Archives For 2012 Offseason

35 minutes per game, huh?

Brandon Roy mentioned his goal was to become a 35-minute per game player and Twitter seemingly exploded with incredulity. Personally, I didn’t get what the reaction was because it seemed like he was pretty clear in how he shaded the situation:

“I think, even before I had any knee problems in the NBA, me and coach would always sit down and talk about minutes. It’s a long season and you want guys to be fresher down the stretch. I’m sure it’s something that me and coach will talk about. My goal is, yeah, I would still love to be around that 35 minute mark. Really, whatever the team needs. I don’t want those situations where coach has to say, ‘We’re in a tough game but you’re at your minute limit.’ That was something I had to deal with in my last season in Portland. That was really hard. Physically I feel good. I want to play as much as possible but at the same time be smart because it’s a long season and we want to be at our best down the stretch.”

Sometimes people hear numbers given as goals and latch onto those numbers. We’ve become less about comprehending the context of what someone says and would much rather misquote them. Maybe it all stemmed from Charles Barkley being misquoted in his autobiography, maybe it’s the product of an ever deteriorating education system in this country, or maybe people were always like this and it’s just more prevalent now because we have much more communication on a global scale. Whatever the reasoning is, we often freak out over things out of context.  Continue Reading…

No big deal. It’s just Andrei Kirilenko on a jet ski next to a pig.

I’m so excited for Wolves’ Media Day.  (H/T — @_V_W)

Final two games of the Wolves’ Summer League ended in wins, giving the Wolves a 4-1 record for the summer and a berth into the Las Vegas playoffs. Wait, they don’t have Summer League playoffs? The wins aren’t so important as the quality of play from the guys on the roster are. The two players everyone seems to care the most about are Derrick Williams and Wes Johnson so let’s start with them.

Derrick Williams

  • Williams’ play in the last two games wasn’t as promising as his play in games two and three, but there was still some good stuff to extract from Game 4 against the D-League Select Team. Derrick kept getting to the free throw line all week. In fact, he shot 56 free throws in five games during this stretch of games. Those are point-shaving by a referee totals. Williams was aggressive, for the most part, all week and wasn’t floating and settling like we saw for much of his rookie campaign. He may not have put up dominating statistics but he found a way to set the tone for his team quite often by getting to the charity stripe so much.
  • Game 5 was the big disappointment of the week for Derrick. He shot just 1/10 and didn’t really try to be the aggressor. That could have just been a case of Summer League senioritis. Maybe that just put him in the mindset of “I just want to get out of here” or maybe he just had a bad game and reverted to poor habits. Some people will freak out about it, but you shouldn’t. I think you can tell he just wanted the game to be over, based on the rebounding totals. He didn’t attack the glass at all in the final game. He had just one offensive rebound and zero defensive rebounds in 21 minutes.
  • Early in the week, he talked about wanting to showcase some passing ability and try to get his teammates involved. I think he kind of accomplished that in relative terms. During the season, he had just 0.6 assists per game, which is what happens when you’re just floating and taking bad jumpers. When we saw him in attack mode for the Summer League, he definitely tried to get more shots for his teammates. He averaged 1.8 assists per game in the five games, but the natural instincts for playmaking didn’t seem to be there. I think we saw much more playmaking ability for others by Wes Johnson than by Derrick.
  • I was disappointed in his defense for the week. I didn’t think he showed a real tenacity on defense and if that carries over to the regular season, it could affect him getting consistent minutes. It’s not even necessarily that Derrick has to be good. He just has to show effort and I’m not sure he did that this week.
  • I think it’s safe to say that when Derrick shows aggression in all aspects of his game, he’s a player you can see growing in Adelman’s system. When he’s a ball-stopper and a guy that seems unsure of what to do, he looks like a guy you want to ship out for high value. Personally, I liked the attempted change in mentality during the week.

