Archives For Steve McPherson

If standing next to Zach Galifianakis is the Michael Jordan of this picture, the Mickey Mouse shirt is the Scottie Pippen

If standing next to Zach Galifianakis is the Michael Jordan of this picture, the Mickey Mouse shirt is the Scottie Pippen

We’re kicking off our offseason coverage here at A Wolf Among Wolves with a comprehensive roster review of the team from this past season, looking at how each player’s 2013-14 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.

Here’s something I didn’t expect to see when I pulled up Nikola Pekovic’s page on Basketball Reference: in 2013-14, he improved his points-per-36-minutes, his PER, his true shooting percentage and his field goal percentage, and held just about every other category steady. Somehow I thought he had been a little worse this year than last. Maybe it only seems weird because of the price tag that comes along with those numbers. In 2012-13 he did it all for $4.8 million; in 2013-14 he made $12.1 million. Continue Reading…

Businger

We’re kicking off our offseason coverage here at A Wolf Among Wolves with a comprehensive roster review of the team from this past season, looking at how each player’s 2013-14 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.

Who is Chase Budinger? And is it more troubling if we don’t know the answer to that question, or if we do? We are talking, after all, about a player who was brought over from Houston as a key piece of the puzzle to fix the Wolves’ offensive woes, a guy who was supposed to be a seasoned vet of former head coach Rick Adelman’s system. And yet in two seasons on the Wolves, Budinger has played in only 64 games and for just 1,259 minutes. By contrast, Terrence Jones — who was selected by Houston with the 18th pick acquired from Minnesota for Budinger — has played 2,354 minutes in that same stretch. J.J. Barea played 1,471 minutes this season alone. So have we seen enough to know? Or is the fact that we’ve seen so little the more telling thing? Continue Reading…

NBA: Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves

We’re kicking off our offseason coverage here at A Wolf Among Wolves with a comprehensive roster review of the team from this past season, looking at how each player’s 2013-14 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.

Men who are 6-foot-10 and 249 pounds are not often called a small thing, but Ronny Turiaf was definitely one of the small things that the Timberwolves could have used more of. Even sidelined for a big chunk of the first half of the season with a radial head fracture to his right elbow suffered in the second game of the year and then troubled by a knee injury that limited him in the second half, Turiaf was a vocal leader of the team. And when he actually played, the Wolves were 16-14, good for a winning percentage of .533 — better than their .488 season. And although Gorgui Dieng blossomed late and showed flashes of being the kind of defensive presence on the interior the Wolves sorely need, it was actually Turiaf who led the team in both blocks per game (1.6) and blocks per 36 minutes (3.0). Continue Reading…

Gary Oldman Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz: We might as well be dead. Do you think death could possibly be a boat?

Guildenstern: No, no, no … Death is … not. Death isn’t. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can’t not-be on a boat.

Rosencrantz: I’ve frequently not been on boats.

Guildenstern: No, no, no — what you’ve been is not on boats.

—Tom Stoppard

There’s a natural tendency for us to want endings to resonate. It’s why we put so much stock in things like the finales of Breaking Bad or True Detective or Lost. An ending is supposed to cast light back on what came before, to contextualize an experience, to put a punctuation mark on it. Even those of us who are pretty much okay with ambiguous endings like the fade at the end of The Sopranos or Don Gately waking up alone on a beach on the last page of Infinite Jest can still get suckered by that craving for some kind of final chord, whether resolved or suspended, a giant crash of three pianos playing a giant E at the end of “A Day In the Life.”

When this kind of closure fails to appear in sports, it’s doubly troubling. Every team — like more or less every person — likes to imagine themselves at the center of whatever story is being told, but the truth is that every season is only going to offer up one main character, one triumphant hero. There’s a reason Sports Illustrated puts out a handsomely bound edition that collects everything written about the Super Bowl or World Series or NBA Champions. Collected into a narrative that ends in crowning victory, everything starts to make sense.

But along the way, major supporting characters, minor supporting characters and extras all fall under the blade in service of that bigger story. If the eventual NBA champion is the hero of The Odyssey, enduring detours and overcoming challenges on the long road home, the runner-up is the hero of Hamlet, coming tantalizingly close to victory only to be felled at the last moment.

Which makes the 2013-14 Minnesota Timberwolves sort of like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Continue Reading…

20131002__10-2 Wolves Kevin Martin

If you have ESPN Insider and a stout constitution, you should go read Tom Haberstroh‘s post on the Timberwolves in general and Kevin Martin in particular in the superclutch (defined as one possession games in the final minute) right here.

