Saturday night, Target Center was home to some zone defense, full-court presses, half-court traps, a 6’8, 215 jump shooter playing backup center, a bunch of 19, 20 and 21 year olds on the floor together, and clown-show refereeing that left both teams, their coaches and the home crowd perplexed at every turn. A college game, perhaps? Nay, it was the Wolves’ 12-point loss to this season’s nicest surprise story, the Sacramento Kings. Continue Reading…
Archives For DeMarcus Cousins
Its a bit embarrassing to look back on what I’ve written on home openers of years past and find an optimism that ended up being thoroughly unwarranted. In those back pages, you’ll find glowing talk of the newfound wing athleticism brought by Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley. You’ll hear about the possibility inherent in the triangle offense and the inevitability of an endless river of Mike Miller threes. So yeah, a little embarrassing. This is partly because new beginnings and the feelings of renewal they bring on and, oh yes, partly because the Wolves open at home against the Sacramento Kings nearly every year. Its enough to stir the optimist in anybody.
Here we go!
We’ve been waiting months to see how this whole thing would work in a real game that counted. The dead weight from last year has been excavated from the site and now the Wolves will have a bevy of competent and actually good players to run through Rick Adelman’s system, which they’ve been able to learn for over a month now. Continue Reading…
While some might complain about Kevin Love’s suspension being unjust, I’m trying to look at it as a positive thing.
I’ve grown tired of Kevin Love’s complaining to officials this season. I’m fine if he wants to belabor a point or fight for his team verbally during stoppages in play, but when he’s taking an extra second or two to turnaround and complain to a referee that is booking it up the floor to keep up with the action (hint, hint: Kevin you should too), I find it disheartening to see a brief 4-on-5 defensive effort.
It’s not something that happens all the time. It happens maybe two or three times per game at most. It’s not costing the Wolves games either. It’s just a poor decision he makes that puts his team at risk of giving up scores and at a certain point, enough is enough.
The good thing about this suspension is it gives a real test to Nikola Pekovic, Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams to step up and prove their production without the attention defenses pay to Kevin Love. Anybody could argue that everybody on the Wolves benefits from Love’s presence out there and they certainly do to some extent. But that isn’t the reason someone like Ricky Rubio gets a lot of assists or Nikola Pekovic is able to have a presence inside.
With Love out last night, the entire team had a chance to prove themselves and they did a pretty good job. There were times when his absence was felt. The Wolves got sloppy with the ball, forced shots they normally wouldn’t have to take and had to deal with DeMarcus Cousins dominating the boards in the third quarter. However, players stepped up when they needed to and the Wolves dodged a bullet at the end to secure the win. Continue Reading…
Stars in the NBA can be incredible, stat-accumulating displays of effort, skill and whatever that extra special something is that makes them the elite 1% of NBA players. We marvel at their touch, power, speed, agility, and hand-eye coordination throughout a basketball game. We want to buy their jerseys and show everybody which star we back on a nightly basis.
Stars are only as good as the role players around them. Many people feel like it is the duty and mission of NBA stars to make those around them better, and to a certain extent it certainly seems to be a recipe for success. However, the top players in the NBA can’t necessarily give the role players on their team the confidence to make big shots, or the wherewithal to know when to step up to close out a team. Continue Reading…
In June of 2009, the Sacramento Kings were faced with a very tough decision. Do you draft for flash and marketability or do you try to change the culture of your organization?
At the time, the Kings were known as a “soft” organization, incapable of being consistently tough enough both mentally and physically. This identity, whether correct or not, had been stamped on the organization for the past decade. They were a wonderfully skilled team back in the Vlade-Webber-Peja triumvirate days, but as they continued to lose to the Lakers and couldn’t contain the power of Shaquille O’Neal year after year, they were tagged with the label of not being tough enough and not being a strong defensive team.
