextricably linked with how the experience is seared into your subconscious.

Take last night’s Wolves victory over the Pelicans, for instance. If you just watched the game, start to finish, you were happy. Minnesota was incredibly resilient – they fell behind by 12 in the first half, clawed their way back to a 5 point deficit early in the third, slumped their way to a 14 point hole shortly thereafter, went on a white-hot run to make it a one-possession game early in the fourth, allowed New Orleans to extend their lead to 8 again, then pulled close for the final 5 minutes. Every time the Pelicans were ready to pull away, the Wolves wouldn’t let them, and came away with a nice road victory against the Brow-less Pellies.

If you only caught parts of the game as you went about your Saturday night, or watched highlights this morning, you probably caught some very nice point guard play from Tyus Jones, including an excellent three-quarter court pass to Shabazz Muhammad for a big transition slam. You may have seen some of Zach LaVine’s dynamite second half spurts of energy, where he went 9-for-13 from the field and lit up the Pelicans’ perimeter defense.  You almost certainly caught a Karl-Anthony Towns highlight or two – putting the ball on the deck for a nice lefty finish at the rim, catching a Ricky Rubio lob from halfcourt, putting Alexis Ajinca and Kendrick Perkins into spin cycles with dizzying footwork in the paint, or stealing the ball on his own end and destroying the rim at the other:

Even if you only saw the exciting final minute, you were probably happy. Gorgui Dieng hit a clutch layup to give the Wolves the lead with 26 seconds to go. Andrew Wiggins, who struggled with his handle all night, put it on the floor in a big situation, got to the line (thanks to a block/charge call that could’ve gone either way) and actually made the free throws. Then Gorgui made a very savvy play after stealing the Pelicans’ inbound attempt, tossing the ball into the air so time expired, sealing Minnesota’s two point victory.

Alright, let’s stop here.

If that was your experience – if that was all the NBA you digested last night – good for you.

I watched the Thunder-Warriors game on ABC, and judging by my Twitter feed (as well as the overnight ratings, which held it was the most-watched non-Christmas regular season game in three years) I wasn’t alone. It was an excellent game – sublime, actually – as Durant and Westbrook dueled with Curry and Thompson down the stretch in the fourth quarter, and into overtime as well. The game ended like this:

So what does this have to do with a Wolves-Pelicans recap? Let’s get back to Twitter for a minute. There are several rules of the internet, and they really ought to be codified and set in stone (or on a webpage) sometime, but one of them is that, at any time, you can find someone on Twitter bemoaning the fact that the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry in the 2009 NBA Draft. And when Steph does something like confidently drilling a 38-foot buzzer-beating shot (BECAUSE THAT QUALIFIES AS A GOOD LOOK FOR HIM) to win a big game, those people find you.

Here’s the thing: those tweets could make you mad because they’re a little tired, and we’ve heard them all before. (For the record, I like Hanif, Phil, and Ben a lot; I don’t hold any of those tweets against them.) Steph’s brilliance, his ascension into a lofty realm unseen in basketball history, only has bearing on the current state of the Timberwolves if you let it. Watching games for the pure enjoyment of them is wonderful if you can achieve that elevated state of mind… but Twitter makes it difficult, because in addition to great signal, you’re bound to receive a whole lot of noise. The above  tweets are noise, but it’s noise that won’t fade out; in fact, it’s amplified more as Curry continues to improve. If Curry wins another MVP trophy, you’ll hear it again. If he hits a big shot in the playoffs, you’ll hear it again. If he wins another title, or two, or three, you’ll hear it every time, like we’re all stuck in a flat circle.

If that seems bleak – if it hearkens the darkest parts of Rust Cohle’s philosophy from True Detective – keep in mind that the antidote lies in the fact that you are often in charge of your experience. I’m in charge of my own. And even if the fact that the Wolves passed on Curry still eats at you – I confess, it still gets to me – take solace in the fact that Minnesota has its own sliver of hope in Karl-Anthony Towns, a player who sure as hell seems equipped to become the foundation of a winning team. The way we digest the world – as Postman said, the media-metaphors we allow to “frame, enlarge, reduce, color, argue a case for what the world is like – ultimately still comes down to us, as individuals. Appreciate Curry if you want, lament what may have been, even though nothing can change the past – just know that you have a lot more control about how you take it all in than you may think.

