Archives For NBA draft

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Hey friends, been enjoying watching the playoffs? And by that I mean: been enjoying watching the two teams that began rebuilding at approximately the same moment as the Wolves (the Grizzlies and the Thunder) play each other in the conference semifinals? I know I have–and I’m not just saying this to be dry and snarky. It really has been pretty revelatory to watch two teams, with some great luck and some great decisions, craft really competitive, really passionate young rosters–and then see those rosters actually thrive in the postseason.

Some have taken this as a hopeful sign for the Wolves, a sign that rebuilding can work, that a team can begin with next to nothing and end up playing thrilling late-Spring basketball. For me, though (and I’m guessing maybe for you), its more of an indicator of just how futile the Wolves’ attempts to rebuild have been. While OKC and the Griz have traveled a mostly straight line from mediocrity to success, the Wolves have been mired in the swamp. Think of Randy Foye and Mike Miller and Al Jefferson and Jonny Flynn and even Corey Brewer. Think about them and then weep.

So I can’t say that the lottery, the NBA’s strange instrument of parity, holds much excitement for me any longer. I’ve seen too many bitter turns of fortune (finishing with the league’s worst record, only to land the third pick, Christian Laettner, in the year of Shaq and ‘Zo, for instance) compounded by poor decisions (Foye and Flynn come to mind) to hold out much hope. Yes, there is Kyrie Irving and yes there is Derrick Williams. And yes there is the possibility that either player (or they guy they’re traded for) could become some transcendent emanation of pure spirit. But I’ve heard this all before.

Broken Windows

Myles Brown —  June 25, 2010 — 6 Comments

My partner and I have made our stance on rumors quite clear. It’s more prudent to provide worthwhile analysis of the developments at hand than to frustrate both ourselves and our readers with idle speculation. There is a distinct difference between foresight and hindsight.

The time has come for the latter.

David Kahn was roundly mocked for his selection of of four point guards last year, but I defended the move since Jonny Flynn was considered to be the best player available after securing Ricky Rubio, our intended target. I considered all the talk of the two sharing a court to be nothing more than posturing as we built Flynn’s trade value. Unfortunately, Flynn posted a woeful assist to turnover ratio, displayed a questionable shot selection and was no more of a defensive threat than a plastic spoon.

Nonetheless, another struggling franchise in Indiana was reportedly willing to take Flynn on as a project in exchange for the tenth pick in last night’s draft. Sayeth the Kahn? “We turned it down in a second.”

Why? Management and fans alike made no secret of their desire for Evan Turner, though according to the rumor mill, Philadelphia was unwilling to part with their pick for anything less than a king’s ransom. But were they so intent on unloading Elton Brand that they’d reject an offer of the 4th and 10th pick? It’s impossible to know now, but why would they be so committed to emptying their frontcourt without a suitable replacement? Are they that confident in Spencer Hawes? Weren’t they enamored with Derrick Favors? Have they no use for DeMarcus Cousins? Was such a proposal even discussed? Surely there was room for negotiation.

It would have been worth pursuing. Instead we drafted Wesley Johnson, a fine prospect, but hardly a bourgeoning All-Star and more importantly, a duplicate of the All-Star free agent we’re supposedly pursuing. Johnson and Rudy Gay are both small forwards and the imbalance of such a perimeter is readily apparent. Turner-a natural shooting guard- is the more suitable complement and thus, the more enticing option in convincing Rudy to walk away from Memphis.

Now what? This means they’re passing on Gay, right? Or are they trying to gain the confidence of yet another reluctant player after drafting someone who plays his position? Every salary dump by the likes of Chicago and Miami makes $15 million in Minnesota seem all the more paltry and each confounding move by Kahn only compounds the situation. At this point the money seems best suited to absorb another contract, a move we just refused to make. Furthermore, any trade must involve not only another player, but another GM and few-if any-are willing to deal with ours.

As Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported: “Under general manager David Kahn, the Wolves are becoming the organization that no one wants to send players. Kahn’s condescending, abrasive style is frustrating to rival GMs and agents because few people believe he has the background, knowledge or credentials to even hold the job. To his credit, Kahn did hire a personable assistant GM, Tony Ronzone, who can work the phones for him.”