Looking back on this stigma, it was complete and utter guano. The early aught Kings were as good and as tough as any team in the NBA. Just because they couldn’t push Shaq out of post position time and time again had nothing to do with measuring just how macho they were as a unit. And yet there they were, labeled with being weak. After Chris Webber blew out his knee, the Kings struggled to find an identity. They traded C-Webb for more manageable roster parts, and tried to shift certain players here and there. After learning that Adelman wasn’t the problem (thanks for that, by the way!) and that turning Peja into Ron Artest wasn’t the solution, the Kings went back to the drawing board.
They had a tough decision to make. Do you draft the hype surrounding Ricky Rubio or do you take on a new identity with the soft-spoken and hard-driving Tyreke Evans? Continue Reading…
The Timberwolves’ draft party seems like it would be kind of fun. Hang out with a bunch of people, watch some huge TV’s, drink some beers, get pumped up for your team’s future. All of those things were there, but the proceedings were, from the start, inflected by the Wolves’ star-crossed history. Within two minutes of walking in, I spotted both a Rashad McCants jersey and a Michael Olowokandi jersey. It was hard to tell whether rocking two of the more spectacular flops in NBA draft history to a draft party were signs of ridiculous naivete or just plain cynicism. Knowing the jaundiced state of Wolves’ fandom, I’m guessing the latter.
And instead of the festive atmosphere that one might expect from fans of a team with five draft picks, the mood was more one of muted acceptance. We’ve just been subjected to too many false starts and reboots to be genuinely excited at the prospect of another; we’ve seen this movie way too many times. When the little fellow called Wesley Johnson’s name and performed his trademarked blindlingly awkward handshake (don’t you sometimes feel that the entire racial history of our country is played out before our eyes in those awful encounters?) the noise that emanated from the Wolves’ faithful (and remember, these are fans intense and committed enough to attend a Minnesota Timberwolves draft party) was something like “eeehhhhmm?”. Not shocked, not elated, not disappointed, just accepting.
So lets us talk about Wesley Johnson. It’s my feeling that, despite the hope and optimism generated by the lottery (at least by teams other than the Wolves and sad Clips), despite the dim possibility of magically picking up a transcendent, franchise-saving player, the only mandate is this: if you draft in the top ten, you must land a quality starter. You can get lucky and land a superstar, but you can also draft Randy Foye. GM’s get yourselves a starter. Wes Johnson has long, muscular arms; he’s got a lovely, economical jumper; he very much wants to play defense; he can jump over the backboard. To me, he is a solid NBA starter and one who does things–move fast, shoot threes, play defense–that the Wolves desperately need.
The only problem is that one of the two guys in the draft who seem to have a chance to be genuinely great, was sitting right there waiting to be chosen. Kahn had a ready explanation for passing on Demarcus Cousins: “We spent most of the last season talking about the lack of length and athleticism and speed on our front line and I didn’t feel that he would improve those areas.” If this, and not Cousins’s (possibly undeserved) rep as an immature hothead is really the reason, it strikes me as a little thin. Consider other players of Cousins’s great size, wingspan and footwork–I’m thinking folks like Pau Gasol and Joel Pryzbilla right now. They are able to use their skill and length to cover ground and challenge shots in the paint; the lack of great athleticism isn’t a huge hindrance. And although Cousins could certainly be in better condition and although the speed and duration of the college game pales in comparison to the NBA, he was able to play well in transition at Kentucky. Wouldn’t you imagine that he as at least a good a chance of being able to withstand the rigors of an up-tempo NBA game as, say, Darko Milicic for instance?
Moving right along, dudes. There’s evidently a great deal of frustration over the Martell Webster deal. It seems to fall along two fronts: first, that its irresponsible to trade a first-round pick for a player who has been, essentially a role player in the NBA. Second: that his skills and position overlap with those of Johnson and Corey Brewer (not to mention possible free agent pickup Rudy Gay). Here’s how I would respond (and I’m very much open to the possibility of being totally wrong about this): does anyone actually believe that Luke Babbitt, or anyone drafted beneath him, will be a better NBA player than Martell Webster? Webster is, like Johnson, 23 years-old and ridiculously athletic. He is an above average three-point shooter. He is a bright, thoughtful guy who loves to play defense. I’m actually on board with Kahn’s explanation, passive voice notwithstanding: “It was felt…that if we could add a young veteran, somebody who has been in the league for a number of years but still was on the young side, and that player could help us as much as a college player could and in some cases more, then that might be the route to go.”
