UPDATE: Here’s a better video from our friends at BallisLife.com.

At the Seattle Pro-Am today, Zach LaVine won the 2015 NBA Slam Dunk championship, presented by… let’s just guess it’s still Sprite.

I’m having a hard time figuring out which one was my favorite dunk from this HoopMixTape Instagram. It could have been the off-the-bounce, around-the-back dunk. It could have been the off-the-backboard, 360 two-handed dunk. It could have been the off-the-bounce, between-the-legs dunk that made a regulation hoop look like the Nerf hoop I had in my bedroom. It could have been the cup-the-ball, full windmill dunk that he makes look SO much easier than it really should be. It could have been the step-inside-the-free-throw-line windmill that made me pee a little.

OK, it was a lot. I don’t want to choose a favorite dunk, just like most parents don’t want to choose a favorite child. He’s going to be so fun to have for the next 4 to 30 years.

This is not altered in any way.

This is not altered in any way.

HUMMEL2K

Several random thoughts, in bullet form, on the Wolves’ re-signing of forward Robbie Hummel and what it means for the roster moving forward:

- First things first: on a personal level, I’m really happy Hummel is coming back, with a fully guaranteed contract to boot. After blowing out both knees in college and toiling in the Spanish ACB for a season, it’s nice to see him rewarded with a little bit of security. He’s affable, smart, seems like a good teammate and is great to the media (which fans may not care much about, but those of us at AWAW all appreciate it).

- As far as on-court contributions go, the general feeling is that Hummel outperformed what his offensive statistics showed during his rookie season in the NBA. Continue Reading…

As Steve discussed earlier, the precise relationship between the Summer League and competition is a little foggy. We know the wins and losses mean almost nothing; we know that two thirds of the Wolves’ Summer League roster won’t be around in September. And yet it was still a little disheartening to see the stagnant mess that was the Wolves’ offense for much of the tournament. And it was still pretty cool to see that offense turn itself on and really flow as it did in the team’s final game, against the Pelicans. What do we take away from this? Well, for one, I think we discover what happens when Shabazz Muhammad takes half of your team’s shots.

I think we also discovered that most of the players the Wolves invited to Summer League really lacked the dynamism to get a real look in the NBA. Sorry to fans of Matt Janning, Dennis Horner, D.J. Kennedy and Markel Starks, who all showed flashes of skill but all struggled, for various reasons, to really hang.  Jordan Morgan some charges and worked the glass, but his lack of size, skill and explosiveness really showed. Brady Heslip is, without a doubt, one of the purest shooters I have ever seen. Heslip is so pure, in fact, that it’s a damn shame he looked so overmatched in every other phase of the game. Depending on what happens with Kevin Love, the Wolves will probably have an open roster spot or two. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of these guys have a real shot. So: on to some players who we might be seeing in the fall.

Continue Reading…

glengarry-glen-ross

I was going to start this post by saying, “Summer League is not really about wins and losses,” but then realized I was hedging: Summer League is NOT about wins and losses. What it is is a living breathing existential paradox. On the one hand, it’s an inherently fragile and unstable arrangement, a weird bardo region where agglomerations of rookies, sophomores and journeymen masquerade as NBA teams while competing for the glory of … something via a tournament that each team seems more interested in losing. On the other, it’s where professional basketball reaches maximum entropy, an undifferentiated state where possessions are born and die in a vacuum without accumulating any meaning beyond their short lifespans.

So how did the Wolves do? Well, they finished 2-4 but see above. The returns on rookies Zach LaVine and Glenn Robinson III — both based on what I got to see of them and talking to other media members and the buzz on Twitter — are good overall. In last night’s consolation game (the team’s fourth in four days), LaVine had 22 points, including going 9-10 from the line, a very positive sign for a player about whom there are some questions with regard to his physicality in getting to the rim through contact. Robinson had 17 and, although he struggled with his shot to the tune of 2-6 from distance, his overall game looked solid, if not particularly polished. Overall, he’s shot 38.5% in Summer League, but neither his jumper nor LaVine’s (who shot .397) look broken. Like most rookies, they need to adjust to the speed of the game, the length of the 3-point line and hundred other little things.

They both seem to feel pretty secure in their self-assessments after their first taste of quasi-NBA action.

“I’m a very confident person and I always hold myself to high standards,” said LaVine after the Wolves final game, a 97-78 pantsing of the Pelicans. “You know, there’s a lot of doubters on me and I always like changing people’s minds. You know, ‘Am I NBA ready?’ and things like that.”

LaVine’s tack of “prove the haters wrong” is a time-tested one, a solid choice for a rookie and one that works pretty well as he continues to navigate the fallout from his less-than-ideal word choice after being picked by the Wolves. He went on to tick off all the right things to work on and/or show in Summer League.

