Sometimes, an entertaining game of basketball is just that: entertainment. That’s — in its own perverse way — the blessing of the denouement of the kind of season that Timberwolves fans have grown accustomed to over the last several years. Go back a decade and the Wolves were the #1 seed in the Western Conference, following years where the end of season concern was getting out of the first round. Just after that, entire seasons were slogs, lit only dimly by some notion of rebuilding the team with little consistent direction to indicate such a thing was even happening. Continue Reading…
You know that friend every group seems to have with the infectious existence?
It doesn’t matter what is going on with the group, if that person has an energy about them, it will emanate to everybody else and they’ll adapt to fit said energy. If that infectious friend smiles, everybody around them smiles. If that person belts out a big laugh, everybody starts laughing along. If that person wants to rob a bank, everybody gets their ski masks and starts looking for escape routes.
If Ronny Turiaf wanted to rob a bank last night, there would have been 12,009 people behind him looking up the schematics of the banks and determining how much time they had to raid the main vault. You always have to get out of there in under 90 seconds. That’s just standard operating procedure. After about six weeks off due to a scary knee injury that was diagnosed as a bone bruise, Turiaf made his return to the second unit Wednesday night and helped keep the spark alive with a team that had pride and effort questions floating around it lately. Continue Reading…
Following the Timberwolves’ win over the Grizzlies, Dante Cunningham was arrested on domestic assault allegations early Thursday morning. Continue Reading…
The emergence of Gorgui Dieng has been a fascinating development to a weird season that never fails to drop my jaw.
Through the first 41 games of the season (he got hurt in Game 42), Nikola Pekovic was a godsend. He was worth the five years, $60 million the Minnesota Timberwolves, Flip Saunders, and Glen Taylor committed to him this past offseason. They navigated his restricted free agency beautifully, remaining patient and never succumbing to the pressure of rumors about the market or other suitors. The Wolves got him for exactly what their initial offer was to him, which is pretty stunning for a mid-market team like this one.
Pek earned that contract for much of this season, exuding his brute strength and deft touch around the basket and at the free throw line. His defense was better than reported but not as good or effective as last season. He seemed to be often lamented for not being a rim protector, even though he wasn’t one last season when he was a really solid pick-and-roll defender. Perhaps it was the absence of Bill Bayno on the Wolves’ coaching staff, which kept Pek from keeping that form on the defensive end. Or maybe last season’s effort and production on defense was an outlier to what he is supposed to be.
Regardless, Pek was still giving the Wolves something very few centers have given their teams this season, and for $12 million per season, that’s pretty good value. Then the forgotten first round pick of the Wolves stepped in during a recent string of missed games for Pek. Continue Reading…
“They’re all getting paid. They all have a job to do. Not only our organization – the whole league is going to judge them by how they finish out this season. And that’s what they have to understand. They’re a select group of people that get to play in the NBA.” – Rick Adelman
Ever since the final nail was hammered into the coffin containing the Wolves’ playoff dreams (back on March 5th), much of the discussion about the Timberwolves concerns expectations for the rest of the dearly departed campaign. Would Minnesota devolve into zombies, morbidly sleepwalking until the final buzzer sounds on April 16th? Would the starters exude professional pride, or fall into bad habits, knowing their futures are secure with guaranteed deals in place for next season? Will the team begin tanking? Would the bench, full of (mostly disappointing) parts, show signs of fight and life, hoping to leave a lasting impression on the front office, working earnestly for their next contracts? Has Rick Adelman checked out, or is he at least invested until the season’s done?
The answers are never black or white, never the same from night to night. The Clippers’ 114-104 defeat of the Wolves at Target Center on Monday had a little bit of everything – some good, some bad, some new developments, some familiar flaws, and comments from the coach about professional pride, effort, and finishing what you’ve started. Continue Reading…
After the Wolves lost at home to the a struggling New York Knicks team (which apparently was about to start finally fighting for their playoff lives), I have to admit I mentally checked out for the season.
I’m not one to really overreact to a win or loss. I try to stay even-keeled for the most part because the process of the season has so many peaks and valleys that it will drive you crazy if you get too frustrated or too high from the losses and wins. Plus, I’m a big believer in you don’t really know the whole scope of what you’re looking at until you can reflect back on the season in its entirety and figure out what exactly happened. Until then, it’s a lot of guesswork, which can be fine but it leads to frustration with a team like this.
The alternative though is you can get sucked into shutting down mentally and emotionally with the team. You check out and that’s where I was when the loss to the Knicks happened. Since then, I’ve been mostly unaffected by the wins and losses, just focusing on the individual play of some to get me through the end of the season. I’ve hoped for a .500 record and for the Wolves to keep their pick, and they’re currently on pace for that.
And the rest, I’ve become pretty numb to, which brings us to Kevin Love. Continue Reading…
In the skyway back to the parking lot after the Minnesota Timberwolves’ comprehensive mangling of the Los Angeles Lakers 143-107, two Laker fans stood vigil with a view of the exit to the visiting team bus. This was well after most of the crowd had made their way to their cars and the skyway was mostly empty.
