Last night the Wolves played their third preseason game in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and defeated the Bucks, who continue to look Christmas-y in those green and red road unis. A couple of notes about the game in bullet form because come on: preseason. Continue Reading…
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It’s amazing how fun Ricky Rubio can be at times.
We know about the passing and the steals. We know he can crash the boards and break down opposing perimeter defenders. And we see glimpses of an improved jump shooter. In fact, over Rubio’s last 10 games, he’s over 40% from the field (41.2%) and he’s made 50% of his 3-point shots. Now, I wouldn’t say he’s fixed his ability to put the ball in the basket; it’s still very much a work in progress. But there are signs of improvement.
Two things I look for when Rubio taking a jumper are 1) was he readying himself before the pass got to him and 2) where is the arc on his shot? Continue Reading…
Here we are.
Last preseason game to get our role players finely tuned and guys more connected with the system in real-time action before the games actually mean something. We’ve had a contentious preseason so far, mainly because of the injuries. Obviously, there was Rubio and his injury. Then we had Luke Ridnour up and down with his back, Love breaking his hand, Pek hurting his hand when he knocked out George Washington on Mt. Rushmore for giving him a funny look, and Andrei Kirilenko had a hammy issue for a moment.
I’m not quite sure that we’ve learned a whole lot from the preseason action. Derrick Williams is still a question mark for us, we have no clue if Brandon Roy will remain moving the way he has so far, and who knows how the first month of the season will go? We have learned that Dante Cunningham is an awesome role player, Kirilenko is going to make this team look fun on both ends of the floor at times, and Chase Budinger is a better shooter than you. Continue Reading…
BREAKING NEWS: Sources say, Wolves went 2-0 in the preseason against the Bucks.
So as we prepare for the Preseason Playoff series against the 2-0 Clippers, I thought I would share some notes I made on Wolves players from the two games we just witnessed.
Two preseason games are in the book and the Wolves finish the 2011 preseason with two wins.
The first game was a whirling dervish of dribble penetration, kickout passes, and 3-pointers blanketing the Target Center like pure virgin snow. We were dazzled by even the simplest of tasks performed by Ricky Rubio. We reveled in the double point guard lineup that would have made the Double Rainbow guy lose his guano. We got to witness Michael Beasley isolations a plenty, Kevin Love doing ridiculous double-double efforts in limited minutes, and Derrick Williams showing us just how deadly and exciting he can be from all over the court.
Game two was a bit different, and probably more rewarding than the first game drubbing the Wolves put on the Bucks. This game was a STRUGGLE. They had to play Luke Ridnour and Malcolm Lee extended minutes at the point, with Ricky and JJ Barea staying home. It looked a lot like the Wolves from yesteryear, trying to manufacture structure and continuity despite being extremely sloppy with the ball.
Wolves were frustrated by the typically physical and opportunistic Milwaukee defense all night. Like a street side Three Card Monte dealer, your money was gone before you even knew you were playing the game. Milwaukee led 84-73 with 2:23 left in the contest. Then Kevin Love reminded everybody why he’s one of the toughest covers in the NBA. He made a hook shot inside. Then he tricked rookie Jon Leuer into fouling him on a 3-pointer. Next possession down, he drew a foul against Drew Gooden for two more free throws.
However with the Bucks up four points and just 20 seconds left in the game, I nearly gave up on the contest. I was very close to changing the channel to see how Rockets-Jazz was shaping up. I’m glad I didn’t miss what happened. Luke Ridnour stole an inbounds pass by Darrington Hobson. He kicked it for Love for a 3-pointer that brought the Wolves within one – 10 points for Love in just 1:43 of action. Ridnour then stole a horrendous inbound decision by Larry Sander, the Wolves found Beasley inside and he was fouled.
He dropped two icicles (frozen daggers) from the free throw line to put the Wolves up one, and then got a defensive stop when Leuer missed a jumper and the Bucks couldn’t convert the offensive rebound.
Even though it was a meaningless preseason win, I loved the end of this game for the Wolves. Sure, they Love and Beas going against a bunch of second-stringers for Milwaukee in the closing moments. But I like that Adelman just let them play and figure it out. Off the second Luke steal, some coaches would call a timeout and set up a play. Instead of doing that, the Wolves didn’t allow Milwaukee to discuss things and set up their defense. The Wolves just had to figure it out on their own and they showed a lot of maturity and tranquility in a moment of chaos and fervor that we would not have seen last year. It was a fun way to end the preseason.
I’ll have player-by-player bullet notes from the two preseason games up this afternoon. It’s so good to have basketball back.
What did you think of the two games?
Right now I live in the desert and so I wasn’t able to see the Wolves take out the Bucks on Saturday. But Zach was there and this is what he had to say about it on Hoopspeak:
Sitting through four years of soul-crushing and questionable rebuilding practices are quickly vanishing with each Love double-double, Rubio behind the back pass, and Derrick Williams baptism at the rim. We finally have Rick Adelman, A REAL COACH, guiding the process. There is no more waiting for Kevin Love to get minutes. There is no waiting for Ricky Rubio to want to play here. There is no more waiting, period. We want our franchise turning the corner and we want it NOW. After attempting to be patient for so long, it looks like our golden goose is finally shipping.