Wes Johnson

  • This is the part of the summer in which I try to talk myself out of talking myself into believing Wes Johnson has a good season, relatively speaking.
  • I talked to Wes after his 28-point explosion against the D-League Select Team, and he talked about the differences between last year and how he was playing now. Obviously, you can just point to the talent of player opposing him and say that’s the reason. However, it seemed more like he played a different game, rather than just took advantage of worse players. Here’s what he had to say:
    - On his improved play from the end of his second game in Vegas and the 28-point game, “I’ve just been relaxed. I think that’s the main goal for me coming into this is to relax more. I think the previous season I was a little tense and they were throwing a lot of stuff at me. I got away from being myself. So me coming out to Summer League is establishing myself back to the player I was, and I’ve been doing that so far.”
    - On confidence going into next season with a year of Adelman’s system under his belt, “I would think this will be the first solid year I have. When I came into my rookie year, I got hurt and didn’t get to play in Summer League. The lockout shortened season with no training camp. This year is like my rookie year all over again.”
    -  On what he meant by the coaching staff throwing a lot at him last year, “It was the system. It was a lot of defensive stuff they wanted me to do. They wanted me to be a defensive stopper on the team. So I was really focused in and geared toward that. And you know, it’s the offensive side of the game too. I got away from that. So me coming in here is to help me get my stroke back.”
    - On the passing ability he showed during the Summer League, “I feel comfortable with it a lot. It’s me out there playing a game, just playing basketball. I think if I get to go out there, relax and play, then everything will take care of itself.”
  • Now, you can take these comments with a grain of salt all you want, but part of me believes the sincerity with which he said them. He wasn’t ducking his poor play but he wasn’t feeling like he couldn’t improve. Granted, I don’t think he “justifies” being selected over guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Paul George, and any other players who have had early success. But I also think it’s unlikely he plays as poorly next season as he did last season. If he’s showing a much more comfortable demeanor on the court and it allows him to relax and make plays, he could be a pretty decent backup wing player.
  • The key thing I saw from Wes, outside of his passing ability which looked like a nice addition to his game, was the comfort with which he took his shots. Last year, there were hitches in his shot and hesitations in his decisions. You could tell he had very little confidence. This year? Who knows? Maybe he’ll go from a bad shooter to a decent shooter. Maybe he’ll think about putting the ball on the ground more like he promised on Media Day in 2011.
  • Again, I can’t stress enough that I’m not advocating for Wes Johnson having a breakout year. I just don’t think he’ll be as bad as last year. IF he actually ends up being more comfortable with his basketball surroundings, I think we won’t mind him being in the rotation. Or perhaps, he could have another terrible season. Regardless, it seems like he’s in the right mindset right now.
  • And hey, he shot 16 free throws in four games. That’s nearly half of his 34 attempts in 65 games last year. Progress?

Other key players from Summer League

  • Robbie Hummel – I love his shooting stroke and think he could be a fantastic player in the corner. Kind of like a small forward version of Steve Novak or maybe a less athletic James Jones. But his defense looked really bad for most of the week. He was active and kept some rebounding chances alive for the Wolves, but he looks like he’s playing on ice when he’s matched up with a quicker player.
  • Mike Harris – Harris had a really good week overall and showed he belongs on somebody’s depth chart. He has great touch around the basket, a solid jumper and he’s physical. His big problem is he’s already 29 and he’s also a 6’6″ power forward. At worst, he’s a guy you want challenging your rotation guys in practice.
  • Kammron Taylor – Kam showed a really smooth shooting stroke and did a decent job of running the “offense.” I think he needs more time in the D-League, but it would shock me if he became the third point guard on a team in a couple years.
  • Coby Karl – This guy is a professional basketball player. I know he’s bounced around and hasn’t been in the NBA since 2010, but he can set guys up, knock down shots, and shows grittiness in the backcourt. Wouldn’t mind him getting a camp invite from the Wolves.
  • Luke Sikma – I was impressed with Luke the last two games of the Summer League. Seemed like he realized he is bigger than a lot of guys and was willing to throw his body around inside to make things happen. He grabbed key rebounds on both ends and showed some ferocity down around the basket. A year or two in the D-League could help him figure out how to become an NBA power forward/center.
  • Lior Eliyahu – Everything Noam Schiller has ever told me about Lior showed out in Summer League. He’s a very good athlete that has almost no basketball skills. He’s not an NBA guy.
  • Paulo Prestes – I don’t really see how this guy can be a rotation player in the NBA. He’s very big and does a good job of keeping rebounding chances alive. But he’s incredibly slow defensively and brings the ball down too much on offense. He seems like a liability. He could stand to get into better shape, and if that happens, then maybe he’ll be quick enough for this league.
  • Corey Fisher – I had an irrational fascination with his game when he was at Villanova. Now that I’ve seen him in person, he looks like a guy that stopped taking his game seriously. He’s out of shape and incredibly slow for a guard. You can tell he still has an incredible amount of skill. His jumper is really solid and he created space pretty well to get it off. But he has to get quicker to make the league.
  • Zabian Dowdell – He didn’t shoot the ball well at all, but I loved his tenacity on defense. He’s very opportunistic and finds a way to contribute by moving the ball. Seemed like he got a lot of hockey assists during the week. He’s another guy that’s definitely an NBA player who just needs to latch on with the right training camp roster.

