Archives For Minnesota Timberwolves

photo (4)

The first A Wolf Among Wolves zip-up hoodie is now available.

Have $40 to spend? Want to avoid being cold while we wait for the snow to thaw and the mercury to rise? Need something swaggeristic (made it up) to wear to Wolves games? Then the AWAW zip-up hoodie is perfect for you!

It comes in black with white print or heather grey with blue print. There is a design on the left sleeve that may look familiar to you, a standard zipper down the middle of the front, and our AWAW lettering on the hood of the sweatshirt. They run a little big for their size, but will also shrink a bit if you wash them on warm.

There are still a few issues in getting up a store on the site right now (stupid plugin coding I don’t understand), so until that gets resolved we’re going to have to go through a much more archaic manner of ordering the hoodies.

Supplies are limited until we print more, so you’ll need to act fast if you want one. Here’s how the ordering process will be until the store can be implemented into the site:  Continue Reading…

The NBA’s YouTube page is releasing the top 10 plays of a bunch of All-Stars’ careers and Kevin Garnett was one of the first guys they did. I know it’s not totally cool to still love KG because he barks at people and he was mad at Glen Taylor and stuff, but he’s still probably my favorite NBA player of all time. I love watching him even to this day and have a great time seeing the highlights from his career with the Wolves.

Nine of these plays by KG involve the Wolves, one of the plays was in the title clinching game in 2008, and eight of them are in a Wolves uniform. Here are my quick thoughts of remembrance for each play:  Continue Reading…

Emily-Dickinson_BBALLHoly cow there were a lot of fouls in this game. 69 of them, and I don’t even mean that in some kind of eyebrow-raised, sexy way. I’m not a mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that means a foul every 45 seconds or so, which is just unreal. Couple that with terrible free throw shooting by both teams (63% for the Bulls and 67% for the Wolves) and you’ve got the recipe for the above score.

I actually have something to say about the preseason in general, and why it’s shortchanging it to say it’s “meaningless,” but let’s get to some of the more fun parts of tonight’s tilt.

  • The matchup between J.J. Barea and Nate Robinson had to be the most adorable in the NBA since Muggy Bogues guarded Spudd Webb in a preseason game in October of 1988 (I made that up—please do not look it up). But seriously, any notion that Barea is 6’0″ tall and thus three inches taller than Robinson was resoundingly debunked by seeing them more or less eye to eye. I kept waiting for the guy in charge of in-arena music to start bumping the theme to “Muppet Babies” every time they squared up against each other.
  • All night, the Bulls played Joakim Noah on Dante Cunningham and Carlos Boozer on Nikola Pekovic, which was a weird crossmatch—as Britt Robson observed—and even more strangely, the Wolves didn’t try to take advantage of it by dumping it down to Pek. Pek, by the way, looks every inch as ripped in person as was reported. Under his biceps are just more biceps. And possibly other people’s biceps.
  • Shved really hit his stride in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points in a variety of ways, including a couple threes and a nice lefty scoop on a drive to the basket. I kept watching him on defense to see how bad he might be on that end, but he acquitted himself reasonably well, I thought. Not spectacular, but it seems like if he can just not be a negative of defense he’ll be fine. More on him in a moment.
  • Luke Ridnour and Kirk Hinrich are basically Street Fighter II palette swaps of each other, like Ryu and Ken. I think maybe this makes Steve Nash Akuma.
  • Roy looked good again, although it wasn’t exactly encouraging to see him wincing every time he got up from diving for a loose ball, which, while we’re at it: WHY ARE YOU DIVING FOR LOOSE BALLS IN THE PRESEASON WHEN YOU HAVE NO KNEES? He ended up with 13 points and led the team with 4 assists. Your points and rebounds leader was Pekovic, who scored 16 and pulled down 17 boards. SEVENTEEN. Thanks to Joan Niesen, I learned that that is the most by a Timberwolves player in the preseason since Al Jefferson had 17 in 2007. Which means nothing.