But if you don’t, let me share the highlights (read: lowlights).

I present to you the single craziest stat of the 2013-14 season: In one-possession games (score within three) in the final minute — also known as “superclutch” situations — the Timberwolves have been outscored by 49 points in 22 minutes of action this season. I repeat: 49 points.

Minnesota’s opponents have scored 96 points to the Timberwolves’ 47. The Timberwolves have been more than doubled up in these tight situations. The result is that, when it should be a coin flip in these situations, Minnesota has lost 18 of those 25 games. Continue Reading…

Photoshop by Jon Hartzell (@jhartzell2)

Photoshop by Jon Hartzell (@jhartzell2)

It’s nearly 11 pm and we’re in the Timberwolves locker room waiting for Corey Brewer to pee. And no, this league-mandated drug test is not because he scored what must be up there with the most unlikely 51 points ever scored in an NBA game — it’s just a coincidence.

Here’s what I thought I would be writing about this game earlier in the day, pretty much win or lose: How Rick Adelman is likely going to slip away from this franchise without a shred of fanfare and how that’s genuinely kind of sad, no matter how disappointing this season has been or how much blame you lay at his feet for that disappointment. With this season drifting gently to its conclusion for the Wolves, a nice win over a shorthanded Spurs team feels good, but maybe not quite as good as a victory over the Heat in double overtime. They both feel better than a loss to Orlando. But what every game has in common at this point is an unmoored feeling, a sense that we’re scraping the jar for a story to tell ourselves at this point. We’re stitching the box scores together into a sail when the tides will be more than enough to bring us into shore after next week’s final game against Utah, one way or another.

But tonight is different somehow, and not because it means more, but maybe because it makes so little sense. Some guys were good, some guys were not so good. Ricky Rubio (16 pts, 10 asts), Gorgui Dieng (12 pts, 20 rebs) and Dante Cunningham (20 pts, 13 rebs) all had double-doubles. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute shot abysmally (1-7) and — in spite of a porous Rockets team lacking their only real defensive assets in Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard — he and the Wolves as a whole took a lot of ill-advised midrange jumpers, rather than getting into the paint.

But you know who got into the paint? Corey Wayne Brewer, who made 16 of his 19 shots in the restricted area on his way to a nearly incomprehensible 51. His previous career high was 29, his season average going into tonight, 11.7 ppg. Kevin Love scored 51 in double overtime against the Thunder. Brewer did it in 45 minutes. Continue Reading…

Sometimes, an entertaining game of basketball is just that: entertainment. That’s — in its own perverse way — the blessing of the denouement of the kind of season that Timberwolves fans have grown accustomed to over the last several years. Go back a decade and the Wolves were the #1 seed in the Western Conference, following years where the end of season concern was getting out of the first round. Just after that, entire seasons were slogs, lit only dimly by some notion of rebuilding the team with little consistent direction to indicate such a thing was even happening. Continue Reading…

Lakers Timberwolves Basketball.JPEG-0b3e5 (1)

In the skyway back to the parking lot after the Minnesota Timberwolves’ comprehensive mangling of the Los Angeles Lakers 143-107, two Laker fans stood vigil with a view of the exit to the visiting team bus. This was well after most of the crowd had made their way to their cars and the skyway was mostly empty.

Below, other fans stood a meager layer deep waiting for a dejected Lakers team to make their way to the bus. The 143 points Minnesota put up set a new Timberwolves franchise record and also gave them their largest win since a 42-point victory over the Thunder on Jan. 7, 2009. Their 67.1% shooting set a single-game franchise record and was the highest in the NBA so far this season. Kevin Love had a triple double at the end of the third quarter. Nikola Pekovic was a plus-38, Jordan Hill a minus-38. The Wolves biggest lead was 41 points, the Lakers biggest lead, zero.

These two Lakers fans, in jerseys and hats, in Forum blue and gold, waited. If this Laker team manages two more wins this season, they’ll be spared the ignominy of having the second-worst win total in Laker history, beating out their 25-50 finish in 1959-60 and their 19-53 finish in 1957-58. They were still the Minneapolis Lakers during those two seasons. Terrible basketball has a long tradition in Minnesota.