This is a business built on not only on the acquisition of talent, but establishing relationships. This year’s NBA Finals is indicative of as much, since both Los Angeles and Boston valuted into championship contention with a little help from some old friends. In light of this, Kahn’s insistence on isolating himself with such a haughty attitude is more than disconcerting. In fact, given the frequency with which the words have been coupled, it’s worthy of an addition to the lexicon…

kahndescending (kon-di-sen-ding) adj. -displaying a patronizingly superior attitude depsite questionable decision making

To many, Kahn’s prideful disdain for his detractors has been visible for quite some time, but I initially interpreted it as coyness and admirably watched him clear cap space while acquiring assets. Now I’m not sure he even knows what to do with them and find myself frighteningly close to joining the chorus. I can’t hold back much longer.

Pity Party

Benjamin Polk —  June 25, 2010 — 5 Comments


The Timberwolves’ draft party seems like it would be kind of fun. Hang out with a bunch of people, watch some huge TV’s, drink some beers, get pumped up for your team’s future. All of those things were there, but the proceedings were, from the start, inflected by the Wolves’ star-crossed history. Within two minutes of walking in, I spotted both a Rashad McCants jersey and a Michael Olowokandi jersey. It was hard to tell whether rocking two of the more spectacular flops in NBA draft history to a draft party were signs of ridiculous naivete or just plain cynicism. Knowing the jaundiced state of Wolves’ fandom, I’m guessing the latter.

And instead of the festive atmosphere that one might expect from fans of a team with five draft picks, the mood was more one of muted acceptance. We’ve just been subjected to too many false starts and reboots to be genuinely excited at the prospect of another; we’ve seen this movie way too many times. When the little fellow called Wesley Johnson’s name and performed his trademarked blindlingly awkward handshake (don’t you sometimes feel that the entire racial history of our country is played out before our eyes in those awful encounters?) the noise that emanated from the Wolves’ faithful (and remember, these are fans intense and committed enough to attend a Minnesota Timberwolves draft party) was something like “eeehhhhmm?”. Not shocked, not elated, not disappointed, just accepting.

So lets us talk about Wesley Johnson. It’s my feeling that, despite the hope and optimism generated by the lottery (at least by teams other than the Wolves and sad Clips), despite the dim possibility of magically picking up a transcendent, franchise-saving player, the only mandate is this: if you draft in the top ten, you must land a quality starter. You can get lucky and land a superstar, but you can also draft Randy Foye. GM’s get yourselves a starter. Wes Johnson has long, muscular arms; he’s got a lovely, economical jumper; he very much wants to play defense; he can jump over the backboard. To me, he is a solid NBA starter and one who does things–move fast, shoot threes, play defense–that the Wolves desperately need.

The only problem is that one of the two guys in the draft who seem to have a chance to be genuinely great, was sitting right there waiting to be chosen. Kahn had a ready explanation for passing on Demarcus Cousins: “We spent most of the last season talking about the lack of length and athleticism and speed on our front line and I didn’t feel that he would improve those areas.” If this, and not Cousins’s (possibly undeserved) rep as an immature hothead is really the reason, it strikes me as a little thin. Consider other players of Cousins’s great size, wingspan and footwork–I’m thinking folks like Pau Gasol and Joel Pryzbilla right now. They are able to use their skill and length to cover ground and challenge shots in the paint; the lack of great athleticism isn’t a huge hindrance. And although Cousins could certainly be in better condition and although the speed and duration of the college game pales in comparison to the NBA, he was able to play well in transition at Kentucky. Wouldn’t you imagine that he as at least a good a chance of being able to withstand the rigors of an up-tempo NBA game as, say, Darko Milicic for instance?

Moving right along, dudes. There’s evidently a great deal of frustration over the Martell Webster deal. It seems to fall along two fronts: first, that its irresponsible to trade a first-round pick for a player who has been, essentially a role player in the NBA. Second: that his skills and position overlap with those of Johnson and Corey Brewer (not to mention possible free agent pickup Rudy Gay). Here’s how I would respond (and I’m very much open to the possibility of being totally wrong about this): does anyone actually believe that Luke Babbitt, or anyone drafted beneath him, will be a better NBA player than Martell Webster? Webster is, like Johnson, 23 years-old and ridiculously athletic. He is an above average three-point shooter. He is a bright, thoughtful guy who loves to play defense. I’m actually on board with Kahn’s explanation, passive voice notwithstanding: “It was felt…that if we could add a young veteran, somebody who has been in the league for a number of years but still was on the young side, and that player could help us as much as a college player could and in some cases more, then that might be the route to go.”

