Archives For Steve McPherson

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If you were upset at last night’s 113-101 loss to the Houston Rockets, then we may have a problem — a whole lot of the Wolves’ losses this season are going to look like this, especially to clearly superior teams. With the win, the Rockets improved to 7-1 on the season, including 5-0 on the road, tying them for best record in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors and the Memphis Grizzlies. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be watching a Houston-Toronto Finals in June, but it does mean that the Rockets, who were already an offensive juggernaut, seem to have turned up the defense just enough to make a big leap in overall quality.

But on the Wolves’ side, here is the texture you should get used to, especially as long as Ricky Rubio is out: Teams don’t have a ton of tape on tendencies for guys like Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and even Shabazz Muhammad, so early on in any given game you’ll see them getting by on athleticism and surprise. For example, if you don’t think Muhammad’s coast-to-coast dunk (which was awesome, incidentally) wasn’t the product of no Rocket player thinking he was going to do it, you’re crazy. Continue Reading…

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Brooklyn Nets

The Timberwolves jumped out to a hot start in last night’s game, which is not actually new. Last season, Minnesota boasted an offensive rating of 111.1 and a defensive rating of 101.1, good for a Bo Derek-approved net rating of 10.0. The problem, of course, was in the fourth quarter, where they only mustered a 98.1 offensive rating against a defensive rating of 107.8 — good for a net rating of -9.7, a swing of nearly twenty points. But we’ll get to the ending in short order. Continue Reading…

(Note: I really wanted to put up a video for “The Future” by Restorations, but couldn’t find one. It’s on Spotify if you want to hear it.)

Here are two things that aggravate me: moral victories and people who complain about them. Lucky for us, then, that tonight’s close loss to the Chicago Bulls was not a moral victory. It was a loss. But when I said it was a good loss, several people got at me to say they were tired of moral victories as Timberwolves fans. So here’s what we need to do: stop talking about moral victories and also stop being sick of them. Continue Reading…

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To make the fifteen man cutoff for rosters at 5 pm ET on Monday, the Wolves were going to have to cut (or trade someone). Although Chase Budinger’s name had surfaced in trade rumors with Indiana and Cleveland, nothing concrete was likely to happen there prior to the deadline, so that essentially left the Wolves to decide between J.J. Barea, Glenn Robinson III and Robbie Hummel. Obviously, solidifying the fifteenth man on the roster is not exactly a major thing, but that it was Barea who was bought out does in fact say something about the direction of the team. Continue Reading…

As the Timberwolves’ roster came together this offseason, everyone who’s played their share of NBA 2K over the years knew that this team was going to be a fun one in this year’s edition, but I’m not sure anyone knew just how eerily the game would replicate real life. The first clip above is from Monday’s Dunks After Dark event, shot with the Phantom Cam and showing in glorious slow-mo one of the first tastes we got of what is sure to be a regular connection: the Rubio-to-Wiggins alley-oop.

But the actual first taste of this came in NBA 2K15’s “Momentous” trailer, which was released earlier this week. Aside from being the reverse angle, it’s almost an exact copy of the alley-oop the pair put together on Monday night.

I wasn’t prepared for how interesting watching an NBA team practice was going to be. When the assembled media was granted access to the Timberwolves’ first day of training camp for the last half hour, we filed in and sat down on the north side of the Taylor Center’s court. The players were going up and down, divided into three sets that matched last night’s squads for the Dunks After Dark scrimmages — black, white and gold.

The coaches on the floor — Flip Saunders, Ryan Saunders and Sidney Lowe — set up a drill on dealing with the pick and roll, working on specific calls and approaches. Some of it may have seemed basic, but training camp is about getting everyone on the same page. It’s a way to say, “This is how we do things.” To that end, it’s not a test just of learning specific things, but a test of how well a player learns things in general, how coachable a player is.

Continue Reading…

Dunks After Dark Wrap-Up

Steve McPherson —  September 30, 2014 — 3 Comments

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In the grandest barnstorming tradition, the Minnesota Timberwolves descended on the 4,500-seat Taylor Center on the campus of Minnesota State University Mankato for Dunks After Dark last night. One hundred percent completely sober students filled the arena to capacity quickly once the doors opened at 11 pm and they mugged for NBA TV’s cameras while being entertained for a good hour by DJ Mad Mardigan and an assortment of breakdancers and trampoline dunkers. As anticipation built for the Wolves to take the floor, the energy thrummed and the building pulsed with all the casual fun of basketball without playoff implications, without the pressure of filling a big arena, without the freight of the NBA proper.

But let’s not kid ourselves: in terms of actual basketball, last night meant less than nothing in the grand scheme of things, so let’s celebrate that with a bunch of GIFs of dunks and fun stuff, plus a couple observations. All GIFs are courtesy of the incomparable CJ Fogler. Continue Reading…

As 2K Sports is wont to do, they’ve been dribbling out bits of footage here and there leading up to the release of NBA 2K15 on October 7. Their latest trailer is called “Momentous” and features lots of pretty visuals, precise details, “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest and — most importantly — a glimpse at this year’s Timberwolves.  Continue Reading…

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Spend just about any amount of time examining Shabazz Muhammad’s offensive game and you will conclude it’s weird. Listed at 6-6 and 222 lbs (although if his offseason regimen is working — and it looks like it is — that should be a bit lower this year), is undersized for a small forward, yet 22% of his offense last season came out of post-ups, according to MySynergySports. 34 total possessions is hardly a representative sample size, but at 0.94 points per possession on those plays, Muhammad ranked 39th in the NBA on post-ups. Continue Reading…

(Note: There is an awesome Iverson jersey in a pickup basketball game in the above video.)

Here is something I didn’t write about when it happened because, well, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. A press credential is, after all, something given, not taken. When you’re not a beat guy with a large local or national organization to stand behind you, there’s little profit in pushing the limits, so you stick to your lane. When players are grousing in the locker room and it’s not part of a media scrum, it seems like the right thing to do is keep it off the record.

So let’s go anonymous with this: After yet another loss down the stretch for the Wolves last season (I can’t remember which), one of the Wolves’ players was told that he had to do a meet-and-greet with fans after he was done in the locker room. He immediately launched into voluble complaints — not about fulfilling the commitment, but about the fans themselves.

“Did you hear it out there?” he asked. Continue Reading…