Archives For Steve McPherson

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Hi guys. Steve here. One of the great things about writing for A Wolf Among Wolves and not, say, a major newspaper is that we can wear our hearts on our sleeves a little more. Yes, we consider it important to bring you quotes and pertinent stats from games and also to go in-depth with some play breakdowns and analysis in a way that more mainstream media generally can’t, but we can also just tell you how we really feel about things like Zach LaVine in the Slam Dunk Contest.

So let me tell you: That shit was fucking insane. Continue Reading…

"Stephen Curry, Thaddeus Young"

When a comparatively raw team like the Minnesota Timberwolves (average age 24.5, plus they’ve had Ricky Rubio back for about 6 percent of a whole season, Kevin Martin for 10 percent, Nikola Pekovic for 16 percent) runs into a well-oiled buzzsaw like the Golden State Warriors (average age 26.7, best record in the league, 2nd in offensive rating, 1st in defensive rating) and struggles early, it sets up an interesting problem. Continue Reading…

Here it is. This here Vine is the one thing you must know about last night’s 102-101 win over the Miami Heat if you want to know anything. It is the acme of pure joy, the bellwether of future highlights to come, the spark and grace and fun that promises to one day become a regular occurrence for this team.

But that day is not today. Continue Reading…

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There were actually two more or less completely distinct things going on at Target Center last night: the return of Kevin Love to Minneapolis and a game between the Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Leading up to the game, it seemed as if these things were inextricable, but as the game unfolded, they became more and more distinct from each other.

Prior to the game, Love met with the media and, when asked about whether he wishes things had ended on a better note with the Wolves, he responded, “I mean, sure. It’s only human nature to want it to always be sunshine and blue skies, but that’s just not the case.”

Few would argue against the latter, but there’s also an issue with the former, and it’s something brought to the fore both by Love and the Wolves themselves. Per usual, Love seemed to face the media’s attention with a bit of a grimace. His annoyance with the media doesn’t seem to come from a place of not wanting attention, though, but rather not getting the kind of attention he thinks he should get. He has long embodied some particularly jagged contradictions: a tireless worker who turned himself from a doughy rebounder into a rangy shooter but still can’t really be bothered to “get” defense; a guy who wanted to be “the man,” to carry the team, but who also didn’t hesitate to throw some guys under the bus; a purported team-first player who only talks about wins, never numbers, yet whose greatest accomplishments come from stats and not the intangibles.

But aren’t Wolves fans themselves a bit like this? Is sunshine and blue skies really the goal for longtime Wolves fans? If that’s what they wanted, they could go follow a team that rewards them far better, yet there’s a persistent distaste for bandwagon fans, and way too much wallowing in how bad the team is, followed by insisting that they’re done, finished, never paying attention to this team again. And then they’re back again a couple weeks or months later.

Do we really want sunshine and blue skies? Or do we just think that’s what we’re supposed to want? Continue Reading…

#TheReturn

Steve McPherson —  January 29, 2015 — 2 Comments

When he left town, it was with head down, a legacy of losing the only one he could leave behind him. And now, this Saturday, he’s returning to the arena he once called home. Get ready.

For Mike Miller.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets

If you had told me before the season began that an injury to Robbie Hummel was going to feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back, I wouldn’t have believed you. Given the Wolves’ history, I wouldn’t have said it was impossible, though. Yet here we are. After a sound thrashing by an Atlanta Hawks team that looked every inch the frontrunners in the Eastern Conference, we learned that Hummel had a “nondisplaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his shooting hand,” according to the Star Tribune, and so Hummel will miss the next four to six weeks.

More on that later, but more on the game right now: Man, the Hawks looks great. The Wolves started promisingly with an interesting lineup: Mo Williams and Andrew Wiggins as the guards, Thad Young at small forward, Gorgui Dieng at power forward and Nikola Pekovic at center. In some ways it mimics the lineup of Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad on the wings because Young — while an undersized power forward — is a physical handful for small forwards and he showed it, ending the game with 26 points including going 11-14 on contested shots. If the Hawks have any obvious weaknesses, it’s size. Center Al Horford is 6-10 and power forward Paul Milsap is 6-8, so the Wolves reasonably tried to outsize them and it worked. For a while. Continue Reading…

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This is my third year covering the Timberwolves as a credentialed media member and in that time (and in the year when I was still a season ticket holder writing on my own blog and, come to think of it, in most every year since Kevin Garnett left) the texture of a Timberwolves season has never wavered. Here it is: preseason hope and promise – whether for the playoffs or simply not being abjectly terrible at basketball – gives way to a swoon due to a.) injury b.) an intractable problem borne of i.) personnel or ii.) scheme or iii.) both and then there’s this stretch of nothingness, the horse latitudes, the doldrums, a bardo region, the heat death of anything interesting to talk or think about with regard to this team.

That’s where we are right now. Continue Reading…

WhosTheBazz

With 4:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, last night’s game was looking like a good road win for a Timberwolves team sorely in need of some positive reinforcement after dropping eight straight. Up to that point, Shabazz Muhammad and Andrew Wiggins had been the standouts, combining to score 49 points on 19-for-34 shooting, including 5-for-6 for Muhammad from 3-point range. Roughly a month ago, I wrote about how no two of Zach Lavine, Wiggins and Muhammad seemed to be able to have a good game at the same time, but this game showed how Wiggins and Muhammad could feed off each other’s games — sometimes literally in the case of an early alley-oop from the former to the latter.

Wiggins also did this: Continue Reading…

If you’re a fan of any one team in the NBA, there are players on other teams that strike fear in your heart. These can be particular to your team — the Trail Blazers’ Wes Matthews has attempted more 3-pointers against the Wolves (125) than any other team and has his best true shooting percentage (.643) against them — but there’s also that more general sense of unease that comes with watching Kevin Durant, LeBron James or James Harden handle the ball against your team in a close game. Anthony Davis is beginning to develop some of that, although the Pelicans’ general inability to consistently get him the ball is tempering it for the time being. These players are, in a word, threats, and that kind of threat is precisely what the Wolves do not have right now and haven’t for quite some time.

At their best, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love together had some of this, but they had to do it together. Rubio with the ball in his hands is a threat only so long as the players around him can consistently make shots and Love with the ball in his hands is a direct threat only so long as he’s catching it with space to shoot. Neither is capable of engendering that feeling that they could take a defense apart at any moment all by themselves. While it might be dangerous to build your whole offense around the kind of iso-heavy, hero-ball type game implied by this idea of being an offensive threat (viz. Knicks, New York), used correctly, this kind of threat can distort defenses and force them into mistakes.

In his last two games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets, though, Andrew Wiggins has shown the promise of developing into that kind of threat. Continue Reading…

ThadYoung

I didn’t go to my first funeral until I was in my mid-20s. This is not to say that I didn’t lose people in my family: both my grandmothers died within a couple years of each other and my dad’s brother died while I was in college. But for myriad reasons — timing, travel and, truly, fear of death as a real thing — kept me from attending their funerals. I think my understanding of funerals at the time could best be described as “death is unequivocally bad and scary and funerals must therefore be the same.” I didn’t understand them as part of the long, uneven grieving process.

Timberwolves power forward Thaddeus Young lost his mother this year, at the age of 26. I lost mine at the age of 30. Britt Robson’s column this week for MinnPost is an excellent and thorough look at Young’s struggles this season on the court with due deference given to the way his mother’s death has bifurcated his season into a before and after, but I wanted to talk a little about how a human loss seeps into every aspect of our lives for longer than we usually anticipate. Continue Reading…