Archives For Zach Harper

JohnWallIsTheOneWhoKnocks

This game wasn’t as close as the score would imply. However, it was pretty close at various times throughout the night, which makes it a bit confusing as a whole. About six or so minutes into the game, it seemed like I was going to have to find a blowout recap topic for tonight’s game and I even crowd-sourced for a few ideas. John Wall was picking apart the Wolves and we had several instances of big men not getting back on defense.

There were multiple plays in the first couple of minutes in which Thaddeus Young and Gorgui Dieng were slow to either get back in transition, only to get beaten down the floor by Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries, or to locate their defensive assignment once they did get back. You don’t give space to John Wall’s passing targets and win to talk about it. He’s too good at this stage in his career and as the Wolves found out a few times, you can’t just play 10 feet off of him and expect him to Kemba Walker that jump shot. His game doesn’t break like that anymore.

Since this was a blowout that wasn’t a blowout, let’s actually recap instead of me just rambling for 1,400 words about Pauly D from Jersey Shore or something along those lines.  Continue Reading…

KobeToWiggins

While Kobe Bryant can elicit some pretty polarized takes on how great he is or isn’t, how nice he is or isn’t, how good of a leader/teammate that he is or isn’t, and everything else involved with historic players, what you can’t deny is his psychotic, competitive nature that has fueled one of the greatest careers you could ever imagine. To be completely honest with everybody, I was beyond jealous that I wasn’t in the Target Center Sunday night when Kobe passed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list. Sure, it’s come in what will essentially be a lost/wasted season for Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers, but history is history, and the Target Center saw something no other building will ever see — Kobe passing Jordan on the all-time scoring list.

The game was another injury-riddled loss by the Wolves, desperate for the direction of a point guard with a little bit of a veteran touch at his disposal. But there were aspects to this game that were fascinating. Mostly, they resided around the burning desire of Kobe to kill the defender in front of him, despite the Hall of Famer being at the end of his rope athletically (relatively speaking, of course). 36-year old Kobe Bryant plays a megalomaniacal brand of basketball. It’s both an inspiration to those that have come after him and a cautionary tale of finding the right balance between hubris and a pathos of sorts. That’s not a knock on Bryant either. If anything, it’s a compliment about a player that by all historical measurements shouldn’t be able to do what he does anymore.

Kobe is the league’s third leading scorer after 1,269 games, 18-plus years, and over 46,000 minutes in the NBA. That just doesn’t happen. The retort is about how he’s shooting under 40.0% from the field while hoisting all of these shots that allow him to be the scoring leader. And it’s completely correct. He’s allowed to play a certain way that almost no other player has ever been afforded at this point in their careers. To me, that’s why it’s so impressive and it’s a blueprint for competitiveness that I pray someone on the Wolves picks up. I’ll explain:  Continue Reading…

“This ain’t reality TV!”

That’s one of the big lines from the movie The Departed, delivered by Jack Nicholson in a bizarre role that both fits, doesn’t fit, and falls everywhere in between. It comes during a scene in which (SPOILER ALERT) the tension surrounding a Boston crime boss, an undercover cop, and a bunch of lackeys has built to an uncomfortable level. The undercover cop (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is on the verge of being found out and murdered by the crime boss (played by Nicholson). DiCaprio’s character just watched a fellow henchman die when Leo was close to getting busted and soon after the death, DiCaprio, Nicholson, and several henchmen watch a news report revealing that the body had been found and the deceased had been identified as an undercover police officer.

The henchman responsible for burying the dead body is wondering how the police found the body so quickly, and Nicholson is furious at everything going on as his empire is starting to unravel. As Nicholson berates him for not doing his job properly, the henchman laughs at the colorful analogy Jack offers up for where the body was dumped. The laughter adds to the vitriol and frustration suffocating Nicholson and he screams:

“Don’t laugh! This ain’t reality TV!” Continue Reading…

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

This was a weird game. It was a fun game. It was a game that showed just exactly where the Minnesota Timberwolves need to be this season while seeing just how dire things are for the Los Angeles Lakers. In a 120-119 win over the Lakers, we saw just how horrendous the Lakers can be and how energizing and cathartic their defense can be for struggling opponents. And that’s what the Wolves have been since Ricky Rubio went down with his ankle injury — they’ve been struggling.

It’s probably why the Lakers felt like they’d get an easy victory at home against the Wolves. This is a Wolves team missing three starters and three important starters at that. We all know how important Rubio is and have seen that night in and night out since his injury. Nikola Pekovic is the type of post scorer that can make a frontcourt like the Lakers’ feel like quitting basketball with his punishing post play. And Kevin Martin can torch Kobe Bryant at this stage in their respective careers just as easily as Kobe can torch Martin. It’s all about putting pressure on an embarrassing defensive effort that looks to be historically poor.

You mostly hurt the Lakers’ offense in two ways: Continue Reading…

(via Getty)

(via Getty)

I don’t know how many of you watch the show “Sons of Anarchy” but I’ve been fascinated by the character Juice Ortiz [probably some spoilers in this but I haven’t written it so I’m not positive]. Other than Opie, who was my favorite character on this show, Juice has kept my attention throughout the duration of this series. I’ve been completely enthralled with overall story arcs on this show and I’ve been checked out on plenty of story arcs over the course of the seven seasons. Characters have lost me left and right.

