Archives For Anthony Tolliver

BREAKING NEWS: Sources say, Wolves went 2-0 in the preseason against the Bucks.

So as we prepare for the Preseason Playoff series against the 2-0 Clippers, I thought I would share some notes I made on Wolves players from the two games we just witnessed.
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Now that the first two weeks of the NBA regular season have been cancelled, we can get back to focusing on what we’re all really here for: videos for black metal bands with only a coincidental relationship to basketball; recaps of ten-year-old playoff games; dispatches from the front lines of Kevin Love’s beach volleyball career. Oh, and obviously updates on the status of our Wolves on #NBARank.

Well, spots 250-300 certainly do make strange bedfellows. And I do appreciate the Mellvillian mental image of Anthony Tolliver (#289, 3.4/10) and Darko Milicic (#256, 3.76/10) sharing a nice wooden bed (in an old Nantucket Inn, while the cold rain beats down outside). Darko does bear a  certain resemblance to old Ishmael: he’s a born ruminator, a fellow who just might find himself  “involuntarily passing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral,” who just might have to restrain himself from “deliberately stepping into the street and methodically knocking people’s hats off,” who is a mystery to himself, who seems permanently lost at sea.

But although Darko’s astonishing natural gifts might seem to have blessed him with some kind of divine chosen-ness, his passion for basketball is no match for Ishmael’s obsession with The Whale. Watching close to 100 of Darko’s games in the past year, both of these qualities have been pretty easy to see. (Take a look at that crew of players between 250 and 300. The only players even approaching Darko’s talent level are Yi Jianlian, Jonny Flynn and Michael Redd. That’s sad company.) He is well over seven feet tall; he has supple feet; he handles the ball with rare ease. Unfortunately, he also seems intimidated by his own gifts and desperately afraid to succeed. We’ve seen too many dunks turned into layups, too many blown three foot jump hooks, too many looks of resigned relief as he settles down own the bench to believe otherwise. I’ve said it before: playing with Rick Adelman, a coach who loves those skilled, finesse Euro big men, seems like Darko’s last chance.

Anthony Tolliver might be the flip side of Darko’s cursed dubloon. Too small to be a four, not quick enough to be a three, he yet managed to score efficiently (58.6% True Shooting) and make the Wolves nearly four points per 100 possession better on defense. He rotates hard; he challenges shooters; he attacks the glass; he’s got a nice little jumper. (He is clearly the harpooner on the Wolves’ doomed vessel–um sorry, are you tired of this yet?) The contrast with Darko could not be more stark: Anthony Tolliver obviously loves to play basketball.

 

Photo by Dullhunk

Just what is going on with the Minnesota Timberwolves? The team is losing; nothing new to report there. But these recent bummers are unlike those December close calls, in which only late game meltdowns born of inexperience prevented the team from knocking off superior squads. No, these recent games are much less encouraging, much more reminiscent of grim years gone by, years whose hallmarks were uninspired effort and a deep lack of imagination.

The most obvious place this shows up, of course, is on defense. The Wolves opened this game with one of the least impressive three minutes of defense you will ever hope to see. Memphis’ guards easily broke down the Wolves’ D; shots went practically uncontested; cutters roamed free. It wasn’t simply a lack of enthusiasm or intensity although this was certainly evident tonight; the Wolves are just terribly imprecise and unintuitive defensively.

Thanks in a large part to their difficulty preventing drivers from penetrating the paint, the Wolves weakside defenders tend to shade too far off of their own assignments in an effort to provide help. The irony of this is that their rotations are still late; the Wolves both over-rotate and rotate too slowly. As a result, any sustained ball movement by their opponent generally leads to, at least, an open jumper, with the Wolves scrambling to recover.

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With Hockey Day in full effect on Saturday, it left the local channels blistering with high school, college and professional hockey games while anyone hoping to catch a Timberwolves game against the 76ers with a poorly cropped, low definition broadcast from the Philly side of the telecast world.

It shocks me when there are professional basketball games in 2011 not being broadcasted in high definition. While I realize this is a first world problem, it was sort of symbolic of the effort I saw from the Wolves as my eyes bled the unknown pain of basketball viewing from a decade ago.

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I don’t quite know how to say this.