As for the issue of redundancy with Wes Johnson. I’m of the belief that in the NBA right now, a team can never have too many long, athletic shooters who play defense. For way too long, the Wolves have been routinely torched for their deficiencies on the wing. Wes Johnson is a three. Martell Webster is a two. I’m not seeing the problem.

It does make a person wonder a few things, though: is Corey Brewer now going to be consigned to coming off the bench, or are his days, like Ryan Gomes’ now numbered? And now that Rudy Gay seems no longer to be an option, just what will the Wolves do with all of that cap room? Oh, and what about Mr. Jefferson? And I almost forgot the most curious thing of all: why did the Timberwolves trade down to select Lazar Hayward with the 30th pick, a player that could have been had with at 45, free of that guaranteed first-round contract? The Wolves shored up some serious shortcomings on Thursday, but they raised even more questions than they answered. And, ultimately, they failed to address their central concern, the lack of a truly elite player, a player who can give meaning and shape to the rest of this young roster. Seems to me, these loose ends are conspiring to tell us that this off-season is far from over.

Neverland

Myles Brown —  June 25, 2010 — 4 Comments

“You’ll never make me stay, so take your weight off of me. I know your every move, so won’t you just let me be. I’ve been here times before, but I was too blind to see that you’ll seduce every man, this time you won’t seduce me. You’re saying, “That’s okay, hey baby do what you please. I have the stuff that you want. I am the thing that you need…

Michael Jackson has been dead for a year now. His final days were spent embroiled in controversy and haunted by questionable decisions, but his contributions to the cultural landscape remain unparalleled. Plainly put, the man knew how to make hits.

David Kahn has been at the helm of our moribund franchise for a year now. Last night, in his first draft since being spurned by mop topped phenom Ricky Rubio, he had another chance for his first hit. In my humble, jaded, yet honest opinion, he failed.

  • Pick 4: Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse
  • Pick 16: Luke Babbit, SF, Nevada*
  • Pick 23: Trevor Booker, PF, Clemson**
  • Pick 45: Paulao Prestes, C, Brazil

*traded to Portland along with Ryan Gomes in exchange for Martell Webster

**traded to Washington along with Pick 56, Hamadi N’diaye in exchange for Pick 30, Lazar Hayward and Pick 35 Namanja Bjelcia

The dream of Evan Turner proved to be just that, the specter of an unhinged DeMarcus Cousins was apparently unbearable, Al Jefferson’s trade value depreciates with every rumor and we are now the proud owners of a 22 year old lottery pick with a skill set that duplicates our most coveted-and attainable-free agent.

Plainly put, this is just……Bad.

I’ll be back later with some thoughts from my compatriots who may be a bit more optimistic than I am.

Nice Dreams

Benjamin Polk —  June 24, 2010 — 6 Comments

Photo by Unhindered by Talent

It’s on, homies. The Timberwolves our right now facing the biggest night of the post-KG era. Lets not fool ourselves with predictions or pipe dreams. The truth is, nobody knows what’s going to happen. All we can do is allow the questions to loll about in our heads, to face that essentially Timberwolvian sensation of overwhelming dread mixed with faint hope.

The immediate questions: is New Jersey serious about Wesley Johnson, or is David Kahn just getting royally played? Is Al Jefferson seeing his final sunrise as a T-Wolf? and if so, will the Wolves parlay the moody Mississippian into another top-1o pick, or a coveted young veteran like Rudy Gay or Danny Granger (or, more troubling, just another salary dump)?

And the long-term questions: did Demarcus Cousins, by multiple measures the most productive player in college basketball last year, do so badly on his psychological evaluations that four teams, the Wolves included, are willing to pass him by? Just how good will this dude be? And what will Derrick Favors be like when he’s not an 18-year-old boy? And is any of this enough to entice Ricky Rubio?

And finally, the basic, awful question at the heart of it all: will the Wolves ever be done rebuilding?