Below, other fans stood a meager layer deep waiting for a dejected Lakers team to make their way to the bus. The 143 points Minnesota put up set a new Timberwolves franchise record and also gave them their largest win since a 42-point victory over the Thunder on Jan. 7, 2009. Their 67.1% shooting set a single-game franchise record and was the highest in the NBA so far this season. Kevin Love had a triple double at the end of the third quarter. Nikola Pekovic was a plus-38, Jordan Hill a minus-38. The Wolves biggest lead was 41 points, the Lakers biggest lead, zero.
These two Lakers fans, in jerseys and hats, in Forum blue and gold, waited. If this Laker team manages two more wins this season, they’ll be spared the ignominy of having the second-worst win total in Laker history, beating out their 25-50 finish in 1959-60 and their 19-53 finish in 1957-58. They were still the Minneapolis Lakers during those two seasons. Terrible basketball has a long tradition in Minnesota.
Maybe that’s why these fans who come out of the woodwork in the visiting team’s colors for games against the Lakers, the Heat, are such easy targets. Being a Wolves fan for any serious amount of time demands resilience. It fosters a mistrust of success, an expectation of disappointment. At the core of this fandom is the sense that it has to be earned with hardship, not bought in the form of a #24 jersey with “BRYANT” on the back.
Even an offensive explosion like last night’s — a game Nikola Pekovic, back from injury, called “a triumph from the very first moment” — is going to bring with it a sour little note: Where was this kind of performance when it could have gotten them into the playoffs, when it could have mattered?
But “mattered” is a strangely relative term. Since the Wolves have fallen out of contention for a playoff spot, they’ve been peppered with questions about what there’s left to play for and they’ve given the same bland, generic responses that most athletes do in such situations. Stuff about still having things to learn, about seeing where they are for next year, about playing hard because that’s what you do.
But last night there was a little pure joy in the game. Returning to the bench after starting six games and putting up a double-double in all but one of them, Gorgui Dieng got a hero’s welcome when he checked into the game for the first time at the 4:17 mark of the first quarter. Some of the applause was also no doubt for Pekovic’s sterling effort in that first quarter, where he went 4-4 and scored 12 points. And some of it may have been for the simple fact that a bench player checking in for the Wolves was not a reason to nervously bite your fingernails. Dieng acquitted himself well in his backup role with 14 points and 9 rebounds. (“The guys were giving him a pretty hard time there with only nine rebounds,” said Adelman in his postgame presser.)
And as the third quarter was ending with the Wolves up comfortably, an errant Laker shot bounced harmlessly towards the Wolves bench. Love was the closest to the ball and the Minnesota bench, well aware of his 22 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds, starting shouting, “GET IT! GET IT! GET IT!” When Love gamely scooped the ball off the ground for a buzzer beating rebound, they cheered. In the break between quarters they patted him on the back and smiled. Everyone was just having a good time.
You can take what you will from a historic win like this at the tail end of a disappointing season. You can say that when the chips are down, this team didn’t step up, that their inability to close out games shows a lack of character. That any team can have a good time when they’re romping all over an opponent as hopeless as the Lakers. That Love is leaving so none of it matters. I get it: It’s a weird thing how at the end of a bad thing, there are good things.
But then I think about those Lakers fans waiting for their team — without Kobe Bryant, without Pau Gasol, without any clear path beyond lottery luck — and I think about why they’re out there in the skyway. It’s possible they’re Los Angeles transplants, that they grew up there and grew up with the Lakers, that they’re sticking by their hometown team. But I would almost prefer for them to be bandwagon fans who jumped on a frontrunner because of the glitz, the rings, the Black Mamba. Maybe the weird thing for them is that they actually started liking the team and now they can’t get out of it.
One way or another, we end up places. We get there by a mix of things we can control and things we can’t, and then we have the choice of either leaving or sticking around. Those Lakers fans and this Timberwolves team last night are a reminder: If you’re sticking around, at least try to enjoy yourself. It’s just much easier on your constitution.
infiltrate, verb: enter or gain access to (an organization, place, etc.) surreptitiously and gradually, especially in order to acquire secret information.
Wednesday night’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks brought the Timberwolves back to .500, at 35-35, with 12 games to go. I’ve recapped approximately a third of those games, and so far, I’ve resisted the urge to do any meta-writing, or writing about writing, and also I’ve refrained from submitting a game recap that’s about ancillary things (like the curiosities of venturing into an NBA locker room, or missing out on halftime refreshments because some local media members are no-account gluttons). Instead, I like to focus on the games, themselves, diving into their intricacies, (hopefully) illuminating something about it you might have missed, attempting to put the events into their proper context.
Tonight, I’m going to do something a little different. This late in the season, it’s time to try new things. It might go well, like a late-season audition that garners a pay bump, or it might go poorly, like Mark Madsen jacking up three-pointers. NBA seasons are incredibly long; strange things begin to happen as they wind down. People start doing things they aren’t supposed to do; they infiltrate areas of the arena or the court no one expected them to. Continue Reading…
[Video courtesy of CJ Fogler]
That right there is a man at the end of his rope.
When that video of Kevin Love’s postgame comments after the Timberwolves’ 109-92 to the Memphis Grizzlies was posted last night, reactions were both swift and morose, with many jumping to the conclusion that this means Love is done in Minnesota, but let’s pump those brakes, OK? Continue Reading…