2017-18 Season

Timberwolves 111, Kings 106: Kentucky Bluebloods

While it’s true that the NBA is a global league, with players coming from Australia, Turkey and all points in between, and a league peppered with guys from tiny colleges, such Steph Curry (Davidson) and George Hill (IUPUI), just to name two, the majority of its talent comes from Basketball Factories. These are multi-million dollar squads that launder talent and shoe money through “institutions of higher learning” in order to entertain the masses every March and produce the bulk of players populating the top, middle, and bottom of NBA rosters. Why, just take a look at the Wolves and Kings, for instance. Kansas (Andrew Wiggins, Cole Aldrich, Frank Mason), Duke (Tyus Jones, Harry Giles, Amile Jefferson), North Carolina (Vince Carter, Justin Jackson), Michigan State (Z-Bo) and Louisville (Gorgui Dieng) are all represented.

The best-represented Basketball Factory in Sunday’s game was the University of Kentucky; John Calipari helped mold the Wolves’ leading scorer (Karl-Anthony Towns),and the Kings’ leading scorer (De’Aaron Fox), center (Willie Cauley-Stein) and another promising role player (Skal Labissiere, who’s missing time due to a shoulder injury). In the very early going, it was Towns and Cauley-Stein, teammates on the 2014-15 squad that went 38-1, going back and forth, playfully jawing at one another as they went. But soon, another Wildcat asserted his presence – De’Aaron Fox, who dropped 14 in the opening frame alone, victimizing the Wolves’ poor transition defense and feasting when Jamal Crawford attempted to stay in front of him.

Both Fox and Towns cooled off in the middle periods as the two teams see-sawed between narrow Kings leads and the Wolves’ pushback. Minnesota recovered from being down 10 early in the second quarter to lead by 2 at the break, capping off the half with a very nice Butler-to-Gibson feed for an easy bucket:

The third quarter saw the Wolves’ small lead evaporate quickly – they found themselves down by as much as 7 in the frame. A balanced Kings attack, led by Kosta Koufos, Jakarr Sampson, and (especially) Bogdan Bogdanovic, helped Sacramento take a 7-point lead near the end of the frame. Minnesota’s offense was shaky; Andrew Wiggins turned the ball over three times, and the Wolves as a team went 0-for-4 from downtown, and only got to the line 4 times.

Everything turned around in the 4th, thanks, primarily, to Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT had 9 points, 2 boards, and 4 assists and was a plus-7. Minnesota got into the bonus early and wound up shooting 18 (!!!) free throws in the final 12 minutes, helping them ice the game. Though it wasn’t easy, as De’Aaron Fox kept Sacramento right in it:

It would have been nice for the Wolves to take care of business in a more neat and tidy fashion – the game was right there for the taking in the final minute – but a win is a win. It’s kind of fun to watch the Kentucky guys go at it – especially KAT and WCS. Towns won the battle tonight, pretty decisively.

Two more games to go until the All-Star break.

A few other odds and ends from this one:

  • Vince Carter had 3 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists, and was a plus-14 in 13 minutes. I hope he plays until he’s 50.
  • Towns’ final line: 29-8-6 with 3 blocks. In 5 February games he’s shooting 62% from the floor and 63% from three.
  • Jim Petersen was signing the praises of Bogdan Bogdanovic during the game, and I’ve gotta say, I agree. Confident, hustles, decent shooter, knows how to play. He and De’Aaron Fox could be a very dynamic backcourt pairing for awhile. Sacramento is still a long ways off from being good, but they’ve got something working in those two, at least.
  • Very balanced attack by the Wolves – all five starters wound up in double figures, and so did Jamal Crawford off the bench.
  • Nemanja Bjelica is doing too much pump-faking.
  • Gorgui looks kind of broken at the moment. He came into the game averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds on 59% shooting over his past 6 games, an encouraging sign, but his stints off the bench never seem to go smoothly. He was short on his jumper tonight and was getting worked on the glass, too.
  • Cole Aldrich was a healthy scratch for the 47th time in 59 games. He’s played a total of 28 minutes this season. This is the easiest $7.3 million anyone has ever earned. For what it’s worth, he seems like a great teammate – he’s always leading the bench in cheering – but still.
  • I’ll leave you with this kind of mesmerizing play – Jimmy keeping himself and the ball inbounds to preserve the steal:

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3 thoughts on “Timberwolves 111, Kings 106: Kentucky Bluebloods

  1. Teams like Kentucky recruit one and done players that only want to showcase talent to get drafted. They seem to have little interest in rounding out there game or be students of the game. The coaches seem to care only in winning games and not developing talent. They come into the league with a huge ability to score, and because they are highly drafted, get plenty of touches to score, but the rest of their games are way behind and in many cases they tend to stay behind other draft picks that have had good college coaching for a couple years and had their games broken down and rebuilt to be more complete players.

