Timberwolves 99, Bulls 94: Don’t just win it for Thibs, win it for yourselves too

Via Getty

My least favorite part of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ start to this season has been the hand-wringing about this team. That will happen when three straight summers of promising young cornerstones are added along with the J.K. Simmons “Fletcher” style of coach in Tom Thibodeau is put in charge of the franchise. It’s not just the Wolves losing these games; it’s the way they’ve lost these games. I get all that and I understand the frustration. I don’t understand tying Thibodeau to the previous 12 years of ineptitude, but I get why people aren’t having fun watching Karl-Anthony Towns in his second professional season and the duo of Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine in their third NBA season.

The Wolves let go of the rope far too often. Their grasp is immature and unaware of the tenacity and focus it takes to keep hold of the control of any given game. If you expected the Wolves to make the playoffs this season and show themselves to be the next Oklahoma City Thunder (prior to Kevin Durant leaving, of course), then your season has likely already been ruined. If your expectations weren’t quite as optimistic and you’re looking for progress, then there’s still hope to enjoy this season.

That’s what happened in Chicago on Tuesday night during a nationally televised game. The first 6-12 minutes of the game lent themselves to the hand-wringing that I complained about above. In a game the young pups allegedly wanted to win for their growling coach, they came into this contest against the Chicago Bulls flaccid. The first seven minutes of the game had Robin Lopez looking like Wilt Chamberlain, Gorgui Dieng looking like David Lee, and the Wolves looking like the first quarter would be the one that does them in. Minnesota put up a bit of a fight a couple minutes later to begin to make it respectable, but the first quarter ended with the Wolves down 16, the Bulls putting up 38 points, and Chicago shooting 72.7% from the floor.

Even if the Wolves continued to fight back, that was probably going to be too big of a ditch for them to climb out of — mostly because that seems to be the way this season goes. People were wondering on Twitter what was wrong with the Wolves, why they showed so little effort if they did indeed want to win this one for Thibs, and wondering why they can’t at least be fun to watch in their youth.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you the next three quarters of basketball were the change the Wolves needed to enact. They dominated the second quarter, they won the third quarter decisively, and they even won the fourth quarter. The final 36 minutes of that game, Minnesota allowed just 33.8% from the field and 15.4% from deep. Chicago no longer dominated the pain. Some of this was defense and some of this was just the Bulls missing shots.

Whatever it was, the Wolves capitalized on it. And kept capitalizing on it. And put pressure on the home team. The game of runs went in their favor as they outscored their opponents by 21 points over the final three quarters of this game — exchanging blow for blow and counter-punching when the Bulls were left vulnerable.

The Wolves’ bench didn’t help, combining for 9 points between the four reserves who received playing time. This was simply an effort by the starters to get their excrement together after a putrid first rotation through the game to do what their coach has been roaring at them to do: play some gutsy basketball.

It often wasn’t pretty either. Karl-Anthony Towns couldn’t find the stroke on his jumper. Andrew Wiggins wasn’t barreling into the lane in order to get free throw attempts to control the pace and get some free points. Zach LaVine wasn’t catching fire in a lite Klay Thompson performance. The Wolves simply started making smarter decisions that showed flashes of the discipline their coach demands.

At a certain point, the Wolves have a decision to make as a unit of players: either keep feeling sorry for themselves and continue to crumble under mild-to-optimistic preseason expectations, or they can find the mental breakthrough they need to erase poor play and build what many of us believe they can and will build.

That’s why I don’t fool myself into thinking or hoping the switch has been flipped for them by this road effort that should, in theory, galvanize a young, hungry team looking to satiate their quest for know-how in the NBA. There will be more frustrating moments this season and we’ll probably once again see the weight of losses and expectations begin to pull down the hopes of this team. Where you believe the progress will shine through is they’ll draw back on an experience like this and remember how to pull themselves back together.

When you’re 6-18, any win is an emotional one if you have a competitive streak inside you. Many of these players wear their competitive streaks on their sleeves, and you can see it being overwhelmed by panic and inexperience when things get bad. Slowing the game down to something you can manage is what veterans have learned how to do with their experience. There was also emotion in making sure Thibodeau received his win in the first game back in Chicago. With the bad blood that happened over Thibs’ time with the Bulls (some his fault, some management’s fault), it’s both petty and understandable that this win might mean more to the Wolves coach — even if he’d never admit it.