That’s all I’ve got with the happening-ons with Las Vegas Summer League. Did anybody leave lasting impressions on you?

In between learning the intricacies of Blackjack Switch and rifling through a karaoke song book, I observed some Derrick Williams domination that was a welcome sight to see. Wolves beat the Cavaliers by… well… who cares? The actual game results don’t matter. In fact, I’m not sure you can even say the play of the players truly matters, good or bad. But I do have some observations from the game that I’d like to share:

  • Derrick Williams was trying to dominate the game physically. There was a stretch in the first quarter when every time Derrick caught the ball, it was going to end in a whistle. This was probably six or seven straight possessions. He either got fouled or committed a charge. It was impressive how he forced the issue, even if he was a little reckless at times. It’s not a sustainable style of play for him because schemes and better defenders in the regular season will be able to strip the ball or draw more charges from a barreling Williams. However, it’s all about changing his mentality from being a floater to being an aggressive player.
  • The fact that Williams shot 16 free throws in one game was really impressive, as well. Omri Casspi sitting behind the Cavs bench was unhappy with the officiating. Cavs players and coaches joined him in their attitude toward the refs, but I really don’t think there were many bad calls going Derrick’s way. There was a moment in the second half in which he got into the lane and the ball was stripped away. It was hard to tell if he was fouled or not, but he definitely wanted a call. I looked over to the Cavs bench and the players were laughing about it.
  • Derrick’s shot selection when he wasn’t getting to the basket for fouls was pretty solid for the most part. He was 0/4 on 3-pointers, leaving him 1/12 this summer from behind the arc. He was 6/10 on 2-point shots. I’d really like to see him abandon the 3-point shot unless it’s a wide-open look or the shot clock is about to expire. He’s just so much better going to the basket. He’s not shying from contact the last two games but he’s rarely trying to dunk on anybody either.
  • With that said, he did get Luke Harangody on one play. It wasn’t a massive dunk but it taught Gody to not jump with him.
  • One more thing, Williams did let on a bit post-game that he’s kind of annoyed with the “is he a 3, is he a 4?” type of questions. Just wants to be a basketball player.
  • Wes Johnson didn’t play because of an ankle sprain, but it wasn’t ruled out him playing the rest of the week. I am really curious to see him play at least one more time. He was a game-time decision and the staff felt it was too sore for him to go. I just want to see if he can keep up the play he showed in the second half. He probably can’t but watching him in this environment of getting back to basics fascinates me.
  • Coby Karl was FIRE from 3-point range in the win over the Cavs. He hit six 3-pointers, accounting for all 18 of his points. If we didn’t have a glutton of guards (especially combo-ish guards) on the roster, I’d love for Karl to get a camp invite and be given an opportunity to make the roster. He’s a quality guard that should be on someone’s bench.
  • I continue to be completely underwhelmed by Paulo Prestes. I don’t really see anything he does that can translate to the NBA level. He finds a way to keep possessions alive by tipping offensive rebounds up, but against bigger guys in the regular season, can he even get into position to do that?
  • I thought Cameron Taylor was a really solid scorer. His shot looks balanced and he didn’t really force anything. He took everything within the flor of the game. Well, that’s not true. The flow of the game involved a whistle every 38 seconds.
  • Zabian Dowdell didn’t make a single shot but he might have played as well or better than Taylor and Karl. His defense was really solid. He defended Donald Sloan well and was pretty disruptive all over the place. He’s another guy I wish we had room for on the roster. Or at least to battle for a roster spot.
  • Finally, here’s an interview from Charlie Yao of Roundball Mining Company. He’s talking to Coby Karl:

 

 

I never got to watch the first game of the Wolves’ Summer League campaign when they beat the Clippers, but I was in the building for the loss to the Bobcats Monday night. After talking to a few media members and people around the league, I thought I’d share some thoughts about what’s been going on:

