OLD AND NEW

As soon as Flip Saunders’ Cheney-esque search for a head coach resulted in naming himself for the job, observers began to speculate about whether his offensive style fit the modern game. The Wolves had a top-10 offense in 6 out of 8 full seasons during Flip’s first stint in Minnesota, and until his two tumultuous seasons in Washington, the lowest any of his teams finished in turnover-to-assist ratio was 7th in the league. Flip’s gameplan, when executed properly, fosters ball movement and generates open looks, especially from the midrange area.

The problem, of course, is that the midrange game is dying a slow, painful death. Thanks in part to the rise of analytics, the most valuable shots in basketball are now considered to be at the rim, the corner three, three-pointers in general, and getting to the free throw line. That doesn’t exactly jive with how Saunders’ teams have ranked in the past: Continue Reading…

The Wolves play in Cedar Rapids tonight! Finally, we get to watch them pl... what's that? It's not on TV?!? Dang it!

The Wolves play in Cedar Rapids tonight! Finally, we get to watch them pl… what’s that? It’s not on TV?!? Dang it!

So, it’s probably not something to get up in arms about or anything, but most NBA preseason schedules don’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s odd that they don’t make a whole lot of sense, because as far as I can tell, teams are in charge of making their own exhibition schedules, with very little oversight from the league other than “play between six and eight games.”

Thanks to this interesting SF Gate story from a few days ago, I understand that the nuts and bolts of creating a slate of games is a more cumbersome task than many people realize. Among the factors to consider: handshake agreements with other teams who you’ve “traded” home dates with, whether or not the arena where you’d like to play is actually available, geography, travel, and pleasing players and coaches with days off in desirable locales (like Santa Monica or South Beach) rather than less desirable ones (like, Iowa, or something).  Continue Reading…

chase-budinger-timberwolvesAccording to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Flip Saunders and the Timberwolves are in the midst of shopping Chase Budinger. Several teams so far, according to Woj, have made their interest known, including the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons.

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Because it’s the preseason, and the actual storyline behind the game itself isn’t actually all that important, we’ll keep this recap short.

Despite some poor interior defense, and some equally questionable shot selection, the Timberwolves were able to pull away from the Sixers after a surge in the third quarter.  Also, some veteran 4th quarter leadership and savvy from Mo Williams probably saved the Wolves’ bench from a collapse to end the game.

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SWORD

“Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

-Hebrews, 4:12

I don’t often begin posts about basketball with quotes from scripture. But when thinking of the term “double-edged sword,” my mind inevitably wanders back to my Catholic education and the place I first heard it, the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews. The quote above is in reference to God’s word, and is often misinterpreted due to the presence of the term “two-edged” or “double-edged” sword. In this instance, it’s merely a noun; it could just as easily read “sharper than any axe” or “sharper than any dagger.”

“Double-edged sword” usually signifies something appearing to be a benefit that can also be a curse. The reason this interpretation applies to the 2014-15 Minnesota Timberwolves is that they have a ton of depth (good), but not nearly enough minutes to make all of the players on the roster happy (not so good). Continue Reading…

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Remember the year the Timberwolves drafted 4 point guards in one year?  Even though (#welltechnically) two of them were used as picks for another team in a trade that was already agreed to, while another stayed in Spain for two more years. Remember how, despite the insistence from anyone who looked at the roster, the “Wolves have a lot of point guards” narrative stuck around like a bad habit?

It’s funny, because you could argue that this year is the year the Wolves are stacked up on guards. In fact, not counting Kevin Martin, the starting shooting guard, you could say that every other backcourt player on this year’s team is a point guard.

That’s okay, though. As Flip Saunders said at media day, nobody on the roster, at this point, is all that redundant. Ricky Rubio is a passer. Mo Williams a shooter. Zach LaVine is an athletic combo guard. We still have training camp to figure out what the final roster will look like, but as of right now, the power of the point guard is strong in Minnesota.

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As the Timberwolves’ roster came together this offseason, everyone who’s played their share of NBA 2K over the years knew that this team was going to be a fun one in this year’s edition, but I’m not sure anyone knew just how eerily the game would replicate real life. The first clip above is from Monday’s Dunks After Dark event, shot with the Phantom Cam and showing in glorious slow-mo one of the first tastes we got of what is sure to be a regular connection: the Rubio-to-Wiggins alley-oop.

But the actual first taste of this came in NBA 2K15’s “Momentous” trailer, which was released earlier this week. Aside from being the reverse angle, it’s almost an exact copy of the alley-oop the pair put together on Monday night.

I wasn’t prepared for how interesting watching an NBA team practice was going to be. When the assembled media was granted access to the Timberwolves’ first day of training camp for the last half hour, we filed in and sat down on the north side of the Taylor Center’s court. The players were going up and down, divided into three sets that matched last night’s squads for the Dunks After Dark scrimmages — black, white and gold.

The coaches on the floor — Flip Saunders, Ryan Saunders and Sidney Lowe — set up a drill on dealing with the pick and roll, working on specific calls and approaches. Some of it may have seemed basic, but training camp is about getting everyone on the same page. It’s a way to say, “This is how we do things.” To that end, it’s not a test just of learning specific things, but a test of how well a player learns things in general, how coachable a player is.

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Dunks After Dark Wrap-Up

Steve McPherson —  September 30, 2014 — 3 Comments

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In the grandest barnstorming tradition, the Minnesota Timberwolves descended on the 4,500-seat Taylor Center on the campus of Minnesota State University Mankato for Dunks After Dark last night. One hundred percent completely sober students filled the arena to capacity quickly once the doors opened at 11 pm and they mugged for NBA TV’s cameras while being entertained for a good hour by DJ Mad Mardigan and an assortment of breakdancers and trampoline dunkers. As anticipation built for the Wolves to take the floor, the energy thrummed and the building pulsed with all the casual fun of basketball without playoff implications, without the pressure of filling a big arena, without the freight of the NBA proper.

But let’s not kid ourselves: in terms of actual basketball, last night meant less than nothing in the grand scheme of things, so let’s celebrate that with a bunch of GIFs of dunks and fun stuff, plus a couple observations. All GIFs are courtesy of the incomparable CJ Fogler. Continue Reading…

Media Day: Quick Hits

William Bohl —  September 30, 2014 — 6 Comments

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Good morning! Prior to all of last night’s “Dunks After Dark” fun, Wolves media day took place deep within the cellar of the Target Center. Here are a few quotes and general observations, in the order the players and coaches went to the podium to talk to those of us assembled:

1. Flip Saunders

– The Wolves’ minority owner/ President of Basketball Operations / Head Coach began with the usual coachspeak platitudes, about being ready to build a contender, being excited to get to camp, and discussing the leadership roles on the team. But he had a few noteworthy quotes that offered a peek into his mindset as the team embarked on its journey to Mankato.

– “One of the great thing about having young players,” Flip said, “is that you have a really significant impact on what they might become down the road.” He also spoke about getting to the grind of camp and working on things with his team daily. “What coaches love are practices. What you have the opportunity to do is mold these players.” But in his mind, it isn’t just up to the coaches to get Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and the other Minnesota youngsters ready to be successful. “The success we have will not (come from) the rookies (alone). It’s the veterans being able to help these rookies out.” Continue Reading…