The Wolves didn’t blow a double-digit lead.

I know that sounds crazy but hear me out.

The Wolves turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter against the Hornets. Through a lot of missed shots by the Hornets, Minnesota left the first 12 minutes with a tie game. They played the 4th best defensive team in the NBA to a draw after nearly putting up double-digit turnovers in the first quarter.

Then the Wolves came out firing mortars from long-range in the second quarter. Anthony Tolliver led an impressive 3-point shooting display by hitting four 3-pointers of his own as the team knocked down 7/11 from beyond the arc. The Wolves built up a 14-point lead by smoke, mirrors and grenades.

The second half of this game is the obvious stage for the Wolves blowing a double-digit lead. You almost expect them to begin their usual crumble of turning the ball over, settling for contested long jumpers, missing free throws and giving up key offensive rebounds. A couple of peculiar coaching plays here and there down the stretch and the Wolves go home with another moral victory against a good team.

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There’s been another entry into the Wolves revolving door of injuries. As Martell Webster and Jonny Flynn make their way back from the mend, down goes Tolliver.

Our friend Ray Richardson from the Star Tribune breaks the bad news.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver will miss the next 6-8 weeks to recover from a knee injury he suffered in Friday night’s game at San Antonio.

Tolliver, signed by the Timberwolves as a free agent in August, had an MRI on Sunday that revealed a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. A Timberwolves spokesperson said the 6-foot-8 Tolliver will not require surgery.

As much as we’ll miss Tolliver’s stellar help defense-and we undoubtedly will-I’m still looking forward to more of this smiling mug on the front line.

No disrespect intended for the Charlotte Bobcats but the Wolves absolutely gave this one away.

And it feels really good to say that.

I’m not happy the Wolves lost by any means, but I’m extremely happy they were in a position on the road to have a game to put away. I don’t know that this team is necessarily better in the sense that the Wolves can keep this unit together for a few years and have it develop into a title contending team. This unit isn’t that. But they’ve been competitive since the Miami-Orlando-Houston debacle and Michael Beasley decided to take over as the on-court leader of this team. They still have future bench players starting in key spots but bringing in guys to push them down the depth chart will definitely make this team dangerous in the future.

The way they gave this game shows the growth they still need but it also shows that this team might not be such a pushover most of this season.

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There was almost nothing surprising about the Miami Heat’s casual vaporization of the Wolves on Tuesday. (Well I guess that the Lebron/Anthony Tolliver faux-beef was a little surprising–since when do the oligarchs of our pop consciousness care about mild, self-deprecating parody?) A thirty point win seemed almost inevitable. Magnificent performances by Wade and James are part of the routine. I understand this much.

What was really startling for me was simply that this team exists at all. This off-season, I got used to thinking of this Miami Heat pop-cultural phenomenon as just another high-gloss TV show, heavy on the melodrama, heavy on the pyro. This had to be just another shimmering refraction of the simulacra, right? Maybe the renegade handiwork of an undernourished, over-caffeinated video game programmer or the projected viral video of some nerdy twelve-year-old’s ultimate basketball fantasy (“wouldn’t it be awethome if…!?”)?  They weren’t gonna, like, actually show up at actual basketball arenas and play real NBA games against other flesh-and-blood humans were they?

But sure enough, there they were: Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, all wearing the same uniform and taking the same floor as our Wolves, a crew of NBA neophytes and non-celebrities if there ever was one. Given that our young bunch was squaring off against a mythic Superteam, its kind of hard to make any firm judgments about the Wolves’ performance. Kevin Love is struggling to bring his defense up to Kurt Rambis’ standards? Well, checking Bosh one-on-one and attempting to rotate to Wade’s baseline drives sure isn’t gonna cast the most forgiving light on that effort.

And sure, at many points in the first half, the Wolves moved the ball more quickly and decisively than at any other point this year so far. But the  frantic pace at which they had to play to stay even a half-step ahead of Miami’s ravenous help-and-recover defense, took its toll at the basket. The Wolves brought great energy to the task of creating open shots, but they never could find the balance or composure to hit any of them. And you think extreme defensive effort is a necessity right? Well a team this talented can use that effort against you. It seemed that every hard rotation, every trap and double-team resulted in an open three-point shooter or weakside cutter. The Wolves would have had to play nearly perfect defense to slow this team. Needless to say, that wasn’t happening.

