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This little tidbit from Jerry Zigoda in the Star Tribune is… well… interesting… to say the least (Via – SLAM Online):

Did you see Beasley walk forward after missing a free throw in each of the team’s first preseason games, tilt his head and glare at the rim?

Well, here’s the story:

“That’s a college job,” said Beasley, who played one season at Kansas State. “Luis Colon was my college center. He’s a big Spanish guy and when big Spanish guys get mad, they start speaking Spanish real fast. Every time he missed, he’d look at the rim and curse the rim out. So every time I miss, I’m trying to get the gremlin off the top of the rim.”

Um… okay…

I think it makes a lot of sense that Beas is looking for Gremlins on the rim. And while this will undoubtedly draw the easy barbs of “what is he smoking now” Beas is just another one of those superstitious types of players. Dwight Howard seems to put a little curse on the ball when he’s hoping an opponent misses a free throw. Plenty of players talk to the ball when they’re frustrated with the way a shot isn’t falling. Hell, Dwyane Wade was talking to his hand last post-season when things were going well.

So I’m not freaked out by the fact that Mike is hunting Gremlins. In fact, I like the idea of getting all that extraneous stuff out of the way so you can focus on the game itself. Everybody thought John Lithgow was insane when he was screaming about a monster on the wing of the plane. Just because we can’t see the Gremlins doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Let’s just remember not to expose Beas to bright lights, get him wet or feed him after midnight. He might be our only hope in fighting off those rim Gremlins and we can’t risk him joining their side.

What Are You Looking At?

Myles Brown —  October 9, 2010 — 2 Comments

photo by slashfilm

David Kahn’s ever present smirk must’ve crept another quarter inch up the side of his face this week. It certainly isn’t the time for ‘I told you so’, but it is becoming clear that he’s onto something.

This team is relatively deep, versatile and its pieces may be more complementary than we thought. The Wolves should be able to score with more ease and efficiency than last year through a stronger frontcourt and capable wingmen. Kevin Love is no longer the only willing passer on the block, Nikola Pekovic is the bruiser we’ve lacked for quite some time and Wesley Johnson is looking like a lot more than a consolation prize in the Evan Turner Sweepstakes.

Now we don’t want to make the mistake of reading too much into two preseason games- like those parents proudly posting a summer school B+ on the refrigerator, but we should still identify with the sentiment. It’s nice to know your kid isn’t as dumb as you’ve been told.

And that’s just the thing. These are still kids. There will be flashes of potential that will have us beaming with pride and there will be plenty of times that make you want to take off your belt. Any team that can consider Sebastian Telefair an elder statesman is going to have its growing pains. These are young players, many of whom are playing out of position and looking to shed poor reputations. So it’s important not to let the past get in the way of an honest assessment on their development.

Which brings us to Sebastian Pruiti’s analysis of Michael Beasley, in which he claims our tweener forward is doomed to a life of mediocrity. On the court at least. Sayeth the Pruiti…

“Why do I think that? Because playing consistently is a mindset. It has nothing to do with talent at all.

I have to say, I believe Michael Beasley is destined to be inconsistent his entire career. He has all of the talent in the world, but I never think he is going to be able to display it on a nightly basis. So what makes me think this inconsistency will continue in Minnesota? All you have to do is look at his preseason performance in the first two games:

I feel like I should mention, that yes, I understand that this is the preseason and that you can’t really judge much from it. But I think mentality and decisions like whether or not someone drives or settles for the jumper can be – to me, it isn’t that Beasley went 4-12 against the Knicks after going 8-10 against the Lakers, its how he did it….

….To sum things up, Beasley has the skills to be a very good player. However, the mental aspect of the game is holding him back, and in my opinion it will prevent him from ever being a star. I realize people are going to think I am making these decisions based on two preseason games, but I am not. It’s more than just the performance and the numbers, its how he goes about it.”

