Archives For Benajamin Polk

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Over the past week, the T-Wolves have been tremendously bad, probably the worst team in the NBA. They can’t hit a shot. They can’t prevent opponents from doing same. They’ve been outscored by 130 points over five games. Luckily (?) for us, this punishing awfulness has not gone unnoticed.

So what’s Milicic done so far this season? Basically, he’s been the league’s worst rotation player. Although Sunday night’s seven-point, three-rebound “outburst” kept his PER above zero, his defense has been as bad his offense, and only two players have played at least 100 minutes with a worse PER.

I can’t possibly contest any of these points. Darko is shooting 23% from the field. His defense has, indeed “been as bad as his offense”. He’s played with absurdly low energy. He has been really terrible. Right now, those four years (to be fair: three, plus an option year) are looking like a really bad deal. Still, Darko’s game has been so off that it can only seem like some strange aberration. I mean, he can’t possibly shoot 23% all year, right? I’m not saying he’s going to prove to be a steal, but I’m also not ready to call a move un-defensible after just seven games.

  • Dave Berri is tremendously confident in his own ability to understand professional basketball using math. That he seems to believe that the value of his metrics are self-evident (“as you can plainly see from so-and-so’s WinsProduced/48, so-and-so is bad at basketball” is a favored rhetorical device) and that he has a particularly clinical and bloodless view of the game  should not blind us to the essential truth that he’s helped uncover: basketball players tend to be judged mostly on the volume of points they pour in, but it’s things like rebounding, turnovers, shooting efficiency that actually produce wins (defense is notably absent from the discussion). So its interesting to note Berri’s take on the Kevin Love/Kurt Rambis soap opera. Berri observes (with many a chart and some cheap pop-psychology) that in his level of production, Love bears a striking resemblance to one Kurt Rambis, circa 1982. And most interestingly, that Rambis  seems to undervalue Love for the same reasons that Rambis himself was undervalued as a player:

Rambis, though, was a very productive non-scorer. And when we look at Kevin Love, we see a somewhat similar story. Love does take many more shots than Rambis. But Love’s low level of shooting efficiency means that few people are going to confuse Love with some of the game’s most productive scorers. Despite this inability to be an outstanding scorer, Love still produces wins because he is an amazing rebounder. Yes, much like his head coach – who also was a very good rebounder – Love can produce wins without being a prolific scorer.

Yup that is interesting (although, again, defense is not factored into the analysis). Here’s what I have to say right now about this fiasco.

First: I agree that Kevin Love is currently the Wolves best player and should be playing more (though he is currently tied for the team lead in minutes played). And that nurturing Love into a confident, committed pro should be among the team’s primary goals.

Second: the Wolves lost to Miami by 32. They lost to Orlando by 42 (million). Memphis by 20. Houston by 26. Would playing Kevin Love an extra five minutes a game really have altered any of these outcomes?

Third: Love got benched in the third quarter of the Atlanta game because he was playing listless, self-pitying basketball. He does that sometimes.

  • On the surface, this last thing has very little to do with the Timberwolves. But its some utterly righteous writing and has to do with Randy Moss and so should interest us. David Roth, a friend of this blog, writes about the professional football for the Awl. And when I say “writes about the professional football” I mean: embarks on dazzling, tangential voyages of cultural/political consciousness that end in fairly inaccurate NFL game predictions. Example: “the desperate narcissism and self-defeating vainglory that has degraded Moss from one of the NFL’s supreme talents into one of the NFL’s most toxic assets reflects the same anxiety that leads some Gadsden-Flag goof to slap a Hitler mustachio on a picture of Nancy Pelosi.” Right!? Here’s David this week (and you should really read this whole thing), on the strange tension between fabulous individual expression and communal self-sacrifice that make the NFL really compelling (this, by the way, has everything to do with the NBA):

What succeeding under these circumstances requires, finally, is less virtuosity than the humility and patience and, one more time, grace to trust in others and then the generosity to make one’s own brilliance more broadly valuable. Randy Moss, since he was very young, has been the fastest and most physically graceful human on the football field—it’s saying something about how fast and graceful he is that the statement is still true at age 33, after 13 seasons in the NFL. The problem—the thing that has made him this beautiful and despised vagabond, that has him heading to his fourth team in five years in something like disgrace—is partly that he seemingly cannot or will not trust in others, and mostly that he seemingly cannot fully comprehend the importance of a cause greater than himself.

This is a common enough thing. Trusting in and caring about other people is tough and scary and frankly weird given that we—Randy and the rest of us—are taught that it somehow makes you weak. But it is what being an adult demands, and the important thing is that you either do it or you don’t. You either believe in something bigger than yourself or you can’t.