Which brings us neatly to the whole meaning nothing thing. Just because something doesn’t show up in the final product doesn’t mean it’s without weight or meaning. I teach writing, and I hammer home the benefits of the rough draft. Until you get your ideas out, until you get your voice on the page, it’s almost impossible to know what you have. Trying to shape what you’re saying as it’s coming out is a sure path to writer’s block, or at the very least tripping yourself up. You can write sentences, paragraphs, entire pages and chapters that never make it into the final work, but they’re still there. The work you did to make them is still there.

Preseason isn’t all that different. The coaches, the players—they need to see what’s possible with what they have. So maybe the overall texture of a preseason game is uneven, rough, nothing you’d want to save. But there will be little elements you begin to understand better. Maybe Shved’s little explosion in the fourth shows Adelman he can be trusted, shows his teammates that he might be able to step up when it’s needed. Roy and Cunningham executing clean pick and rolls is something you can cut free of this game and carry forward into the next draft. And just as it is with writing, you might carry something forward and discover it doesn’t work at all in the final draft. And that’s fine—that’s part of the process, too.

The title of this post comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson. The pieces of this largely new team aren’t going to come together without many levels of work, from drills to practices to preseason games to the real thing. This team is going to learn gem-tactics by practicing sands.

There is a lot of coach speak out there in which fans are forced to read between the lines. And it makes a lot of sense. You’re not going to give away strategies and team philosophies at will on most nights, especially during the regular season.

You can’t let the opponent for that night or for future nights know exactly what you’re thinking and how you view your strengths and weaknesses. It’s stuff they can probably figure out on their own, but you don’t want to do the legwork for them. But with Rick Adelman, there is an overwhelming sense of honesty that seems to come from his talks with the media.  Continue Reading…

EMINEMLet’s take a trip back to the late-winter of 1999. I had moved to New York City just before New Year’s and started an internship at 3-2-1 Records, an independent hip-hop label, in late January. At the time, it seemed all anyone was talking about in independent hip-hop (at least in New York) was Rawkus Records, but 3-2-1 had a solid roster of established talent and up-and-comers that we thought could make some noise. Blackalicious was on the label, as were Bigg Jus from Company Flow, the Micranots (from Minneapolis and featuring current Rhymesayers mainstay I Self Devine), Chicago’s sorely underrated Rubberoom, and a production duo from Long Island called Skeme Team.

At that time, there was also, of course, a rapper by the name of Eminem getting ready to take the airwaves by storm (we still had airwaves back then) coming from what I viewed as the opposite side of the spectrum from what 3-2-1 Records represented: the mainstream. Sure, The Slim Shady LP came out on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath imprint, but it was part of Interscope, which was part of UMG, which was huge. I’d seen the video for “My Name Is” on MTV (which still actually played the occasional video back then) and thought it clever and often hilarious, but I didn’t take it seriously. Here was another white guy rapping, seemingly with more cred than Vanilla Ice, but the tone of the song made me think he was more Weird Al than Kool Keith. (By the way, in the words of G.O.B. Bluth, “I’m white.”) It seemed like a novelty to me compared to the artists I was most into at the time: Mos Def, Outkast, The Roots, etc.

But then this funny thing happened. In the second week of February, I got tasked with driving one of the vans for a short Atlantic seaboard tour by Skeme Team and a bunch of rappers: Pumpkinhead, Thirstin Howl III, and a few others, possibly Non Phixion and the Arsonists. We were going to head up through Rhode Island, stop for an in-store in Providence before proceeding to a radio appearance in Boston and a show at the Western Front, then down to Philadelphia the next day for Bahamadia’s radio show and another in-store, then back to New York. I was 22 and completely out of my depth, and the whole thing is smeared into a blur of snowy driving, frequent stops for malt liquor and cigarettes, and losing my ATM card in a machine in Philly. What I remember most clearly (other than the guy we found passed out in his car at a green light near the 103.9 FM studios at three in the morning) is the music they listened to in the van. It consisted more or less of only two things: their own beats and an advance cassette copy of The Slim Shady LP, which wouldn’t be released for another week. The whole tour they kept goofing on the “Hi! My name is” hook of the lead single. “Chikka chikka twin babies,” they’d joke. “Chikka chikka gin gravy.”

