Here it is. This here Vine is the one thing you must know about last night’s 102-101 win over the Miami Heat if you want to know anything. It is the acme of pure joy, the bellwether of future highlights to come, the spark and grace and fun that promises to one day become a regular occurrence for this team.
There were reports about a week ago that the Wolves were working out Hassan Whiteside for one of their final two roster spots. They’ve also been linked to trying to bring back Anthony Tolliver or reaching out toward veteran Mehmet Okur to bring in some much needed depth to the interior.
My initial thoughts are I really want Tolliver back. I loved the presence he provided for the team both on and off the court last season and think his talents, skill set and knowledge of the game greatly benefit the team. He can guard multiple positions, is a threat to knock down outside shots, and is more than willing to give up his body.
He’s the cliché that every coach wants in their reserve guys.
But Tolliver is looking for some money right now, and you can’t really blame him. The Wolves are capped out and exception-free after their flurry of moves this offseason to retool the players surrounding a promising core. The best they can offer Tolliver is the veteran’s minimum. For a player with his experience (four seasons), that’s a contract for roughly $915,000. That may seem like a good enough chunk of change to you and me, but he may be trying to fit into a room or mini mid-level exception somewhere to more than double that amount.
The Wolves simply can’t offer him the money he desires unless they make a trade to free up some cap room. The Wolves are about $2.3 million over the cap right now. Unless they trade Luke Ridnour ($4 million this season) or J.J. Barea ($4.4 million) for a draft pick or non-guaranteed deal, they can’t create the room to sign Tolliver. And really, trading one of those guys to bring in room for AT would be a nonsensical move.
Unless the market for Tolliver dries completely up and he decides to come back to the Wolves for the vet’s minimum, the Wolves will have to move their full attention to Whiteside and Okur. Okur is reportedly (Insider) looking for money that exceeds the veteran’s minimum ($1.3 million for his 10-year service), which means the Wolves are basically out with bringing him in too.
Honestly, I’m fine with that because while Okur may be a decent player still, he’s not the type of guy the Wolves need on their roster. He hasn’t been a decent rebounder in three years and he can’t defend the way the Wolves would need him to.
That leaves us with Hassan Whiteside, who may actually be interested in playing for the minimum salary (roughly $850,000 for his two years of experience).
Hassan Whiteside looks just exactly like a professional basketball player. He is tall and lanky, with smooth, sinewy muscles and impossibly long arms. His elastic strides cover huge swaths of the court; when he leaps, his hands stretch high above the rim; this dude will block your shot. But if his body and movements suggest a familiar, highly developed athletic manhood, his round, boyish face, thick Carolina accent and tentative speech give him away as the near-teenager that he is.
At Sunday morning’s workout for the Timberwolves in Minneapolis, Whiteside looked every bit the slightly lost, not quite confident kid (I love the fact that he just wants teams to know “that I’m a nice guy”). In fact, although he was easily the most highly touted player in the five-man group, Whiteside was overshadowed by the massive Texan Dexter Pittman. Pittman has a soft voice and a charming, agreeable demeanor. When asked about the trait he would most like to impress upon potential coaches and GM’s he offered, “my hungriness,” which sounds really, really hungry. On the grueling whirlwind of cross-country workouts–Miami on Saturday, Minneapolis on Sunday, Oklahoma City on Monday–he quipped that he was on “a nationwide tour like Michael Jackson”. And, oddly, he seemed genuinely excited to play for the Wolves, citing his relationship with the Babcock family, the surprising beauty of the city, plus, and probably most importantly, an affinity for the team’s logo which he approvingly described as “a beast.”
On the court, though, that soft voice turned into a bellow as he battered and bruised his fellow pro hopefuls. Like Whiteside, Pittman didn’t seem particularly comfortable more than ten feet from the basket, but when he got any closer than that he had a pretty easy time bullying his way to the rim, smiling and yelling all the way.
There’s a limit to a person can learn at one of these workouts. As David Kahn explained, you can learn something about a player’s conditioning and “willingness to compete”, about their ability to interact with coaches and perform in certain NBA-specific situations (such as defending the pick-and-roll). You can learn that Pittman has lost nearly 100 pounds in the last three years. And that he has alarmingly large, supple hands, and can one-handedly pick a basketball off the floor and ladle it into the hoop like it was an apple. But these aren’t truly game situations; as a predictive tool for how someone will fare in an 82-game NBA season is notoriously unreliable.
And you don’t learn a whole lot about the fatigue and loneliness that must inevitably set in while these guys cross the country. They are already becoming practiced at the pro athlete’s brash lingua franca, a kind of rote optimism that denies vulnerability and intentionally forgets the past. Pittman’s charm and bravado, for instance, gave no indication that his brother was murdered just over a month ago. And so, as far as insight into the strange, itinerant life of an aspiring draftee, his slightly cryptic, but obliquely revealing one-liners will have to do. How does he handle the fatigue? “It’s just a mental thing,” Pittman replied. Totally.