Archives For J.J. Barea

J.J. Barea sat in front of his locker reading down a ripped box score sheet after the game. Nikola Pekovic leaned over to look at it and a member of the PR team walking by offered a crisp, freshly printed one to Pek. “I don’t need it,” he said, and returned to putting his socks on.

Barea looked at it another minute, then crumpled it up and threw it on the floor. Continue Reading…

This move Kevin Love worked on in the offseason isn't great. (Getty)

This move Kevin Love worked on in the offseason isn’t great. (Getty)

I tried. I really tried to churn out some thoughts on the Wolves losing to CSKA Moscow on Monday night and just nothing appeared. The effort was there for me trying to write about what was an on-the-surface embarrassing loss to a really talented Euroleague team. But ultimately, I just didn’t care enough about the result or what we saw on the court from a team standpoint.

And really, that was the problem with the Wolves in that game as well. I’m not sure they cared enough about their opponent throughout the 53 minutes of action to really want to do what they were supposed to do. There were individual players like Derrick Williams, Othyus Jeffers, A.J. Price, and Ronny Turiaf that appeared to give a damn. They fought through as much as they could against CSKA Moscow and nearly walked away with a victory. But there were too many mental mistakes, too many lazy offensive sets, too many poor defensive rotations throughout the game to end up defeating a quality opponent.

Make no mistake about it either; CSKA Moscow was a quality opponent. They have six guys (seven if Sonny Weems is playing) that can play in the NBA right now. The rest of their team is full of solid players as well. It’s an opponent that even the third string of the Wolves should be able to close out, but you have to have a full game of effort in order to do that. The Wolves didn’t have that and it showed both in their play and in the way Rick Adelman discussed the game afterward.

That wasn’t the case Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors.  Continue Reading…

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…