You could call it my first experience of “game recognize game.” I wrote off Eminem on first listen because he was a.) funny and b.) white, although not necessarily in that order. Ever since rap became part of the pop culture lingua franca in the early ‘90s, I’d watched commercials and movies and various sadsack acts appropriate rap and fail. But here were guys firmly planted in their own musical world—so firmly planted in Brooklyn, in fact, that they dismissed my attempt to play Camp Lo’s Uptown Saturday Night by saying, “They’re from the Bronx”—taking notice of this skinny blond kid from Michigan.

Which brings me to your 2012-13 Minnesota Timberwolves. As Ben Polk already expertly pointed out, this year’s squad is going to be a much pastier proposition than in years past, but it’s not at all clear what this is going to mean. “The facts on the ground cut against the grain of our inherited assumptions, perhaps beyond the point of recognition,” Ben wrote. The team encompasses playstyles from flashy to crafty to bruising to smooth, plus presents so many new options that it’s difficult to tell exactly what kind of team is going to emerge as the season progresses. If they’re successful (especially if they’re successful), plenty of stories will focus on the team’s complexion, just as plenty of stories about Eminem focused on his. But what I found out on that tour in the van was that whatever the public thought of Marshall Mathers, he’d already earned the respect of his peers. They were already past it, already focused on him as a fellow artist, in some ways a model and in some ways competition. The biggest story about Eminem ended up being how little of a story race was. When it comes down to what happens on the court, maybe the same will be true of the Timberwolves.

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.

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…

Another year and another bundle of frustration for Michael Beasley and those that want him to be great good oh hell let’s just be adequately productive.

Michael Beasley had the excuse last year of the ankle injury that seemed to crop up every time he hit the floor. This year, he had the excuse of a lockout-hastened season, a new coach, a new system, new teammates, the sun was in his eyes, the locker room is too cold, the locker room is too hot, the arena is a little outdated, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia hasn’t been very good for the last three seasons and it’s affecting his mood, Anthony Randolph’s lack of emotion on his face is freaking him out, he has to keep an eye on Pek at all times, are they using that synthetic ball again?, and whatever else his supporters will try to figure out to throw at his detractors. That’s been the problem with Michael Beasley since he came into the league with Derrick Rose and Kevin Love, et al.; there’s always an excuse for why he isn’t better on the basketball court.

In high school and college, the competition sucks. We can pretend college basketball is the heartland of fundamentals and team basketball but the reality is college basketball is a big arena of suck. You can press against teams because the guards aren’t that good. Passes are off, dribbling is weak, shooting is off, and anybody with superior athletic ability and a pretty decent chunk of skills can pretty much show out each night. That’s what Michael Beasley did on the AAU circuit and that’s what he did at Kansas State. If he slipped up, it didn’t matter because the competition wasn’t good enough to stop him. Move to the NBA and the competition, scouting and preparation is far too good to just fake your way through the game. Anybody can end up putting up points at the NBA level but HOW do you put up points?

In 2010-11, when Beasley was battling ankle turns and jacking up shots to put up pretty points, he was doing so inefficiently. In the 3-point era (1979 to present day), 38 players have put up 20 points or fewer per game while attempting 17 or more shots per game. Michael Beasley is on that list and ranks 31st in WS/48. He’s sandwiched in between Isaiah Rider’s 2000 campaign with the Atlanta Hawks and Ron Mercer’s 2001 season with the Chicago Bulls. His PER for that season is 26th out of those 38 players, between Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in 1993 and Antoine Walker in 2005.

