Archives For Miscellaneous News

  • Yesterday, I wrote about the way the Wolves’ overcame the Chuck Hayes effect by running some off-the-ball action for Kevin Love. Well here’s an interesting look by the always on-point Sebastian Pruiti at NBA Playbook about just how Love got so open on that late three. What’s interesting about this to me is that, earlier in the game, the Rockets had been having success going over screens and running Love off the three point line. But late in the game they chose to switch, which is what made this open look possible. Mr. Pruiti explains:

Hayes and Lowry don’t communicate with each other here, and that is what hurts them on this play.  One of two things needed to happen here.  Either Hayes should have let Lowry know he was switching or Lowry should have let Hayes no that he got through the screen and no switch was needed.  Instead, one defender does one thing while the other does something else, leaving Love wide open.

Here’s the play (but you should definitely check out all of Pruiti’s post, because you’ll learn something):

  • And here’s Zach Lowe at The Point Forward discussing Love’s controversial outlet pass in New Orleans. (Only Kevin Love could be capable of a controversial outlet pass).

The Timberwolves organization doesn’t appear to be concerned about Rubio’s shooting struggles. President David Kahn has said many times that the 20-year-old needs time to develop his game and that his stay in Europe would help prepare him for the NBA. Kahn is optimistic Rubio will come over to join their team next season, and the Wolves sorely need him…Rubio’s strengths would fit into Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis’ system, which requires the point guard to run the offense more than be a scorer. That kind of role should reduce the pressure on Rubio as he eases into the NBA life in a new country.

  • Finally, here’s some more talk about that Target Center renovation. Not surprisingly, the proponents of the $150 million plan were hoping for a little public funding. Even less surprisingly, no one is terribly excited to provide it. Steve Brandt of the STrib reports:

First, although civic promoters of the renovation signal that they plan to rely heavily on state financing, the $150 million request isn’t even in the city’s legislative program for 2011, which asks only for the same $6.5 million sought unsuccessfully last year for arena repairs.

Second, legislative leaders remain tightly focused on balancing the budget and addressing the state’s economic climate, and they say other issues must wait.

Yeah, I suppose that makes sense.

Writing a blog about basketball is pretty weird. You might think that any sensitive, thinking person with the an urge to write on a day like today might have some thoughts to share about the nearly spontaneous uprising of hundreds of thousands of people in one of the world’s great cities. Yeah, I guess that sounds pretty important. But not nearly as important as the fact that the city of Minneapolis and the Wolves are planning a $150 million renovation of the Target Center. Steve Brandt of the Star-Tribune reports:

The plans would open up the city-owned building more to the street and nearby facilities such as Target Field, renovating concourses and locker rooms, and adding new fan amenities such as another restaurant, a food court and new club seats.

Considering that the Target Center is the fourth-oldest arena in the league and that it looks like a retro-futurist, ersatz art-deco spaceship from 1990 (if it were a movie it would be the Warren Beatty “Dick Tracy”; if it were an article of clothing it would be one of Reggie Theus’ suits), this seems like a good idea. Oh, but then there’s this part: though the Mpls luminaries boasted that the renovation would keep the TC competitive for the next two decades, “they said they still have to work out who would pay for it.”

Oh yeah, that. I wonder if this can actually get done.

Notes on a dark Sunday

Benjamin Polk —  January 24, 2011 — 3 Comments

Run Ricky, Run

Question: is it a good or bad thing when the New York Times wonders aloud if the  putative savior of your franchise is over the hill at age 20? “Through 28 games in the 2010-11 season,” says Jonathan Givony in the Old Gray Lady, “[Ricky] Rubio has continued to struggle. He is shooting just 32 percent from the field, including 11 of 61 from beyond the arc, and his team has lost more games in the ACB and in the Euroleague than it did all of last season. Why has Rubio’s development stalled? Will he be able to turn his potential into production?”