    If we have one worry about KAT, it is the pace at which he learns the other parts of his game to be a generational All-Star and HOF. His defensive effort is still sporadic and full of repeated mistakes. He is just now learning how to find players out of double teams. His crab dribble rarely gets him closer to the rim. He is an amazing athlete, but it isn’t translating to other parts of his game. Same with Wiggins. A Kansas “product” that also has huge gaps in his game, that are just now starting to show up. Part of it is the AAU program and its focus on individual talent and not teamwork. Part of it is the lottery and the need for bad teams to turn players into saviors. They get praised for scoring 20 points a game instead of elevating their team to the playoffs.

    Since it looks like we are going to be out of the lottery (fingers crossed) for a while, I hope that we see more Wolves draft picks that recognize they need to work to get playing time and that means being more like Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard or even small school products like CJ McCollum or Robert Covington. Those are the products of solid Basketball programs that make well-rounded players that have a strong work ethic.

  2. I just heard they brought up Patton from Des Moines. I think with G struggling and KAT getting into foul trouble, he may get some minutes. Still haven’t heard if Ilyasova or Tony Allen are available for the Wolves to pick up.

  3. We won, I guess, so all’s well that ends well? :/

    This game was ugly and I was impressed by Sac’s effort and ability. I like Fox. Bogdan also looked wily and polished. We looked bad. Finally, KAT got his due in shots. He doesn’t, we might lose this game. Butler backed way off on attempts and some in his hogging in crunch time. This is generally good for the team, though he should take more shots on ave (and will). He actually played better in crunch time, too, as well as giving some other guys a chance during that part of the game. ‘Good Teague’ in this one, and yet meh. He’s a meh at his absolute best, which is rare.

    WCS is kind like a center version of Andrew Wiggins. He’s got an aimless personality that makes for a sloppy, underachieving player, but he’s very athletic for his height, yet too skinny. WCS looks sadly destined to be an underachiever with no specialty (he has the physical talent to be a Garnett like defender). Wiggins is more talented and skilled, and maybe a bit harder worker, but he to a degree shares this tendency to underachieve generally, and particularly, not fully cash in on physical talent like athleticism.

    On the Kentucky, college NBA mills… the whole system is sick. You have D-II players who’s whole life is based on basketball (and then have little to go on after school ends). Any major D-I player is recruited as a business, money-making move for the school. Then you have the elites which are unpaid pro teams, basically, with shades of indentured labor. It’s unfair, and exploitative. It isn’t in the spirit of higher education at all. There should be a basketball major at some of these top schools, at very least, because that’s what these guys are doing. Generally, they don’t care about anything else. And they are preparing for a career in basketball, not whatever phony line of study they briefly partake in. They could definitely use more learning time, but the NBA is antsy to get it’s infusion of elite, electric athletic ability. Versus knowing how to play and having a polished, mature ground to build on, or getting athletic stars (who often are already highly skilled) a year or two early, it’s been paying off to get them faster even with drawbacks. I’m not sure you can blame KAT and Wiggins weaknesses, simplistically, on one and done. Lots of one and dones have no shades of their issues. It probably didn’t help them, but it’s not a permanent scar. Thibs should have been able to coach them out of these bad habits by now. With Wiggins, personality, and lack of burning intensity are issues that are unrelated to one and done or coaching or anything else, and will persist. With KAT it’s a little more mysterious, though he’s also a better player who is showing more evolution than Andrew.

    If I hear right from the Tribune, we are calling up Patton, Anthony Brown, and Amile Jefferson? This is pretty sudden and stunning use of G league resources (always D league in my heart). This is going to be crazy. Perhaps we can now scratch off D Rose and any other pick ups? Wonder what this means for Gorgui? He’s really played his way out of being part of the plans. But his contract is not movable. He’s an anchor at this point. Sad, because I like the guy. I’m excited for this shake up, though. It could be just what we need. We’re down to so few players Thibs will even play. For instance people make fun of Cole, like ‘what a fun, easy way for that joker to make 7 mill’. By he works hard. It’s not really his fault that Thibs is unwilling to play guys. On most other teams, Cole would get more minutes. We need guys he’ll agree to play (for whatever reason).

    On Unis, I hate the sort of twisted looking shoulder straps on the back of all the jerseys. It looks like a girl who got hot and rolled up the tiny half-sleeves on her shirt. Drives me nuts (and probably no one else notices). I’m against ads on the jerseys, but if this evil has to occur, it’s been done in the least harmful way. The ads are small, and they are often locally connected business where the franchise is from, which can be kind of fun. It’s still depressing how greedy everyone is.

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