While Pruiti has put forth solid examples supporting his theory, it does deserve a bit more context. These are not only Beasley’s first two games of preseason, they’re the first two games of preseason with new teammates, a new position and a new system, one that’s confounded much savvier players than he. Any struggles with consistency from now ’til February could be no more of an issue than a young man finding his niche.

Let’s not dismiss this entirely either. At what point do we have to consider that Super Cool Beas can only be himself? Questions have been raised about his potential before, mainly stemming from his ADHD and fondness for Mary Jane Juana. Beasley says they’re broken up and that’s all in the past, but so is the rookie symposium bust, the rehab, the SpongeBob marathons and the Tito comparisons.

Putting too much emphasis on any of this is doing him a disservice, but so is pretending it never happened. Beasley doesn’t possess the ball handling skills of an ideal hybrid such as Lamar Odom or LeBron James, so he can’t display the same open court brilliance or finesse his way through half court sets. This is a player who is too small to play where he may be most productive and not quick or skilled enough for the position he’s best suited. There will be much trial and many errors, however with less pressure, surrounded by better talent and ample opportunity, it’s not naive to expect more. Pruiti is absolutely correct in his assertion that Beasley’s mentality will be the deciding factor of whether he will succeed or not, but it is far too early to know what that mindset is. Right?….Right?

Conversely, there shall be no doubts about what’s on Darko Milicic’s mind. Buckets, more buckets, and possibly french fries. As the Serbian gangster told our friends at SLAM earlier this week

And what about himself; will he be looking to score more now Jefferson’s gone?

“You know, I have that shit in me, I just didn’t have a chance to use it,” he said. “I used to be offensive, I used to be a three-point shooter. So for me, I’ve just got to switch the flip and have that offensive mind-set.

“It’s what I used to do before I got to the NBA, and it’s what I’m going to try to do again.”

David Kahn deserves more credit than he’s received for this summer’s haul, however he also needs to be aware that he’s not only collecting talent, but combustible personalities. And he’s only onto something as long as they are.

Photo by MiQ

It what will most likely be their most evenly contested game of the season, the Wolves matched up against themselves on Wednesday night in Mankato. In case you missed it and had money on the line, the Black team beat the White team 77-67. Whites all over Minnesota are reportedly inconsolable. (Check out some pretty dizzying highlights right here).

In any case, Kurt Rambis was pleased with the proceedings, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune:

“It was great…Guys got tired, but there were an awful lot of good things on both ends of the floor out there. They were focused. They were trying to run the offense.”

I guess the fact that they “were trying to run the offense” is a good sign? Wesley Johnson was, evidently, particularly impressive. Here’s Ray Richardson at the Pioneer Press:

Rookie forward Wes Johnson, battling back from a nagging hamstring injury, might have been at the top of Rambis’ list. Johnson, the No. 4 pick in the draft, displayed a smooth shooting touch, knocking down several outside shots within the framework of Rambis’ triangle offense.

“It felt really good to be out there competing,” Johnson said. “I hadn’t played in a game since July (rookie summer league in Las Vegas). I’m trying to learn this offense at a fast pace, but I’m getting it.”

Strangely, Kosta Koufos is also turning heads and not just for his amazing neck beard. Here’s Zgoda again:

Koufos sure looked as if he was trying to impress somebody. Little more than a salary dump when the Utah Jazz included him in the Al Jefferson trade, he was the most lively center in a group that also includes Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic.

It would be really funny if Koufos ended up stealing minutes from Darko this year. Its like when we spent more money than I’d like to admit on a garlic press and still wound up chopping the garlic the old fashioned way. Darko being the garlic press in the analogy, obviously.

Ok, get ready for some other news:

I’ve never been more excited to start a training camp.  Training camp is always been something that you want to skip but I’m so excited…I go from being in a Toyota to a Bentley. Its a beautiful thing.