Good, sobering questions. The piece also includes a nicely in-depth look at the financial implications of Rubio’s coming decision. Things are definitely more complicated than David Kahn would have us believe. Here’s how the article ends: “‘I’m not focused on the N.B.A. right now,’ Rubio said. ‘Right now, I don’t want to talk and I don’t want to think.’” Oh boy.

Faces of Death

Our sincere hope is that none of us will ever have to experience a basketball season as desperately miserable as the Cleveland Cavaliers 2010/2011 campaign. But if we do, I can only hope that we’ll have someone like John Krolik of Cavs: the Blog to read. Routinely plumbing the depths of a team this hopeless and emerging with sanity and good humor intact is a serious project and Krolik is taking it seriously.

Not only is he summoning up the courage to actually analyze this punishingly irrelevant squad, but check out some of the recent entry titles: Whoever said ‘that’s why they play the games’ was not talking about this game bullets; The Cavs totally would have won this game if they didn’t suck bullets; History is now chasing us, and we cannot run fast enough bullets. He has a post called “Most things in life are less terrible than the Cavaliers.” That’s intense!

Watching Krolik waver between indignation and resigned exhaustion is pretty compelling in a wrenching, Cassavetes-esque kind of way. Cavs: The Blog is a painful place right now, but I suggest you read it anyway.

Photo by Rubyblossom

Two new internet sightings caught my attention recently. The first is an acidic little number by Matt Moore at ProBasketballTalk. It’s sort of a dark Socratic dialogue riffing on Darko’s recent resurgence. The piece is called “Three Good Games from Darko Justifies the Kahn Era…or Something”. Let’s take a peak:

Continue Reading…

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Over the past week, the T-Wolves have been tremendously bad, probably the worst team in the NBA. They can’t hit a shot. They can’t prevent opponents from doing same. They’ve been outscored by 130 points over five games. Luckily (?) for us, this punishing awfulness has not gone unnoticed.

So what’s Milicic done so far this season? Basically, he’s been the league’s worst rotation player. Although Sunday night’s seven-point, three-rebound “outburst” kept his PER above zero, his defense has been as bad his offense, and only two players have played at least 100 minutes with a worse PER.

I can’t possibly contest any of these points. Darko is shooting 23% from the field. His defense has, indeed “been as bad as his offense”. He’s played with absurdly low energy. He has been really terrible. Right now, those four years (to be fair: three, plus an option year) are looking like a really bad deal. Still, Darko’s game has been so off that it can only seem like some strange aberration. I mean, he can’t possibly shoot 23% all year, right? I’m not saying he’s going to prove to be a steal, but I’m also not ready to call a move un-defensible after just seven games.

  • Dave Berri is tremendously confident in his own ability to understand professional basketball using math. That he seems to believe that the value of his metrics are self-evident (“as you can plainly see from so-and-so’s WinsProduced/48, so-and-so is bad at basketball” is a favored rhetorical device) and that he has a particularly clinical and bloodless view of the game  should not blind us to the essential truth that he’s helped uncover: basketball players tend to be judged mostly on the volume of points they pour in, but it’s things like rebounding, turnovers, shooting efficiency that actually produce wins (defense is notably absent from the discussion). So its interesting to note Berri’s take on the Kevin Love/Kurt Rambis soap opera. Berri observes (with many a chart and some cheap pop-psychology) that in his level of production, Love bears a striking resemblance to one Kurt Rambis, circa 1982. And most interestingly, that Rambis  seems to undervalue Love for the same reasons that Rambis himself was undervalued as a player:

Rambis, though, was a very productive non-scorer. And when we look at Kevin Love, we see a somewhat similar story. Love does take many more shots than Rambis. But Love’s low level of shooting efficiency means that few people are going to confuse Love with some of the game’s most productive scorers. Despite this inability to be an outstanding scorer, Love still produces wins because he is an amazing rebounder. Yes, much like his head coach – who also was a very good rebounder – Love can produce wins without being a prolific scorer.

Yup that is interesting (although, again, defense is not factored into the analysis). Here’s what I have to say right now about this fiasco.