KAT walked over to his coach and gave him a hug when he final buzzer sounded. Wiggins apparently lit up when Alan Horton asked him about coming through for his coach.

Maybe that’s what it takes to fuse the competitive streak they possess with the pride and execution necessary to become a winner in this league. Maybe they needed to take their own emotions out of it and play for something other than themselves. Maybe Thibodeau was finally that unifying voice they could believe in and use his history to amend their present and future. Or maybe it was just a random collapse by the Bulls and enough good moments by the Wolves to overcome their early and significant deficit.

There is no way of knowing right now. We can only speculate, hope for the best, and wait to see how the respond in the next game, week, month, and for the rest of the season. But for now, they made the right plays they needed to in order to get back into this game. Developing teams build those moments into habits and those habits into staples. Usually, those staples turn into more victories than losses, and it’s been a long time since the Wolves could flaunt that for an entire season. But it’s coming.

Three Key Plays That I Found Cool

Where you would assume the Wolves would kick this game away to the Bulls occurs in the final minute of the game. The Wolves had a two-point lead but Dwyane Wade had the ball in his hands with 65 seconds left. He was isolated against Zach LaVine on the right wing. Normally, you’d expect the Wolves to either give up the layup, find their way into giving up a soul-crumbling 3-pointer, or foul Wade and give him a couple of free points.

Instead, LaVine managed to create a likely four or five-point swing. Wade tested LaVine’s footwork with a quick crossover for show, just to see where the young defender’s head was. He then tried to catch LaVine leaning with a left-to-right crossover and a drive, which was setting up a pullback crossover to get Zach off-balance. LaVine initially bit on the first crossover, but he recovered and remained taller than Wade as he got in front of him. Wade then faked a post-up before stepping back for an unlikely 3-pointer.

The shot wasn’t even close and Ricky Rubio (who was sensational in this game) corralled the rebound. That wasn’t the end of the moment though. LaVine was then waiting like a wide receiver looking to break downfield on a broken play. Rubio played the part of the scrambling quarterback and let the pass fly from about 70 feet away. Initially, it looked like it would be too much for LaVine as the pass sailed a bit. Channeling his Randy Moss, LaVine corralled it home. From potentially being down one on that play, the Wolves found themselves up four.

Lately, it feels like those late game outlets are getting away from the Wolves. This one didn’t.

At that point, the Wolves have a cushion to play with, but they still have to find another stop to all but seal this. The Bulls go to Jimmy Butler on the next possession on an inbound pass in the frontcourt. Butler never hesitates with Andrew Wiggins on him. He jabs steps right from the right wing, takes two hard dribbles to his left, steps back to create space, and gets off a highly contested mid-range jumper.

Why was it highly contested? Because despite everybody parachuting in the past couple weeks pretending to have a clue about Wiggins and the Wolves, Andrew is a very good defender. He makes some mistakes and he’ll lose the rotation in help defense occasionally (especially out to cover a 3-point shooter), but overall, this is what he does. He absorbs a good move by the opposition, learns from on-ball mistakes of the past (remember Butler drawing those clutch free throws on rookie Wiggins?), and takes away personal space like a Disneyland tourist. He does all of this without fouling.

But please, tell me how steals and blocks would make you feel like he’s producing more as a defender. Monta Ellis and Darko Milicic are all ears.

The third play wasn’t the block on Wade that sent him screaming at the ref and into the locker room early. It was this example of why I want Rubio directing the Wolves offense in late-game situations this season. Wolves were running down the clock with a four-point lead and about 40 seconds left. Rubio wanted a pick-and-roll with KAT, and the Bulls were daring Ricky to take a jumper with their defensive positioning.

Before KAT even showed for the screen, Wade was in a BarcaLounger in the paint. Butler was showing from the weak side wing, and Nikola Mirotic was cheating off of Gorgui Dieng in the strong side corner. The paint was packed and Rubio had a lot of room to be dared into a jumper. But Rubio doesn’t do that often. He’s patient and he knows how to create space for his teammates even when the defense has no business allowing him to.

