Archives For J.J. Barea

The title of this post is a lie. I haven’t stopped worrying, nor have I learned to love preseason rankings. But I guess I grudgingly understand why they’re there. Because following basketball closely — and I don’t mean your favorite team, but the whole thing — through its annual cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth is a lot like breaking up with a serious girlfriend every year. Like a five-year relationship compressed and injected into nine months.

It all begins with such promise in November and you don’t really know what’s going on or where it’s going but you just want to enjoy it. So you try to relax into it, thinking how all you’ve got is time. But then it starts getting serious. You stop taking it as it comes and start wondering where it’s going. And then, just like that, it’s over. This is June. Continue Reading…

Rubio leads the offense

On the surface, the question that is the headline of this post may seem preposterous to fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ricky Rubio is one of the best facilitators in the NBA and someone that can turn any offensive weapon into an offensive weapon with an ability to score efficiently. Team him up with Kevin Love and you’ll get a deadly pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll game. You’ll get post-entry passes on point that don’t require Love to give up precious post position. Team him up with Nikola Pekovic and you have one of the better pick-and-roll combinations in the NBA, despite Pekovic not exactly being a threat to drop the hammer down with an alley-oop dunk on the play. And again, the post-entry passes are so choice.

Run one of those fancy pick-and-rolls with Rubio as the initiator while having Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin in the corners and the defense respecting Kevin Love’s ability to stretch the floor and the bulldozer rumbling down the lane that is Nikola Pekovic and it seems like the possibilities for points are endless. Even when you throw some of the bench guys in the game with Rubio and we know Derrick Williams scores better at the rim with Rubio on the court, Dante Cunningham is a great pick-and-pop option in the midrange, and the Corey Brewer-Ricky Rubio fast breaks could be quick and deadly. There’s a lot to love with these combinations.

So what’s with the question in the headline? Continue Reading…

Brooks Stare

The Minnesota Timberwolves need depth at the wings, 3-point shooting, perimeter defense, and could stand to unload one of their three point guards under contract for $4 million-plus a pop (not Ricky Rubio). And since it’s officially dealing season with the NBA Draft hitting us on Thursday, it’s time for rumors that don’t make any sense to start flying.

Remember MarShon Brooks out of Providence? Back in 2011, I really wanted this guy to be on the Timberwolves. The team had the 20th pick in the draft and following their selection of Derrick Williams at No. 2, it seemed like a real possibility the Wolves could get him at 20. Instead of opting for that route, David Kahn started wheeling and dealing to bring in cash to pay for Kurt Rambis’ existing two years left on his deal after being fired accumulate assets and ended up with… well hell, I can’t even keep track of it two years later. I know the Wolves got a bunch of cash, Brad Miller’s hunting gear, and Malcolm Lee.  Continue Reading…

Yes, he's wearing a Mavs uniform, but come on: the thumbs up.

Yes, he’s wearing a Mavs uniform, but come on: the thumbs up.

We’re kicking off our offseason coverage here at A Wolf Among Wolves with a comprehensive roster review of the team from this past season, looking at how each player’s 2012-13 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.

When J.J. Barea gets that steely glint in his eye, the possession is only ending one of two ways, and neither are not shooting. You saw that glint most often this past season somewhere around the mid-third quarter, at the point where the Wolves had let the lead slip enough that it was in jeopardy, or else had fought back enough that it was within striking distance. As Barea received the ball on the inbounds pass, someone on our row of the media section would likely mutter, “It’s going up.” Or maybe as Barea brought the ball across the half-court and held one hand up in a fist, someone would joke, “That’s the number of passes that are going to happen on this play.” Continue Reading…

Its a given that this Timberwolves’ season has been a bitter disappointment. I always believed that prognosticating before the year even began was foolish; the calculus of variables was just too ornate to ever settle confidently on one outcome. I think its safe to say, though, that the year has become something close to the worst-case-scenario. Yes, Andrei Kirilenko returned to his mid-oughts form–at least until fatigue and injury robbed him of a little of his vivacity–and Ricky Rubio has made incredible strides in his recovery. But Kevin Love’s injury, and the plague of injuries to key players that has infected the team all year long, has negated all of that.

Still, it could be so much worse. You could be a Wolves’ fan of four years ago, wondering if Randy Wittman could turn things around, hoping that Randy Foye and Rashad McCants could one day justify their lottery status. Remember that? Or even worse: you could be a Phoenix Sun’s fan right now.  If that were the case, you would have endured a recent 10-game losing streak and a road record of 8-32, not to mention an entire season of Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson. You know what that’s like and it’s no fun. The “core” of your team would be Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley, fine players, to be sure, but nothing to build a team around. Your most recent lottery pick, Kendall Marshall, would look, and play ball, like a member of Das Racist. You would be placing your hopes for the future on the only front office with a claim to being worse on draft day than the Wolves. You would be cheering very hard for PJ Tucker and also for the Morris twins.

Continue Reading…

This nice young man just got his 1,000th win.