Myles will be with you tonight. Tomorrow we’ll all try to pick up the pieces. Hold on to your faces.

Previous Picks:

#21 — Daniel Orton, Oklahoma City Thunder: Daily Thunder
#22 — Solomon Alabi, Portland Trailblazers: Portland Roundball Society

With the 23rd pick in the 2010 TrueHoop Network NBA Mock Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select Kevin Seraphin out of France.

At this point the Wolves theoretically have Wesley Johnson and Hassan Whiteside in the draft, giving them two nice prospects to develop. These are two guys that can contribute right away for the most part and allow the Wolves to get a little creative with the 23rd pick.

So Seraphin here isn’t really THAT much of a stretch. He’s projected to go around this pick anyway with his potential and for the Wolves he gives them some flexibility with how to develop him. Seraphin is REALLY raw. He’s not going to be able to contribute right away AT ALL. However, the Wolves don’t really need to try to develop another big man right away. They have enough to deal with, in regards to Love, Jefferson and now Whiteside.

Seraphin needs a lot of work too. He’s longer than long. He can probably stand at half court and touch both sidelines with his elastic wingspan. He has really good agility for a man his size (6’10”, 258 lbs) and can get up in the air fairly quickly with his first jump. Seraphin can protect the basket for you. He can trail on the break on and run the floor well to get back on defense. He’ll finish for you inside so we know he’s not an Alexis Ajinca type.

But the question with him is trying to figure out just deep his game is. I’m not sure he can score away from the basket. It’s not even that he doesn’t have the skills to do it (even though he probably doesn’t); it’s more that he doesn’t even know how to approach it. The game can move a little too fast for him as he adjusts to the speed of the higher levels of play. I just mentioned that he blocks shots and protects the rim well but most of that happens only if he happens to be in position. If he’s not in position, don’t expect him to anticipate the play any time soon and know where to rotate on defense.

Like I said, Kevin Seraphin is a project but that’s not a bad thing. The Wolves can stash him in Europe until he’s ready to come over and contribute to the organization. They can send him to the D-League and keep a closer eye on his development. But it’s best not to pass on someone with his size and agility.

With the 23rd pick being your third pick of the first round, that kind of flexibility is très magnifique.

The Atlanta Hawks are on the clock

The 2010 ESPN TrueHoop Network NBA Mock Draft is here and I’m more than glad to represent the Wolves with the 16th pick. Each selection will be made available on network sites (links below), will cover just the first round, and will be made according to prediction, not some blogger preference. Enjoy.

Previous Picks:
Check back hourly for picks until 5 pm today, will start at 8 am on Tuesday.

#1 — John Wall, Washington Wizards — Truth About It
#2 — Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ersPhiladunkia
#3 — Derrick Favors, New Jersey Nets
NetsAreScorching
#4 — Wesley Johnson, Minnesota T’Wolves
A Wolf Among Wolves
#5 — DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings Cowbell Kingdom
#6 — Greg Monroe, Golden State WarriorsWarriors World
#7 — Ekpe Udoh, Detroit PistonsPiston Powered
#8 — Al-Farouq Aminu, Los Angeles ClippersClipper Blog
#9 — Xavier Henry, Utah JazzSalt City Hoops
#10 — Paul George, Indiana Pacers8 Points, 9 Seconds
#11 — Cole Aldrich, New Orleans HornetsHornets 24/7
#12 — Ed Davis, Memphis Grizzlies3 Shades of Blue
#13 — Avery Bradley, Toronto RaptorsRaptors Republic
#14 — Patrick Patterson, Houston RocketsHardwood Paroxysm
#15 — Gordon Hayward, Milwaukee BucksBucksketball

January 13, 2010: UCF guard Isaac Sosa (11) runs into Marshall forward Hassan Whiteside (21) on a layup attempt during C-USA basketball game action between the Central Florida Knights and the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall defeated Central Florida 81-75 at the UCF Arena in Orlando, Fl.

With the 16th pick in the 2010 TrueHoop Network NBA Mock Draft, the Minnesota TimberWolves select Hassan Whiteside from Marshall University.

The tricky thing about trying to find the diamond in the rough when choosing from a plethora of developing big men is making sure you don’t get stuck with the horrible bust. You can live with a guy that takes four or five years to develop because sometimes that just how long you have to wait. But you can’t live with getting the next Hilton Armstrong.