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3 Responsesso far.

  1. J Jay says:

    At least we didn’t have the biggest blunder in that draft, since we were not the team that selected Hasheem Thabeet with the #2 pick.

    • gjk says:

      Bingo (a team that moved past that blunder and the Love-Mayo swap very well, though). Or the team that took Tyreke Evans 4th and now has to settle for Seth Curry.

      What threw me off with Curry at the time was that he played so much SG at Davidson. Jason Richards had 156 more assists than Curry as a freshman (he was a junior) and 189 more as a sophomore. Then, when he did play PG as a junior, they were upset in their conference tourney by future Laker legend Andrew Goudelock and had to go to the NIT, where his team lost to Patty Mills’ team. He shot 39% from 3 his last college season, which was down from the years where he played off the ball. This wasn’t anywhere near Jordan-Bowie because Jordan played at an elite school; Curry had one great tournament run, but so did a lot small-college guards.

  2. pyrrol says:

    The Curry thing has never bothered me. I guess it is for two main reasons. One, no one saw Curry turning into this. His upside was tiny, fragile Kyle Korver. Folks weren’t even sure if he could play NBA point, let alone thrive at it, but saw him as too small to be a shooting guard. As good as a shooter as he was in college, it didn’t really hint at what we are seeing now. Early in his NBA career he looked like he had glass ankles and since then he’s had almost perfect health. Lastly, Oscar Robertson has a point. We may never have seen a shooter of Curry’s raw eye hand coordination capability, but NBA players and coaches are doing a horrible job figuring out how to defend him (and defending him physically, even roughly at times to throw him off rhythm). It’s amazing how he burns teams after showing his cards over and over. The clip above shows a very audacious shot that would be a terrible look for any other player, but is an OK look for him. And OKC’s defense looks surprised. That’s the one thing you should expect–for Curry to shoot anywhere in the half court he feels like.

    The other reason I don’t mind is I just don’t like the way Curry plays. I find three point shooting boring after a while, even if some of the shots are unusually difficult. Curry has improved greatly as a passer (pretty easy to pass when everyone is terrified of your shooting like we’ve never seen…) and some as a defender and has always been an elite ball handler. But the core of his game is just shooting. He’s not a good defender, but makes some plays and gets steals. He passes well, but it’s not his priority. People will roll my eyes when I say this, but I think a point guard’s number one priority is to pass and run offense, not take shots. From an entertainment perspective, all jump shots, no matter where they are taken, are basically the same technique aimed at the same ring positioned in the same place. Watching people take long jumps shots off basic action gets old. Passing is done in a variety of ways, bounce, alley oop, chest, one handed heave, no look, etc and to an almost infinite set of destinations on the floor in a huge variety of situations. I find great passing much more interesting than great shooting, all else equal. I think Curry or Curry-like players also discourage interesting and creative plays in favor of basic action that gets little three point looks (often long ones). In leaning on a guy like Curry, an offense can get lazy and dull. If you like made shots no matter what, I guess Curry is the most entertaining player ever. But if you think there is more to the game than taking and making ill advised (normally) long shots and making them, perhaps he’s not you’re cup of tea.

    Also Curry, STOP chewing on that mouth piece and maybe go through puberty.

    About this game: It was ugly, and we made Andersen look like Kobe Bryant in his prime. But we also stayed with it and played tough. Sam almost sunk our attempt to win by not putting LaVine out with the starters to begin the 2nd half, but it all worked out barely. Our defense was really not good. Oddly, Rubio’s passing was off much of the game, but he seemed to fight through it and get back to his old self at the end. We need more bench guys–suddenly we feel super short. I think Martin will be gone soon and he didn’t play. The guys are going to get tired and the bench is going to drag us down if we don’t get some more bodies on the roster. As good as Towns played (30 and 15!) he missed some shots he normally makes. He’s scary good. I expect a big letdown from this game—we didn’t play that well. It was nice to win close, win ugly and make a comeback into a win, but we just have to play better if we expect to win regularly. And I think we can play better. Will we clean it up?

    Sam’s tie was really great.

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