Archives For nostalgia

Hold the Curry

On draft night in 2009, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the fifth and sixth picks in the draft. They watched Blake Griffin expectedly get drafted with the first pick to the Clippers. They watched the Memphis Grizzlies hilariously draft Hasheem Thabeet with the second pick. Then James Harden and his unaffordable beard were selected to the Oklahoma City Thunder with the third pick. That’s when this story takes a turn.  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…

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.

Steve McPherson, ruminating.

As Heraclitus told us some years back, “nothing is permanent except change”. If you’ve ever been an alive person you know that this fact is a little sad, a little hopeful and inexorably true. So it is today. Our good friend A Wolf Among Wolves co-founder and very tall man Myles Brown is leaving us for olde New York and a sweet job at Nike. This is a great loss for us but its a fabulous opportunity for Myles, so if you see him on the street, give him a pound. We will, of course, miss his contributions here at the site (although we very much hope he’ll be able to cover the Wolves’ NY/BK excursions) but we’ll miss even more the infuriating and hilarious courtside conversations, his magnificent obsessions with enigmas like Kanye West and Kobe Bryant and, most of all, his friendship. Thanks Myles, we’ll miss ya.

Of course, this is also an opportunity for us to renew ourselves and, in bringing Steve McPherson into the fold, I think we’ve done that in spectacular fashion. You may know Steve from his contributions to the local music scene, both as a musician and a writer. Or you may follow his Twitter feed (@steventurous) or know his very insightful, culturally attuned and funny basketball writing at Feelings Aren’t Numbers and Hardwood Paroxysm. Any man who can drop references to both Homer and Anais Nin while also delving deep into advanced stats is a man after my own heart. So welcome, Steve, we’re thrilled to have you. Here’s the man in his own words:

The late, great Mitch Hedberg had a bit where he talked about how after he said he liked to drink red wine, this girl asked him, “Doesn’t it give you a headache?” “Yeah,” he replied. “Eventually. But the beginning and the middle parts are amazing. I’m not going to stop doing something because of what happens eventually. ‘Mitch: do you want an apple?’ No, because eventually it will be a core.”

That joke can teach you a lot about following the Timberwolves. And not just because they’ve been trying to build a core for the last several years. The beginning and middle parts of the first stage of my Timberwolves fandom were amazing: I watched Kevin Garnett turn from a promising young player into one of the game’s top power forwards, then watched the Wolves advance through a tough seven game series against the Sacramento Kings in 2004 under his leadership, the leadership of the league’s MVP.

Then they faced the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and the headaches started settling in. There were many and they were legion and had names like Clippergate, Troy Hudson, Randy Foye, David Kahn, Jonny Flynn, Manna from Heaven, and the list goes on.

The kind of brilliant part of the Mitch Hedberg bit, though, is the recognition that we are better able to accept suffering the better able we are to live in the moment, to appreciate the little things, to accept the struggle not because it leads to glory but for the struggle itself. Like Jimmy Dugan says in A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.”

I had an English teacher in high school who explained the idea of tragedy in literature with the following anecdote: A man is walking through the desert when he comes upon another man crouched over a bloody meal, a gaping hole in his chest. The first man asks, “What is it you eat?” and the second man replies, “My heart.” “How does it taste?” he asks and the man replies, “It is bitter.” He asks, “Then why do you eat it?” “I eat it because it is bitter,” the man answers, “and because it is my heart.”

And when I was sixteen, I thought that was so badass. It probably wasn’t a good sign. It’s probably why I’m a musician, a graphic designer, a writer, a teacher—nothing with a clear or certain path to monetary success. It’s why I follow the Timberwolves. I’m for underdogs, for unrequited loves, for hopeless romantics, for eternal pessimists, for cynical optimists. My glass of wine might be half empty, but I’m calling for another and I’m looking forward to drinking it with A Wolf Among Wolves.

