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Andrew Wiggins be dunking

President-coach-owner Flip Saunders has been under fire since his comments in Portland about not wanting 3-point shots to be a “main part” of Andrew Wiggins’ game. It’s led to yet another dissection of what Flip can mean for the ceiling of this latest rebuilding project for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the potential pitfalls of this organization and Flip as both shopper and cook when it comes to the grocery list. With a team that dropped to 47 games under .500 in their loss to the Lakers Friday night, development and future is all Wolves fans have to look forward to right now.

Wiggins is the biggest part of that hope for the future because he’s going to be a superstar in this league. If only one thing has been certain with this team in the 2014-15 campaign, it’s that the Wolves acquired one of the future stars of this league back in August (really July but the trade had to wait). The Canadian via Kansas has been a revelation most nights and you can see the confidence building, the skill set getting more diverse, and the approach to the game being one of the more impressive things you can imagine from a 19/20-year old player in the NBA.

I’ve written about Wiggins’ development this season and Steve McPherson had a great Q&A with David Thorpe on Thursday diving into making him the star he needs to become. In looking at what happened with the Wolves’ loss and more importantly Wiggins’ incredible play at Staples Center Friday night, it’s made me look at Flip’s comments in a new light. First, let’s take a look at the full quote, via Ben Golliver of SI.comContinue Reading…

TankingOnAMillion

The caterpillar track was revolutionary in the business of defense.

You can find variations of this technological advancement dating back to the 1770’s with several different inventors trying to revolutionize and patent the continuous track. For forty years, a British politician named Richard Lovell Edgeworth tried to figure out the caterpillar track and came up with a “cart that carries its own road.” In the 1830’s, British and Russian inventors seemed to be racing toward figuring out just how to perfect and (more importantly) patent the technology that was before us. The idea was to take the wheel and take the railroad and find a way where Doc Brown was correct in saying, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

In 1946, a British engineer named James Boydell came up with the Dreadnaught Wheel, which is essentially a way for wheels to grip the roads and railways, but it was far too bulky to have consistent, practical use. The caterpillar track was really going to be the progressive way to move large modes of transportation without needing manicured roads and paths. By being able to make it an all-terrain track, you were showing that very few obstacles could stop you from getting your cargo, in whatever shape, form, or use it may be, where it needed to be with even weight distribution to prevent breakdowns in structure and sinking into the ground. This sinking into the ground was a problem when there wasn’t concrete and asphalt to provide a proper layer between vehicles and dirt.

John Fowler patented the “endless railway” in 1858, but it was Russian Fyodor Blinov in 1873 that created the caterpillar-type links to further the idea of what Fowler had created. While various inventors and engineers played around with this ever-evolving method of distributing a safe and sturdy mode of freighting, it finally took hold in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as one of the most impressive avenues for military weaponry and destruction that we still see today.  Continue Reading…

KawhiSoSerious

Typically, when the Minnesota Timberwolves look like they’re going to get blown out in a game and I’m on recap duty, I start thinking of tangents and topics outside of basketball I can explore in my writing. There’s no real sense in figuring out why a bad team got destroyed by a good team. This is the nature of the business and while you hope to be competitive in match-ups like that, the talent often overrides the Disney story and nature versus nurture takes over. Heading into last night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Wolves were missing Ricky Rubio (ankle), Gary Neal (ankle), Nikola Pekovic (ankle), Kevin Garnett (knee), Anthony Bennett (ankle), Robbie Hummel (hand), and Shabazz Muhammad (hand).

The Spurs were at full strength and they’ve been clicking as of late. They had won six of their last seven games by a margin of nearly 16 points with their only loss happening in overtime thanks to Kyrie Irving’s 57 points. The Wolves hung tough with them in the first quarter and even kept it relatively close in the second quarter until a late push by San Antonio pushed the halftime deficit to double digits for Minnesota. When the third quarter opened, “hell broke Luce” (as Tom Waits would say) and the game was officially going the way of nature for the Spurs. Normally, I would have been gathering my thoughts about recent movies I had seen, like Foxcatcher or St. Vincent. Instead, I had basketball on my mind, which was surprising to me.

I had three thoughts kicking around in my head:  Continue Reading…

Let's assume Wiggins convinced Embiid to join the Wolves in 2021.

Let’s assume Wiggins convinced Embiid to join the Wolves in 2021.