Wade went under the screen as Butler and Mirotic retreated enough to potential spot-up shooters. And Rubio managed to get Robin Lopez gravitating toward protecting a layup as Towns caught the ball with no defenders around him. He managed to have a lowly contested runner in the lane that didn’t drop, but it showed that Rubio creates for others when the defense knows that’s exactly what he wants to do. I’ll trust even a struggling Towns in that situation all the time.

Sure, everything has to break right for the Wolves sometimes, but doesn’t it have to do that for most teams?

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23 Responsesso far.

  1. Tom says:

    We were all lead to believe that Thibs was a defensive genius who just doesn’t have bottom rung defensive teams in the league, over plays his starters and due to his shrewd underuse of the salary cap got some quality bench players for depth. We were getting another ROY in Dunn. He was raving about Belly in the early going as well. Outside of overplaying his starters, we haven’t seen any of those other things happen, so of course we get frustrated with the coach.

    What is perplexing is how Thibs has handled the offensive side of the ball. Transferring the offense from Ricky to Zack, Andrew or Dunn is difficult to watch or understand. Ricky is not a shooter, but he is a floor leader and gets people open looks if they move. Putting Ricky in the corner helps the defense because they don’t have to guard him and his shooting isn’t going to make them pay for sagging off him. He also lets KAT play too far from the basket, which hurts our already weak rebounding and has made KAT a little soft.

    The hope was that this team had elite young talent, that didn’t need veteran guidance and could possibly sneak into the playoffs because they would be better than Nola, Dallas, Kings, Lakers and Nuggets and possibly a selfish Harden led Rockets. So if you had lower expectations, that is fine, but those of us that expected a jump in wins to flirt with .500 had plenty of good reasons to believe that we would have four to five more wins at this point

  2. Jacob says:

    Really solid right up, but I gotta flag something.

    I am on board with calling Wiggins a solid 1v1 defender when he wants to be, and I haven’t lost hope that he’ll be average some day. But let’s not pretend that he’s close to a positive on that end of the court. He has the worst Drtg on the team (116, tied with Shabazz and Lavine), and third worse DBMP on the team (-3.7, ahead of only Shabazz and Jordan Hill (16 minutes played this season). And this is on the 4th worst defensive team in the league. Swap him out for most wings in the league, and our defense improves.

    I’m really happy he’s on the team and optimistic about his future (especially with another year or two gelling with the other young guys under Thibs). I’m sure part of the issue is the team’s overall play dragging him down and I hope we can swap out Bazz for a big defensive wing this offseason, but Wiggins is a big negative on defense right now.

    • Zach Harper says:

      Individual defensive rating has almost zero context as a statistical measure and all versions of “Real” plus/minus are BS statistics that essentially guess/estimate 25% of what they’re saying is happening on the court. Handful of smart, analytically inclined executives think it’s worthless as a stat. Granted, I’m not a smart enough analytics person to be an authority on it, but I’ve had smart enough people tell me it’s a crap stat.

  3. gjk says:

    The schadenfreude of Thibs’ former bosses enjoying a 26-6 start and then seeing it all fall apart by halftime because the team they constructed can’t shoot is delicious. This is the type of team the Wolves should have more success against defensively because Chicago doesn’t have any favorable matchups to attack unless Wade’s flopping is getting rewarded, so it was nice to see them hang on once the Bulls started clanking. They reduced the quick shots (LaVine torpedoed the offense during his stint with the bench in the 2nd quarter) and were able to avoid a Butler and Wade parade to the free throw line, which is essentially their only option when the defense picks up.

    Anyone astute enough to listen to the radio call because Jim Petersen did the game with Alan Horton were treated. I turned off the screen and just listened on the radio in the second half. Those 2 are a great team when they get the chance to pair up.

    Even in the midst of their bad start, Rubio was dealing in those first few minutes, and his teammates were moving without the ball; it only started going south during that big run when they didn’t led him control the offense. People who talk about his lack of shooting as the death knell to an offense miss the point; it prevents them from being an elite offense, not from being a good offense. Kris Dunn prevents them from even being a good offense. I’m starting to wonder if this glut of lottery PGs might lead the team to trade Dunn at some point and add a far superior and younger prospect with their top pick.

  4. Tom says:

    Good one gfk. What team other than a former Thibs team would start out so hot and then blow a lead in the remaining quarters?

