The Wolves’ street-clothes squad boasts a pretty impressive resume. You’ve got multiple All-Star appearances, a Defensive Player of the Year, a former Most Improved Player candidate, even some MVP votes. What’s more, whoever has been dressing Nikola Pekovic deserves a firm handshake. That fitted herringbone blazer? the deep pink tie? the open-collar-plus-gold-chain combo? Dynamite.
In contrast, no one would say that the Wolves’ actual active roster is brimming with talent. In essence, you have a future-superstar with a sub-40% shooting percentage leading a crew of backups and D-Leaguers. This is a team that can compete for victories under certain circumstances–like when the Washington Wizards lay a total egg on the road, or when, say, the Spurs rest all of their good players–but that on most nights has very little chance to win. (I should mention: no shame in being a backup or a D-Leaguer. The NBA is much the better for the Dante Cunninghams and J.J. Bareas and even the Chris Johnsons of the world.)
I needed to wash away the stank the Chicago Bulls defense put on the Minnesota Timberwolves last night so I decided to check out the final moments of the Pacers-Wolves game from Friday night. There were a couple of hilarious things off to the side on George Hill’s step-back 3-pointer to tie the game and Chase Budinger’s game-winning layup.
First, let’s look at the 3-pointer by George Hill. To start out, let’s recognize how dirty this move by Hill is. He pulls the ball back between his legs to get Dante Cunningham off-balance, then starts moving forward again before he steps back about two feet to shoot a game-tying 3. That’s just unfair. Dante played that possession extremely well and still ended up looking bad. Somehow, George Hill’s ACLs remain intact too.
But something funny happened on the play. Check out the video and notice the spotlight of Lance Stephenson on the bench:
For some reason, Stephenson tripping over the feet of teammate Jeff Pendergraph and then seeing Frank Vogel look down on him, probably wondering what the hell he was doing on the ground just killed me. I’ve watched this sequence maybe 15 times today and can’t stop laughing about it.
Secondly, let’s look at the game-winning play by Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger. The patience of AK47 was fantastic and the coincidentally heady play of Chase to crash the boards on an assumed shot, only to find himself wide-open for a pass was just fun to witness. Check out Hill’s reaction to the play in real time though. It’s not even over yet and he can’t believe what happened.
We all knew Gerald Green was hilariously asleep on the play and lost where Chase was. But I didn’t notice Hill wondering what the hell Green was doing before the game-winner had even left Chase’s hands. Again, watching this a bunch of times today left me laughing at the final moments of an awesome game.
I’m sure I wouldn’t be as entertained by it if the roles were reversed and the Wolves lost that game, but alas, we have the good fortune of getting to laugh about a great win for the team.
Now let’s never speak of the Bulls’ game again. Stupid Nate Robinson…
As I alluded to last night, one of the most encouraging elements of the Wolves nice start has been their basic competence on defense. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re a Wolves’ fan of long standing you know the thrill in the blood induced by those simple words. Great defense isn’t truly satisfying until you’ve been made to watch (and cheer for) hours and days of awful defense; and lord knows we have. Its true that the team hasn’t played many offensive juggernauts so far–of the Wolves’ five opponents, only the Nets have managed to crack the top-25 in offensive efficiency. Still: the Wolves are allowing just .93 points per possession, good for seventh in the league. That is happy news no matter who you’re playing.
Ah yes, Gerald Green. I remember him. The stunningly talented, emotionally immoderate young wing the Wolves landed in the Kevin Garnett haul. The slam dunk champion at the exact moment of the contest’s baroque low-point. The totally vacant defender. The unconscionable gunner, preening and exultant after making a jumper and inconsolable after missing.
More recently, we found him willing the Pacers to victory over the Wolves this preseason, showering his former team with impossibly reclining fades and zero-angle turnarounds. Late October, the final minutes of blowouts, random chunks of early second-quarter: these are Gerald Green’s moments. So it was striking, and a striking testament to Indiana’s lack of backcourt depth, to see Green on the floor preparing to defend in the final seconds of Friday’s tie game. Striking also–but unsurprising to anyone familiar with the above antics–to see how egregiously he lost track of Chase Budinger on that last possession, allowing the Wolves’ guard to stroll unimpeded from the three-point line to the hoop, receive a pass from the well-guarded Andrei Kirilenko and softly lay the ball in as the horn sounded.
Mike Brown ruined my day and I forgot about this preview.
Well, I guess Mike Brown didn’t ruin my day. It was more the Lakers’ fault. When Brown got fired, I was prepared to post this preview, head to the gym, and keep the revolution moving on in Assassin’s Creed III after I played some basketball. Instead, the feces hit the fan and I ended up writing about why Mike D’Antoni would make sense with the Lakers’ current crop. Give it a read if you don’t mind. Actually, you don’t have to read it; just click if you don’t mind.
But the Mike Brown noise made me think about how lucky this Wolves team is right now. The Lakers should have gone after Rick Adelman during the 2011 offseason. He was there for the taking, and I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have taken the job if offered before the Wolves got involved with their coaching search. Instead, the Lakers grabbed Mike Brown, gave him a year, gave him a new team, and gave him a pink slip after five games in his second year.