Which brings us to some of the real wonders and terrors of playing the Heat. The first is that, as Tom Haberstroh of the The Heat Index pointed out today, Miami almost never plays a five-man lineup that does not include one of the ten best players in the game. For some reason, this is even more disturbingly impressive to me than the idea of all three stars playing together. Haberstroh continues:

But some of LeBron’s most effective moments in a Heat uniform have come when he’s played with the so-called second unit, one that closely resembles his former digs in Cleveland. In fact, when LeBron goes to work without Bosh and Wade, the Heat have outscored opponents by five points in just over 25 minutes of play. It’s a reminder that even when the Heat let off the gas, they’re still deploying the game’s most talented basketball player.

In other words, the weakest lineup you’re likely to face is some version of last  year’s Cavs or Heat. And certainly Lebron’s work with the “second unit” against the Wolves–a heady mix of deft pick-and-roll passing, drives-and-kicks and the obligatory impossible 20-foot fades–was pretty overwhelming.

This was to be expected I guess. But Wade was the real stunner. Lebron’s ridiculous power and speed allow him to operate within totally foreign concepts of space. The old physical rules do not apply. Wade works within more familiar spatial territory, but he discovers new ground within it. With his immense gifts of vision, quickness and balance, Wade creates angles through the lane, space between and around players that seem obvious in retrospect–once he’s finished easily at the rim–but that are impossible to us normal people to imagine or foresee.  It was astonishing to watch Wade play within the expanded space created by the Heat’s three-point shooters and the attention commanded by Lebron. With just the slightest stretching of the defense, just the slightest gain in maneuvering room, the game, for Wade, become frighteningly easy.

Even without Martell Webster, without Beasley, the Wolves gave this game a pretty good old try, at least until that blistering third quarter made their best efforts moot. Deep down, though, they seemed  to be sharing my exact thoughts: I can’t believe this is really happening.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have added Anthony Tolliver to the roster for a reported two years and $4.5-ish million.

Or by the looks of the video Anthony put out there on Thursday, he’s chosen to take his services to Minneapolis.

I actually love this signing because I think it provides some much needed depth to a frontcourt that I’m not convinced is all that deep. We know that Kevin Love should be a fixture for the Wolves interior, considering he’s probably the best rebounder in the entire league. But that didn’t stop him from having his minutes yanked around inexplicably last season. And the team has committed to letting Nikola Pekovic and Darko Milicic find their way around the paint for a full season.

And of course there is Michael Beasley and whatever he can give the Wolves on a nightly basis. However, we don’t really know what to expect from Beas.

What Anthony Tolliver brings is a nice little insurance policy in case things don’t quite work out with any of the mentioned above. Tolliver is a guy that is probably best used as a stretch-4 but thanks to Mr. Don Nelson’s Wonder Emporium from Warriors World last season, he proved he can fill in adequately as a center despite only being 6’8”.

Offensively there is plenty to like about Tolliver. While his percentage wasn’t great (33.1%) from three-point range last year, he showed the ability to step out and keep the defense honest. He took too many in just 44 games with the Warriors but in a more controlled offense with some structure you can really use his range as a threat. He also moves very well without the ball and finds open spots in the halfcourt. In the event he gets paired with Kevin Love or Darko Divac, I think their passing ability can get him a couple of easy baskets on cuts.

Tolliver also handles the ball well and is a mismatch in the Wolves favor when he does have to play center. He can put the ball on the floor and is strong enough to absorb contact and still finish the play. He doesn’t have to give the Wolves much on offense. If all goes well, his playing time will be sporadic.

Defensively, I’m a little concerned still. A lot of this could have had to do with the fact he was playing center in the Nellie Ball Variety Show last season but Tolliver was abused in the post defensively. He gave up 55.6% shooting on plays he defended the post, according to Synergy Sports. But again this was Tolliver playing out of position last season. Against power forwards, he could be a much better defender and possibly not give up such easy baskets.

The Wolves now have a pretty full roster with 15 guys technically under contract. Having a little more personality with Tolliver on board should make this a fun group of guys.

Let the countdown to him joining the Knicks in two years begin…