Archives For Zach Harper

LoveMath

There was a point early on in the Wolves’ win over the Chicago Bulls in which Kevin Love was struggling. He wasn’t playing poorly but he was having trouble finding his way to the free throw line against Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed. The struggles against Taj Gibson aren’t anything new for Love, or anybody around the league really. Gibson is one of the top defensive players in the NBA and rarely gets his national due because he’s a role player off the bench.

Taj is familiar with Love’s game too. They’ve played against each other on every level of play — high school, college, and in the NBA. Along with his defensive prowess, his familiarity with Love may be a big reason he’s had such great success defending the Wolves’ big man throughout their respective careers. Before Monday night, Love was 0-5 against Gibson at the NBA level. Love’s had three pretty awful games against the Bulls in this time, one decent game, and one Kevin Love game.

Overall, he was shooting 40% in these match-ups and attempted just 19 free throws in five losses. The Bulls have been a great defensive team during this run (analysis!) and part of the reason they’re so good is they know the angles to take, when to take them, and use their incredible frontcourt to slow guys down. Even Carlos Boozer is a plus-defender in Tom Thibodeau’s system, or at least enough of a plus-defender to hold the fort as Joakim Noah and Gibson protect his back.

So what changed for Love during Monday’s game to finally give him a big advantage against Gibson, Boozer, and Thibodeau’s system?  Continue Reading…

Toronto Tourism ad: ‘White Vegas’ from The Basketball Jones on Vimeo.

I came away with three thoughts about the Wolves’ most recent loss, which was probably the one I’ve been the most accepting of (because I expected it) and the one that was simultaneously the most frustrating even though I had accepted their fate long before tip-off.

The first thought was about that acceptance of the loss, knowing it was coming while not trying to approach that submissive thought from a pessimistic origin. The Wolves simply don’t win in Toronto. After last night’s “effort”, they’ve dropped to 3-16 there all-time and they haven’t won there since 2004 when the Wolves last fielded a team that seemed to give a damn whilst being able to do something about it. This is the exact kind of “marriage to the old guard” I’ve been hoping people would divorce themselves of with a new regime and a very talented roster. And yet, here I am latching on to negativity of the past, simply because the nightlife of Toronto seems to call this organization.

This game seemed to go the exact same way most of these affairs in T Dot go. Seemingly poor execution met with malaise and a dash of “is this game over yet?” After the first quarter, I was hoping the bench would get extended minutes. After the bench got extended minutes, I was hoping the starters would have a fire lit under them. After that, I was hoping the bench would play a lot of minutes in the second half. And by the end, I was waiting for the Raptors to tell us they had to get up early and rush out the door for a waiting taxi. There was also a sick part of me that wanted the game to end in a loss of four points or less, but that’s just me losing my mind at the moment.  Continue Reading…

ShabazzShaback

After a successful four-game stretch with the Iowa Energy of the D-League, Shabazz Muhammad has been recalled by the Minnesota Timberwolves to rejoin the team this week. Muhammad showed off that ability to score which made him such a top prospect coming out of high school and did a great job of hitting the rebounds in his four games. He tallied 98 points and 39 rebounds in his four games, shot nearly eight free throws per game, and had seven assists (!!) and just five turnovers.

Here’s the release from the Wolves about the recall and my thoughts on the experience below:  Continue Reading…

LovePost

I’m not sure a game like this loss to the San Antonio Spurs is ever good, per se.

The Spurs established their dominance by playing exactly how they love to play. The Wolves never were able to take back control of the game or dictate their own style. While both teams like to move the ball up the floor and use brilliant decision-making and passing to put the defense on their heels, the Spurs do it in a much less chaotic style. The Wolves can play that structured tempo the Spurs love to throw at their opponents, but everything has to be clicking for the Wolves.

Things certainly weren’t clicking Sunday night, outside of Nikola Pekovic continuing his torrid affair with scoring the basketball and being a presence inside. Kevin Love couldn’t seem to find a way to hit a shot or get past the solid defender that is Boris Diaw (that’s not pejorative either; he’s become a defensive presence). Kevin Martin couldn’t finish inside and he couldn’t knock down a jumper. Corey Brewer looked lost on both ends of the floor as he was a non-factor on offense and he got destroyed by Kawhi Leonard on the other end. Ricky Rubio distributed well but just couldn’t have a big impact against Tony Parker.

So while this loss wasn’t good for the Wolves as I stated above, sometimes it’s a nice reminder of just how important each part of the system is, so you don’t lose sight of the value of each component.  Continue Reading…

PekHappy

The hardest thing for me when it comes to writing about basketball is figuring out what to write when the Wolves blow somebody out. Everything typically goes correctly, because that’s how blowouts happen. There’s something odd about writing, “hey, the game plan worked!” especially when it’s against a bad team that is missing key players.