We don’t have to worry about coaching for a while. Adelman is one of the best in the league and he’s our team’s coach for at least the next three years. After that, there will probably be a succession plan in place. If Adelman wasn’t here, I’m not sure who would be the coach but certainly wouldn’t be a coach with the acumen that Rick has. I’m not sure Kevin Love would be happy or the new role players would be here or Pek would be blossoming at this point in his career, if at all.
We may still be in a good place as a franchise with someone else, but I don’t think we’d be as excited as we are. So it’s nice that the Lakers screwed up and we benefited from it. Continue Reading…
Despite much searching, I wasn’t able to catch Friday night’s preseason loss to the Pacers in Indiana, bringing to mind that old Buddhist paradox: if the Wolves lose in the preseason and I can’t watch it on TV, does it make a sound? Apparently it did, because our friends at 8 Points 9 Seconds have a nice little summary of the decisive action:
An early lead dwindled to 1 by the end of the 1st, then became a double digit deficit after Minnesota hung a 13-2 run on the Pacers to start the second. The teams went to the half with Minny up 11, but that was quickly erased as the Pacer starters (playing against the Minnesota bench) scored the first 10 points of the third.
The T-Wolves pushed it back to 6-to-8 points, and held that lead for the rest of the quarter, entering the 4th with a 7-point cushion. Trailing by 7 with just over 10 minutes left, a unit led by the backcourt of Ben Hansbrough and Gerald Green rattled of 19 straight points to give the Pacers the lead for good. Hansbrough, who finished the game with 10 points, collected 4 of his 7 assists during the 4-minute stretch, while Green scored 5 points and dished an assist. The big man tandem of Miles Plumlee and Jeff Pendergraph combined for 10 points and 4 rebounds, and fun was had by all.
Ah yes, the dreaded Hansbrough/Green/Plumlee/Pendergraph quartet. Here are some other things you should know:
Kevin Love played 12 minutes; Brandon Roy played 8 minutes; Big Pek played 12; JJ Barea played 16; Luke Ridnour, Andrei Kirilenko, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and George Hill did not play. Thus the decidedly D/Summer League flavor of the box score.
Derrick Williams did play, though. He played a lot: 38 minutes to be exact, scoring 25 points on 9 of 19 shooting. Here’s what Rick Adelman had to say about that (via the Star Tribune):
I thought [Williams] played pretty good…What I liked about him was he made two or three efforts. He’d go to the basket, they’d bother him and he’d go right up and get it. That’s good to see. … If he plays that hard all the time at both ends, that’s a completely different circumstance for him.
This is amazing news for the Wolves. An aggressive, efficient Derrick Williams could make the difference between the Wolves remaining an oddly formed curiosity and a legitimately threatening team. Keep doing this, please.
Look at the ridiculous stuff Gerald Green was doing to the Wolves. And it even looks like Shved was sticking him pretty hard on some of those. Man Pacers fans, get ready for an amazing ride.
It wasn’t a pretty preseason opener in many ways, but the Wolves got to debut some new faces and beat up on an incomplete Pacers team for the victory.
Between the poor 3-point shooting, the grainy Fargo television feed coming through NBA League Pass, lots of turnovers, and a lot of missed free throws, it would have been pretty easy to want to look away from our first glimpse at what the Wolves have to offer this year. Plus, D.J. Augustin was the main point guard for Indiana due to George Hill sitting out and nobody wants to watch him play starter’s minutes. However, we got to watch Wolves basketball once again and it was pretty fun to see the new direction the team is going.
I’m not going to try to find an overarching storyline with a preseason game and look for how it affects the team moving forward. It’s preseason after all. So let’s just try to look at what each individual player did and file it away for later use. Continue Reading…
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Michael Gerard Tyson
Forget the Danny Granger incident in the third quarter.
We can pretend this was a turning point in the game and that it fired Granger up to lead his team over our beloved Wolves. We can pretend he wasn’t already in the process of torching Beasley, Wes, Martell and anybody else that was unfortunate enough to run into the 2007 version of the Pacers’ leading scorer. We can pretend Granger didn’t wait for Beasley and Webster to step between him and Love before he showed he wanted a piece of Love.
Everybody is a tough guy when there is no chance of actually fighting. Continue Reading…
Size matters. Size doesn’t matter. It’s not the size but how you use it.
These all may be hilarious euphemisms we like to throw around like cackling adolescents whenever we talk about wingspan, height, and the overall height charting of various frontcourts but in the NBA, the size you have and the way you use it couldn’t be more prevalent. This isn’t to take anything away from Kobe Bryant and his accomplishments over the last five seasons, but I don’t think we’d see a return to Laker glory without Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom being bigger and longer than every other frontcourt they faced in the NBA. Continue Reading…
It’s strange to see Lazar Hayward standing on the court next to other NBA players. The slightly stiff, deliberate way he moves and his modestly preportioned body make him appear to be an emissary from the world of normal people, a world of reasonably sized arms and recognizably human leaping ability. (None of this holds true when you’re standing next to him though; then he looks much more like a professional basketball player than any normal people I know).
So it’s been edifying to see him, over the last few games, make actually meaningful contributions to the team’s effort. Hayward will probably never be confused with a slashing, dynamic finisher; he still looks a little overwhelmed by the awesome size and speed that reigns in traffic and around the basket. But recently, Hayward has also been showing off his crisp, clean shooting stroke and, much like Wayne Ellington and Anthony Tolliver, has played with a hunger and exuberance typical of the Wolves’ second unit during this recent shorthanded stretch.