That’s wonderful, Al, I’m simply thrilled for you. I’d like to point out that a) the Jazz are hardly a Bentley and b) Toyota’s are fine automobiles indeed. Seriously though, I’m glad Big Al is in a better place.

  • The Timberwolves have reported a new “corporate partnership” with Sanford Health which will take the shape of, among other things, a huge billboard on the Target Center. Is it weird to anyone else that a giant regional HMO would want to spend a huge amount of money sponsoring the Wolves?
  • Demarr Johnson has been waived. You’re safe for now, Maurice Ager and Jason Hart.

Advertising and promotional work are tricky things.

There has to be a balance between boosting the product you’re trying to sell in a way that makes it desirable for the customer and at the same time you can’t really insult their intelligence too much. At a certain point, you’re trying to trick your clientele to giving their “hard-earned” money to you for a service or product that you’ve convinced them they want or need. But transparency can still be a tactic used while trying to trick your potential customers.

As many Wolves fans have seen by now, there was an open letter to the fans in the Monday edition of the Star Tribune. And the strategy was something that wasn’t all that surprising and yet still refreshing to see. The Wolves front office took a page out of Eminem’s character in the movie 8 Mile to promote themselves as a necessary part of Wolves’ fans lives.

They criticized themselves and essentially brought certain criticisms of the organization and rebuilding plan to light before it could be used against them. It was just like the final rap battle in 8 Mile. Eminem’s character wins the competition by ripping on himself throughout the freestyle (warning: language NSFW). It’s essentially a version of reverse psychology to get you to let your guard down while they try to throw ticket package options your way.

But how much do you believe the message they’re giving you? Do you buy into the plan and the way it’s being executed? What about how they shaped their message in describing the players on their team?

The plan is a curious one because while they’ve done exactly what they claim they have wanted to do the entire time (younger, faster, more athletic), we don’t know that the team is truly any better than it was in the first place. Maybe there is more unknown with the future of how these players could develop and therefore it’s easy to think, “Sure, they could be better.” At the same time there is still too much confusion of how they get a #1 guy on this roster and how these pieces fit into the triangle offense.

While it’s unfair to criticize the EVERY move made by David Kahn simply because it’s him (even I’ll admit he’s done some good stuff in the year-plus he’s been in charge), it’s also ridiculous to defend him just because people are making fun of your team all the time. The justification of the Darko contract is baffling to me. Just because other teams spent money more irresponsibly on big men than the Wolves did doesn’t mean the contract is a valid move towards rebuilding. The execution of the plan is just as confusing as the figuring out how all of the pieces fit into the halfcourt system. It doesn’t mean that neither will work out but to say, “we know we’ve turned the corner” is a weird way to shape the sales pitch being given to Wolves fans in this letter.

The overall context of the message was well crafted and at the same time a bit of a head-scratcher. They opened with poking fun at themselves, stating the plan they believe in, being brutally honest about the present likelihood of success and describing the team and then ending it with an air of confidence before one more bout of humor. The letter was very well laid out and symmetric in its approach. But it was confusing how they could go 518 words of an organizational state of the union address with only mentioning the best player on the team as “one of the best outlet passers in the game.”

This was really the only weird/off-putting thing I took from the letter. Kevin Love is/should be the face of this franchise. I think you can actually sell tickets with him. He just became a cult hero of the basketball-following world during the FIBA World Championships and he gets a slight blurb. He’s by far the best player on the team and yet gets less praise attributed to him than the adolescent years of Michael Beasley received. Maybe I’m just nitpicking this point but I found it to be really odd and disheartening.

Other than that, the Wolves are telling the NBA world and more importantly Wolves fans to take a look into the glass house before they throw stones at it. They’re being fairly open and honest about their feeling of where the franchise is headed. And they’re even able to poke fun at themselves while doing it in a clever way to push tickets.

“Enough talk. It’s time to play.

Oh, wait. We forgot to talk about Rubio.

Next time. “
Way to go out on a high note.

