Archives For Michael Beasley

I like to talk about how a game’s unfolding–its ebbs and flows, the processes that shape its outcome, the feeling and texture of the performances–are more interesting to me, and ultimately more important than its final result. And I’ll stick to that assertion. Nevertheless, and despite any pretensions to journalistic professionalism (which, not too many)  I will admit this: I really want the Wolves to win.

I desperately, nauseously wanted them to win when KG was hammering away at the Lakers and Kings. I wanted them to win when they were slouching toward the lottery under Wittman, McHale and Rambis, draft positioning be damned. I wanted them to win when Rubio and Love were lighting hearts on fire. And although there’s supposedly nothing to play for at the moment, although the Wolves are fielding a raggedy crew of misfits and loners, many of whom likely won’t wear a Wolves uniform again after Thursday, I still want them to win now.

And so despite it all, despite the fact that I’m a grown man watching a bunch of young dudes play a game on TV, watching the Wolves, for the second time in a month, fritter away a 20-point lead to the grievously undermanned Golden State Warriors, I found myself: groaning, sighing, clasping my face in my hands, noticing feelings of dread rise in my gut. I don’t care that it was the penultimate game of a long-destroyed season; it still felt terrible.

They lost this game because they simply could not score in the second half. (20 points in the third quarter, 13 in the fourth, 25% shooting for the half: that’s about as close to zero as it gets in the NBA.) You can expect that a team that boasts Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush and Charles Jenkins (who is shooting 32.9% over the past 10 games but is evidently the greatest point guard in the NBA when he is being guarded by J.J. Barea) will begin hitting shots at some point in a game. But the Warriors employed what is now a familiar late-game defensive strategy against our Love-less Wolves: choke the Barea/Pekovic pick-and-roll by exaggeratedly sagging into the paint (in the process deterring people like Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph from getting to the rim); wait for the Wolves to start taking and missing outside shots. Full stop.

But I don’t want to burden you with gory details. We all know this crew is capable of some truly ungodly basketball. Let’s talk about the elements of this game that bear some relevance to the Wolves’ future.

Continue Reading…

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone and the Wolves roster looks exactly the same as it did when we woke up this morning. The juiciest rumor had been a proposed three-team deal between the Lakers, Blazers and Wolves that would have sent Michael Beasley to L.A., Luke Ridnour to Portland (along with Steve Blake and LA’s first-rounder) and netted Jamal Crawford for the Wolves. But when we saw that the Lakers had used their picks to score Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill, we had to know that the deal had to be dead.

Now, there’s no question that it might have been nice to see the Wolves improve the roster or net a pick by moving Beasley rather than allowing him to become a restricted free-agent this summer. And it would also have been nice to land Crawford, upgrading their offensive production at the two-guard. But to my mind, the price of that deal was a little high. First of all, while Beasley alone for Crawford might not have a been an exactly equal deal for Portland, Beasley and Ridnour together seems a bit much. Ridnour has actually been a more efficient, though considerably lower-volume, scorer than Crawford over the past three seasons.  He’s also a much better passer and defender, even when giving up multiple inches at the two.

Given that the Wolves claim to be pursuing a playoff spot this season, a starting backcourt of J.J. Barea and Jamal Crawford seems to be conspicuously lacking in an actual playmaker, someone who can consistently serve the ball to Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. And even if it was a Crawford/Rubio pairing the Wolves were ultimately after, Crawford has an opt-out clause in his contract for next season. In other words, the Wolves would have been trading their only healthy true point guard for a high-volume gunner who wasn’t even guaranteed to be around past July.  Seems like they lucked out to me.

I kept waiting for Jonny Flynn to check in.

I’m not even trying to be a smartass here. That game felt a lot like last season and it was a malaise over the team that I just didn’t want any part of anymore. Maybe that’s why it’s taken a day for me to sit down and write this recap. If I don’t write it, if we don’t talk about it, if we pretend everything is just fine then maybe it will go back to how it used to be. But that’s not the reality. The reality is injuries happen and everybody has to deal with it.

