Archives For 2011 preseason

This is Anthony Randolph with his shirt on backwards.

Not to get into the habit of quoting myself, but this is what I had to say about Anthony Randolph last fall:

It’s hard to tell what will become of this strange dude. But here’s my best guess: with his blank, far-away demeanor, Anthony Randolph falls into that vast category of NBA player with overwhelming talent but a temperament that prevents that talent from ever fully flowering.

Sad to say, but I don’t think that’s changed much over the ensuing season. There was hope, of course, as there was for every Timberwolf, that Ricky Rubio could manage to invigorate Randolph’s career, could teach him to play, as it were, as Steve Nash and Jason Kidd have done for so many of their teammates. There were glimmers, early on, that this might actually be possible: the incredible back door alley-oop that Rubio gifted to Randolph was a sign that, just maybe, AR’s immense talents had found a home.

But, just as it did for Darko Milicic, precedent willed out. Rick Adelman soon grew tired of Randolph’s bipolar effort and his finesse-at-all-costs approach to the game. By midseason it appeared that Adelman would have preferred to forfeit a game than hand Randolph meaningful minutes. But then everybody got hurt. Adelman was forced to choose between Randolph and Milicic as his big man of last resort; Randolph began to log his first serious minutes of the season.

And the results were pretty much what you would have expected them to be. Randolph had his requisite share of fine games–28 points on 11-16 shooting against the Nuggets, 22 and 11 three nights later in Oklahoma City. And he had his share of stinkers–a combined 2-15 from the field in the two games following his OKC triumph. For a man playing the majority of his minutes at center, he still takes in inordinate amount of jumpers (58% of his shots, as it happens) without making enough of them (38.3%) to justify that volume.

He boasts a true shooting rate (.532) and rebound rate (13.2) that are decidedly below average for his position. (A very curious thing: Randolph’s rebounding stats–both his per-minute numbers as well as his rebounding percentage–have steadily declined every year since he entered the league. That really is not good.) His PER (17.6) is rescued only by the sheer volume of shots that he takes which, for a a player of such mediocre efficiency, is no real rescue at all.

And we haven’t even gotten to the worst of it. 82games.com estimates that Randolph’s opponents averaged a PER of 21.8 when they played against him this year, the worst such number on the team. Estimates like that are clearly not an exact science, but they correspond with what we saw. We saw a player with only intermittent focus and energy, particularly on the defensive end. We saw a player reluctant to do the hard yeoman’s labor necessary for good post defense. Randolph was surely one of the players that J.J. Barea had in mind when he assailed his teammates effort, commitment and just basic level of caring. This off-season, the Wolves can either make Randolph a one-year qualifying offer or sign him to a multi-year deal. Don’t expect them to do either.

BREAKING NEWS: Sources say, Wolves went 2-0 in the preseason against the Bucks.

So as we prepare for the Preseason Playoff series against the 2-0 Clippers, I thought I would share some notes I made on Wolves players from the two games we just witnessed.
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Two preseason games are in the book and the Wolves finish the 2011 preseason with two wins.

The first game was a whirling dervish of dribble penetration, kickout passes, and 3-pointers blanketing the Target Center like pure virgin snow. We were dazzled by even the simplest of tasks performed by Ricky Rubio. We reveled in the double point guard lineup that would have made the Double Rainbow guy lose his guano. We got to witness Michael Beasley isolations a plenty, Kevin Love doing ridiculous double-double efforts in limited minutes, and Derrick Williams showing us just how deadly and exciting he can be from all over the court.

Game two was a bit different, and probably more rewarding than the first game drubbing the Wolves put on the Bucks. This game was a STRUGGLE. They had to play Luke Ridnour and Malcolm Lee extended minutes at the point, with Ricky and JJ Barea staying home. It looked a lot like the Wolves from yesteryear, trying to manufacture structure and continuity despite being extremely sloppy with the ball.

Wolves were frustrated by the typically physical and opportunistic Milwaukee defense all night. Like a street side Three Card Monte dealer, your money was gone before you even knew you were playing the game. Milwaukee led 84-73 with 2:23 left in the contest. Then Kevin Love reminded everybody why he’s one of the toughest covers in the NBA. He made a hook shot inside. Then he tricked rookie Jon Leuer into fouling him on a 3-pointer. Next possession down, he drew a foul against Drew Gooden for two more free throws.

However with the Bucks up four points and just 20 seconds left in the game, I nearly gave up on the contest. I was very close to changing the channel to see how Rockets-Jazz was shaping up. I’m glad I didn’t miss what happened. Luke Ridnour stole an inbounds pass by Darrington Hobson. He kicked it for Love for a 3-pointer that brought the Wolves within one – 10 points for Love in just 1:43 of action. Ridnour then stole a horrendous inbound decision by Larry Sander, the Wolves found Beasley inside and he was fouled.

He dropped two icicles (frozen daggers) from the free throw line to put the Wolves up one, and then got a defensive stop when Leuer missed a jumper and the Bucks couldn’t convert the offensive rebound.

Even though it was a meaningless preseason win, I loved the end of this game for the Wolves. Sure, they Love and Beas going against a bunch of second-stringers for Milwaukee in the closing moments. But I like that Adelman just let them play and figure it out. Off the second Luke steal, some coaches would call a timeout and set up a play. Instead of doing that, the Wolves didn’t allow Milwaukee to discuss things and set up their defense. The Wolves just had to figure it out on their own and they showed a lot of maturity and tranquility in a moment of chaos and fervor that we would not have seen last year. It was a fun way to end the preseason.
I’ll have player-by-player bullet notes from the two preseason games up this afternoon. It’s so good to have basketball back.

What did you think of the two games?