    As for Dunn, I think he has more in the tank than Tyus does and I am surprised how much Tyus has grown since last year. I wish they would send him to the D League and let him gain confidence and minutes without learning on the job up here. It really helped Jones last year. He has skills, but he is so new to the league. He hasn’t earned the minutes he is getting from Thibs, but he needs playing time.

    I’m also glad that we didn’t trade the farm for Jimmy Butler. Losing a Wiggins or LaVine and Rubio (as was mentioned by more than one “Insider”.) for him would not have been a good deal for the wolves. He is a very good player, but his athleticism isn’t what Zack or Wiggins have.

    Ricky will never be rated as a top point guard by the NBA Insiders. They all believe that a scoring point guard is paramount for a team to win. But as you mentioned, with him running the show, the wolves are a real good offense. If he could score, they would be an unstoppable offense.

    • FNorth says:

      I remember a certain “insider” suggesting the Wolves trade LaVine, Dieng, and the #5 for Butler. In fact he was so obtuse about it I stopped visiting a certain T-Wolves blog, because if I needed to read that style of 1st grade journalism I would prefer it to come from actual 1st graders.

        • FNorth says:

          William Bohl

        • FNorth says:

          Bill: A fun fact: Jimmy Butler slid all the way to the 30th and final pick of the first round in 2011. Why take a chance on some other potential diamond in the rough when you can acquire one that became an All-Star, all for the low, low price of the 5th overall pick, Zach LaVine, and Gorgui Dieng?

          http://www.awolfamongwolves.com/2016/06/awaw-roundtable-2016-nba-draft-edition/

          • FNorth says:

            and here it is in all of it’s glory: Your blog is free, so it is what it is, and at one time it was the best source for T-Wolves discussions. Steve McPherson is still one of my favorite writers. But this stuff right before the draft was beyond childish and several steps below what AWAW once was.

            Bill: I flatly refuse to entertain the idea that Minnesota will keep the pick. I will beat this “trade the 5 plus Zach LaVine for Jimmy Butler” drum until I’m blue in the face, and you can’t stop me. YOU CANNOT STOP ME FROM DREAMING!

            Bill: I feel least excited about anyone who is not named Jimmy Butler, the guy that the Wolves should acquire by dealing away the 5th pick and Zach LaVine. I do not care if it’s “impossible,” and I don’t want to hear explanations that “Gar Forman and John Paxson will never work with Tom Thibodeau.” No. I refuse. Jimmy Buckets is the answer to all of the Wolves’ questions.

            Bill: A fun fact: Jimmy Butler slid all the way to the 30th and final pick of the first round in 2011. Why take a chance on some other potential diamond in the rough when you can acquire one that became an All-Star, all for the low, low price of the 5th overall pick, Zach LaVine, and Gorgui Dieng?

            Bill: Believe it or not, I am very, very interested in trading the 5th pick, along with Zach LaVine (and Gorgui Dieng, too, if they ask politely) to the Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler, who checks many of the boxes Zach, Steve, and Tim laid out above. He is a “top-20ish guy,” who absolutely could not be acquired for less, and we KNOW he is good. In fact, Butler is an excellent two-way player who would make a great addition to the core group in Minnesota.

            Bill: The best player the Timberwolves can parlay that 5th pick into is this guy named Jimmy Butler. Therefore, the Wolves should trade the pick to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler, and throw in Zach LaVine and Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad if GarPax asks politely. Whatever they want! Anyone not named Towns, Wiggins, or Rubio can be had, so long as Jimmy Butler III ends up in Minnesota.

            Bill: Did you guys know that Jimmy Butler is a huge Taylor Swift fan? Listens to country music to get himself pumped up before games? And got guitar-playing tips from Garth Brooks? In honor of Jimmy, a future Timberwolf, I’d either choose “22” by T-Swift, “Jimmy On My Mind” by Loretta Lynn, or “Standing Outside the Fire” by Garth.
            In conclusion, in case I’ve been cryptic or unclear with my responses, I really think that the Timberwolves should not use the 5th pick for themselves, but should instead package it iin a trade for Jimmy Butler. And if that doesn’t work they should draft Buddy Hield or something, I don’t know.

          • Mebert says:

            I still wish the Wolves had traded Lavine and Dunn for Butler.

