Archives For J.J. Barea

The Isolation Blues

William Bohl —  February 17, 2014 — 14 Comments

BAREA ALONE

There are many reasons why the Minnesota Timberwolves have underachieved thus far, leaving them mired six games out of the West’s final playoff spot, sporting a 25-28 record that doesn’t jive with their solid point differential. Some of the problems were expected – the Wolves struggle to generate stops late in close games, but they weren’t built to be a defensive juggernaut in the first place. Health has been a problem for both Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic – but a perusal of their injury histories indicates such a thing was likely to happen at some point in the season.

Some of Minnesota’s problems are complete surprises. The healthy returns of Kevin Love and Chase Budinger, as well as the free agent acquisition of Kevin Martin, led many observers to predict a dramatic improvement on both the Wolves’ 3 point and effective field goal percentages; instead, the team’s 3 point success rate has only improved from dead last in 2012-13 to 25th this season, and their eFG% is just .006 higher than it was last year, despite vastly improved personnel. Though the point’s been thoroughly discussed (and enumerated, nicely, by our own Zach Harper) I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the Timberwolves’ 1-12 record in games decided by 4 points or fewer – a factoid that will encapsulate the enduring legacy of this team, unless they drastically reverse course down the stretch.

For many forlorn fans, hope of witnessing a postseason berth for the first time in a decade is flickering in the wind. The brunt of their displeasure, if social media is any indication, is borne by J.J. Barea. 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.

Second night of a back-to-back is hard to win, especially when you’re facing a veteran team like the Boston Celtics on the road. The tricky part is this isn’t the normal Boston Celtics team we’re used to seeing. This is an offensive-oriented team that is harder to keep up with than they are to score against. When you’re a team that misses out on as many easy points as the Wolves did Wednesday night, it’s hard to keep up.

After the deluge of 3-pointers that rained down on the 76ers Tuesday night, the Wolves went much colder from 3-point range. 31.6% is a bad shooting night, but it’s above what the Wolves have done so far this year. However, losing because you made only 14-of-30 free throw attempts in a road game is just frustrating.

This isn’t a good free throw shooting team either. Heading into tonight’s game, the Wolves were 24th in the NBA in free throw percentage. The volume of free throw attempts the Wolves usually get can help them make up for it typically (Wolves have the third best FT/FGA rate in the league). But when you dip below 50% on 30 attempts in a game, there really aren’t a lot of questions as to why you lost the game. Maybe I should write 2,400 words on why the Wolves are a terrible free throw shooting team and see if they can make my effort look completely futile once again?

The funny thing about free throw shooting is the only way to improve on it is to simply hone your mechanics and make them. It’s not like other shots in the NBA where you can devise a plan to get better looks at the rim. You’re getting the same looks at the rim every time. Either they’re concentrating too much or not enough or this porridge is too cold. Whatever the reason is they’re not making them, at a certain point excuses of tired legs and poor conditioning due to injuries have to end and the Wolves just have to make them.

The one thing I noticed about this game is the Wolves never seemed to have much flow on offense while having a defensive presence. What I mean by that is the Wolves were never really clicking well enough on both ends at the same time to go on extended runs in this game. Even in frustrating losses or hard-fought victories this season, the Wolves were able to go on runs throughout different points of the ball game to establish some kind of cushion or some kind of momentum. Whether it was the poor 3-point shooting or the poor free throw shooting, the Wolves were never in a groove on both ends.

The Celtics went on four different big runs throughout the game. They had an 11-1 run in the first quarter, a 10-0 run in the second quarter, a 9-0 run in the third quarter and another 11-1 run in the fourth quarter. The Wolves had a 10-0 run in the first quarter and that was about it. Poor free throw shooting, bad 3-point shooting, and no extended runs after the first quarter. This is how teams lose the second night of a road back-to-back.

I’m not quite sure what else could have been done, either. This was just one of those games.

One thing I would have liked to see more of is the Wolves pounding the ball inside. More than half of their points came in the paint, and they had a real size advantage with Pek and Love on the floor. While Love struggled against KG at times, there was a lot of cross-screening, pick-and-roll switches, and quick hitter stuff the Wolves could have done to get Love a mismatch inside. And once that happens, he can either score quickly or find a cutter coming through the lane. There could have been much more movement.

