Archives For Tim Faklis

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Expectations can be tough to live up to, even when the original expectations aren’t as high as you’d want them to be. When the Timberwolves opened the 2014-15 season, the hopes of the front office were to sneak their way into a surprise playoff run. After a trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland was complete, the starting lineup (Pekovic/Young/Wiggins/Brewer/Rubio opened the year, as Kevin Martin sat with a groin injury) had promise for something decent, but nothing was guaranteed.

Ultimately, a slew of injuries, inexperience, and There were some fun moments this year, but it’s hard to look back on a 16-win season with much fondness. But it’s also impossible to cover a pro basketball team, even one as bad as the Wolves were this season, and not embrace the good things that happened throughout the year. It’s the same thing for fans of the Wolves.

If one simply focused on the losses, the inconsistent (mostly bad) play of Adriean Payne the second half of the year, the injuries, and the health of Nikola Pekovic, it wouldn’t be fun. That’s not why we watch sports. So, as bad as the Wolves were this year, I’m going to look at both the good and the bad, for the sake of everyone involved. Especially myself.

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For a good month and a half, the Timberwolves have played opponents with a different kind of mindset than they started with. Of course, while the term “tanking” has been thrown around more than “the Wolves could have drafted Steph Curry” chatter, the players on the floor aren’t out there trying to lose.

Tonight, we saw Andrew Wiggins, Lorenzo Brown, Zach LaVine, Jordan Hamilton, Chase Budinger, Adriean Payen, Robbie Hummel, and Arinze Onuaku working to beat the New Orleans Pelicans, whether there was actual tanking going on or not.

That said, the New Orleans Pelicans were playing, trying to win, with a completely different frame of mind. With the Oklahoma City Thunder begging for a New Orleans loss, the Pelicans weren’t just trying to win for the sake of keeping a basketball game competitive; they were out there trying to keep their season alive.

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The Timberwolves played the Kings tonight. The Kings started rebounding demon Reggie Evans in place of the injured DeMarcus Cousins. Zach LaVine, as he’s grown somewhat accustomed to, at least in terms of regularity, stood in as Ricky Rubio’s spot as starting point guard. On top of that, tonight had no Nikola Pekovic, Darren Collison, Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, or Carl Landry.

Both teams have seen lots of absences due to injury (or illness, in some cases), and both fanbases have come to expect some goofy outputs from players you wouldn’t expect. As per usual with losing teams at the end of the season, players who don’t normally get their time to shine seem more apt for finding looks.

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The Timberwolves, stuck with a starting rotation of 3 D-League call-ups (Payne, Hamilton, Brown), and 3 rookies (Payne again, Wiggins, LaVine), and just 3 bench players, have been losing. In the thick of playoff positioning for a good quantity of teams in the league, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to find out that such events have been going on.

They’ve been going on for a while, and have been recapped by all of the AWAW crew already (see: here, here, here, and here) So, instead of rehashing another sad recap, I’m going to revive something done by William Bohl early in the season.

I called, and you all responded. Let’s get started….

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When you’re a Wolves fan looking at a box score on NBA.com after another loss, it can be tough. The Wolves are flirting with another bottom-of-the-league season, unlikely to even crack the 20-win club occupied by teams like the Magic, Nuggets and (eventually, probably) Lakers. The reasons are a well-documented list, and not worth diving into in a game recap.

So when you come into a game, facing off against a New Orleans Pelicans team desparately trying to pass Oklahoma City for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs, things can get ugly. Anthony Davis and Omer Asik took full advantage of the Wolves’ depleted frontcourt, especially after Gorgui Dieng was forced back to the locker room (reported facial contusion – he did not return). The two of them combined for 43 points (the Pelicans dropped 56 total points in the paint) and 15 rebounds, and rarely showed any signs of struggle when they got the ball close to the basket.

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Now you look like you just got back from somewhere
Somewhere yeah you know that it’s true
Together we went nearly to nowhere
Nowhere really worth going to
Standing at the city center
In the middle of the winter

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When the Timberwolves traded Mo Williams in February, most Wolves fans appreciated what he had done in the tough spot he was forced into, upon the ankle injury to Ricky Rubio. Nobody will look back at Mo Williams with any level of ill will down the road, even if he had his share of questionable shots throughout the first half of the 2014-15 season.

Still, when Williams was traded, slight objection was the most negative feeling attached to his departure. While he showed his value (for good and, at times, for bad), his 1-year deal, his age, and the return (and obvious mainstay) of Ricky Rubio made Williams’ time in Minnesota an obvious rental.

In Charlotte, Williams has averaged 19 and 7 since the trade, and even has a recent player of the week award under his belt. Tonight, he made his return to Minnesota, where he and fellow former Wolf Al Jefferson (whose departure brought many, many more of the feels) saw a polite applause from the Target Center crowd.

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"Eric Bledsoe, Ricky Rubio, Justin Hamilton"

The Timberwolves and the Suns came into last night’s games in polar opposite situations.

Come summertime, the Wolves will be a team hoping luck is on their side come NBA draft lottery time. Their team hasn’t been healthy for quite some time, and the Kevin Garnett trade has helped change their defensive mindset a bit. And yet, while they’ll continue to compete, their fate is pretty set-in-stone.

The Suns are another story. They came into last night’s game with the knowledge that the Oklahoma City Thunder had fallen to the Clippers a few minutes prior to tip-off, an they knew this was a chance to close the 3-game gap for the final playoff spot.

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For some reason, the 14-win Timberwolves have found a relatively strange level of success against the 41-win Portland Trail Blazers this season. They managed to beat the Blazers back in December amidst the flurry of injuries to Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and Kevin Martin, ending what was a 6-game losing streak.

While injuries and losing streaks were also there for last night’s win over the Trail Blazers, the situation was different this time around. Rubio, Martin, and Pekovic are back and playing. Andrew Wiggins, who is still discovering what he is (really) good at, is further along in his development. Kevin Garnett is here now.

None of this is to say the Wolves came into the game projected as favorites, but it would explain the high level of confidence they displayed as early as the opening tipoff.

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02-bulls-kgCredit for this 1995 photo goes to Timberwolvestimeline.com

It was 90’s night in the United Center. In a perfect world, such a night would have coincided with Kevin Garnett’s first road game as a returned member of the Timberwolves. But, despite the nice digs the United Center bring, it’s still not a perfect world, and Kevin Garnett opted to rest tonight in preparation for tomorrow’s home game. To be fair, neither Michael Jordan nor Luc Longley suited up for Chicago, so the playing field was evened out a bit.

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Often times, you can judge the hype surrounding an NBA team by its ceremonial player introductions. Typically, the louder the fans are, the better.

In Minnesota, this can be traced back to Kevin Garnett’s first stint with the Timberwolves. During the team’s 8-year playoff stretch, it was typically impossible to hear Garnett’s name when it was called by Rod Johnson during at the start of games. After the Cassell/Sprewell era was over, the noise started to fade, and Garnett’s name grew clearer during the introductions. After he left, as the team fell into a 10-year playoff drought, the crowd noise faded even more.

Tonight was Kevin Garnett’s first game back in the Target Center after the much-discussed deadline deal with Brooklyn, and with it came an opening of a magnitude that hadn’t been seen in, well, ever.

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