  5. pyrrol says:

    I’ve noticed this: There’s two big camps on Thibs, the ‘I’m not happy with what I see’ camp and the, ‘He’s a great coach, you just wait,’ camp. And I’ve noticed that the people who are unwilling to be critical of him so far are also much more likely to lecture the folks who are critical of what he could be doing better. The critical folks point out what they don’t like, but don’t say things like ‘The thing I hate most about this season are Thibs apologists.’ I’m not happy with him so far, but if you are more patient than me, more power to you. I wish I was more patient, but it’s been a long 12 years.

    Not specifically on Thibs, but certainly on the lecture topic, I think it is silly to expect fans to be happy with this record.Why waste time complaining about people who aren’t happy with the way the team has looked thus far (bad)? Who’s correct? Is this team slowly on it’s way or in trouble or something in between? Who knows. All I know is that fans aren’t going to be happy with the record we have, particularly with big expectations from loud voices coming into the season. The only thing that is going to change that fan dissatisfaction is wins.

    Andrew Wiggins is not a ‘very good’ defender.

    On this game specifically, lots of good signs, but also a lot of the bad we’ve come to expect. The Bulls’ flaws showed in a way that really opened the door for us in a way we’ve not come to expect even from opponents with much worse records. It seems like we always get a good opponent effort and have to scrounge for any luck. Other than getting an unusual opening, what was the difference? I guess the main one was letting Rubio do his thing more (although not always). This has a domino effect of positivity, both on how the team plays (smarter and snappier with better looks) and Rubio’s ability to do the little things he does better. This game was a showcase for why Dunn is nowhere near the defender Rubio is. Rubio was the glue that made our defense work. Everyone picked it up a notch, but Rubio provided most of the unexpected elements that threw Chicago off. It was pretty amazing, actually. I’m a little worried we’ll quickly sink back into our old plodding ways. The offense still looked bad, and we had D flaws that a better shooting team would have made us pay for over and over. Guys still stand around too much on O, even with Rubio running the show. It’s going to be a process but very fun to see a bit of light.

    The tell tale moment was at the end of the game where we decided to do two point Wiggins plays at the top of the key, way out. They both failed miserably and I was screaming at the TV, “What are you DOING!? Give Rubio the BALL!” Then, magically, they went back to Rubio running the offense, did well down the stretch and won. Was this a lesson, a concession? One can dream.

    Gjk makes an interesting point about Dunn. I’m all for moving Dunn if the buzz is high still and we could get value. I’m against moving Rubio and this game was an illustration of why, but further, Rubio’s trade value isn’t very good. It would be possible to get value or more out of Dunn and flip him for something we need more (we can pick up a vet PG on the market that would easily exceed what Dunn gives us and I don’t expect we’d be kicking ourselves about it down the road too hard). It would be very hard to get Rubio’s value back out of a trade, and impossible to get his unique strengths replaced (the value would have to come in some other combo of more common skills).

    • Zach Harper says:

      It’s not a “be patient with Thibs he’s a great coach” thing. It’s saying you should be patient with the players because they’re 21 years old. I would say that with any coach and this set of players. The hand-wringing is simply responding to the typical Minnesota sports fan thinking they know more than whatever coach is in place no matter what the situation/sport is. It’s just a boring reaction to see at this point and predictable from the same people over and over, who probably couldn’t tell you the intricacies of the schemes this team is being asked to execute.

      It’s never a Thibs thing. It’s a “you don’t understand high level coaching” thing.

      • pyrrol says:

        Ha, that’s not a Minnesota thing, that’s a sports everywhere thing. And I’m sure you do it, too. I’m sure you’ve been critical of coaches and thought maybe on a decision or two your own judgement would have been better at some point. Pretty much anyone who follows sports with passion has those moments. Yeah, it’s easy for them to get out of hand, particularly when your team isn’t good. I’m guilty of that. But critiquing players and coaches is an unavoidable aspect of following sports (this blog just graded all the players, and for some reason not the coach). By the way, of course I don’t understand all the intricacies of our schemes in part because I’m a lowly fan and in part because I am not in the locker room. I’d love to hear more about it. Doesn’t mean I have no understanding, nothing worth saying or that the Wolves have no flaws in the way things are being run.

        I think we’re young and we’re going to do dumb things and not have a very high ceiling just yet, until we get older. It’s the slow to no team improvement with players who now have some serious experience that gets me and probably other fans who follow the team closely upset.