To expect the Wolves to lose Ricky Rubio Friday night and then come into the next day’s game without a practice and without a shoot around and still come out with fire seems a little unfair. The Wolves had very little time to process the news as a team. There were certain members of the team that probably assumed the worst Friday night. There were guys that didn’t know the news until some time on Saturday. The “grieving process” was truncated much like this season.

Even still, the Wolves had a home game against the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night and there was no reason to lose that game. We all had flashbacks to last season. Kevin Love put up insane numbers once again. His 31 points and 16 rebounds happened almost effortlessly. He tipped in missed shots. He faced up and made jumpers. He got to the free throw line and made nine of those 10 attempts. It was a pretty easy scoring night as he put guys like Lance Thomas and Gustavo Ayon in a hurt locker for much of the game.

Speaking of effortless, the Wolves’ defense seemed to be completely uninspired. They gave up 44 points in the paint to a Hornets team that employs Chris Kaman as the best scoring option. Only eight of his team-high 20 points came inside. The rest were on jumpers from all over the baseline. Marco Belinelli, Gustavo Ayon, and Lance Thomas helped score inside. The Wolves watched the ball move and then reacted. There was little anticipation. Positioning was off-kilter.

Everything was a fog of excrement.

Offensively, it was probably worse. The team turned the ball over 17 times and gave up 25 points off of those turnovers. In the previous 10 games with Ricky, they were averaging 13 turnovers per game and only 15 points off of them. Luke seemed tentative setting guys up early and it set the tone for how the rest of the game finished. Guys didn’t move the ball like they had been doing. Movement without the ball was minimal.

As Inspectah Deck once said, “Life without Ricky shouldn’t be so tough.”

I’m not so sure that the Wolves were running a lot of plays under Ricky. It was basically calling out a pick-and-roll half the time and seeing where his magic carpet ride of passing would take them. Saturday night, that carpet was stuck in neutral and incapable of going anywhere. Broken plays turned into facepalms. Executed sets became bailouts for a horrible Hornets team. The Wolves got out to a decent start offensively because Love and Pekovic were dominating the interior. Once the Hornets closed off offensive rebounding areas, the Wolves had no answer.

Malcolm Lee made his debut and he wasn’t terrible. His defense, especially the help defense, was vaguely energizing. He blocked a couple of shots, got a steal and sealed off driving lanes by Greivis Vasquez. Offensively, he looked like a deer in headlights trying to set the team up. He picked up his dribble early to move the ball to the next station. He had one nice drive to the basket that he ended up missing a layup to finish. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of leadership with him on the floor.

Wayne Ellington had the cobwebs dusted off of him and he scored 12 points off the bench. He was one of the few guys that didn’t hesitate when he got the ball. He just caught it and fired, like you’d expect an NBA shooter to do. It made me think that the Wolves are going to need more of this and more of Beasley initiating offense off the bench if they want to survive the next 24 games.

The Wolves shot poorly (5/23 from 3-point range), only Luke moved the ball (mostly in the fourth), and you rarely saw this team get out in transition to get easy scoring chances.

Maybe this game was a wakeup call for Minnesota. Ricky is gone, this is the worst it can probably get, and the team needs to rally for the rest of the season. Or maybe this is the norm of what we’re going to see – a lot of flashbacks from last season in real time right now. Personally, I’d be shocked if Adelman let this team feel sorry for itself for very long. This isn’t Kurt Rambis sauntering through his workday. This is one of the better NBA coaches of the last 25 years figuring out adjustments for this team.

Here’s hoping we don’t look down the bench anymore out of habit and wonder when Jonny Flynn will get minutes.

