Archives For JJ Barea

I really can’t believe the comeback that happened tonight for the Wolves in Brooklyn. Without their two best players, Minnesota went on the road, got down by 22 on unbelievable shooting from the Nets, and still managed to pull out a victory.

Alexey Shved and his new haircut became a real pro player tonight, Dante CunningHAM continued to woo us with his incredible energy and valuable movement off the bench, and the 3-point field goals finally began to fall. This is such a cliché but this was a total team effort on all counts. They were getting blown out as a team and came back as a team. Their mistakes were corrected during the course of the game and the regression eventually smacked the mean in the face and challenged it to a duel at ten paces.

Rick Adelman can’t receive enough credit for the coaching job he did. He trusted guys who were getting the job done, and gave them the tools and scheme to get it done. Check out the night’s grades after the jump.

(Note: if you’re not seeing grades show up, try looking in Firefox. There have been issues with Chrome and the recap generator.)

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This is what effort looks like.

This is also what the difference between playing a top defense and a young team that struggles at defense looks like.

The payoff is somewhere in between these two realities.

Yes, the Detroit Pistons are a bad team and it’s preseason. These are all things to take into account until November 2nd gets here and we get to duel at 10 paces with the Sacramento Kings. But we should still love the effort we saw from a Love-less basketball team. Continue Reading…

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…

The Wolves’ 3-point shooting last season was pretty atrocious.

Despite being 23rd in the NBA in 3-point percentage, the Wolves just kept chucking up shots from long range. They finished sixth in the NBA in attempts from downtown, even when you adjust for pace. Perhaps one of the reasons the Wolves kept shooting them was because of a confidence built up the previous season.

In the 2010-11 debaclypse season, the Wolves were deadeye shooters as a team. They shot 37.6% from 3-point range, much better than the 33.2% they managed in the lockout season. They had the fifth best percentage off the 10th most attempts. They liked to fire from deep and they were good at it. In fact, it was really the only thing they were good at.  Continue Reading…

How do you solve a problem like Barea?

Okay, J.J. Barea wasn’t really a problem last year, but he also wasn’t a solution in the way we hoped he might be.

Let’s get the negative out of the way first. In his first season with the Wolves, Barea was riddled with injuries throughout a good chunk of the season and he dribbled the life out of the basketball when he was on the court. The injuries didn’t seem like anything major that should mar his future seasons with the Timberwolves. He was banged up and pulling muscles you don’t want to pull, but he wasn’t suffering knee injuries or having chronic back problems. It’s possible they just happened. It’s possible they were related to the lockout and not being prepared for the regular season. Whatever the injuries were related to, it’s nothing that alarms me as him being an injury prone player.

It seemed pretty obvious — and Barea would be the first to admit this — that he had a problem adjusting to the new team/system/teammates in his initial moments of the season. He didn’t quite seem to know how to find the balance of what he should do on offense. Instead of moving the ball when he was faced with this unfamiliarity, he dribbled. And dribbled. And dribbled. AND DRIBBLED SOME MORE. It got to the point that you wanted him to shoot or get off the pot. Continue Reading…

Jose Juan Barea, or “JJ” as I like to call him, deserves a lot of praise for the job he’s tried to do since Luke Ridnour joined Ricky Rubio in the trainer’s room.

These are unusual minutes for him. In his entire career, he’s played just 30 minutes or more 36 times (counting last night). That’s 36 times in just six seasons. 26 of those came in his five years with the Dallas Mavericks. He’s not used to this kind of load with minutes played and the responsibility of running a team that comes with them. It’s easy to dismiss this reality for him and say that he’s an NBA point guard and should be capable of doing this with the money he’s getting to be here.

However, that’s just not how the NBA often works. Guys need routines and they need specific roles that they’re accustomed to. For Barea, he’s always been the scorer off the bench that is inserted for measured minutes to spark the offense. I wrote when the signing happened that he’s here to be a change of pace running back type of player for the Wolves and that’s what he was until Ricky Rubio went down.

He’s played at least 30 minutes or more the last eight games and he’s trying to adapt to new responsibilities with the team. While it’s tired him out, bloodied his lip and made him the lone creator on offense for a few games in a row, he talked after the loss to Memphis about how much he’s enjoyed this change of a role and being able to fight alongside his teammates.

I think we can all agree that the Indiana loss was as pathetic as we’ve seen all season. It was a dead moment from the beginning and even an 18-0 run in the fourth quarter couldn’t keep this team from losing by fewer than 23 points. But in the last two home games now, we’ve seen an incredible fight in this young MASH unit that we’ve all been hoping to see.

It hasn’t led to any victories yet. The April losing streak still continues and is sitting ugly at 27 straight right now. However, it seems like this team is figuring out how to fight when there is nothing more than pride and momentum to play for.

This Memphis team is still rounding back into form with getting Zach Randolph back to himself, and yet they’re still a much better team than anything this group of Wolves should be able to handle. Minnesota was right there in the thick of the fourth quarter last night with a chance to steal a home victory though. When Anthony Tolliver’s 3-point play was taken away for an odd offensive foul call, it changed the momentum of a potential victory.

Now the Wolves needed to answer back after hoping to build a four-point lead with 3:49 left and they fell short. The shots stopped falling and turnovers occurred. They couldn’t guard Rudy Gay over the final four minutes of the game. And yet, JJ Barea had this squad within three points and less than a minute to go.

At a certain point, you look at this roster and realize with the injuries this is all you can really ask for – a chance to win and hope for the losing streak to end.