First: I agree that Kevin Love is currently the Wolves best player and should be playing more (though he is currently tied for the team lead in minutes played). And that nurturing Love into a confident, committed pro should be among the team’s primary goals.

Second: the Wolves lost to Miami by 32. They lost to Orlando by 42 (million). Memphis by 20. Houston by 26. Would playing Kevin Love an extra five minutes a game really have altered any of these outcomes?

Third: Love got benched in the third quarter of the Atlanta game because he was playing listless, self-pitying basketball. He does that sometimes.

  • On the surface, this last thing has very little to do with the Timberwolves. But its some utterly righteous writing and has to do with Randy Moss and so should interest us. David Roth, a friend of this blog, writes about the professional football for the Awl. And when I say “writes about the professional football” I mean: embarks on dazzling, tangential voyages of cultural/political consciousness that end in fairly inaccurate NFL game predictions. Example: “the desperate narcissism and self-defeating vainglory that has degraded Moss from one of the NFL’s supreme talents into one of the NFL’s most toxic assets reflects the same anxiety that leads some Gadsden-Flag goof to slap a Hitler mustachio on a picture of Nancy Pelosi.” Right!? Here’s David this week (and you should really read this whole thing), on the strange tension between fabulous individual expression and communal self-sacrifice that make the NFL really compelling (this, by the way, has everything to do with the NBA):

What succeeding under these circumstances requires, finally, is less virtuosity than the humility and patience and, one more time, grace to trust in others and then the generosity to make one’s own brilliance more broadly valuable. Randy Moss, since he was very young, has been the fastest and most physically graceful human on the football field—it’s saying something about how fast and graceful he is that the statement is still true at age 33, after 13 seasons in the NFL. The problem—the thing that has made him this beautiful and despised vagabond, that has him heading to his fourth team in five years in something like disgrace—is partly that he seemingly cannot or will not trust in others, and mostly that he seemingly cannot fully comprehend the importance of a cause greater than himself.

This is a common enough thing. Trusting in and caring about other people is tough and scary and frankly weird given that we—Randy and the rest of us—are taught that it somehow makes you weak. But it is what being an adult demands, and the important thing is that you either do it or you don’t. You either believe in something bigger than yourself or you can’t.

photo by brianong

Apparently the answer is yes.

Though he’s been quite mum on his return to South Beach tonight, Michael Beasley made sure that everyone heard about a game practically no one saw.  From Ray Richardson at the STrib

Before the game, the board was filled with a checklist of items to remind Wolves players of their responsibilities. Whatever game plan Wolves coach Kurt Rambis had intended was never executed, prompting claims from Rambis of a lack of professionalism in his players and an alarming assessment from a frustrated Michael Beasley.

“I feel like everything we’ve been working on since training camp went out the window tonight,” Beasley said. “As of right now, we’re the worst team in the NBA.”

Wait, there’s more.

“I talk about us being the hardest-working team in the league, and we didn’t show it tonight,” Wolves forward Kevin Love said. “We should have been a lot more aggressive. It’s just not acceptable.”

Rambis took the situation one step further.

“Part of being a professional in this league is finding ways to come out and play hard each and every night,” he said. “That’s the mark of a true team, a professional team and professional individuals, to get the job done every night. Every once in a while is not good enough.”

Beasley was so disturbed with the results that he sat in front of his locker stall staring at the floor with his uniform on. He was the last player still in uniform, but he had a reason. Beasley was preparing to go back onto the court to do some extra shooting.

Despite 29 turnovers resulting in a record 22 steals for the Grizzlies, I wasn’t as upset with the road team’s effort as they were with themselves. This was the second night of a back to back and though Memphis was without its premier post presence in Zach Randolph, they still had their share of mismatches to choose from. Most notably, Michael Beasley on Rudy Gay.