  • First, let me do some plugging in a shameless manner. I was asked to write about Derrick Williams for the Daily Dime on ESPN.com Tuesday night. Here is the link for that. To extrapolate on those thoughts a bit, I think it’s somewhat concerning that Derrick isn’t dominating this competition, and yet at the same time I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal. With lesser competition and talent on the floor, it seems like Derrick should be able to do whatever he wants, but it’s still not that simple. Something I noticed during the possessions in which Williams was attacking off the dribble from the perimeter, Charlotte was in position to get in his way if he beat Biyombo or Mullens off the dribble.
  • This doesn’t excuse Williams from not “dominating.” He clearly has things he still has to work on with how he attacks from the outside-in. His dribble is quick right now but his first step with that dribble is still slow. He also was having problems protecting the ball, but considering Charlotte’s plan was to swarm the ball at all times, it seems like he did a pretty decent job attack and trying to find the contact that he’s previously avoided. There are signs of concern but you can tell he’s working on those things when he’s on the court.
  • Where has this Wes Johnson been? I don’t think I’m going to allow myself to get too excited with his performance against the Bobcats Tuesday, but it’s a revelation — even against SL talent — to see him moving toward the basket to get shots. He wasn’t just spotting up on the wings and waiting to hesitate on jumpers. He dribbled into shots, he posted up, and he attacked the basket a bit. Toward the end of the game, he went and got some really good and key buckets. I don’t necessarily expect him to make this a regular thing. And I’m not holding out hope that he’ll finally get it. It’s just nice to see him remember how to be effective on offense for once.
  • Robbie Hummel can mix it up on the offensive boards a bit and his jumper is confident. After last season’s shooting debacle that was our perimeter, it’s weird seeing a guy raise up for a jumper, look completely calm and balanced, and then have a wave of confidence rush over you as he releases the shot. When Hummel takes a shot, it seems like a good shot. He doesn’t force anything and he doesn’t leave you wondering what he’s doing with the ball. If anything, he should probably be a bit more aggressive. I like his presence, even if he’s deep in the depth chart, because you can always use a confident shooter.
  • Paulo Prestes does not look like a big man that belongs in the NBA right now. He can mix it up inside a bit and get offensive rebounds. He can keep possessions alive decently. But when he gets the ball or has to rotate, it’s like watching an unathletic version of Ryan Hollins.
  • I have no idea how he fits into the roster, but I wouldn’t be mad if Zabian Dowdell stuck around the team. He’s a solid backup PG off the bench and you can do a lot worse than having him fighting for minutes in the rotation. If Luke or JJ end up getting moved as part of a bigger acquisition, I think Zabian has a real chance at a camp invite and staying around this organization.

The dream is over. Batum’s offer sheet will be matched by the Blazers and the Wolves now have to figure out what Plan B is for this team’s offseason.

We’ll miss you, Nic.

After much anticipation, it’s now official. The Wolves have submitted an offer sheet for Nicolas Batum, a four year deal worth $46.5 million, giving the Blazers three days to either match the deal or allow Batum to leave. The move caps off a week that featured much wrangling and even more ill-feeling between the two teams. Portland has vowed to match any offer that Batum receives–though, according to Ric Bucher, they don’t believe that he is worth what the Wolves are offering–and they have stonewalled any attempts at a sign-and-trade, despite the Wolves’ rather generous offers.

According to both Jerry Zgoda at the Strib and Bucher at ESPN, the mutual stink-eye has many antecedents: the Wolves’ attempt to poach then-assistant GM Tom Penn away from the Blazers, which attempt, it turns out, was merely a play by Penn and Kevin Pritchard for more of Paul Allen’s money; the Wolves’ (rather lame) accusation that Portland concealed Martell Webster’s back injury before trading him to Minnesota two years ago; the Wolves’ signing of Brandon Roy, which will (via byzantine salary cap bylaws that I’m not going to explain) cost the Blazers $17 million.

Since some of these events occurred before David Kahn’s tenure as the Wolves’ VP of Basketball Ops, and since Allen is known to have a vindictive streak, Kahn can’t entirely be blamed for the Blazers’ unwillingness to be flexible. On the other hand, I’d refer you now to Kahn’s reputation for abrasiveness and high-handedness when dealing with other GM’s, the feeling that other teams’ front offices do not exactly relish dealing with the Wolves. One wonders if a savvier GM, one more skilled at the social nuances of negotiation, might not have gotten a deal done.

It’s officially official that Darko Milicic is no longer a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The team used it’s one time amnesty provision during the life of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement to rid themselves of his cap number and roster space so they could have the room to make the 4-year, $46.5 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Nicolas Batum.

