Archives For Alexey Shved

Gary Oldman Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz: We might as well be dead. Do you think death could possibly be a boat?

Guildenstern: No, no, no … Death is … not. Death isn’t. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can’t not-be on a boat.

Rosencrantz: I’ve frequently not been on boats.

Guildenstern: No, no, no — what you’ve been is not on boats.

—Tom Stoppard

There’s a natural tendency for us to want endings to resonate. It’s why we put so much stock in things like the finales of Breaking Bad or True Detective or Lost. An ending is supposed to cast light back on what came before, to contextualize an experience, to put a punctuation mark on it. Even those of us who are pretty much okay with ambiguous endings like the fade at the end of The Sopranos or Don Gately waking up alone on a beach on the last page of Infinite Jest can still get suckered by that craving for some kind of final chord, whether resolved or suspended, a giant crash of three pianos playing a giant E at the end of “A Day In the Life.”

When this kind of closure fails to appear in sports, it’s doubly troubling. Every team — like more or less every person — likes to imagine themselves at the center of whatever story is being told, but the truth is that every season is only going to offer up one main character, one triumphant hero. There’s a reason Sports Illustrated puts out a handsomely bound edition that collects everything written about the Super Bowl or World Series or NBA Champions. Collected into a narrative that ends in crowning victory, everything starts to make sense.

But along the way, major supporting characters, minor supporting characters and extras all fall under the blade in service of that bigger story. If the eventual NBA champion is the hero of The Odyssey, enduring detours and overcoming challenges on the long road home, the runner-up is the hero of Hamlet, coming tantalizingly close to victory only to be felled at the last moment.

Which makes the 2013-14 Minnesota Timberwolves sort of like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Continue Reading…

Houston Rockets v Minnesota Timberwolves

Going into last night’s game against the Houston Rockets, the Wolves were in a flat spin and headed out to sea, losers of five of the last six and facing a team they match up with exceedingly poorly. Consider: without Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin, their biggest impact players are at the point guard and power forward positions, while the Rockets’ most essential positions are shooting guard, small forward and center. The result, then, was to be expected—especially with Rick Adelman’s absence from the bench for personal reasons—against a team that’s not yet in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, but is still pretty damn good.

Not that the Wolves didn’t have their moments. You can see below that they actually ran a play: Continue Reading…

WolvesBench

After contributing a paltry five points — a total so low that MLA style would ask you to please write it out rather than use numerals — in Monday night’s difficult loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Timberwolves’ bench came startlingly to life against the New Orleans Pelicans, pouring in 42 points with double-digit totals for J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved and Dante Cunningham. With media crushed around him after the game, Love praised the bench he had called out on Monday night.

“Nobody’s ever going to like [getting called out],” he said. “But it wasn’t me being down on them. It’s just me asking for more because we’re going to need them in 2014. What are we, 16-16 now? They’re going to have to help us if we want to win. It was just a challenge more than anything. I wasn’t mad at them, I wasn’t saying they were bad. It was just tough love and sometimes that’s the best way to do things.” Continue Reading…

I probably don’t even need to explain why this is amazing.

This move Kevin Love worked on in the offseason isn't great. (Getty)

This move Kevin Love worked on in the offseason isn’t great. (Getty)

I tried. I really tried to churn out some thoughts on the Wolves losing to CSKA Moscow on Monday night and just nothing appeared. The effort was there for me trying to write about what was an on-the-surface embarrassing loss to a really talented Euroleague team. But ultimately, I just didn’t care enough about the result or what we saw on the court from a team standpoint.

And really, that was the problem with the Wolves in that game as well. I’m not sure they cared enough about their opponent throughout the 53 minutes of action to really want to do what they were supposed to do. There were individual players like Derrick Williams, Othyus Jeffers, A.J. Price, and Ronny Turiaf that appeared to give a damn. They fought through as much as they could against CSKA Moscow and nearly walked away with a victory. But there were too many mental mistakes, too many lazy offensive sets, too many poor defensive rotations throughout the game to end up defeating a quality opponent.

Make no mistake about it either; CSKA Moscow was a quality opponent. They have six guys (seven if Sonny Weems is playing) that can play in the NBA right now. The rest of their team is full of solid players as well. It’s an opponent that even the third string of the Wolves should be able to close out, but you have to have a full game of effort in order to do that. The Wolves didn’t have that and it showed both in their play and in the way Rick Adelman discussed the game afterward.

That wasn’t the case Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors.  Continue Reading…

BareaInquisitive

With a couple days until the Minnesota Timberwolves kick off their 2013 Media Day and officially get going on starting the new season, we’re still finding things to pass the time. Some people may be doing it with Grand Theft Auto V or even by reading my Rabbit Hole posts on CBSSports.com (shameless plug!). Some people are wrapped up in the NFL season and the close of the baseball season. And some of us are ranking players on various platforms.

ESPN.com is pumping out the NBARank project right now with more than 100 bloggers, writers, and media pundits giving each player a score on a scale of 1 to 10. Then those scores are averaged out for each player and that’s how we get their rank. There are 500 players ranked each season and it gives an interesting look into how the collective can come to certain conclusions about every player around the league. It doesn’t make the rankings definitive by any means but it certainly gives you a good idea of how the basketball coverage community views the players.