        Is being unhappy a more boring reaction that calmly accepting whatever you want to call this season so far (most would say ‘disappointment’)? I’m not so sure. I do think that isn’t not really a contest between who’s reaction is less ‘boring’. This is just a place to read about and talk about Wolves basketball, not a pissing contest about how innovative our reactions to the season may or may not be. If you are sick of my or other peoples’ comments then debate them on merit don’t just default to ‘you don’t know enough cuz I said so’.

        Ah, the old ‘no one can understand what our coach is doing because it’s so far over our heads so lets go into default blind faith’ argument. Did someone say boring? But seriously, of course Thibs knows a boat load about basketball, more than I’d in two lifetimes. Pobodys nerfect.

        I love coming on here to see what all you guys write. I very often agree but don’t always. Perhaps just as fun is reading the comments that are sometimes nutty, but sometimes even better than the original content and have a fun interactive quality. Lots of passion! The writers and commenters here love to debate all things Wolves but they tend to do so without condescension. Only one writer on here seems to have an attitude. I apologize if I offended you, I may have gone too far. But this isn’t the first time you’ve criticized fans in a snarky tone or gotten snippy in the comments. But really, we’re all on the same side. Go Wolves!

        • Zach Harper says:

          I should clarify I wasn’t attacking you, specifically. I meant the collective you — the royal you/we. I find most of your comments to be pretty good on here. My point is mostly that you framed it as Thibs apologists and Thibs questioners, and my response to that is “why are we even taking a side here?” I don’t find it to be necessary. And yes, the deeper I get into this writing thing, the more I realize how little we know. So I do believe that the majority of this stuff is over our heads.

          Questioning rotations, schemes, plays, decisions, etc. is fine but when it comes with the idea that the alternative you’ve (again collective) thought of would have worked because what happened didn’t yield the results we wanted, I find that to just be false. I’m not into scapegoating. I’m into learning the process of building and I think Thibs has a solid handle on what’s going on so far. I could be wrong about that but I like the majority of what I’m seeing so far. I think when the Wolves learn how to execute it, it’ll result in a lot of success.

          My ultimate point is still: these guys are crazy young and to expect them to buck NBA history is irrational, even if there are outliers.

    • HHB2B says:

      rubio is trash…(not really but dude isent even a top20 point guad) this team isent a 50 win team anytime soon, so some fail, adjust, grow situations with the young guns is more important then a a few optimal possessions and a couple extra wins with rico rubio dominating the ball, he is what he is at this point, and even at his best and confident, hes not a top10 point guard, and a guy who makes john walls jumper look like steph curry, his defense is a C+/B- not shutdown elite(and dunn defense is already caught up to rubio, although dunn is lost on offense so far) and rubio’s ability to penetrate is even marginal, basic handles…..so all the assist that he does get these days are based mostly on the efforts of the receiving party party doing most of the work (which are the type of passes all 5+ yrs starter vets should be making anyway) …im done with rubio, and the only guy playing well at point is tyrus, but his ceiling is so low……he its hard to give him a real shot to start

  6. Tom says:

    Zach. Fans aren’t the only one’s who don’t understand a high level coaching thing. I reread an article from a scribe named Zach Harper, I suggest you read.

    [Trail Blazers 109, Timberwolves 103: The good and bad of Sam Mitchell]

    In it Zach Harper asked about Sam Mitchell:

    “3. Where are the in-game adjustments? The Wolves have been good at getting leads in the first quarter. They’re also the sixth worst team in second quarters (-4.7 per 100) and the sixth worst team in third quarters (-10.7 per 100). The Wolves do a great job of getting a lot of those points back in the fourth quarter (sixth best at +7.8 per 100), but the holes they put themselves as the opponents adjust in the middle of the game put them in bad positions late in the game.”

    Sound Familiar? Most fans and scribes realize that the coach knows more about the game than they do. What we know as loyal fans is that over the years, we have seen coaches that would be described as bad (Sidney Lowe, Kurt Rambis, Randy Whitman were the ones this Zach Harper called out) and “High Level” (Adelmann, Flip and now supposedly Thibs). When Adelmann had a rookie named Ricky Rubio, he had KLove and Pek and a bunch of misfits. They played .500 ball until Ricky got injured. Thibs, most people would say, has a better team than that Adelman group, but you wouldn’t know it from this start or some of the in-game adjustments that this High Level coach has made.

