Archives For Michael Beasley

Now that the Corey Brewer trade demands, or Melo Drama as I like to call it, are over, the Wolves were finally able to get back to some sense of normalcy.

With Corey actually gone from the team, it gave us an opportunity to see Wes Johnson in a more defined role. It’s not like Wes hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do before, but now it’s him and only him as a main option on the perimeter. Personally, I don’t think he disappointed in any way.

Wes didn’t shoot the ball well and he didn’t wow anybody by taking over the game. That’s not his type of game anyway. What he did was make the little plays here and there that you really want a role player to do. His final line shows a 14-point effort on 5/14 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. But it’s the way that he accomplished such a modest line that impressed.

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The title speaks for itself.

These seem to be the options lately for whenever Michael Beasley catches the ball on the perimeter.

At the moment that Kevin Love scored his 10th and 11th points of this game, notching his 38th consecutive double-double, breaking records held by folks like Kevin Garnett and John Stockton, I thought to myself: boy a double-double isn’t really much of a stat is it? After all, Love has shown us more than once that it’s possible to get one (more than one) without actually playing that well.

I was thinking this because up to that point Love looked like the physically un-well man that he apparently was. He was pale, haggard and listless. Despite his rebounding numbers, he was not pursuing the ball off of the glass with his customary anticipation and abandon. He was struggling to shoot the ball with any balance and rhythm against the massively strong, thick-legged Chuck Hayes (everybody does). He was passive and slow on defense, getting smoked both by Luis Scola, the beautifully dissolute-seeming Argentine (understandable) and by Hayes himself (not so much). (By the way, I love that these two are on a team together. If Scola and Hayes were buildings, Scola would be some boozy, debauched 4AM tapas bar while Hayes would be the last remaining rock factory in Gary, Indiana.)

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The Denver Nuggets have been an impressive collection of talent for quite some time. Carmelo Anthony remains one of the league’s premier scorers, Nene’s reliability is criminally underrated and J.R. Smith-the very personification of this volatile unit-is dynamite in sneakers; wildly unstable, yet effectively explosive. Unfortunately, the same carefree demeanor that’s allowed them to fill up stats sheets and highlight reels has continued to define them in moments that demanded far more poise. Plainly put, they’ve never been considered a contender because they’ve never been able to get out of their own way. So it was particularly amusing to see them move at such a deliberately slow pace as they set about picking the Wolves apart.

Despite the visitors obvious intentions, our boys proceeded with business as usual to predictably varying results. Postgame, Kurt Rambis was asked to comment on his unit’s 8 scant turnovers, yet neither coach nor scribe acknowledged that such supposed ball control was actually due to unconscionably poor shooting: the Wolves attempted 95 field goals and made just 39% of them.  This however, didn’t keep us from witnessing an entertaining affair in which both teams tried to wrestle victory out of their own hands. The Wolves gave the game away early, the Nuggets tried to give it back, but we-being such gracious hosts-refused to take it.

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It’s hard to fault Corey Brewer for Kevin Durant’s utterly gonzo 47-point, 18-rebound spectacularium on Wednesday. Brewer ardently chased Durant all over the floor, worming his way around countless screens, recovering quickly to challenge every last shot. But Durant is a phenomenon. He plays a classic shooter’s game, running the baseline, curling off of screens, dropping subtle jab steps and hesitations, raising the ball above his head and calmly flicking his wrist with such miraculous economy that the movement itself is almost impossible to perceive. This would be an apt description of vintage Rip Hamilton except that Rip Hamilton is not 6’9″ with tentacles for arms (and he never was much of a three-point shooter). Brewer was the Wolves best defensive option against KD, and he never had a chance.

Corey’s admirable defensive effort was largely typical of the Wolves’ in this game, as was his solid shooting and tenacity on the boards. Unfortunately, Brewer’s game was typical in other ways too. Along with all of the great and surprising things the Wolves did came some devastating mistakes, some glaring and some subtle.

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photo from sportsblink

This is one of those times I wish we were the Knicks. Not for their world renowned Garden, rabidly entitled fan base or sensationalistic coverage, but for Clyde Frazier. Only his effortless effervescence could adequately capture the highs and lows of the Wolves recent play. Not that I’m unappreciative of our man Jim Petersen, who does a swell job in his stead, but Jim specializes in good ‘ol fashioned straight talk. We need a man like that. However, there’s also times we need to just chill and no one does chill like Clyde.

Luke Ridnour is far from a swirling dervish. There’s no wheeling and dealing, nor will his ubiquity leave anyone reeling.  In fact, he’s perfectly average in every way. But he may be the most important player on this team. He doesn’t inhale rebounds like Kevin Love or have Beasleyesque scoring binges, however he’s the only Wolf who can provide some semblance of order amidst the chaos that is our offense. Occasionally I’ll check out the visiting locker room for a peek at the game plan on their whiteboard. Oftentimes, I can’t make much sense of the diagrams or terminology, but tonight I had no such problems. Numero uno, in bright red ink was “1st option=Dead”.

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Apparently the Wolves got some of that much needed composure for Christmas. Either that or they should’ve asked the schedule makers for more games against the Cavs.

Of course this game started off as any other; Luke Ridnour continually sagged off of three point shooters, Michael Beasley mistook activity for achievement and a collective ineptitude was displayed in defending any Cavs possession that required more than one pass. Add these troubles to Kevin Love being lost amidst the forest that is Anderson Varejao’s unkempt mane and our boys were off to an early deficit which presumably would lead to their latest loss away from Target Center. Seventeen first quarter points certainly didn’t seem like the sign of good things to come.

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My interview with Kevin Love was another treasure trove that I couldn’t really find a place for. Picture: an insanely cold day. Me drinking tea at the Starbucks across from the Target Center. A very tall man sitting across from me at an embarrassingly small table answering my questions–about his role on the team, his relationship with Kurt Rambis and the entire controversy over his minutes–with candor and good humor. I appreciate that.

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Photo by iwouldificould

Of the many by turns illuminating and inscrutable tidbits I dug up in the past few weeks while doing research for the Truehoop post, this was among the most glaring: the Wolves’ situation on the wing is a true riddle, a strange machine, filled with moving parts and missing pieces.

Let’s start with what we’ve recently learned. Michael Beasley is the team’s most gifted scorer, but hurts the team defensively (though we’ve seen improvement in the past week), especially when partnered with his young mates in the starting lineup, Darko Milicic and Kevin Love. Wesley Johnson and Corey Brewer both have severely limited offensive games, but come with a desperately needed energy and athleticism that complements Love’s and Darko’s special talents. And although it’s too soon to know for certain how Martell Webster affects the team–and he seems to be still very much inhibited by his stiff back, particularly on defense–it’s clear that Webster brings a reliable shooting touch and what passes on this team for veteran savvy (i.e. he’s, like, played in a playoff game before). How do we figure this out?

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Photo by Tom Goskar

“No excuses;” this is the chant emanating from NBA locker rooms across the land. In some ways, this allergy to excuse-making is an admirable trait, a willingness to take responsibility for one’s own performance. But it also carries with it a whiff of noble self-aggrandizement, of wishing to be seen as piously professional, as virtuous and manly. Oftentimes too, this righteous self-reliance can descend into a kind of absurdity, leading folks to elide what are not excuses, but actual reasons for a team or individual’s performance. For instance: the Wolves put on a grisly show in Los Angeles on Monday because they were clearly fatigued from their brutal west coast road trip. This is not an excuse but a reason.

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