Miller moves on

Benjamin Polk —  April 30, 2012 — 2 Comments

I hope that the Wolves horrendous, disheartened season-closing efforts didn’t swear you off the team forever. Moreover, I hope that you checked out the team’s final game in which the woodsman, Brad Miller, dissolved into tears as he checked out of his final NBA game. And if you missed it (even if you didn’t) I hope you took a look at Zach’s moving and eloquent tribute to the man himself on Truehoop. Some choice words:

Miller is a beautiful passer. Watching him operate out of the post and the high-post throughout his 14 years has been a pleasure. He often seemed to know there was an opening to deliver the ball before his teammates even knew they were open. He could throw bounce passes, chest passes, behind-the-back passes, or whatever was necessary to get his teammates a score. The passes were on point, allowing the least amount of movement and execution to get a good shot off. When he integrated himself into Adelman’s system, he was thrown into a world that allowed his game to flourish.

Dude was a baller. I’m sad to see him go.

Time to shine again

Zach Harper —  December 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

The season is here.

Even with the assessment that we are a far too impatient culture and we should learn how to wait for the things we want, being in an NBA holding pattern for months on months on months was far too ridiculous. For the fans, it never really mattered about who was going to win the lockout between the players and the owners. All we wanted to know is when we got our basketball back. Was it a marketing ploy to start on Christmas Day? Was the season rushed to take advantage of a day that will bring many of the holiday-celebrating families together, in front of television sets around the world, trying to forge a familial interest. Probably.

Do any of us care after yesterday’s games? Not at all.

For some of us, basketball is our livelihood even if we never make any money off of it. It brings us an escape from lives filled with pressuring responsibilities in watching athletic giants trying to persevere through pressure-packed situations. The NBA is a museum of modern art. It doesn’t have to make sense to the passersby. They can look at the coloring between the lines, the pretty shapes, their senses being teased. Then they can leave the exhibit and go have lunch without ever thinking about it again.

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Photo by Kris Krug

When we last left our early-millenial Wolves, their hearts had been broken in Los Angeles. It was now May of 2004, just over a year later and a whole lot has changed. Rasho, Kendall Gill, Rod Strickland and Anthony Peeler had all blessedly moved on, replaced by Sam Cassell, Professor Sprewell, Trenton Hassell and Ervin Johnson. Wally Szczerbiak and Troy Hudson had both missed significant portions of the season with injury. The team was still potent offensively, but with the addition of those veteran scorers their attack was craftier, more deliberate, and better balanced.

But the team’s real improvement was defensive, where they improved from 88 points allowed per 100 possessions in ’02/’03 to 84.2 the next year. Hassell’s manic on-ball D, Johnson’s stoic rim protection and even Spree’s boundless energy all had a galvanizing effect on the team’s defensive culture and particularly on their star. Because that year, KG was on a different plane of existence. He led the league in PER, win share and defensive rebound rate (he was third in overall rebound rate). Ron Artest was the official Defensive POY that season (please), but defensively KG was out of his effing mind. He was, rightfully, the league’s MVP. As a result of all of this, the Wolves had the league’s second best record (behind the Pacers of all teams–bet you’d forgotten that) with 58 wins and earned home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.

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Since there will be no basketball for the foreseeable future and I’d kind of forgotten how terrible and nervy I used to feel when the Wolves were in the playoffs, I thought it might be “fun” to reach back into Youtube’s dark ether and extract some of our past lives. Lets talk 2003. I’m living in New York, with little money to speak of and no cable, watching the Wolves in dark bars, drinking what many might consider to be “too much,” feeling sad a lot.

The Wolves are the fourth seed in the playoffs but as foul luck and the ridiculously stacked Western Conference would have it, the Lakers are the five.  After getting shelled at home in game 1, the Wolves come back to blow out the Lakers in game 2. Then, improbably, after blowing a five point lead with seconds to play and conceding an absurd four-point play to Kobe (David Stern actually apologized for that one) the Wolves manage to salvage game 3 in overtime (in LA no less!). And so game 4 was shaping up to be the decisive game of the series; either the Wolves would go up 3-1 with two more games to play in Minneapolis or the series would be tied 2-2. So I watched game four. And it was almost as nauseating as I remember it.

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Um, does anybody remember this? Because I didn’t:

Two or three amazing things here. First: watching these two young dudes goof off and enjoy each other its really hard to imagine how it all came apart so quickly. Second: can you believe how hard Stephon defends KG’s retardo contract against all the fakes and pretenders? Third: did you see the clip of KG checking Jordan? Did you see that!?