“Show people that I can play point guard, run the team, knock down shots, play good defense and help the team win. I know we didn’t win many games, but we competed and that’s the main thing coming out here: getting a feel for the game and competing.”

Summer League might be wearing me down to a nubbin, but LaVine was very positive about the experience. “This is one of the coolest things,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to be in it next year as well and it’s really enjoyable. It’s good for the fans and there’s a lot of excitement getting out there with your team.”

He also continued to flash some considerable charm when I asked him about how he’s enjoyed Las Vegas outside of the basketball so far. “Hey I’m 19: there ain’t much for a 19 year old to do in Vegas. But I kick it in my hotel. Me and my whole family went bowling. I beat my little sister and my dad in bowling — no, wait: my dad beat me. I’m not very good.”

Glenn of House Robinson, Third of His Name, King of the And-ones and the Second Round was as steady in talking about his game as he was on the court, where he neither over- nor underwhelmed but instead did chunks of good stuff here and there. Basically, perfectly whelmed.

On the broadcast of the Wolves’ first Summer League game, Mateen Cleaves commented that he thought Robinson’s game might actually work better in the NBA than in college and I think Robinson’s Summer League performance showed flashes of this. He’s athletic and a capable finisher, but not an overwhelming physical force at the college level the way, say, Derrick Williams was. Williams’ physicality hasn’t translated so far at the NBA level, but Robinson’s — which is more reliant on opportunism at the rim — could, especially if he gets his 3-point shot sorted out enough to make people bite on it.

“On the court with a point guard like Zach or with Ricky Rubio, I love penetrating and reading other players,” he said. “I think it’ll be fun. I think my game definitely fits the NBA style.”

Most heartwarmingly, he said he was a big fan of NBA 2K and when I asked him about which teams he uses, he said, “Man, now I just play with the Timberwolves.” There’s something so endearingly sweet about a guy getting drafted and then playing with the team who drafted him before he’s even hit the court with them.

Of course, this Wolves Summer League team had to endure the swirl of rumors and jokes (many of them by me) about whether Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett were going to suit up for them in Vegas. There’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the roster, but that’s nothing new at this point in the year. Last year, the Wolves player who looked the best coming out of Summer League was center Chris Johnson, who was waived before the season started.

The one thing you can count on is A LOT of Glengarry Glen Ross jokes in recaps this season.

Tyler the Creator, who look very much like Andrew Wiggins

You have most likely seen the reports that the Cavaliers have relented a bit in their unwillingness to include Andrew Wiggins in a deal for Kevin Love. Here is the original story from the Lake Country News Herald:

Up until this point, it was assumed the Cavs wanted to hang onto Wiggins, largely because of comments made by Coach David Blatt. However, a source said James wants the 6-10, 250-pound Love on the roster. And, what James wants, he normally gets.

Cleveland’s original reluctance may simply have been a negotiating tactic–though if it was, they seem to have given up on it rather early in the game–but the lack of consensus around this issue has been shocking to me. Check it out, two out of four Grantland writers and seven out of 12 NBA GM’s would not move Wiggins for Love. Experts! So let me understand this. You would refuse a trade to pair one of the league’s ten-best players (which is, by the way, a statement of fact), a floor-spacing, glass-eating, high-post passing, outlet machine, with LeBron James while both are in their primes.  Which trade would give you the most formidable Big Three in the league (yeah, I capitalized that) and would automatically make you the favorite in the East. And you refuse this trade because one day, when LeBron is in his thirties and has played some 50,000 NBA minutes, Wiggins has a chance of becoming…one of the leauge’s ten-best players? I understand that it’s painful to let a player with as much talent as Wiggins walk–I’d say we Wolves fans know exactly how painful that is actually–but Cleveland really has no choice.

From the Wolves’ perspective, this is the only trade that has a chance of getting them even close to equal value. Klay Thompson is a nice player and everything, and Flip is right to insist that he be involved in any discussion with Golden State. (Although, please, Kevin Love for David Lee, Harrison Barnes and a future first rounder from a team that would likely be picking in the twenties? That is a hilarious joke!) But, as Zach pointed out some weeks ago, that trade feels, at my most optimistic, like a one-way-ticket to possibly competing for the eighth seed. You’ve just given up one of the two best players in franchise history in exchange for a lot of salary and not much hope for getting better.

No thanks. I’d much rather play out the season with Love on the roster and pray that the animal spirits bless the Wolves with some miraculous change in fortune. (It could happen!!!!!) Barring that, a player of Wiggins’ potential–or at least a draft pick that gives you the hope of landing such a player–is the only way to make this completely depressing situation feel even a little ok.