There’s already been plenty of chatter regarding Beas’ true position and Saturday night’s matchup may have taken a few more votes out of the SF column. While he’s able to bully smaller defenders and blow by the bigger ones, when faced with an athlete and scorer of Gay’s caliber, Beasley is left with little recourse on either end of the court.  Granted, Son of Sam had better shot selection than our lovable misfit, but we can’t expect Beas to get taller, quicker or more explosive, right? Just more consistent.

Well, that’s going to take a while. Kurt Rambis tells us that the title of team’s “best player” is up for debate, yet it’s readily apparent that essentially all of the candidates play the same position. Furthermore, they’re all specialists who play the same position. Kevin Love is primarily a rebounder, Anthony Tolliver-who has played some inspired ball-is a defender and Beasley is a scorer, in the looser sense of the word. (Of course Wesley Johnson hasn’t proven himself to be chopped liver either, logging significant minutes at the three spot, Beas’ ‘other’ position.) Point being, Beasley is a man without a position on a team relatively rife with options wherever he may be played. It’s tough for a young man to find his game under such circumstances. And his coach hasn’t even set a rotation yet.

Yet for someone liable to say practically anything at any given time, Beas’ willingness to consistently say and do the right things-so far-is more than encouraging, it may prove inspirational. I can’t imagine that his postgame shootaround (seriously, how many times has that happened?) went unnoticed or unappreciated and perhaps it forced some of our other young men to take stock of their own deficiencies.

Speaking of unappreciated, Pat Riley didn’t find Beasley ‘super cool’ at all, routinely questioning his commitment and capability before shipping him our way. But apparently he taught the kid more about leadership than we thought.

This isn’t the worst team in the NBA, just the youngest. And tonight, maybe, just maybe, they’ll be the most motivated.

Jerry Zgoda at the Strib brings us some curious news:

According to a league source, the Timberwolves have asked the NBA to look into whether Portland knowingly traded them an injured player when the Blazers dealt Martell Webster to Minnesota for the 16th overall pick in last summer’s draft.

Webster on Monday underwent surgery to repair a disk in his back and is expected to miss about six weeks. He said the injury dates to last spring’s playoffs, when he was undercut and fell hard in a game against Phoenix.

The Wolves are likely looking for a draft pick as compensation.

Over at Truehoop, Henry did some work of his own (including unsuccessfully getting either the Wolves or the league to comment and concludes, essentially, that there is very little chance of the Wolves could actually proving that they were knowingly deceived. Here’s the best/worst part:

However, everybody I talked to says it’s unlikely the Timberwolves could prove information was withheld.

“We’re all laughing about it,” says one front office executive, who expressed no sympathy for Minnesota’s reported position. “You can’t watch the freaking playoffs? That was a pretty obvious incident, right on national TV.”

Wow, that is just exactly what the Wolves need: more reasons for people to make fun of their front office. Because, as you probably know, lots of folks have that covered already and we’ve only played one game. At Fanhouse, Tom Ziller points out that after Kevin Love was removed in the 4th quarter of Wednesday’s game, the Wolves allowed 18 points on 16 possessions, including 12 by the Kings’ frontcourt. Further confirmation that the Tolliver/Beasley/Darko frontline experiment went on at least five minutes too long. Then Ziller drops an intense interpretation of it all:

There’s a really weird vibe with the Wolves, and Rambis in particular. It’s his second season on the job, and his roster has been remade by GM David Kahn completely … for better or worse. Yet it’s almost as if Rambis is searching for excuses. By benching the player almost everyone agrees is the team’s most polished if not most talented asset, Rambis is detaching himself from this version of the Wolves. Most coaches in Rambis’ situation — at the head of a completely overmatched, young roster — would embrace the heck out of Love, an altogether likable, hard-working player. But on Wednesday, Rambis looked like he was distancing himself from Love and the Love era.

He then starts to sharpen the knives, calling the decision “gonzo” and referring to the “vast problems within the franchise.” As you may know, this isn’t my particular interpretation of the situation but I completely understand why an outside observer would take a quick peak and then conclude that the Wolves have gone all Fear and Loathing. As a close follower of the team, this kind of stuff is painful to read; it really voices our worst fears for the team. Simply for my own sake, and yours too, I’m hoping the Wolves prove Ziller wrong.