Darko Milicic has been somewhat of a lightning rod for some reason. When he was blocking shots two years ago and missing left-handed hooks, there were Wolves fans that wanted to believe he was a defensive stopper for this team. There were those that thought people were too critical of David Kahn and wanted to find the good in this insane contract that was given to a big man that had rarely shown any desire to improve his game and matter for good reasons in this league. There were people that wanted this team to be good so badly, they were willing to look past the warts to appreciate any positives he gave the team.

I don’t necessarily fault fans for doing this. We want to see the good in a player. We want him to realize his potential. We hope the Wolves’ players all come together and figure out how to win while playing their best. It’s part of wanting this team to be good. And Darko wasn’t completely useless a couple seasons ago. He DID block shots and he was okay on defense, overall. He can pass the ball, although not with the ability and proclivity that David Kahn once told Chris Webber. However, that’s where the “production” ended and where his true story begins.

Darko is not a good NBA player. Part of the reason he’s so noticeable in his awful play is because of where he was drafted and how he was hyped. This is unfair because Darko didn’t make the Pistons draft him ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He didn’t write the encouraging scouting reports pre and post-draft that made you wonder if he’ll be an All-Star big man. He didn’t really have anything to do with his popularity, other than possessing a certain agility, size, and skill set that GMs looking to save their jobs pray for drafting.

And it’s not his fault that David Kahn gave him an unwarranted four-year, $20 million contract two summers ago.

However, Darko Milicic is guilty in appearing to not really care whether he’s good or not. There is a certain work ethic and determination that is expected with this job and he seems to possess none of it. He sets himself up for failure by appearing to not have passion for getting better. Of course, that’s me assuming what’s inside his head and that may not be a fair assessment. Maybe he’s tried as hard as he’s capable of trying and has just hit a ceiling that was completely misjudged.

Actually, it’s that line of thinking that keeps giving him a pass in some respect. Some people have been making minor excuses for Darko for quite a while, trying to minimize the trouble and maximize the “what-if” factor. Darko Milicic is a horrible NBA player and mostly everybody has known it for years  He’ll still get chances in this league if he wants them because he’s tall. People will talk themselves into him being a decent backup big man and say, “you can do worse than Darko as your backup.”

Let me tell you that you can’t. I can throw out stats like his 54.1% in the restricted area (tied for 61st amongst centers) or his WS/48 of .003 last season or his assist percentage of 6.2% that was good for 34th amongst centers during 2011-12. I could tell you about the time he got injured on jump balls twice or how he injured himself during his conditioning test. But it’s unnecessary to waste our time breaking down his game.

Darko is apathy incarnate. I don’t mind if other teams take a chance on him. That actually helps the Wolves. And while I’ve been somewhat remorseful over the departure of certain disappointments over the years (Beasley being the most recent), there isn’t an iota of regret in seeing Darko having the exit held open for him.

When is the last time this organization had toughness?

Perhaps Kevin Garnett wasn’t the epitome of a bar fight — despite what he may have blurted out at Craig Sager — but he at least feigned an attitude of some mental toughness, whether he was actually ready to risk a suspension or not. But pure brute strength and toughness is not something we’re used to seeing on our end of the floor at the Target Center. We’re not used to seeing everybody trying to figure out how to deal with the big guy on our team. We’re not used to seeing a little scrap break out and an opponent from the other team immediately go joke with our big guy to make sure he doesn’t get involved.

In the course of about eight months, Pek went from being an overmatched backup big man to the Chuck Norris of the NBA.  Continue Reading…

It’s ESPY season and much like the People’s Choice Awards or Nickelodeon’s Awards show… or… you know… the All-Star Game, the PEOPLE are the ones that decide who is honored with the hardware.

You can go to this link on ESPN.com and it will look like the picture above. Click on Kevin Love’s picture and then click “vote.” Do that as many times as it lets you and Kevin Love may win the ESPN for Best NBA Player. It’s probably a longshot for him to win with LeBron, Durant, Kobe (?), Tony Parker (huh?) and Rajon Rondo (…) all nominated but Wolves fans can make it happen with a stalker’s persistance.

And if you are able to contribute to the Jimmy V Foundation to help fund cancer research, here is the link for that.

Vote Now. Vote Often. Vote for Love.

 

UPDATE!

He lost. :(