The choice here is essentially between Hassan Whiteside, Dexter Pittman and Daniel Orton. While Dexter Pittman is probably the toughest guy to gauge of the bunch (I can see him free falling in the draft), it’s not exactly a sure bet with any of the other guys that they’ll be the ones who don’t fail. You could make a very valid argument for Orton over almost any big man in this draft because he’s so young and might have the most potential of the bunch. But the Wolves don’t need potential. They need some wins and production right away.

The reason to go with Whiteside if he falls to this position in the draft is he’s an extremely gifted shot-blocker. I doubt he’ll be knocking down the All-Star selection door throughout his career but if he can give you a couple of baskets, some decent offensive rebounding, good defense and be a deterrent at the rim in however many minutes you give him on the floor, I don’t think you can ask for anything else from a developing big man.

Whiteside has the tools to be a perennial starter in this league. His footwork is pretty good. He has decent tough around the basket and his jumper can look very smooth from 15 feet at times. He doesn’t try to do too much with the ball because he’s pretty raw. However, I don’t think him being raw has anything to do with ability. I just don’t think he’s been shown a whole lot to do with the ball in the low block. You have to deal with his lack of strength (good frame to add on muscle) and his hide-the-children free throw shooting but you have to do that with a lot of centers in this league.

The Wolves need some specialists on this team and especially on the defensive end of the floor. By having Whiteside on the roster, you now have someone to protect the rim when players get past Jonny Flynn, Kevin Love and/or Al Jefferson. Whiteside doesn’t solve any of the problems this team has carrying over from last year but he’s definitely part of the equation.

It’s very likely Whiteside isn’t going to be the best center in this draft. But the Wolves don’t really need him to be either. Just block shots, grab boards, and attack the rim. That’s more than the next Hilton Armstrong will be able to do.

The Chicago Bulls are on the clock

War and Rumors of War

Benjamin Polk —  June 22, 2010 — 2 Comments

Photo by Washuugenius

We here at A Wolf Among Wolves are not terribly into the rumors and the speculation. After all, by Friday morning we’ll all know who the Wolves drafted, who they traded and just maybe what it all means. At that point all of the pre-draft innuendo won’t much matter. Nonetheless, its obvious that the big red phone at Target Center has seen a lot of action lately. Our own Zach Harper recently spoke with Rahat Huq of Red 94, about Detroit’s and Houston’s interest in the fourth pick, Indiana’s inquiries about Jonny Flynn, and what it might all mean for the Pups. You really should read the whole thing. Here’s some fine insight:

“My first thought for every move the Wolves are rumored to be considering or proposing to other teams is always trying to figure out how this impacts getting Ricky Rubio to the Twin Cities. With the idea of trading Jonny Flynn for anything, you have to think it’s motivation for clearing depth at a position Rubio plays. To get him over here and in a Wolves uniform, you have to convince him that the job is his and it’s a lucrative and likely-to-succeed situation for him”

On that note, Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press reports that Wolves’ GM David Kahn had this to say about the possibility of moving the fourth pick: “Highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely.” That does not sound likely to me.

Walters continues:

“As for the possibility of trading rights to Spanish guard Ricky Rubio, who was the Wolves’ top draft pick (No. 5 overall) a year ago, Kahn reiterated, ‘I don’t anticipate trading him. I feel very strongly that Ricky Rubio should start his career with us here in a Minnesota Timberwolves uniform, and I look forward to that day a year from now.’”

Oh but here’s a fly in the ointment. This from Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, writing at SI.com (via our friend SG at Canis Hoopus, so many links!):

“Rubio will not be inclined to terminate his contract with Barcelona next summer if there’s no new collective bargaining agreement by then. Also, if Rubio waits until 2012 — three years removed from his draft year — he’ll no longer be bound by the rules of the NBA rookie scale, which, under the current CBA, would pay him an average of about $3.6 million his first two years, a sum that will likely be below market value. Freed from the rookie scale, Rubio could negotiate like a free agent with the team that holds his rights, receiving anything from the mid-level exception ($5.85 million this season) to a maximum contract if a team has the requisite room under the salary cap.”