Photo by Herby_fr

  • Bad enough to have surgery this morning apparently, says a Wolves’ press release. The surgery is called a microdiscectomy. This means it is a small discectomy (never even been to medical school!) The release goes on to tell us that “no timetable for Webster’s return has been established, but the typical recovery time for this procedure is 4-6 weeks.” This is kind of a bummer, by the way.

Friends, the Wolves are 5-1.  Attempts to plumb the depths of this strange statistic for hidden meanings and portents will probably be futile. When we look back on this season in June, after the Wolves have either won 45 games or 14, have either blossomed with promise or collapsed into a quivering husk, we’ll say we knew which way the wind was blowing back in October. But that will be a lie: at this moment, we have no idea what this means. Best to simply, calmly inhale, exhale and accept it. Onward:

  • Here is a recap of the Wolves’ 99-88 comeback win over the Prince/Wallace/McGrady/Hamilton-less Pistons in Syracuse. Love that low angle:

  • And here are some equally cinema verite highlights of their 114-109 win over the Bucks in South Dakota. Check Darko’s dream-shake early in the clip:

  • In case you hadn’t noticed, in his past 53 minutes of play, Kevin Love has hit 21 of his 29 shots and pulled down 23 rebounds. That mythic 20/20 game is on the horizon.
  • Here in the Strib, Kurt Rambis reinforces our thought that depth and interchangeability in the lineup were major goals this past off-season:

“One of the things we wanted to have is a deep roster and the ability to change things around,” Rambis said. “I think we have enough flexibility with this team. With as many young players as we have, I don’t feel like I’ve got to lock myself into something, particularly at this stage of who we are as a ballclub.”

[Stern] generally comes out on top, or at least brings the league through unscathed at the end of the day. (Donaghy? Who?) He does so by making extreme overtures and overreactions that seek to nip public opinion in the bud. But down the road, almost all of these lunges prove to be just that: stunts to keep the heat off of this most vulnerable of pro sports leagues…It’s a game, one where blowhards get the hot air they so badly want, and players know that in the end, everything will even out.

Photo by Tucia

The Wolves’ 98-86 loss to the Pacers on Wednesday night was seen by almost nobody. Nonetheless, we know that the Wolves seemed to play solid defense but shot only 32% from the floor. Kurt Rambis wrote it off to “fatigue.” That’s gonna happen, I guess. All I know is I’m glad I didn’t have to see Kevin Love brick a dunk. Here’s some other stuff:

  • I’m surprised that this one was committed to video by anyone anywhere, but highlights do exist. They’re right here.
  • And a recap of the whole affair is here. After getting lit up for 30 points by Danny Granger, Michael Beasley gave us a taste of his defensive philosophy (via the Strib):

I love the challenge, I don’t like the matchup. I mean, a perfect world for me is to play all offense and no defense, but that’s every player. I love the head-to-head matchup. I’m a competitor, that’s what I do.

Really Mike? “Every player”?

Ultimately, this policy is a good thing for the time being, but not because players shouldn’t be able to question the officiating. It’s a good thing because it forces us (and yes, this includes the NBA and David Stern as well) to discuss the state of officiating. Even if the players have to be mum on the subject, the subject is still out there to be debated.  Just debate it in a calm and mature manner. Otherwise, you’ll probably be ejected.

I’d say I agree with Zach’s essential point that the policy is useful if it forces us to actually face up to the state of officiating, and the dark essential question: even if the NBA is really poorly officiated, is that simply because the pro game is just too fast and complex to actually officiate well? On the other hand, while there are quite a few NBA players who really seem to relish a really good toddler-esque tantrum, this policy does seem to smack of David Stern’s vaunted paternalism. This league seems to really like telling grown men how to dress, when and how to talk, just what variety of facial contortion is the appropriate kind.