You know things are really turning around at the Target Center when John Hollinger—who up to this point had been known to Wolves’ fans for serving up incredulous, though generally reasonable, critiques of the Kahn regime—is giving props. Hollinger points out a rather amazing element to the Wolves’ fortunes: drastically increasing a team’s win total from one season to the next is not unprecedented, but doing it with the same players is. Even more remarkable, the significant new faces that the Wolves have added—Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio—have actually made the team younger.

Some of the explanations Hollinger gives are familiar to us: the Wolves renewed competence and competitiveness on defense; the addition of Rubio as a decision-maker and perimeter defender; Love’s blossoming as a star. But another explanation is maybe so familiar that it was hiding in plain sight. Namely, that the Wolves have replaced minutes and shots for ineffective players with minutes and shots for effective ones:

The neon sign in this case [last season] was “go-to” post option Darko Milicic finishing with a higher usage rate than Ridnour, despite Milicic being one of the least efficient offensive players in basketball and Ridnour being well above average.

Darko wasn’t the only one, though; Michael Beasley also had one of the highest usage rates in basketball despite creating little for teammates and mostly long 2s for himself. It’s as though Rambis thought the contested 17-footer was the pinnacle of offensive achievement. Perhaps he’d just been around Kobe too long.

This season, things are different. You know who leads the Wolves in usage rate? Kevin Love! What a concept! And between Barea, Rubio and Ridnour, most of the touches that aren’t flowing through Love are going through a small, quick guard who can create for others. Beasley and Darko still shoot too much, but their roles and their minutes have been curtailed under Rick Adelman.

Agreed. This calls to mind one of the drawbacks to implementing the triangle offense with such a young and unevenly talented crew. When an offense is predicated so fundamentally on flow and reaction, it can be very difficult to control where the ball goes. The first aspect of this pretty elementary. The post feed is the triangle’s basic initiating action. When Darko Milicic is your starting center, on the receiving end of all of those post feeds, asked to create with his passing and back-to-the-basket skills, you’ll find him handling the ball much more than he ought to.

But the second element is probably even more essential. As we’ve seen with the Bulls and Lakers, when the triangle’s machinations are disrupted (by the defense or poor execution), the ball tends to flow into the hands of the highest usage players on the floor. Not such a bad thing when those players are Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, pretty bad when that player is Michael Beasley.

The Wolves’ inexperience exacerbated that problem. Last season, the Wolves were notorious in their inability to adapt and counter when the defense denied their first option. Far too many of their half-court sets devolved into continuity-deadening isolations for Beasley. They lacked the intuition–an intuition forged mainly by experience–to improvise their way into good shots when the offense broke down, which it very often did. Adelman has brought with him the novel idea that the offense ought to be structured, at least in part, around the principle of creating shots for the team’s best players.


Apologize for the late recap post but we had some issues with the site yesterday, and I’m just now able to get it posted.

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been absent from recap duties and other postings on this site the past week because I was out of town. I went to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston to see what the latest nerds were doing in trying to figure out new ways to quantify sports.

Basketball has always been one of the fuzziest ways to figure out what we’ve just seen and what we’ll see in the future because there are so many variables and intangibles that we haven’t figured out how to measure yet. People argue about PER, Win Shares, plus/minus, adjusted plus/minus and everything under the sun. We don’t know what is good enough for analysis and what isn’t but we do know that advancements in the field are happening every season.

One of the biggest arguments that stats analysts and non-stats analysts have had over the years is about “the hot hand.” Can we really predict if the next shot is going in based on consecutive makes just prior to the next attempt? Do people ever get hot or are they just mathematically trending upward? Whether you believe in the hot hand or not isn’t really relevant to this recap.

Just know that whether he’s hot right now or he’s just trending, Kevin Love has been destroying two really good frontcourts the last two games.  Continue Reading…

“Hanging around. Hanging around. Kid’s got alligator blood. Can’t get rid of him.” – Teddy KGB.