Photo by Tristan Tom

We’ve publicly touted our appreciation for Ryan Gomes in these very pages, so its nice to discover that somebody else shares the opinion. ESPNLA’s Kevin Arnovitz recently wrote a nice piece on Gomes and found the new Clipper to be just as thoughtful and open as advertised:

Ask him why the Timberwolves struggled in the triangle, and he’ll tell you the specific point in the sequence when defenses anticipated the action and clamped down on the offense. Ask him how his good friend Al Jefferson will fare in Utah’s flex offense, and he’ll speak in detail about how Jefferson will flourish and which reads will prove most difficult for the big man. Ask him about the particulars of his game as an NBA small forward, and Gomes is an open book.

True that. While I’m happy that Gomes has the chance to start for a team that could make some playoff noise, I must say I’m a little bummed that it had to be the Clips.

I know that, as Wolves fans, we get used to moaning about our sometimes bewildering front office. But always remember that it could be so, so much worse. You could be a Clippers fan. I know the Clippers have a talented group this year, but they also boast probably the worst owner in sports. When Donald Sterling speaks, you can just feel the doom descend. Here’s his most recent offering, this time touching on Gomes and another old acquaintance of ours (from TJ Simers of the LA Times via Mr. Arnovitz at Truehoop):

A couple of months ago this was going to be the summer of all summers for the Clippers, a fresh start, a chance to hire a new coach, $17 million in cap space to go after LeBron or other big names like him and make a huge splash. And so they signed Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes.

Or, as Sterling put it, “If I really called the shots we wouldn’t have signed Gomes and what’s the other guy’s name? You know, they told me if we built a new practice facility we’d attract all the top players in the game,” Sterling adds. “I guess I should have doubled the size of this place.”

He’s no different than most Clippers fans.

“I swear to you, I never heard of these guys,” Sterling says, “but what if the coach says he wants them?”

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve felt the need to defend Randy Foye’s honor. While I will admit that the Clippers apparent attempt to reconstruct the 2008 Timberwolves roster (along with Foye and Gomes, Craig Smith and Bassy Telfair have all been Clips in the past year) is pretty amusing, as Arnovitz points out, this Sterling quote is pure, ignorant poison.

How would you rate the job GM David Kahn has done so far with the Timberwolves?

KL: I was hoping Ricky Rubio comes over and play… We definitely upgraded our team this summer. We re-signed Darko Milicic, we got Michael Beasley, we got a bunch of other players like Luke Ridnour, Sebastian Telfair… So we’re definitely looking better. Last year was a very tough one. As far as the job that he did, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens the next couple of years with our team.

Even better:

Would you like to become a free agent or would you rather sign an extension and get that out of the way?

KL: I’d love to sign an extension and kind of get that out of the way. I’m very comfortable in Minnesota, I like the style that Kurt Rambis has and the coaching staff as well. I want to keep getting better and better and signing an extension would be a little more sweet rather than bitter sweet.

Few know this better than Tony Ronzone, the director of international player personnel for the United States team. His years of circling the globe as an N.B.A. scout and a coach in New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and China earned him a spot on the staff. Ronzone, also an assistant general manager for the Minnesota Timberwolves, will prepare the American players for the personnel on the court and the atmosphere off it. In Europe, Ronzone said, lighters and loose change are commonly confiscated at the gate because fans have been known to heat coins before throwing them.

They heat the coins!

  • Finally, this is not Wolves-related but I command you to read this  SI piece on Hubie Brown (thanks again to Kevin Arnovitz at Truehoop) from 1983, in which Hubie expands on the need to “make [your players] cry for mercy,” his own desire for “complete control” of his team, and the fact that “Bill Russell is a terrible human being.” Paranoia, homophobia and undiluted rage abound. Maybe I’m revealing my age here, but I had no idea that Hubie was such a reactionary maniac in his younger days. How did he turn into such a nice old granddad?