Archives For Kevin Martin

It was easy to say that the Wolves’ horrifying struggles in close games were a statistical anomaly. In the abstract, we always knew that a few lucky bounces were all that separated the Wolves from a record more befitting their point differential. (Seriously, how strange is it that for all of this team’s problems, they could easily be sitting in the fifth or sixth seed right now?) But after seeing how this team has performed in close games it became much harder to imagine how they would actually manage to win one. This wasn’t just bad luck; there are actual reasons that the Wolves have been so bad in late-game situations. They are short on shooters, which allows teams to trap ballhandlers and collapse into the paint. Their offense relies on getting to the free-throw line and refs tend to swallow their whistles late in games. They are given to moments of insane decision-making.  They are simply inconsistent in their execution on both ends of the floor.

It’s not as if any of these things changed on Friday evening in Oakland. In the final three minutes of this impossibly close game, the Wolves did the following: committed a turnover on an entry pass; nearly committed a shot-clock violation; missed a wide-open three; fouled a three-point shooter; committed a foul in the backcourt, up one with 30 seconds to go while in the penalty.

But, somehow, they made just enough plays to win the game, and a road game against a playoff team at that. Ricky Rubio made a midrange jumper after Love fought through a triple team to shovel him the ball. Brewer hit an incredibly cold-blooded, contested corner three. They were able to get the ball out of Stephen Curry’s hands on the final key possessions. Finally, Kevin Martin hit a clutch, last-second jumper, the first such shot for the Wolves, really, since the season’s first game. Make no mistake: this was a huge win for the Wolves and, at the risk of undue optimism, one that could set them on a new path.

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Kevin Martin

Despite scoring 105.1 points per 100 possessions, the 10th-best mark in the NBA, and despite the dominance of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic (especially recently) on that end of the floor, it’s easy to spot flaws in Minnesota’s offensive attack. Rick Adelman’s bunch currently ranks 25th in effective field goal percentage (47.9%) and 23rd in three-point shooting (34.7%). Their reliance on getting to the free throw line (only Houston and the Clippers get there more often) is an adequate staple to the Wolves’ offensive diet, but the paradox is still unnerving. The Timberwolves have a moderately successful offense, but are bad at making shots. How can that be? Continue Reading…

Rubio Layup

By now, you know all the gaudy accolades Kevin Love is stockpiling. If you don’t know them by heart, it’s owed to information overload rather than apathy. Love was the first player in NBA history with 160 points, 80 rebounds and 30 assists in his first six games of the season (according to the Elias Sports Bureau). He’s first player in NBA history with at least four 3-pointers, 19 rebounds and seven assists in a game (via Sportando). Lengthy homages are paid to his outlet passing. He and Ricky Rubio teamed up for one of the best ESPN basketball commercials in recent memory. Countless, terrific features are being written about him by very talented people. His re-emergence as a dominant force, following a lost season in 2012-13, has been the talk of the league through its first three weeks.

If you care to branch out a bit, you may learn about Corey Brewer, who is garnering attention for being on the receiving end of many of Love’s patented outlets, as well as for bringing energy to the floor every single night. You might consider the blazing start Kevin Martin’s put together, scoring at least 20 points in 9 of the 10 games he’s appeared and hitting nearly half (21/43) of his three-pointers from the left side of the floor. You may have even noticed Nikola Pekovic getting in on the fun, the $60 million man recovering from a slow beginning to average 17.3 points and 8.8 boards on nearly 74% shooting over his past four games.

But why not dig even deeper? The Wolves average more than 102 possessions per 48 minutes — Minnesota’s offense is more than Corey Brewer in transition, Nikola Pekovic in the paint, Kevin Martin shooting threes and Kevin Love doing everything. So what else happens? What can we learn about the team by focusing on a couple of the lesser-known, quirkier elements of their offensive attack? Continue Reading…

WolvesTrio

I would like to preface this post with the fact that I have full confidence in Rick Adelman’s coaching abilities, fully believe in his philosophies when it comes to basketball, and think his offensive system is superb. I will never pretend to know as much about basketball theory or even half of the practical applications of said theories in comparison to Rick Adelman.

The offense of the Minnesota Timberwolves is crucial. This isn’t so much basketball theory as an expectation of what’s in store for us this season. I’m not breaking any ground in telling you that the Wolves have to be good on offense. This isn’t news to anybody reading this site. The Wolves need to score points and we expect that they’ll need to score a lot of points in order to neutralize whatever shortcomings are there on defense. We felt this way going into last season. Points wouldn’t be the problem; defense would.