In many ways, Rick Adelman’s 1,000th win resembled his 703rd loss. As in Friday night’s game against Toronto, his team enjoyed spells of real ease, in which an overmatched opponent appeared ready to fold the tent and cede the game. In this one, the Wolves cruised to an 11-point lead in the first quarter. They dropped a 12-0 run in the second quarter and a 10-0 run late in the third. But as in their loss to Toronto, they repeatedly gave those leads back with stretches of unfocused play. That is what young teams do I guess, especially one whose primary ballhandlers include an emotional, turnover-prone 22-year-old, a 5’8″ shot-chucking black hole and the fourth Karamazov brother (the skinny, depressed-looking one with the wildly inconsistent shooting mechanics).

Continue Reading…

This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy. And the model Wolves shooter. (Getty Images)

This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy. And the model Wolves shooter. (Getty Images)

It’s that time again.

There was a certain point in which I realized tracking all of the Wolves’ futile 3-point shooting was simply the “rubberneck effect.” You know the rubberneck effect, right? It’s when you’re driving on a freeway and traffic becomes unbearably slow. There’s a sick part of you that wants to know exactly how bad the carnage is. You want to know if it’s going to be like the Red Asphalt videos you had to watch when you went through driver’s training (or maybe that’s just in California; I’m not sure). Or maybe you’ll see an unharmed family looking at their wrecked car and wonder how everybody got out unscathed.

Regardless of what you’re looking for, it’s pretty much the same idea. You’re slowing down to see what the holdup was. Traffic is a mess because people have the same idea you will have when you come across whatever the issue was. You want to see just how bad the damage is that is causing everybody’s day to be delayed by 10-30 minutes. Frustratingly (but lucky) enough, it’s typically nothing. It ends up being a flat tire or someone pulled over on the side of the road because they crossed the carpool lane double lines in front of a highway officer or maybe it’s just ducks crossing the road. Whatever the cause of the delay is, it rarely satiates that sick part of you that thought the worst.

I realized I was going through the rubberneck effect when I was sitting between Britt Robson and Ben Polk the other night. I had my spreadsheet for February up on my laptop and turned to Ben to inform him of the unbelievably low open 3-point shooting numbers. He responded with something like, “Why? Why must you do this to me?” I don’t even know if you guys want to know how bad the shooting is anymore. Ben certainly doesn’t want to know. I think Britt had a sick fascination with knowing the numbers because of how bad they are.

If anything, I think it’s still a cathartic thing for me. I want to see the carnage. I want to see if we had a four-car pileup or if it’s just someone getting pulled over for expired tags. And maybe you suffering through the numbers with me is something you want to do. Everybody likes to feel crappy together, right? Isn’t that what the internet and message boards and comment sections and Twitter were invented for? So we can all revel in the crap-fest of certain aspects of life?

Well the Timberwolves’ 3-point shooting is still a crap-fest. After the month of February, the Wolves were back over 30% from 3-point range. In fact, they were 30.03% after February’s games. So let’s get into the rubbernecking, shall we?  Continue Reading…

Rubio

Teams need wins.

Pretty obvious statement, right?

Obviously teams need wins. Wins produce success. Wins produce playoff chances. Wins produce playoff seeding and possible advantageous match-ups. Wins produce championships. Wins produce confidence and chemistry. Wins produce opportunities. For a team like the Timberwolves, who have struggled so much this season while battling injury after injury, wins produce a sense of relief.  Continue Reading…

RubioBrook

It’s kind of the same old story this season, right?

The Wolves are talented enough to stay competitive with just about any team in the NBA, but they’re not healthy enough to overcome the wave of talent, execution, and production that a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder can throw at you. The Wolves need a special set of circumstances to overcome a team like the Thunder. They beat them earlier in the season, but had the luxury of a home environment at their disposal. They also had a balanced attack from a lot of the players, including J.J. Barea going nuts in the fourth quarter of that game.

This time, the bench carried the Wolves when the starters were largely ineffective. The Wolves got 59 points from four bench players, thanks to Barea, Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham, and Greg Stiemsma stepping up to the challenge. And this was kind of a long time coming from a few of these bench guys. For Alexey, it was the first real good game he’s had since the loss to Memphis. For Stiemer, he hadn’t really produced much since the win over New Orleans. For Dante, it was the first real good game since the loss to Portland.

On a night in which Nikola Pekovic was completely neutralized by the duo of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, the Wolves badly needed the bench to step up and keep things close until the starters could find a rhythm. The problem is the Wolves’ starters never found a rhythm. This often leads to the knee-jerk reaction of shuffling deck chairs on a sinking ship, but I like the balance of the Wolves’ rotation based on what is available to Rick Adelman.  Continue Reading…

RickAdelKahn

The trade deadline is schedule for 2pm CT on Thursday and the Wolves are said to be buyers right now by enticing prospective trade partners with Brandon Roy’s salary relief and a future first round pick. This makes sense for the team if it means they’re adding a piece they can take into next year that helps balance out the roster without taking on too much money. While I don’t believe Glen Taylor to be a cheap owner by any means (when the team is good and producing, he historically spends the money and even flirts with the luxury tax), the Wolves do need to be cognizant of cost right now (more on that in a bit).

So what could the Wolves be targeting?  Continue Reading…