NBARank is past the halfway point in the rankings, so I thought it might be a good idea to check out which Wolves players fell from 190-500. Again, these rankings are not definitive and you’ll find that some players just don’t get paid attention to by the collective, leading to a ranking that is often too low for some guys. But this will kill some time so let’s check out some of the Wolves players.  Continue Reading…

Wile_E__Coyote3

There are a lot of rookie clichés that can be deployed about Alexey Shved: the rookie wall, a tale of two halves, he needs to add strength, needs to get comfortable, has to look for his shot, etc. If you talk to him—which almost no one ever got to as the season wore on because he would duck out immediately following games—you would hear a lot of clichés as well, but maybe that was down to Shved trying to get a grip on a language that’s still elusive.

The same thing happens with Rubio. I lamented to Zach one night that it’s too bad we can’t have a crack Spanish translator there so we could ask very specific questions that could garner specific, hopefully insightful answers from the Catalonian wunderkind. (And yes I know that’s mixing Spain and Germany—multiculturalism!) But instead all we get are bromides about competing, playing hard, playing as a team, and then crazy people in the skyway yelling at Zach that they don’t need a translator. (True story.) Continue Reading…

Here is Rick Adelman on the Wolves’ leaden, dispiriting loss to the Mavs:

We just didn’t have any energy. We had shot after shot and missed shot after shot. They ran a lot of people in in the first half. I know they were thinking we played last night and the travel. We just wore down…They are willing but we were a step behind and I think it’s physical and mental both.

Very little needs to be added to that assessment. There is, of course, the ongoing problem of the Wolves missing almost all of their best players and trotting out a threadbare crew of role players and D-Leaguers. Add to that the fact that they were playing the night after an exhausting loss in Denver, a very late flight and losing an hour of sleep…well it all adds up to some fatigued, uninspired basketball.

Continue Reading…

This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy. And the model Wolves shooter. (Getty Images)

This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy. And the model Wolves shooter. (Getty Images)

It’s that time again.

There was a certain point in which I realized tracking all of the Wolves’ futile 3-point shooting was simply the “rubberneck effect.” You know the rubberneck effect, right? It’s when you’re driving on a freeway and traffic becomes unbearably slow. There’s a sick part of you that wants to know exactly how bad the carnage is. You want to know if it’s going to be like the Red Asphalt videos you had to watch when you went through driver’s training (or maybe that’s just in California; I’m not sure). Or maybe you’ll see an unharmed family looking at their wrecked car and wonder how everybody got out unscathed.

Regardless of what you’re looking for, it’s pretty much the same idea. You’re slowing down to see what the holdup was. Traffic is a mess because people have the same idea you will have when you come across whatever the issue was. You want to see just how bad the damage is that is causing everybody’s day to be delayed by 10-30 minutes. Frustratingly (but lucky) enough, it’s typically nothing. It ends up being a flat tire or someone pulled over on the side of the road because they crossed the carpool lane double lines in front of a highway officer or maybe it’s just ducks crossing the road. Whatever the cause of the delay is, it rarely satiates that sick part of you that thought the worst.

I realized I was going through the rubberneck effect when I was sitting between Britt Robson and Ben Polk the other night. I had my spreadsheet for February up on my laptop and turned to Ben to inform him of the unbelievably low open 3-point shooting numbers. He responded with something like, “Why? Why must you do this to me?” I don’t even know if you guys want to know how bad the shooting is anymore. Ben certainly doesn’t want to know. I think Britt had a sick fascination with knowing the numbers because of how bad they are.

If anything, I think it’s still a cathartic thing for me. I want to see the carnage. I want to see if we had a four-car pileup or if it’s just someone getting pulled over for expired tags. And maybe you suffering through the numbers with me is something you want to do. Everybody likes to feel crappy together, right? Isn’t that what the internet and message boards and comment sections and Twitter were invented for? So we can all revel in the crap-fest of certain aspects of life?

Well the Timberwolves’ 3-point shooting is still a crap-fest. After the month of February, the Wolves were back over 30% from 3-point range. In fact, they were 30.03% after February’s games. So let’s get into the rubbernecking, shall we?  Continue Reading…

Jujitsu_sacrifice_throw

Defense is the NBA’s dark art. At this year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston this past weekend, Kirk Goldsberry and Eric Weiss presented a paper on what they termed The Dwight Effect. Using data from STATS, LLC’s SportVU camera system, they sought to account for more than stats like blocks and opponent field goal percentage in measuring interior defense. Although they admitted their approach was still mostly one-dimensional, their work began to incorporate the idea of a player like Dwight Howard changing shots without even doing anything—in essence, him being on the floor warps the space around him defensively because players don’t even want to come into the paint.

This distorting effect that good defense can have on another team’s offense was on full display last night as the Heat brutalized the Timberwolves in Minnesota. As you can see just from the final score, the Heat didn’t look great offensively. Spoelstra said as much in the tunnel after the game, conceding that the offense was ragged, but maintaining that their identity came from their defense. Continue Reading…