Those are two really excellent points and also total bummers. So much is going to happen. Let’s be paying attention.

Worldwide Wes

Benjamin Polk —  June 16, 2010 — Leave a comment

Photo by .M

Did I say that Hassan Whiteside looks like an NBA player? Well Wes Johnson really, really looks like an NBA player. How do these dudes possibly get arms this long? On Tuesday evening, Johnson showed off all of the skills that Zach so ably enumerated: the classic mid-range jumper; the three-point range; the startling quickness and leaping ability; the energy and tenacity (and all of that while struggling with a sore toe, which is much more painful and hindering than it sounds). I’ll tell you, I never get used to the strangeness of seeing such large, long-limbed people move so economically and effortlessly.

On top of all that, he’s a sweet, smile-y kid who seems to really enjoy playing basketball. (And the fact that he idolizes Scottie Pippen over Michael Jordan is somehow extremely encouraging.) He might not ever be an offensive superstar,  but I am totally untroubled by the idea of Wes Johnson as a Timberwolf.  Here’s his Jonah Ballow interview with a few clips from the workout thrown in at the end:

And here’s David Kahn’s interview. I’m only including this because, at the very end of the clip, Kahn confesses that he misjudged Steph Curry’s ability to play point guard in the NBA and that this was an important factor in passing him over in favor of Jonny Flynn. This is fair; many people had doubts about Curry’s ability to play the point. But I wonder: what made him think that Flynn would be any better?

My Hungriness

Benjamin Polk —  June 14, 2010 — 3 Comments

Photo by qthrul

Hassan Whiteside looks just exactly like a professional basketball player. He is tall and lanky, with smooth, sinewy muscles and impossibly long arms. His elastic strides cover huge swaths of the court; when he leaps, his hands stretch high above the rim; this dude will block your shot. But if his body and movements suggest a familiar, highly developed athletic manhood, his round, boyish face, thick Carolina accent and tentative speech give him away as the near-teenager that he is.

At Sunday morning’s workout for the Timberwolves in Minneapolis, Whiteside looked every bit the slightly lost, not quite confident kid (I love the fact that he just wants teams to know “that I’m a nice guy”). In fact, although he was easily the most highly touted player in the five-man group, Whiteside was overshadowed by the massive Texan Dexter Pittman. Pittman has a soft voice and a charming, agreeable demeanor. When asked about the trait he would most like to impress upon potential coaches and GM’s he offered, “my hungriness,” which sounds really, really hungry. On the grueling whirlwind of cross-country workouts–Miami on Saturday, Minneapolis on Sunday, Oklahoma City on Monday–he quipped that he was on “a nationwide tour like Michael Jackson”.  And, oddly, he seemed genuinely excited to play for the Wolves, citing his relationship with the Babcock family, the surprising beauty of the city, plus, and probably most importantly, an affinity for the team’s logo which he approvingly described as “a beast.”

On the court, though, that soft voice turned into a bellow as he battered and bruised his fellow pro hopefuls. Like Whiteside, Pittman didn’t seem particularly comfortable more than ten feet from the basket, but when he got any closer than that he had a pretty easy time bullying his way to the rim, smiling and yelling all the way.

There’s a limit to a person can learn at one of these workouts. As David Kahn explained, you can learn something about a player’s conditioning and “willingness to compete”, about their ability to interact with coaches and perform in certain NBA-specific situations (such as defending the pick-and-roll). You can learn that Pittman has lost nearly 100 pounds in the last three years. And that he has alarmingly large, supple hands, and can one-handedly pick a basketball off the floor and ladle it into the hoop like it was an apple. But these aren’t truly game situations;  as a predictive tool for how someone will fare in an 82-game NBA season is notoriously unreliable.

And you don’t learn a whole lot about the fatigue and loneliness that must inevitably set in while these guys cross the country. They are already becoming practiced at the pro athlete’s brash lingua franca, a kind of rote optimism that denies vulnerability and intentionally forgets the past. Pittman’s charm and bravado, for instance, gave no indication that his brother was murdered just over a month ago.  And so, as far as insight into the strange, itinerant life of an aspiring draftee, his slightly cryptic, but obliquely revealing one-liners will have to do.  How does he handle the fatigue? “It’s just a mental thing,” Pittman replied. Totally.