When this season started, Rick Adelman seemed to at least pretend to try to make it work with Beasley. He started the first seven games, averaging 12.9 points on 14.1 attempts per game. He shot just 39.4% from the field. Then he sprained his foot and missed the next 10 games. It gave Adelman an excuse not to have him in the lineup much anymore. When he came back, the team was playing pretty good basketball, figuring things out on the fly. Beasley was given the role of being the scoring sixth man off the bench. As long as they were winning, Beasley said he was fine with it. There were games in which this looked like a brilliant move. Beasley would actually attack the glass or play a little defense (not often but it happened!). Beasley would still jack up the same shots that frustrate coaches non-stop but there was intermittent effort.

As the season went on and things took a turn for the worse, Beasley never fully embraced his role as the Lamar Odom or James Harden or Jason Terry of this team. He broke off plays on the offense. If he got hot (remember the Clippers?), it all looked justified. When he wasn’t hot, it looked like Adelman was ready to try J.J. Barea at small forward instead.

Now the Wolves have to decide tomorrow whether or not a qualifying offer should be extended to Beasley. The qualifying offer would mean that (most likely) worst-case scenario for Beas is a one year, $8.2 million deal. If you’ve watched Beasley the last two years and aren’t related to him, it’s probably making you break out in cold sweats thinking about paying him $8.2 million for a year of basketball. That’s Kris Humphries money after all!

Believe it or not, I actually like Michael Beasley quite a bit. He’s fun to be around in the locker room. He’s a jovial and off-the-wall kind of guy. And MAYBE another year under Adelman and a full training camp with the coaching staff could finally right the ship that is Michael Beasley. However, at a certain point it’s no longer about the things going on around him. The things he’s choosing to do in the game of basketball are the only excuse for why he’s not playing up to his potential. He may figure it out some day and make everybody that didn’t give him a “long enough chance” look foolish.

I just don’t want the Wolves to continue to wait to see if THIS is the year he puts it together.

Brad Miller’s swan song wasn’t a feel good Disney movie that ended up leaving everybody with a warm tingly feeling. He didn’t give us the John Salley in Eddie where he squeezes every ounce of game out of his scar tissue-addled knees to help bring this team the playoffs after years of down-and-out malaise.

Brad Miller was acquired to help bring some veteran leadership to a team Rick Adelman was taking over. He was supposed to come in here and be a competitor, teach these guys how to win. He was supposed to be a coach on the player roster. And to many degrees, he did those things.

He only played in 15 games during his final season in the NBA, but he seemed to show every bit of pride he possesses in all of those games. He was out of shape, gasping for streams of oxygen as he labored up and down the court. His silhouette wasn’t as lean as it once appeared. He was doughy, relying on the same type of adapted strength you’d see from a steelworker of 30 years rather than the finely tuned power you commonly see from NBA athletes married to the weight room. His skills were still present as he dropped bounce passes to backdoor cutters and rained down seven 3-pointers in 15 attempts this year.

Brad Miller’s knee probably was never truly healthy enough to play this season. He labored in most actions he performed, but he did try to gut through the pain and discomfort to show the younger guys how you’re supposed to be a professional. He talked to guys on the bench, attempted to joke and rally with them in the locker room, and help teach the big guys how to operate in Rick Adelman’s system. He wasn’t good and he wasn’t bad. He wasn’t really anything at all. He was holding onto one final gasp, dangling above the pit of retirement that so many athletes dare to avoid. While he didn’t provide much tangible production on the court, his spirit and leadership helped root out those that should and shouldn’t be on this team moving forward. If you weren’t able to get ahead of Rick’s guy in the rotation at the end of the year, you probably shouldn’t be long for this team.

Brad Miller helped separate the real from the potential on this roster. He showed Rick who was a fighter and who deserved minutes. Brad Miller was the colander that kept the good in and let the bad wash itself down the drain. He may not have given the Wolves what he used to have, but he definitely gave them all he had left.