Archives For 2012-13 Season

There are two reasons I’m posting this crudely pulled video of Wolves’ color commentator Jim Petersen mentioning my name on last night’s telecast:

1) It’s not even a humble brag; it’s a straight-up brag that the best team analyst in the NBA mentioned a conversation we had Wednesday morning for the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Podcast that I host five days a week.

2) It’s to let you know that the episode with Jim Pete exists and you should probably go listen to it if you want to get smarter about the NBA and its history. Through my fumbling of questions, Jim shared incredible insight about knee injuries, what it was like to play with Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, how players work hard, and how he became a broadcaster. He also shed some incredible insight on the role of advanced stats in his job and the NBA in general.

You can go here to check out the post with the podcast on the Eye on Basketball blog, you can subscribe in iTunes here and download the episode, or you can click on the player below that will hopefully continue to play the episode and not have coding problems. I will warn you the episode isn’t very Wolves-centric for most of the 34 minutes, but it’s Jim Petersen talking about basketball. You can’t get much better than that.

Rubio

Teams need wins.

Pretty obvious statement, right?

Obviously teams need wins. Wins produce success. Wins produce playoff chances. Wins produce playoff seeding and possible advantageous match-ups. Wins produce championships. Wins produce confidence and chemistry. Wins produce opportunities. For a team like the Timberwolves, who have struggled so much this season while battling injury after injury, wins produce a sense of relief.  Continue Reading…

J.J. Barea was unhappy with Ray Allen pushing off near Barea’s throat, and decided to even it out by bumping Ray to the ground. Allen then lost his cool, got up to confront Barea and your typical NBA kerfuffle broke out.

Official Ed Malloy went to the monitor, probably watched a torture scene from the movie Hostel, and deemed that the action he saw on the monitor was not acceptable for an NBA game. He changed the Flagrant-1 foul to a Flagrant-2, which gives Barea the automatic boot from the game. After the game, Barea expressed his thoughts on Ray overreacting to a “soft foul,” said he’s been hit much harder than that every night, and said he expected the NBA to downgrade it to a Flagrant-1 foul.

The NBA has done just that, this afternoon:

The NBA has downgraded a Flagrant-2 foul on Minnesota Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea to a Flagrant-1 foul.

The Timberwolves announced the decision on Tuesday, one day after Barea was ejected in the fourth quarter against Miami after a foul on Heat guard Ray Allen. Barea knocked Allen to the court with a chest bump and Allen immediately took exception and confronted Barea. Officials initially ruled it a Flagrant-One, which gives the opponent two shots and the ball.

Upon reviewing the play, referee Ed Malloy changed it to a Flagrant-Two, which brings an automatic ejection. The Wolves were down six at the time, but Miami responded with a 17-5 run to put the game away.

Barea says he is pleased with the league’s decision.

A Flagrant-2 foul could result in a suspension for the next game if the league decides that it’s necessary to punish the player who committed the foul, but it’s not an automatic suspension. But by downgrading it to a Flagrant-1, it ensures Barea won’t miss any time, which he shouldn’t. Should it have been a Flagrant-1? That’s debatable. I, personally, don’t have a problem with it being a regular foul or a flagrant. But to watch that play and say it’s an ejectable offense just seems crazy to me.

If Ray Allen doesn’t react that way, Barea probably doesn’t get ejected. I don’t think it was a matter of this being a Wolves-Heat thing or anything like that; I think it was simply a matter of an overmatched crew chief for the officials losing control of the game and not knowing how to regain control by any way outside of tossing Barea.

Good to see the league changed it to the proper foul designation.

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Defense is the NBA’s dark art. At this year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston this past weekend, Kirk Goldsberry and Eric Weiss presented a paper on what they termed The Dwight Effect. Using data from STATS, LLC’s SportVU camera system, they sought to account for more than stats like blocks and opponent field goal percentage in measuring interior defense. Although they admitted their approach was still mostly one-dimensional, their work began to incorporate the idea of a player like Dwight Howard changing shots without even doing anything—in essence, him being on the floor warps the space around him defensively because players don’t even want to come into the paint.