Turns out that was backwards but mostly due to an injury rash that turned into an injury flesh-eating bacteria. Kevin Love went down. Ricky Rubio came back but missed significant time while needing a month or two to get back to where he needed to be. Brandon Roy never materialized. Chase Budinger went down for the middle of the season with love handles on each side of that middle. Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko were sporadically banged up. The season fell apart before we could even see how it fit together.

And that’s why the offense of the Wolves is so crucial this year. I think we see frustration this early from Rick Adelman for two reasons: Continue Reading…

WolvesCelticsMontreal

This picture has nothing to do with what I wrote about. (Getty)

Trying to find something to write about coming off of a preseason game against a bad team is really hard to do.

I could go through and critique the play of guys that are doing basic things in basic schemes and playing in a basketball environment that really won’t be similar to the regular season style we see in a week and a half. But really, it’s not actually analyzing anything of substance and it kind of just wastes everybody’s time. Finding a hook for these games outside of “I wonder if Othyus Jeffers and Robbie Hummel have shown enough to make the team” is pretty tough.

However, I saw a brief conversation on Twitter tonight after the game that actually fired up some of those writing juices and made me want to look at a small sample of something the Wolves did and extrapolate that as a bigger basketball theory. Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN posed this subject after the victory Sunday night:  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…

8Wolv100113

Ah, training camp. A time when the heady mix of a long-forgotten feeling merges with the barely-glimpsed ghost of actual on-court play to create its own admixture of hope and anxiety about the future. Take that, Deadspin.

But seriously: Practice ran long yesterday, resulting in a clutch of media perched by the front window of the Taylor Center on the lovely (no, seriously, the autumn colors were lovely) campus of Mankato State University and doing things like this: Continue Reading…

DWilliamsChange

It makes sense that Derrick Williams’ weight over the last year has been fluctuating so much because he’s being treated like a prizefighter that can’t decide on a weight class.

The 2011 No. 2 pick has been trying to find his place on an NBA court since he entered the league and joined the Minnesota Timberwolves. With the team already employing the best power forward in the NBA, his place in the rotation has been spotty at best. He’s been fighting for minutes while reshaping his body to give him a better chance of being a versatile, multi-positional player that Rick Adelman can’t look past when he’s looking down the bench for the next substitution. Heading into camp last year, Williams had dropped some weight in hopes of becoming a small forward next to Love. That idea only lasted for a short while. Continue Reading…

Brew

Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic were sporting the white side of the practice jerseys against a team of J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Robbie Hummel, Derrick Williams, and Dante Cunningham.

As media availability for the first practice of training camp began, the likely starting lineup for the Wolves to begin the regular season was actually losing to a second unit by a few points. With Jack Sikma reminding Nikola Pekovic that he was going to have to leave the key some time on offense to avoid a violation, the starting Wolves set up their offense. There was some motion across the lane and Pek found himself defended on the block by Cunningham. Because of his strength and size advantages, Pek had deep post position as he received the post-entry pass from Brewer. Immediately, Williams dropped down from the wing to double up on Pek.

Pekovic absorbed the double-team’s attention, kicked it right back out to Brewer, who was waiting on the left win above the break, and the Wolves had a spot-up 3-point attempt rip through the net. This was the first bit of training camp action that I got to see from the Wolves and it nearly knocked me deeper into my seat. Healthy players. Kick-out passes to shooters that resulted in points. This seemed like a pretty cool way to kill some time in Mankato Tuesday afternoon.  Continue Reading…

BareaInquisitive

With a couple days until the Minnesota Timberwolves kick off their 2013 Media Day and officially get going on starting the new season, we’re still finding things to pass the time. Some people may be doing it with Grand Theft Auto V or even by reading my Rabbit Hole posts on CBSSports.com (shameless plug!). Some people are wrapped up in the NFL season and the close of the baseball season. And some of us are ranking players on various platforms.

ESPN.com is pumping out the NBARank project right now with more than 100 bloggers, writers, and media pundits giving each player a score on a scale of 1 to 10. Then those scores are averaged out for each player and that’s how we get their rank. There are 500 players ranked each season and it gives an interesting look into how the collective can come to certain conclusions about every player around the league. It doesn’t make the rankings definitive by any means but it certainly gives you a good idea of how the basketball coverage community views the players.

NBARank is past the halfway point in the rankings, so I thought it might be a good idea to check out which Wolves players fell from 190-500. Again, these rankings are not definitive and you’ll find that some players just don’t get paid attention to by the collective, leading to a ranking that is often too low for some guys. But this will kill some time so let’s check out some of the Wolves players.  Continue Reading…