Maybe that’s why these fans who come out of the woodwork in the visiting team’s colors for games against the Lakers, the Heat, are such easy targets. Being a Wolves fan for any serious amount of time demands resilience. It fosters a mistrust of success, an expectation of disappointment. At the core of this fandom is the sense that it has to be earned with hardship, not bought in the form of a #24 jersey with “BRYANT” on the back.

Even an offensive explosion like last night’s — a game Nikola Pekovic, back from injury, called “a triumph from the very first moment” — is going to bring with it a sour little note: Where was this kind of performance when it could have gotten them into the playoffs, when it could have mattered?

But “mattered” is a strangely relative term. Since the Wolves have fallen out of contention for a playoff spot, they’ve been peppered with questions about what there’s left to play for and they’ve given the same bland, generic responses that most athletes do in such situations. Stuff about still having things to learn, about seeing where they are for next year, about playing hard because that’s what you do.

But last night there was a little pure joy in the game. Returning to the bench after starting six games and putting up a double-double in all but one of them, Gorgui Dieng got a hero’s welcome when he checked into the game for the first time at the 4:17 mark of the first quarter. Some of the applause was also no doubt for Pekovic’s sterling effort in that first quarter, where he went 4-4 and scored 12 points. And some of it may have been for the simple fact that a bench player checking in for the Wolves was not a reason to nervously bite your fingernails. Dieng acquitted himself well in his backup role with 14 points and 9 rebounds. (“The guys were giving him a pretty hard time there with only nine rebounds,” said Adelman in his postgame presser.)

And as the third quarter was ending with the Wolves up comfortably, an errant Laker shot bounced harmlessly towards the Wolves bench. Love was the closest to the ball and the Minnesota bench, well aware of his 22 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds, starting shouting, “GET IT! GET IT! GET IT!” When Love gamely scooped the ball off the ground for a buzzer beating rebound, they cheered. In the break between quarters they patted him on the back and smiled. Everyone was just having a good time.

You can take what you will from a historic win like this at the tail end of a disappointing season. You can say that when the chips are down, this team didn’t step up, that their inability to close out games shows a lack of character. That any team can have a good time when they’re romping all over an opponent as hopeless as the Lakers. That Love is leaving so none of it matters. I get it: It’s a weird thing how at the end of a bad thing, there are good things.

But then I think about those Lakers fans waiting for their team — without Kobe Bryant, without Pau Gasol, without any clear path beyond lottery luck — and I think about why they’re out there in the skyway. It’s possible they’re Los Angeles transplants, that they grew up there and grew up with the Lakers, that they’re sticking by their hometown team. But I would almost prefer for them to be bandwagon fans who jumped on a frontrunner because of the glitz, the rings, the Black Mamba. Maybe the weird thing for them is that they actually started liking the team and now they can’t get out of it.

One way or another, we end up places. We get there by a mix of things we can control and things we can’t, and then we have the choice of either leaving or sticking around. Those Lakers fans and this Timberwolves team last night are a reminder: If you’re sticking around, at least try to enjoy yourself. It’s just much easier on your constitution.

[Video courtesy of CJ Fogler]

That right there is a man at the end of his rope.

When that video of Kevin Love’s postgame comments after the Timberwolves’ 109-92 to the Memphis Grizzlies was posted last night, reactions were both swift and morose, with many jumping to the conclusion that this means Love is done in Minnesota, but let’s pump those brakes, OK? Continue Reading…

I know the Raptors' mascot wasn't there last night, but c'mon, he's awesome.

I know the Raptors’ mascot wasn’t there last night, but c’mon, he’s awesome.

Last night, the first season of HBO’s loathed and lauded True Detective came to an end but DON’T WORRY. There are no spoilers here because like many, many people I couldn’t watch it because HBO GO sputtered and died under the weight of everyone logging into their parents’ accounts to watch the finale.

But before that, the Minnesota Timberwolves lost a basketball match to the Toronto Raptors, dropping the Wolves to 31-31 and five games back from Memphis (in the eighth and final playoff spot) and Phoenix (in the ninth). The Wolves’ playoff odds according to the ghost of John Hollinger at ESPN now stand at 11.5%. The capsule summary of the game looks a lot like ones we’ve seen before: In spite of 26 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists from Kevin Love (and a new single season record for made 3-pointers by a Timberwolf (144)) and 17 and 11 from Nikola Pekovic, in spite of a strong level of effort all around, the Wolves couldn’t get enough production, particularly up close. Continue Reading…