This distorting effect that good defense can have on another team’s offense was on full display last night as the Heat brutalized the Timberwolves in Minnesota. As you can see just from the final score, the Heat didn’t look great offensively. Spoelstra said as much in the tunnel after the game, conceding that the offense was ragged, but maintaining that their identity came from their defense. Continue Reading…

The Timberwolves were playing without three of their four essential players and therefore faced an insurmountable talent disadvantage. They missed many free-throws and even more threes. They labored to salvage tiny scraps of offensive production. They lacked the personnel to seriously impede their opponent’s offensive execution. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before. Once revealed, the patterns are relentless. Nevertheless, some observations on this loss in Portland:

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RubioSmile

Over the next few days on A Wolf Among Wolves, I’ll be breaking down the play of Ricky Rubio since he’s returned from his ACL surgery last March. When Rubio came back on December 12th against the Dallas Mavericks, we all wondered how long it would take him to regain his form. In an attempt to figure out the turning point for Rubio and how we can track his change, I’ve decided to chart various parts of his game. In some areas, I’ve found improvement and in some areas, the numbers don’t bear out a lot of change. But what I have found — and something everybody has noticed — is a change in his game recently that reminds us of his incredible play as a rookie. Today, I’ll be breaking down Ricky Rubio as a scorer:

We’re starting to see results.

The box scores of Ricky Rubio the past few games have been nomadic, moving all over the place. His aggressiveness on the basketball court has been something that we didn’t see in his shortened rookie season. It’s a new style of play in which he’s looking for his own shot because he knows he has to get the defense to respect the chance that he might try to score. If this threat isn’t there, even in the back of the defense’s mind, then it’s a lot easier for them to sit in his passing lanes and ruin the effect he has on a basketball court.

His aggression isn’t something we saw right away. The flashy passing was there the night of the return against the Dallas Mavericks back in December; however, he rarely looked for his own shot in an attempt to keep the defense honest. This could have been due to a lack of confidence, a lack of conditioning in his body, or a lack of strength in the leg he worked so hard to bring back to a professional athletic environment. But regardless, there had to be a turning point with Rubio that finally brought about the spark we’ve seen through him.  Continue Reading…

Pek and Zach

(Via Kevin Love’s Instagram)

 

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I’ve got a big three-part breakdown of Ricky Rubio starting Friday, and it’s a lot of writing so I don’t want to put too much thought into this blowout loss. Plus, how many ways can you state that the Wolves lost another key player to injury, tried to fight the best they could, Ricky Rubio played really well and encouraging basketball, and it wasn’t even close to enough to earn a victory.

Nikola Pekovic went down with an abdominal strain and found himself out the rest of the game with the ailment. He played nine minutes in the game and then for the remaining 39 minutes of action against a surging Western Conference team, Minnesota found themselves once again without four of their five ideal starters. Kevin Love was out, obviously. Chase Budinger is still out, although he’s running now and will be reevaluated in two to three weeks. Andrei Kirilenko missed the game with a calf injury.

The only player there in the starting lineup and getting regular minutes is Rubio. He was spectacular with his passing for much of the game, and he even made a few jumpers. He finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double, but he wasn’t good enough to lead second and third stringers to victory on the road. Kenny Smith talked about how Rubio has to learn how to score and dominate the game in other ways.   Continue Reading…

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Frankly, it’s become exhausting. It’s enough to make you question why you keep watching something that just looks like a flaming wreck drag itself to the finish line. How can you pull meaning from this? The early promise struck down; the lingering and crippling injuries; the sense that just when things seem to be turning around they get worse: I wouldn’t blame you for just packing it in and waiting for next season, when things might get better.

The Timberwolves? No, I’m talking about Game of Thrones. Continue Reading…

There are lots of reasons why the Timberwolves are a poor fourth quarter team, why they’ve lost ten times (worst in the NBA) after carrying a lead into the final frame. Those oft-mentioned ‘intangibles’ are part of the problem: maintaining composure and focus when things get wild; summoning the energy and determination to make the essential plays. An example of the former might be Ricky Rubio spinning wildly through the lane before lobbing the ball over Nikola Pekovic’s head and out of bounds with 3:18 remaining and the score tied at 93. Or Derrick Williams turning down a wide-open midrange jumper in order to mow down the perfectly positioned Carl Landry. An example of the latter might be, for instance, failing to defensive rebound a missed free throw down by two with 38 seconds left.

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