I’ve had a hard time coming up with stuff to say about the game, which might be a good thing. The Wolves had a bad collapse at the end of the loss to the Suns that sent everybody into a craze. It was the Wolvespocalypse and nothing was ever going to be sane again. Kevin Love was demanding a trade. Ricky Rubio needed more D-League time than Shabazz Muhammad. And the game had passed Rick Adelman by and he needed to get fired. These were obviously some of the extreme reactions to what happened.

And then they bounce back by taking care of business the next day. This has been the pattern for the team, which shows resilience but it doesn’t show growth. The question ends up being is resilience enough?  Continue Reading…

Bud

The rotation may finally be whole. While the starting lineup of the Minnesota Timberwolves has been great for the team almost the entire season, the bench has been pretty tough to handle. As the season has gone on, Rick Adelman has found ways to stagger the substitutions and try to leave at least one of the main scorers (Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin) on the floor with a few members of the bench. But the Wolves’ starters are still averaging more minutes per game than any lineup in the league.

They may finally be getting a little more rest. Ronny Turiaf returned to the team Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers and Chase Budinger will make his season debut for the Wolves Wednesday night when they face the Phoenix Suns. Continue Reading…

The Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to get Kevin Love to the All-Star Game as a starter, after being just a mere 22,000 votes behind Los Angeles Clippers’ power forward Blake Griffin from the last voting returns.

In terms of individual credentials, it’s hard to find someone more deserving in the Western Conference not named Kevin Durant. Love is currently second in the NBA in scoring (26.4 per game), second in rebounding (13.3 per game), first in assists for power forwards (4.3 per game), fifth in free throw attempts (7.7 per game), eighth in 3-pointers made, and first in awesome outlet passes (a lot). In comparing his stats to Griffin’s, Love blows him away in almost every category.

However, Griffin is doing what he’s doing for a much better team. The Clippers are 24-13, 5.5 games ahead of the Wolves right now. Griffin is also in a much bigger market and is more popular, giving him a decided advantage in garnering votes. Wolves are asking fans to tweet, “Kevin Love #NBABallot” in addition to posting in on Facebook, Instagram, iCarrierPigeon, texting, stalking the league office, and whatever avenues might get Love to the All-Star Game in New Orleans as a starter.

Regardless of whether or not he starts, he’ll definitely make the West roster and represent the Wolves.

EdMaLOLy

If you want to be cute about how you view the final play of this game, you immediately pull out the old rule book and read off the section in which the “hand is part of the ball.” It’s a valid rule. I cite it often when a player gets hit on the hand as he’s going up for a shot. The hand is literally part of the ball in the NBA rulebook and it’s a good rule. It’s not just an excuse for Sidney Deane to avoid getting a foul called on him when going to Sizzler is possibly on the line (I know that didn’t happen during the Sizzler bet but you try leaving that out and see how fun it is).

Here’s the problem with citing the “hand is part of the ball” rule: when you reach across someone’s body and have to make contact with the wrist and forearm in order to make contact with the hand, it kind of negates the citation of said rule. And by “kind of” I mean it completely negates it. That’s the problem I have with this conversation. You can view this play as a blown call and it doesn’t mean the league is running rampant with Tim Donaghy clones that are lying to avoid laws he doesn’t understand. Continue Reading…

WolvesBenchQuestionMark

For weeks, I’ve been banging the drum of waiting for the turn in the schedule. While inconsistencies have teased our basketball hearts and frustrations have mounted, I’ve preached patience and perspective in this 82-game campaign. Their early schedule was pretty brutal. Lots of back-to-backs on the road and against really good teams. Lots of one game home “stretches” that required a ton of weird travel. The strength of schedule has been tough as well. Heading into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards, the Wolves are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the third toughest schedule this season.

Of the top 10 toughest schedules in the NBA, only the Golden State Warriors (17-13), Phoenix Suns (17-10), Oklahoma City Thunder (23-5), and San Antonio Spurs (23-7) have winning records despite their tough slate to begin the season. The Wolves had the next best record of the bunch at 13-15. They have been treading water and avoiding going under, even though their inconsistent play has been driving a lot of fans and people around the area crazy. The stink of 10 sad years of basketball has been unfairly placed on this current version of the Wolves, not properly resetting expectations and feelings of what this roster is in the process.

Tread water and get to the much easier stretch of games in January. Then we find out what this team is truly made of for the rest of this season. Continue Reading…

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been waiting for Chase Budinger to get healthy enough to see if the money committed and the vision of Flip Saunders this offseason would provide the necessary balance to make this more of a complete team. Continue Reading…