Shakespeare and Love

William Bohl —  July 12, 2014 — 11 Comments
ShakespeareInLove

Photoshop credit: Steve McPherson

“For it so falls out

That what we have we prize not to the worth

Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack’d and lost,

Why, then we rack the value, then we find

The virtue that possession would not show us

Whiles it was ours”

- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, Scene I

Some relationships end in a fury, a storm of accusations, screaming matches and slamming doors. Other relationships end slowly, gradually, marked by words left unsaid, the quiet, empty spaces where conversation and laughter used to live.

In Shakespearean tragedies, ill-fated romances almost always conclude with the gruesome, if eloquently narrated, death of one or both the characters involved. Thankfully, the tumultuous partnership between Kevin Love and the Timberwolves isn’t so dire; he’s merely leaving for employment in another city, and possibly soon. The conclusion to Minnesota’s Love affair resembles the second type of breakup, the slow kind, quibbles bubbling to the surface every now and again, the atrophy taking its toll until Flip can no longer bear it and Kevin is sent packing.

The Bard almost always killed his star-crossed lovers, but he had a few things to say about more civil splits as well, especially in his comedies. The above quote from Much Ado About Nothing is a flowery rendering of the timeless adage that “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” And while Love isn’t quite gone yet, and the breakup isn’t complete, many who follow the Timberwolves closely are preemptively employing a common breakup coping mechanism: we’re trying to convince ourselves that we never really loved him at all. Continue Reading…

In no particular order.

  • Zach LaVine was largely as advertised. Fast and athletic, there’s a kind of wide-eyed innocence about the way he moves with so much more purpose with the ball than without, about how he sort of habitually performs a little inside-out sizeup dribble when he’s squared up to his defender. Nerves were evident early on when he lost his grip on the ball on a drive, but he settled in, particularly once the game was called a tie and the dunking exhibition started. More on that in a moment.
  • Shabazz Muhammad showed a lot of the same gusto that was his calling card late in the season last year, going up hard for dunks and muscling his way into the lane for rebounds. He still loves the left block and that little jump hook, but that’s fine. Obviously, this pre-pre-pre-season is a time when players have to balance a desire to try new things or show their progression with the need to prove they can do what they’re good at consistently. It can be a tricky balancing act.

Continue Reading…

I’m not sure what Earth to Echo is but it’s a Disney movie that decided to have a commercial with DeAndre Jordan, Shawn Marion, and Ricky Rubio in it to promote its release.

Rubio shows some acting chops here, and by acting chops I mean he delivered his lines without laughing during the take. It also gave me a chance to make this .gif so this is a pretty good deal all around.  Continue Reading…

RyanSaunders

The Minnesota Timberwolves announced Tuesday morning that Ryan Saunders has been hired on as an assistant coach. If the name sounds familiar to Wolves fans, it should. Ryan played four years at the University of Minnesota and was an assistant coach there under Tubby Smith as well. He was an assistant coach and scout with the Washington Wizards the last five seasons. He’s also minority owner/president of basketball operations/head coach Flip Saunders’ son.

Here is part of the statement from the Wolves on the matter, which includes that David Adelman will remain on the coaching staff:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced Ryan Saunders as an assistant coach, joining David Adelman, Sidney Lowe and Sam Mitchell on head coach Flip Saunders’ staff. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not announced.

“Ryan brings a unique skill set of player development, analytics and team preparation to our team,” said general manager Milt Newton. “He played a key role in the development of Washington’s rising stars John Wall and Bradley Beal, and he served as the primary scout last season as the Wizards won their first playoff series since 2004-05. His ability to develop young talent, as well as his statistical analysis and game preparation techniques, will be an extremely valuable addition to our team.”

On the surface, this hiring looks and feels very nepotistic. This organization is known for going with the familiar rather than the outside help on most occasions, and bringing in the coach’s son to be on the coaching staff certainly goes with the familiar. However, this is not your typical nepotistic hiring in the NBA.  Continue Reading…

chandler-parsons

There’s a scene in 1995’s Casino where Sam Rothstein, played by Robert DeNiro, loses it over a blueberry muffin. He explains to Philip Green (Kevin Pollak) that he has to let the people he employs know that he’s watching “all the details all the time, that there is not one single thing [he] will not catch.” He points to Green’s muffin.

“Look at how many blueberries your muffin has and how many mine has. Yours is falling apart, I have nothing.” The film cuts to the kitchen where Rothstein upbraids the baker: “From now on I want you to put an equal amount of blueberries in each muffin.”

“Do you know how long that’s going to take?” asks the baker. Continue Reading…