Since Luke went down with his ankle injury, Barea has been clawing and troubleshooting his performances as the lead guard on the court. He’s averaged 16.1 points, 9.1 assists, 3.8 turnovers and 34.8 minutes per game. He’s shooting 43.1% from the field and 48.8% from 3. This isn’t some jaw-dropping line by any means. They’re good numbers for a starting point guard but they aren’t numbers that make you feel comfortable with situation at hand.

What they show is that JJ Barea has decided to help fight for this team. Whether guys like Beasley, Wes, Martell, and Randolph will step up doesn’t really matter. Their production will come and go but Barea is going to fight with whomever is willing to step to the front of the line. I don’t know that it means much heading into next season. Ideally, Ricky will be back, Luke will be his backup and Barea will be the change of pace running back off the bench. We will hopefully never rely on Barea to fill in this role in the next three years.

That doesn’t mean that right now it’s not nice to see someone on this team step up and play for pride. I actually have hope that either the Pistons or the Warriors will fall to the Wolves in the next five days and we’ll no longer have to count consecutive April losses.

JJ Barea is managing his way through his new role and he’s enjoying the experience of fighting alongside his teammates right now. And I actually am enjoying watching that.

This one was not so fun.

Game six of the seven-game road trip looked like this team was just tired of being away from the Target Center. The energy was low, the effort was inadequate and the Wolves just seemed like they wanted out of there. I don’t really blame them. Not having Pekovic and Rubio has taken a toll on this team. The inside of the lane is a lot harder to patrol for the Wolves on both ends. The top of the defense is trying, but they’re just not the same without Rubio and his elastic wingspan deterring basic passes around the perimeter and into the post.

Gregg Popovich probably knew exactly how this game was going to go. Without Pekovic inside, he was going to make Love be a primary defender against the older but still effective Tim Duncan. If the Wolves fought back early, he’d probably unleash Manu and Parker drives all night. If not, he’d let Timmy break the will of Minnesota by showing them that even this old man could kick their butts on any given night. The Spurs had their perimeter attack waiting in the wings (no pun intended… okay, maybe it was a little intended) to unleash on a tired and road weary Wolves team. The Spurs are number one in the league in 3-point percentage and they’ll break your backs and runs with it.

In the end, the Wolves just were outmanned and out-energized for this game. One more Friday night in OKC before they get to come home and reacquaint themselves with home briefly. Grades after the jump. Continue Reading…

I’m not the biggest video game nerd in the world, but I used to go nuts over playing Mega Man. There was something so captivating about a guy in a little blue, pixelated suit, trying to shoot Kix cereal at bad guys coming at you from right to left.

Maybe I was just a huge Running Man fan as a child because there was the Light Bright guy trying to saw the Terminator in half or something. I’m not quite sure what the allure was. But I had a really fun time jumping and shooting at attackers from all angles. When they had a sequel of Mega Man in which you could earn powers and become a guy wielding wind or fire or earth or the Temptations, it was hard for me to imagine having more fun playing a video game as a kid. They had taken such a simple concept and added options for attack.

Mega Man had so many weapons now and it was fun to experiment with them on different levels and see which ones got you through the battles on any given pixelated plane. It’s a lot like watching Kevin Love the last two seasons. Kevin Love is the Mega Man of the NBA. He’s unassuming from the outsider’s perspective. You wouldn’t expect the evolution of a stretch-4 to be looking at your right in the face when you see him. Continue Reading…

Do you remember the Wolves-Lakers game in March from last season?

The Wolves didn’t know it yet, but they were in the early stages of a 15-game losing streak to end the season and clinch the worst record in the NBA. What stood out that game was Wes Johnson went off against Kobe Bryant. He scored early and he scored often, totaling 29 points on 11/21 shooting. Kobe had an off night, partly due to Wes’ defense on him, scoring just 18 points on 7/16 shooting. It was a beacon of hope at the end of a tumultuous season.

Then this season happened and Wes has been so bad shooting the basketball that people (myself included) wonder why he’s even out there. His confidence has seemed shot and he wasn’t attacking the basket like he promised before the season started.  Continue Reading…

That was the weirdest and most fun comeback I’ve experienced in a long time.

There was no reason for the Wolves to win that game last night and maybe that’s why the comeback was so fun. Everything was working against Minnesota for so long in that game, that the comeback never really seemed real to me until the final minute of the game. The Wolves were essentially without three of their starters for most of this contest, even though they logged a combined 99 minutes in the game.

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic were not good last night. Rubio looked slow and incapable of running the offense. He made a couple of 3-pointers, but he seemed more intent on earning foul calls than getting quality shots in the second half. Nikola Pekovic was playing on a bum ankle, but didn’t seem to be really affected by it. He just couldn’t make shots inside, no matter how many times he grabbed the rebound. And then there was Kevin Love.

Before the game, Love talked about how he’s wiped out physically. During the first few minutes of the game, it looked like something was seriously wrong with him. When Utah jumped out to an early lead, Adelman called a timeout to quell the storm. As Love came to the bench, he was completely red and sucking in as much oxygen as he could possibly manage. He had his head in a towel with Michael Beasley trying to offer words of encouragement. It looked as though he had an illness, and maybe he did if you consider pure exhaustion to be an ailment.

So there the Wolves were; getting their teeth kicked in by an impressive frontcourt. First 20 points of the game for Utah were scored in the paint. They were bullying Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic like it was two Darkos. Passes were being picked off, dribbles were being lost and the easiest of interior shots were complicated endeavors.  Continue Reading…