The Philadelphia 76ers haven’t been putting a great roster on the floor over the last two seasons. It’s been by design and it’s a risky proposition. It’s an idea that I’ve had, along with plenty of Wolves’ fans, when it comes to the rebuilding style of this Minnesota franchise. Strip down the roster, rid it of almost all of the veterans available, and just let the young guys get their reps, as many as possible.

It’s something I’ve gone back and forth with as the season progresses. We’ve seen components of such an idea when Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and Ricky Rubio missed time as Mo Williams was dealing with some nagging injuries as well. We’ve seen the Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Thaddeus Young, and Gorgui Dieng lineup out there and full of failure on a possession by possession basis. You can talk yourself into this being a valuable learning experience for all of the young guys involved, but you can also see how the process and the results can be stilted.

Over the last two games, we’ve seen the Wolves get the pairing of Pekovic and Martin back into the rotation. The result has been a more organized brand of basketball that doesn’t lack a sense of hope while possessing a tunnel vision on the spectacularly calm moments of Wiggins doing cool stuff out there. You see the value of veterans mixed in with young players, removing many of the frustrations we’ve experienced watching that overmatched basketball team from November 19th or so to earlier this week. That’s where I start appreciating the plan of the Wolves because I’m not sure they have the infrastructure to pull off what the 76ers are doing.  Continue Reading…

FindAHappyPlace

This isn’t something I normally do, but I was watching that UFC fight night on Fox Sports 1 Sunday night. I’m not a UFC or MMA person. It really doesn’t appeal to me. I used to love boxing and will still watch the big fight cards but I definitely don’t keep up with it like I did in the 90’s. That’s probably because the quality of the product, especially with the heavyweight division is just so down. Perhaps that’s another blowout recap for another day though.

I was at a restaurant, enjoying some lovely ribs on a patio and they had the UFC card on all of the televisions. The NFL games were done and the NBA was smart enough to not schedule against the night of the conference championships in the NFL. Once the action from both leagues was done, the fights were on and I had an apple crisp to put down. During the fight, the camera flashed a picture of Mickey Rourke on the screen. He was wearing an odd hat, had some odd hair, and that meant it was time for Twitter to have a little fun with it.

And fun we had.  Continue Reading…

Getty

Getty

At a certain point, I feel like I’ve really got to make a conscious effort to pace myself with writing about Andrew Wiggins. Ideally, I’d get to break down every game of his, possession by possession. Like an overzealous father with a camcorder (I guess an iPhone in today’s modernity), I want to show not just the first steps of Wiggins’ career and break down how they’re better than the steps of just about anybody else we’ve ever seen at that age. That’s a weird feeling too because I am in no way related to Andrew Wiggins, so really I’m just breaking down someone else’s child.

This is the excitement that he brings. I wrote about his improvement earlier this week for CBSSports.com (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT! THIS IS NOT A DRILL! SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT!) and in it I showed how his improvement in attacking the basket has really transformed his scoring ability. He’s so good absorbing contact and finish right now that it’s also helping him draw fouls for easy points at the line too. What I failed to mention in the article is that he’s simply not taking bad shots unless he’s forced to at the end of the shot clock. Everything is within the natural flow of the game and Wiggins’ basketball IQ is shining through with his shot selection.

In the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 113-105 road victory over the Denver Nuggets, Wiggins set the tone early by knocking down his first six shots and eventually settled on new career highs with 31 points, four made 3-pointers, and three blocked shots. He went 11-of-17 from the field, 4-of-5 from 3, and even had nine rebounds, four assists, and a steal. He’s just the second teenager in NBA history (LeBron James is the other) to rack up 31 points, nine boards, four assists, and three blocks or better in a game.

That’s officially good.  Continue Reading…

BucksWolves

Remember that weird game against the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this season?

The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Western Conference powerhouse with some gritty effort and a lot of luck. I don’t want to diminish from what the Wolves did to the Blazers that night, but Portland shot just 17-of-51 (33.3%) on uncontested shots that night. They shoot 43.8% this season on uncontested jumpers, so you could say that was a bit below their normal production. And because of it, the young, scrappy Wolves walked away with a victory that night. There are two significant things about that game:

1) It was the Wolves’ last victory.
2) It was exactly a month ago today.  Continue Reading…

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…