Archives For Defense

FREE SHABAZZ 2

If you haven’t seen “The Boondocks”, it’s on Netflix. Watch it.

The NBA (and every major professional sports league) is composed of proud, competitive and supremely talented athletes who have worked extremely hard and sacrificed a great deal in order to attain (and maintain) their employment at the game’s highest level. This reality doesn’t stop sportswriters and fans from questioning the dedication or commitment of athletes or even entire teams to their craft, whether it’s “effort”, “heart”, “focus”, “energy” or any other euphemism.

Of course, coaches and players themselves will mention “effort,” “heart”,”focus,” and “energy”, often as buzzwords in stock answers to routine questions about why they’ve won or lost a particular game. After a victory, it’d be unbecoming to simply say, “Well, clearly we’re superior to the team we beat, we have better players, this really isn’t a surprise.” After a loss, it’d be disheartening to admit “We never really had a chance anyway, those guys are way better than we are.” So instead, everyone relies on effort-related jargon, vows to either improve (after a loss) or maintain (after a win) their level of intensity and focus when the next game rolls around.

Fans and media see the effort put forth on the basketball court and make judgments about players based on that alone; for coaches, however, games are only part of the equation. Exemplary effort or energy when the lights are on is one thing, but knowing the playbook and understanding the subtle aspects of your offensive and defensive assignments is another. Practice habits are key. A simple, cliched way to put it: the process is more important than the results, and people outside the locker room and front office are only afforded glimpses of the process.

Which brings us to Shabazz Muhammad. Continue Reading…

Wiggins

Most fans understand that there’s a steep learning curve for rookies entering the NBA, and know they must try to be patient when a talented young player debuts for their team… but they don’t know what a learning curve actually looks like until games begin and victories hang in the balance. The coaching staff has to walk a fine line between managing expectations and demanding steady improvement from their young players, and has to know when to reassure and when to reprimand. And the player himself, who has undoubtedly been told by his family, agent and coaches that the transition from college to the NBA is a difficult one, might not know exactly what he’s in for until he is staring at a bigger, stronger veteran player and is tasked with trying to keep him from scoring.

That’s what Andrew Wiggins has experienced during his first four regular season games with the Timberwolves. Continue Reading…

Sometimes, an entertaining game of basketball is just that: entertainment. That’s — in its own perverse way — the blessing of the denouement of the kind of season that Timberwolves fans have grown accustomed to over the last several years. Go back a decade and the Wolves were the #1 seed in the Western Conference, following years where the end of season concern was getting out of the first round. Just after that, entire seasons were slogs, lit only dimly by some notion of rebuilding the team with little consistent direction to indicate such a thing was even happening. Continue Reading…

Wolves defense

The Wolves are in a bad place right now and have been all month long.

Heading into the month of January, the Minnesota Timberwolves had a lot of hope. The team was 14-13 and one of the top defensive squads in the NBA. Kevin Love was still trying to find his way after coming back early from his hand but he was at least rebounding and providing a threat to the defense (he wasn’t shooting well but they defended him like he might). Ricky Rubio was working his way back from an ACL tear and showing some flashes of the wunderkind point guard that dazzled us in his rookie campaign.

And while the team was struggling offensively, they could rely on defense and grinding out victories to stay in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference. It wasn’t going to be an easy road by any means, but the Wolves were avoiding the eventual fallout of having to deal with so many injuries to so many key players in their rotation.

Once January hit, everything changed for the worse.  Continue Reading…