The Wolves played a game with 98 possessions and typically they like to play around 94 possessions. The tempo of the game was never theirs, and that’s where you want to see them pound the ball inside more. Find Pek when he has position. Trust him to make smart passes out of double teams. Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger can’t handle Pek inside. Neither can Chris Wilcox. When JJ Barea and Alexey Shved are in the game, I’m all for pushing the tempo. But when you don’t have the personnel to push (and without Ricky on the floor yet, the Wolves really don’t), then you have to grind out possessions and punish teams with your size.

Sure, you’re going to get some shots blocked. We saw that against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, eventually you’ll get the other team’s interior to break down. Granted, you might end up going to the free throw line more and that wasn’t a good thing in this game. I’d just like to see the Wolves take advantage of their advantages more often.

Minnesota now has tomorrow off before the battered Cavaliers come to town. Hopefully they can take advantage of the matchup and get back to .500.

JJ Barea has been warned by the NBA for a flop against the Sacramento Kings. Jimmer Fredette was dribbling toward the right side of the floor, put his forearm up to clear space from Barea, and was whistled for the foul as Barea snapped his head back.

This is what I like to call “JJ Barea’s Three-Card Monte.” He does this pretty much every game and it usually works in drawing a foul against his opponent. I don’t know that they’re often as fabricated as this one, but it does happen. Either he tricks his opponent into raising their forearm into him and he takes the contact, or he makes it look like they do. Either way, it happens a lot.

Next one for JJ will result in a $5,000 fine from the league office. If Barea does this once a game for all 82 games, it will cost him just over $400,000 of his $4 million salary this season. He didn’t get a chance to do it against the Raptors, but he can make up for that tonight against the bigger Deron Williams.

If you look at that play slowly, it almost looks like Barea brings his arm up into Jimmer’s raised arm and forces Jimmer’s hand near his face. Is that close to the self-flop seen on this play?

Not quite there but it’s close.

Also, it looks like Barea is likely to play tonight. According to Jerry Zgoda, he went through the concussion tests and thinks it “looks good.” Good to know he’s okay and not feeling any ill effects from the collision last night.

Thought you might want to see some pleasant turnovers for once.

Remember how the Wolves took such great care of the ball against the Kings, which was a huge contrast to the careless nature with the ball last season? Apparently, there is a big difference between playing a Keith Smart coached team and playing a Dwane Casey coached team.

The Wolves were disgustingly careless with the basketball. They didn’t seem to value their own defensive boards enough, giving up 16 offensive rebounds to the Raptors. Those offensive rebounds led to 21 second chance points. And then there are the turnovers — my god the turnovers! There were 24 turnovers by the Wolves in this game that resulted in 32 points for Toronto. That’s 53 points off of carelessness by the Wolves. Half of the Raptors’ points came off of carelessness. That’s disheartening.  Continue Reading…

How do you solve a problem like Barea?

Okay, J.J. Barea wasn’t really a problem last year, but he also wasn’t a solution in the way we hoped he might be.

Let’s get the negative out of the way first. In his first season with the Wolves, Barea was riddled with injuries throughout a good chunk of the season and he dribbled the life out of the basketball when he was on the court. The injuries didn’t seem like anything major that should mar his future seasons with the Timberwolves. He was banged up and pulling muscles you don’t want to pull, but he wasn’t suffering knee injuries or having chronic back problems. It’s possible they just happened. It’s possible they were related to the lockout and not being prepared for the regular season. Whatever the injuries were related to, it’s nothing that alarms me as him being an injury prone player.

It seemed pretty obvious — and Barea would be the first to admit this — that he had a problem adjusting to the new team/system/teammates in his initial moments of the season. He didn’t quite seem to know how to find the balance of what he should do on offense. Instead of moving the ball when he was faced with this unfamiliarity, he dribbled. And dribbled. And dribbled. AND DRIBBLED SOME MORE. It got to the point that you wanted him to shoot or get off the pot. Continue Reading…