As for the issue of redundancy with Wes Johnson. I’m of the belief that in the NBA right now, a team can never have too many long, athletic shooters who play defense. For way too long, the Wolves have been routinely torched for their deficiencies on the wing. Wes Johnson is a three. Martell Webster is a two. I’m not seeing the problem.
It does make a person wonder a few things, though: is Corey Brewer now going to be consigned to coming off the bench, or are his days, like Ryan Gomes’ now numbered? And now that Rudy Gay seems no longer to be an option, just what will the Wolves do with all of that cap room? Oh, and what about Mr. Jefferson? And I almost forgot the most curious thing of all: why did the Timberwolves trade down to select Lazar Hayward with the 30th pick, a player that could have been had with at 45, free of that guaranteed first-round contract? The Wolves shored up some serious shortcomings on Thursday, but they raised even more questions than they answered. And, ultimately, they failed to address their central concern, the lack of a truly elite player, a player who can give meaning and shape to the rest of this young roster. Seems to me, these loose ends are conspiring to tell us that this off-season is far from over.
It’s on, homies. The Timberwolves our right now facing the biggest night of the post-KG era. Lets not fool ourselves with predictions or pipe dreams. The truth is, nobody knows what’s going to happen. All we can do is allow the questions to loll about in our heads, to face that essentially Timberwolvian sensation of overwhelming dread mixed with faint hope.
The immediate questions: is New Jersey serious about Wesley Johnson, or is David Kahn just getting royally played? Is Al Jefferson seeing his final sunrise as a T-Wolf? and if so, will the Wolves parlay the moody Mississippian into another top-1o pick, or a coveted young veteran like Rudy Gay or Danny Granger (or, more troubling, just another salary dump)?
And the long-term questions: did Demarcus Cousins, by multiple measures the most productive player in college basketball last year, do so badly on his psychological evaluations that four teams, the Wolves included, are willing to pass him by? Just how good will this dude be? And what will Derrick Favors be like when he’s not an 18-year-old boy? And is any of this enough to entice Ricky Rubio?
And finally, the basic, awful question at the heart of it all: will the Wolves ever be done rebuilding?
Myles will be with you tonight. Tomorrow we’ll all try to pick up the pieces. Hold on to your faces.
Here’s a neat little supplement to Zach’s terrific profile of Cousins, by Jason King of Yahoo Sports (thanks to Sweetpants of the Modern Radio Messageboard). In the piece, (as in those interview vids) Cousins comes across as pretty much what one would expect from a magnificently talented, deep south celebrity teenager: a little naive; a little moody and paranoid; pretty boyish and charming. In other words–surprise, surprise–a complicated person, one we’re probably not going to get to the bottom of just by watching Youtube or reading online scouting reports. Definitely worth a read if you’re interested.
For some reason, Zach’s post made me think of this:
(Quick introduction: My name is Zach Harper and I’ll be contributing here frequently at AWAW. Some people may know me from my work at HardwoodParoxysm.com, CowbellKingdom.com, RaptorsRepublic.com and/or Talkhoops.net. As a life long Wolves fan, I feel very honored to be on this site and to be working with Ben and Myles.)
DeMarcus Cousins is looked at as a very volatile and yet talented young man who is set to unleash a fury of punishment and bewilderment on the NBA.
The problem is that nobody quite knows which direction those things will be directed.
I’m not so much concerned with the player that DeMarcus will become. He’s an absolute barbarian when it comes to his play on the court. He’s usually the biggest and strongest guy out there and knows how to use this to his advantage. This seems like a very simple concept but it’s one that not many players know how to do. Cousins is clearly comfortable with his size. He doesn’t feel overgrown or too fat for these jeans in any way. He’s a powerful guy that enjoys throwing that power around.