    • Zach Harper says:

      Thibs has a team with a higher ceiling than Adelman had. He has more potential talent than tangible talent.

      Kevin Love had been in the league three years already, and the league was still adjusting to this perimeter offensive movement with big men. And I’m not sure how much relevance we should give to lockout-shortened schedule chaos. I’m not discounting it but the two situations are hardly similar other than involving the Wolves and the NBA.

  7. Tom says:

    The focus of my response to you was that Sam Mitchell, and all NBA coaches know more than a certain Zach Harper and us fans and yet, you wrote a piece after 19 games last year (under terrible circumstances for Sam to coach under, compared to Thibs) that questioned the ability of Sam to make in game changes with a younger team and with more issues to address than Thibs has this year.

    Yet, you question people that do the same about Thibs. Certainly, a coach of Thibs’ stature, given the entire draft and summer to learn his players tendencies and add a full roster of players that could play the whole game if needed, should be expected to do better than a coach like Sam Mitchell. Otherwise, why pay him the big bucks and give him all the power?

    My reference to that Adelman squad was to highlight what a High Level coach could do with marginal talent. As for the strike shortened season making the comparison irrelevant, I claim that a shortened season would make it harder for bad teams to be successful, since there is less season for other bad teams to drop out of contention and give up, and good teams would be more likely to bring their A-game, since the margin for error, in making the playoffs dropped about 25% with only 66 games. Would an Adelman regime do a better job with this group than Thibs? Would a Flip Saunders regime do better with this group than Thibs? I know one thing, they couldn’t do much worse.

    • Zach Harper says:

      I have yet to have the scouts I know laughing about what the Wolves are trying to do under Thibs like they did when I wrote that about Sam Mitchell, but I’ll check back with some of them and see if they find it amusing. And if they are, then I’ll be happy to question it.

      • gjk says:

        Hold on. You mean that your job as a basketball writer/podcaster has led to you getting information from other sources that then informs your articles in a way that a commenter couldn’t be informed? GTFOH.

  8. Chad says:

    Long-time reader. First time commenting. I’m one that falls on the patient side. Yes, I as expecting better so far. But I feel Thibs is the right coach. In 2 months, next season, the season after when we are rolling it won’t be because Thibs changed his coaching style. It will be because the players had time to absorb his system and also because our young stars will have more experience.

    Also, I accept Rubio because I figure we can’t afford 4 max contract players. He isn’t a max contract guy and therefore I’m accepting of his level of play. However, Rubio to me is maddening. It is a breath of fresh air to see an athletic pg in Dunn that can finish in close and has the technique to become a good shooter. Seems to me a rookie (Dunn) is already a better shooter than Rubio. Give Dunn some time. Give the Wolves some time.

    Saying all that, I’m still not giving up on 35-40 wins this season. That might be the fan side of me with never ending hope. We shall see.

  9. Slick111 says:

    Am I the only one to say it?!…that Rubio pass was what Chris Paul and Kyle Lowery do 4 or 5 times per game???…sorry, when a guy that we had to wait on for 3 years just to play for the team and misses soooo many games each and every year since to injury, can’t shoot for schitt, says before the season even starts that he wants to be traded to a winner just because he is jealous of what Kevin Love just won in Cleveland, has no fire really to pump his guys up at all, and did I mention during THE era of NBA-basketball transforming into you better be able to stop on a dime out of your crossover and splash 3’s at a 40% clip often to compete out of your starting point guard slot…Ricky Rubio needs to GO, he does not want to be here, and he is marginal at best…MAYBE cracks the top 20 point guards in the L…it’s too crucial of a position, we need a winner and a guy who can be honestly defended, heck he’s only averaging 7ish dimes every other 3rd game he even plays in, what is MN waiting on to move him?? They are freaked that Dunn’s development isn’t moving fast enough? Typical Wolves management, waiting until Rubio’s trade value plummets more and more lol, he is what he is at this point…you got the youngest most athletic talent in the game…get these guys some space on the floor and some guy with a chip on his shoulder like Isaiah Thomas in Boston or Bledsoe in PHX to get this thing going!!…TIRED of hearing for 30 years that our talent is only 2 or 3 years away every single year : (

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