Archives For Steve McPherson

Passing-drills.-Screencap-via-ROOT-Sports

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So it goes with basketball as well. The search this season for some kind of overarching sense to the Minnesota Timberwolves has so far been fruitless. They have destroyed teams, have eaten them whole, bones and all. Ten times so far this season they have led the other team by 30 or more points (and led the Jazz by 26 in last night’s game). The next closest team to that is San Antonio, who have done it six times, or just over half as many times.

And then, of course, there’s the flipside of that, where they are (say it with me) 0-11 in games decided by four points or less. Trying to reconcile these two things leads to a lot of furious narrative building: they don’t beat the teams they’re supposed to beat; they only beat bad teams; they need to execute down the stretch; they’re fundamentally flawed; it’s all on Ricky Rubio’s shooting; it’s all on Kevin Love’s defense; it’s all on Rick Adelman’s age; it’s all on the bench. Continue Reading…

CharlieBrown

There’s an old maxim that says when infidelity becomes an issue in a relationship, it’s not actually the problem — it’s just a symptom of a more fundamental flaw. Don’t worry: The Timberwolves aren’t cheating, although at this point I think a good chunk of the fanbase would be all right with them giving that a shot. But what that adage gets at is how difficult it can be to tell what needs fixing when things aren’t right. Fix the symptom and it goes away, but the underlying problem remains. But how do you tell which is which?

Are the Wolves’ problems — and boy, do they have problems — mechanical? Does it really just come down to execution in close games? If they move the ball more crisply and often, if they take good shots, will they win these games? And not just win any given game, but create a deep-seated sense that they can control any given game? Anyone can see that in a game like last night’s loss to the Kings (which will get shuttled into that category of losses by four points or less, bringing their record in such games to 0-11) the team was completely flat and listless for nearly the entire game. So is it the energy? If they bring the energy, will it fix the execution? Or will good execution get their energy up? Continue Reading…

 SunsWolves

Note: The title of this post should not be construed as a statement that it’s time to blow up the team. Just read this poem by Jack Gilbert called “Tear It Down.”

Man, what happened? I mean, let’s be honest: The Wolves — in spite of getting Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger back, in spite of being on their home court, in spite of facing a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back after losing in Chicago and only two games into a five-game road trip, and at the beginning of a long road trip — never grabbed this one away from the Phoenix Suns. Their biggest lead? Nine points, while the Suns’ biggest lead was eight.

On the macro level, it begins with poor shooting. The Wolves’ three main scoring options — Kevin Martin, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic — ended the night just 16-52. Love was 4-20 and though Pek got it going a bit in the third quarter, he was 1-8 in the first half. Kevin Martin started torchingly, scoring 7 points in the first 2:11 of the game, a pace that would have yielded roughly 168 points, had he kept it up. Sadly, he did not. Continue Reading…

Thunder

I can’t blame you if you’re hurt. I wouldn’t blame you if you see this game as yet another referendum on this team, on the bench, on Kevin Love, on Kevin Love shaving his beard, on Rick Adelman, on whatever. I’m probably not going to talk you out of anything right now, but please and try to remember: This was an absolutely awesome game of basketball to watch. Continue Reading…

Shabazz Muhammad, Shawne Williams

The news that the Wolves have assigned rookie Shabazz Muhammad to their NBA D-League affiliate in Des Moines is good. Playing with the Iowa Energy (including erstwhile Timberwolf Othyus Jeffers) for at least a week will give Muhammad some burn, and it’s clear from his recent short stints off the bench at the end of blowouts that he’s hungry to get going and actually do something on a court (over the last five games he’s averaging 12.7 points per 36 minutes on 50% shooting).

I’ve already seen at least one person say that you don’t send your first rounders down to the D-League, and the comment section on that Star Tribune post couldn’t be clearer: “Just another fine example of the Wolves terrible draft history”; “Meanwhile Trey Burke [picked by the Wolves then traded for the picks that would become Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng] named Rookie of the Month”; “A top 15 pick going to play in the D-league. What’s wrong with this picture”. Continue Reading…

WolvesBench

After contributing a paltry five points — a total so low that MLA style would ask you to please write it out rather than use numerals — in Monday night’s difficult loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Timberwolves’ bench came startlingly to life against the New Orleans Pelicans, pouring in 42 points with double-digit totals for J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved and Dante Cunningham. With media crushed around him after the game, Love praised the bench he had called out on Monday night.

“Nobody’s ever going to like [getting called out],” he said. “But it wasn’t me being down on them. It’s just me asking for more because we’re going to need them in 2014. What are we, 16-16 now? They’re going to have to help us if we want to win. It was just a challenge more than anything. I wasn’t mad at them, I wasn’t saying they were bad. It was just tough love and sometimes that’s the best way to do things.” Continue Reading…

RA32213

Coaching is a dark art. I’ve long been wary of judging coaches based on what we can see of their job: how they are on the bench, how they use their timeouts, what plays they call out of timeouts and in late-game situations, who they play when. There’s just so much of the job that we have no access to, and even the stuff we can see is difficult to parse in the same manner as the advanced analytics we’ve come to expect for players. There are no on/off numbers for coaches. A head coach creates an entire environment for a team and everything that occurs for a team occurs within that environment. A head coach is the old fish swimming by asking, “How’s the water?” and we’re all the fish asking, “What’s water?”

With that said, I’ve begun to doubt Rick Adelman. Continue Reading…

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This was a game that could best be described as a fever dream, a disorienting mix of lightheadedness, unreasonable giddiness and unmoored feelings of unease. In spite of all that, this is more or less the house where Wolves fans should reasonably expect to live. Most of the things that are supposed to happen did: a stuffed stat sheet from Kevin Love, Brobdingnagian numbers from the Brobdingnagian Nikola Pekovic, effective and efficient scoring from Kevin Martin. Oh and Ricky Rubio did this, stirring feelings of pure joy that don’t seem to happen as often as they once did with him:

828325051 Continue Reading…

This game had a lot of beautiful basketball. Midway through the third it erupted into play after play of move and countermove and this, honestly, should be what every basketball fan hopes the game can aspire to. Look at this layup by Kawhi Leonard:

KawhiLayup

LOOK AT IT! Continue Reading…

You knew I had to squeeze Thad Young in there somewhere

You knew I had to squeeze Thad Young in there somewhere

It’s no secret that the Timberwolves’ greatest pitfall this season has been what the kids call a SEGABABA (SEcond GAme of a BAck-to-BAck). Going into last night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers they were 1-5 in such games and had faced and summarily dismissed the Pistons in Detroit on Tuesday night. With Michael Carter Williams sidelined with a … knee infection (yeah, that’s the ticket) and a Sixers team that appeared to be largely made up of created players from NBA 2K14 (“James … Anderson? Sure. Hollis Thompson? Those sound like basketball player names.”), it seemed like this might be the game to start turning that trend around.

Until the game started. Continue Reading…