His weaknesses are more mental than anything else. He’s a headcase and a bad apple but not in the conventional sense. He doesn’t really get into off the court problems. During his one year at Kentucky, he was a model citizen when it came to life away from Rupp Arena. However, when he was on the court and more importantly walking towards the sidelines, you could routinely see him disagreeing and arguing with his head coach in a way not representative of a gentleman.
I don’t want to say it’s a sense of entitlement with Cousins because that doesn’t seem to be the issue. I think he’s a very strong-willed individual who can butt heads with other strong-willed individuals. Put him in a program with a more easy-going head coach and you’d probably never know that Cousins was considered somewhat of a problem child. Sure, he’d throw the occasional elbow to an opponent’s head and he’d probably get a technical foul for screaming at the referee. But overall, you wouldn’t see him screaming at his coach to go intercourse himself.
I want to you to take a few minutes and review the following two videos. If you have the time, watch both of them in their entirety. However, it’s not necessary to do so. Just watch a couple minutes of each to see the fascinating psyche on display.
DeMarcus Cousins is seemingly brilliant if you ask me. I think he’s probably the most self-aware prospect I’ve ever seen come into the NBA. He knows what he is. He knows what he has been and he knows what he will be. There is no façade with him. There is no image he’s trying to portray. Cousins dances with reporters until he grows agitated by such tomfoolery. And yet, he’s toeing the line of letting his frustration get the better of him or keeping a cool head. It’s a fascinating look into a young man figuring out his professional obligations in real time.
However, in the paraphrased words of Dave Chappelle he’s pretty much delaying the inevitable of seeing what happens when keeping it real goes bad.
DeMarcus isn’t going to pull punches or sugarcoat anything. He has an opinion of how things are and he doesn’t fill the need to filter much. He’s too intelligent to just come out and say what’s on his mind when he can sense it will be twisted or used against him at a later date. If anything, he’s constantly reminding himself of his own Miranda Rights. He’s going to try to not say anything that will be used against him in a court of public opinion later on.
I don’t know that any of this is a problem either. But I also can’t say it won’t be a problem. With DeMarcus Cousins you’ll get a demonstrative entity capable of ruling the NBA paint. It’s not so much a question of how good is he? It’s more of a question of how good will he allow himself to be?
Throwing him into a frontcourt with Al Jefferson, Kevin Love and Darko Milicic (assuming he re-signs) is a potential path of destruction and a Batman utility belt full of interior options.
If you need to go all offense, you can run Jefferson and Love together. Yes, it’s defensive equivalent of interior saloon doors but at the same time, no one can theoretically stop their post scoring as they continue to mature next to each other.
If you want more of a balance, you can throw out the combination of Cousins and Jefferson or Cousins and Love together. Both work in amazing ways. Cousins can account for any defensive liabilities Love or Jefferson might pose. He can guard the strongest post player on the floor or allow Jefferson and/or Love to guard them and provide stellar weak side help. On offense, you can put both Jefferson and Cousins in the post and let them take turns pulverizing the interior. Or you can play the high-low game with Love and Cousins and watch opposing big men weep in frustration.
And on those possessions in which you need to go all defense for big stops, you can run Cousins and Darko out there together and watch them bully opposing offenses.
DeMarcus Cousins is a once in a generation level talent on the inside with a perennial bust level attitude. Rarely do we ever see guys possess both of these traits. He’s a roll of the dice in many ways because you don’t know if he’s going to be an All-Star player for your team or the next team he plays for. He’s definitely not a guy you see sticking with one organization for the majority of his career. He’s likely to be a floater in this league in the mold of a Rasheed Wallace or Zach Randolph. He would have fit in perfectly with those early millennium Blazers team.
What David Kahn will have to decipher is whether they can risk being the team he unleashes his inevitable path of destruction upon.
Because one way (opposing team) or the other (his team), it’s going to happen.