It starts with a run. The Clippers came out of halftime, inexplicably only up three points and looking to put this game away early. A layup from Randy Foye drops in. Blake Griffin hits a jump shot. Randy Foye makes a 3-pointer off of a pass from Blake. The Clippers are carving up a young Wolves’ team with passing and effort. They’re being more physical. They’re quicker to the ball. They’re now up 10 within the blink of an eye.

For some reason this season, the Wolves find a way to stick around. There are plenty of games in which I’ve watched the action unfold before my eyes, then look up at the scoreboard and wonder how Minnesota had kept it so close. They have sneak ways of going on runs immediately after an opponent’s run. And it’s rarely anything but subtle.

Luke Ridnour made a technical free throw after an illegal defense. After a missed 3, an offensive rebound by Rubio and DeAndre Jordan swatting a shot attempt, the Wolves got a stop against the Clippers. Pek gets to the foul line for two, Wes hits a jumper off the Rubio setup, and then Rubio finds Wes in transition for the layup. All of a sudden, the 10-point lead is a two-point deficit and you’re back in the grind of the game.

The story of the mini-runs and the grind it out mentality of this team kept them in it. But the bench certainly won the game for the Wolves tonight.

And the bench. CAUGHT. FIRE.  Continue Reading…

Michael Beasley shows out

Zach Harper —  February 23, 2012 — 6 Comments

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYDzvmoGIcE

The Wolves debuted this video the other night at the Target Center during the game against Philadelphia. It was during a timeout when this hit the jumbotron.

Everybody seemed to be enjoying the singing of the various Wolves players, ironically or not. Then it got to Beas’ part and it was the  awkward extended stay on him trying to figure out the lyrics that lured everybody’s attention to a heightened state. As he started to get into the flow of the song, I looked down at the players coming out of the huddle, some discussing strategy and some looking up at the scoreboard in awe of what Beasley was doing.

I panned my vision over to Beasley, who was busy trying to get assistant coach Jack Sikma to look up at the board to witness the show that was about to explode when Beas remembered the lyrics. Beasley was into it and the rest of the team was too. It was something that could have completely removed focus from Mike and what he needed to do coming out of the timeout. But instead, he seemed to have a little more pep in his step.

I was so enthralled with Beasley’s reaction to himself that I never saw the Pekovic part or knew it happened. That was a pleasant surprise.

The Wolves got Kevin Love a couple of easy baskets against the Houston Rockets during their fourth and final meeting of the season by finding ways to get him moving across the lane and into the strong side of the floor. I thought I’d examine a couple of plays by breaking down how they developed and the options it leaves Minnesota on the floor. I figured I’d get my Sebastian Pruiti on for a little bit.  Continue Reading…

While some might complain about Kevin Love’s suspension being unjust, I’m trying to look at it as a positive thing.

I’ve grown tired of Kevin Love’s complaining to officials this season. I’m fine if he wants to belabor a point or fight for his team verbally during stoppages in play, but when he’s taking an extra second or two to turnaround and complain to a referee that is booking it up the floor to keep up with the action (hint, hint: Kevin you should too), I find it disheartening to see a brief 4-on-5 defensive effort.

It’s not something that happens all the time. It happens maybe two or three times per game at most. It’s not costing the Wolves games either. It’s just a poor decision he makes that puts his team at risk of giving up scores and at a certain point, enough is enough.

The good thing about this suspension is it gives a real test to Nikola Pekovic, Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams to step up and prove their production without the attention defenses pay to Kevin Love. Anybody could argue that everybody on the Wolves benefits from Love’s presence out there and they certainly do to some extent. But that isn’t the reason someone like Ricky Rubio gets a lot of assists or Nikola Pekovic is able to have a presence inside.

With Love out last night, the entire team had a chance to prove themselves and they did a pretty good job. There were times when his absence was felt. The Wolves got sloppy with the ball, forced shots they normally wouldn’t have to take and had to deal with DeMarcus Cousins dominating the boards in the third quarter. However, players stepped up when they needed to and the Wolves dodged a bullet at the end to secure the win. 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…