I’ve never been all that in to Jax’s character, even though early on in the show he was like a young lion trying to figure out how to rule the jungle. Once he broke through to the leadership role and started his family with Tara, his struggle just didn’t grab me at all. The story arc of Gemma has always been boring. She’s an awful, power-hungry matriarch who will do anything to protect her family. The secret though is the family she’s protecting isn’t her actual family but the mythical family of controlling the club like she’s done for decades. It’s the same cycle every season with just new dastardly ways in which her subversive nature breaks through. Yawn.

And while I love Bobby, Tig, Happy, Chibs, Piney, and Clay [he would rank third in my character rankings], only Opie has been able to surpass my fascination with Juice. The Juice storyline has given his character the most depth on the show and we’ve seen the most range from this actor (Theo Rossi) in portraying that character. While I want to see the finality of the close of this series, I probably would have ejected shortly after Opie’s exit from the show had Juice not been so compelling.  Continue Reading…

(Getty)

(Getty)

Earlier on Friday, I had a big long-form feature about Andrew Wiggins on CBSSports.com posted. I traveled to Brooklyn last week to follow the team on part of their road trip. I attended the Wolves’ win over the Nets, then followed them to Orlando, and came back to Miami with them. Part of the purpose of this trip was to try to write about Wiggins and the development process of creating a star. I was able to spend time and talk to some friends around the team, talk to scouts, coaches, players, and media members from around the league, and try to get a handle on just how realistic and great Wiggins’ potential development could be.

A very cool part of the research of this piece was running into David Thorpe of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Florida and ESPN.com. I’ve known David for a few years, and he’s worked with dozens of NBA and international players, including Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer. He and I sat down to discuss Andrew Wiggins’ potential and the process of developing such an exciting prospect. His answers were incredible and he offered up great insight. I decided to post the full Q&A here, since I could only use so much of what he said in my piece on CBSSports. Hope you enjoy both the conversation, and the post on Wiggins:  Continue Reading…

LivingLaVineaLoca

In two weeks, the Minnesota Timberwolves will reevaluate Ricky Rubio’s ankle. He’ll be on crutches during that time and then we’ll see how the swelling and ligaments are progressing. Optimistically, I’d say the Wolves are looking at a four-week recovery overall for the significant/high ankle sprain, and six weeks may even be the more likely scenario. That’s simply a guess based on covering injuries like this and talking to a couple of people who are smarter about it than I am.

In the next 4-8 weeks, or however long Rubio is sidelined, Zach LaVine will likely be the starting point guard. Flip Saunders is wary about playing Mo Williams more than 25 minutes a game due to advanced age in the NBA and not wanting to wear him down. When the Wolves made the decision to keep Glenn Robinson III over J.J. Barea, they knew the risk of injury at the point guard could thrust them into a situation like this. And it’s a great chance at developing LaVine in a way they probably didn’t believe was a likely scenario. Saturday night against the Heat, we saw a lot of what the process should and likely will look like during Rubio’s down time.  Continue Reading…

The adidas Swingman jersey campaign is in full swing and they made one starring Andrew Wiggins.

This is a pretty great ad that reminds everybody some people already spent money on those now throwback Wiggins Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys right after the draft when the Cavs selected Wiggins with the top overall pick. Make sure to rock those Cavs’ Wiggins throwbacks at Bonnaroo next year and you’ll be all the rage.

As for everybody else, this Wiggins Wolves jersey doesn’t seem like a bad one to get. The jerseys retail for $110 at the NBA Store and LIDS.

RubioExtension

About a month ago, maybe even a week ago, the likelihood of a contract extension for Ricky Rubio with the Minnesota Timberwolves seemed very low. Rubio’s agent was asking for a max contract, according to reports and rumors, and the Wolves were never going to pay the max in a rising salary cap situation. Committing that much money to Rubio would be an optimistic investment, considering his scoring woes, to say the least. However with the last couple hours before the extension deadline for the 2011 rookie class, the Wolves and Rubio finally came to a much more manageable compromise.

Reports have come out that Rubio and the Wolves agreed to a four-year, $55 million-plus contract extension that will keep Rubio with the Wolves through the 2018-19 season. Our friend Jon Krawcyznski of the Associated Press has the deal at 4 years and $56 million with the incentives included.

The concept of Rubio, his worth, the market for players of his status/position, and his future with the club appear to be very divisive topics, so let’s try to work this out on the page and come to a consensus on how good of a deal this is for both sides and what it means moving forward.  Continue Reading…

FlipSaundersCoaching

People who followed the Minnesota Timberwolves, whether they were fans or media members, so closely last season have widely held the belief that it was the lack of late game execution that ultimately was the undoing of this team in their quest for a return to the playoffs. The 0-11 start in games decided by four points or less was a frustrating run, and it once the Wolves ended that streak with a clutch win on the road against the Golden State Warriors, hopes of the floodgates opening and leading to more wins was the preferred result of getting over that hump.

To a degree, it did. After the 0-11 start in games decided by four points or less, the Wolves won six of eight in these close games. But the damage had been done. Missing out on those precious wins early seemed to help lead to players checking out and the effort not being consistent enough in the final two months of the season when the Wolves didn’t have any margin for error. There are plenty of reasons as to why the Wolves were so bad (shooting, player execution, coaching, the bench being so bad it taxed the starters, defense, etc.) and most fans want to jump on Rick Adelman as the primary reason.

So will a coaching change help this Wolves team get over the hump in a close game environment that has plagued them for a decade? In a recent Q&A by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, Flip Saunders mentioned he doesn’t care so much about who starts games as he does which players finish games. He even said that prior to his time coaching the Washington Wizards, his teams had a higher winning percentage than any other team when games were decided by three points or less:  Continue Reading…