Preach on brother.
Well maybe you can’t call 31 foul, 43% shooting night an “explosion.” As Andrew Bogut remarked, “it was pretty boring.” But the Wolves did beat the Bucks in their final preseason game, 119-118 and raise their exhibition record to a sparkling 6-2. Light them fireworks.
- Highlights and box score of the whole torrid affair are here. I like the fact that a highlight clip of a Wolves overtime win includes two clips of Bogut absolutely demolishing Wayne Ellington.
- I bet you’re wondering, as we have been, just what meaning this fine record holds for the regular season. Well, Ethan and Beckley at Hoopspeak rapped about just that topic (or, more accurately, the media discourse surrounding that topic) in a recent episode of their transcendent “Mama There Goes That Meme” series. I am not too proud to admit that I am jealous of nearly every element of this idea; that title is so good it makes me want to cry. Here’s the snippet of their conversation that aligns most closely with my own personal opinion on the matter. There’s also a line about “the sound and fury of this ‘Emo-Gil as a SG’ meta-narrative” which is really great and I wish I had written:
Former child star and TruthAboutIt.net head honcho Kyle Weidie told me the he watches the preseason carefully, but never consults the scoreboard to see how the Wizards are whirring. His theory is that the results of preseason play are meaningless, but to the trained eye, the content of each game is rife with significance.
- And if you were interested in some actual data that might shed some light on the subject, we’ve got some of that for you too. 48 Minutes of Hell recently examined some studies on just this topic and left us with this:
The preseason is a significant factor for predicting regular season success. In fact, preseason performance is comparable to regular season performance for predicting future wins and losses. After accounting for the number of starter minutes played, the difference becomes even smaller.
I have no doubt about the accuracy of this conclusion in general, but in the case of our Wolves I’m gonna have to file this in the “isn’t it pretty to think so” drawer. I think this calls for a mood of cautious optimism.
- Speaking of which, here is our friend Britt Robson’s Northwest Division preview at SI.com. Yes, he picks our Wolves to finish fifth in the division. That’s because its close to an inescapable fact and he would probably never get to write about basketball again if he did anything different. But he still has some nice things to say:
This year’s roster is longer, quicker and much more to coach Kurt Rambis’ liking than the 15-win squad of a year ago. Stealing Michael Beasley from Miami, drafting silky scorer Wes Johnson and belatedly giving Kevin Love the minutes and respect he deserves are on-the-court positives. Now if only Darko Milicic, Love and Serbian rookie big man Nikola Pekovic can offer up a semblance of resistance when defending the paint.
I’d say we’re agreed on all counts.
- Aw dang, here’s a nasty little word for MN sports fans. David Stern recently floated the idea that contraction is a possible result of the NBA’s next collective bargaining agreement. No names were named, but I distinctly heard the city of Memphis shifting awkwardly in its chair. Strangely, though, the commish all but admitted that talk of contraction was little more than a negotiating ploy. “It’s a good word to use,” said the little man, “especially in collective bargaining”.
Friends, the Wolves are 5-1. Attempts to plumb the depths of this strange statistic for hidden meanings and portents will probably be futile. When we look back on this season in June, after the Wolves have either won 45 games or 14, have either blossomed with promise or collapsed into a quivering husk, we’ll say we knew which way the wind was blowing back in October. But that will be a lie: at this moment, we have no idea what this means. Best to simply, calmly inhale, exhale and accept it. Onward:
- Here is a recap of the Wolves’ 99-88 comeback win over the Prince/Wallace/McGrady/Hamilton-less Pistons in Syracuse. Love that low angle:
- And here are some equally cinema verite highlights of their 114-109 win over the Bucks in South Dakota. Check Darko’s dream-shake early in the clip:
- In case you hadn’t noticed, in his past 53 minutes of play, Kevin Love has hit 21 of his 29 shots and pulled down 23 rebounds. That mythic 20/20 game is on the horizon.
- Here in the Strib, Kurt Rambis reinforces our thought that depth and interchangeability in the lineup were major goals this past off-season:
“One of the things we wanted to have is a deep roster and the ability to change things around,” Rambis said. “I think we have enough flexibility with this team. With as many young players as we have, I don’t feel like I’ve got to lock myself into something, particularly at this stage of who we are as a ballclub.”
- As we did some weeks ago, Steve Aschburner indulges his sentimental side at NBA.com with a look back at KG’s daemonic Game 7 of the ’04 conference semis. Is this a cruel reminder of faded glory or an early sign of renewal? Only the oracle knows and she ain’t sayin’.
- Not specifically Wolves-related, but over at Fanhouse, Shoals and Ziller spin what is, to my mind, the definitive genealogy of the new technical rule and David Stern’s politically savvy paternalism. References to Obama’s rhetoric of hope and red-state electoral strategy abound (via our friend David Roth at the WSJ’s Daily Fix):
[Stern] generally comes out on top, or at least brings the league through unscathed at the end of the day. (Donaghy? Who?) He does so by making extreme overtures and overreactions that seek to nip public opinion in the bud. But down the road, almost all of these lunges prove to be just that: stunts to keep the heat off of this most vulnerable of pro sports leagues…It’s a game, one where blowhards get the hot air they so badly want, and players know that in the end, everything will even out.