Archives For Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves’ free-throw shooting is occasionally mediocre and often terrible. Their three-point shooting, as has been well-documented in these very pages, is historically awful. So when you’re thinking about the team’s chances on a particular night it’s important to realize: the Wolves, in essence, begin nearly every game in a scoring hole. In order to have a chance to win, they have to make up for and exceed this almost pre-ordained deficit by surpassing their opponent in other phases of the game.

This, I think, is a useful way of analyzing Friday night’s loss to the Knicks. In a six-point loss, the Wolves made just one fewer field goal than New York. They grabbed two more offensive rebounds and went to the line seven more times, the latter of which suggests that despite the nearly identical field goal percentages, the Wolves actually did a better job of creating good scoring chances than did the Knicks. All of that looks pretty good, right? Well how about this: the Knicks made 16 of their twenty free-throws (80%) and the Wolves made 19 of their 27 (just 70.4%). And now the really bad news: the Knicks made a below-average eight out of their 26 threes. The Wolves? One for 13, which is 7.7% if you’re into math. The rough reality becomes apparent: when you shoot threes that badly, playing your opponent evenly is simply not good enough.

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That the Lakers are the NBA’s most colossal, most fascinating bummer has been well-documented. In the past, they were un-lovable but majestic. You could hate Kobe’s post-dagger jawfaces, you could hate Phil Jackson’s finely tailored beard and bullying spiritualism, but you could also marvel at their success and be awed by the sight of basketball beautifully played.

Now, however, we’ve got the same sense of blithe, Californian entitlement, the same terrible fans, the same petulant Kobe (he’s the only player I can think of who could drop 14 assists as an act of contempt) only now without the beauty and without the winning. David Roth, writing at Vice, has the definitive account of their poisoned well of a season. He put it this way:

If a winning Lakers team evokes the smugness of a Magic of the Movies montage during an Oscars telecast, a losing one reflects a different and more forlorn LA—a million hideous publicist-planted upskirts and celebrity DUI mugshots and pill-powered Daniel Baldwin car chases, all narrated in the sneer-scream of a TMZ correspondent.

Not deliciously infuriating, then, just lonely and depressing. If the Lakers’ signature failing has been their caustic team culture, then a close second has been the awful, awful defense. Consider: their starting point guard is 38 years old and was, during his prime, among the league’s worst defenders; their two other veteran stars are playing the worst defense of their careers; their bench is populated by the Antawn Jamisons and Steve Blakes and Jodie Meekses of the world. Its easy to understand, then, just how badly the Lakers miss even a much-diminished Dwight Howard anchoring the middle.

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Adelman returns

Benjamin Polk —  January 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Rick Adelman will be on the bench for the Wolves’ matchup with the Clippers on Wednesday–and not a moment too soon if you ask me. We don’t know much about Kay Adelman’s illness–which is as it should be–except that her health is evidently improving. We do know that the Wolves were 2-9 in Adelman’s absence. We also know that we are glad he is back.

Not being privy to the day-to-day interactions of coach and players, its hard to suss out precisely how the coach affects his team’s play. What’s more, Terry Porter’s brief run as Wolves’ head coach coincided neatly with this most recent plague of injuries–you know, that one that has observers unduly praising Mickael Gelabale. Its clearly unfair to judge Porter based on a record compiled with the sparse, overextended roster that he’s been saddled with. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted the task of, for instance, defending Deron Williams and Joe Johnson with the J.J. Bareas and Luke Ridnour’s of the world.

That said, the Wolves did seem to be less well prepared and to play less creatively with Porter at the helm. And Adelman while has always been reflective and insightful regarding his team’s play, Porter, with his “everybody pull together/keep working hard” bromides has seemed less so. (Not that we should be judging anybody based on how they interact with the media, but Porter’s “going with the hot hand” defense of J.J Barea was a low point.)  Again, its hard to fathom exactly how a coach’s presence influences a team’s play, particularly given a sample size as tiny and deformed by circumstance as this one. Nevertheless, like I said, we’re glad that Adelman is back.

Game recognize game.

Did you happen to catch the shot of Ahmad Rashad and Michael “Air” Jordan wallowing away in MJ’s shadowy luxury suite? Here were greatest basketball player ever, captain of dynasties, phantasmagorically wealthy man and his best cigar buddy surveying the team he (MJ) owns and the players he attempted to screw to the wall just over a year ago–in what appeared to be wordless, abject boredom. Is this a product of Jordan’s legendarily psychotic vainglory gone to seed? Maybe the resentment inherent to graceless old age, the misery of being forced to watch young fellas many times your inferior playing the game you once dominated? Or maybe that’s just what it feels like to be the ruthlessly competitive owner of the NBA’s worst squad.

Because that’s what these Bobcats are. Coming into tonight’s game against the Wolves, they had lost 16 consecutive home games. They barely edge out the Wizards for the NBA’s worst record (and unlike the Wizards, have not won seven of their last 10 games). They are third worst in the league in offensive efficiency and are tied for last in defensive efficiency. This is a very bad team.

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Here’s a sight for you. If you had taken a peak down the Wolves’ bench in the fourth quarter of this rigorously un-lovely loss to the Clippers, you would have seen: Lou Amundson, Greg Stiemsma, Lazar Hayward, J.J. Barea, lots of empty seats. Larry Bird is not walking through that door.

Past Timberwolves teams have been dislike-able for a host of reasons. From last year’s grim-faced underachievers to the callow, talentless bunches of years past, there have always been reasons to distance your self from the awful things happening on the court. But, in their basic competence, in their plucky, Euro-inflected flair, and in their foreignness to the Wolves’ rancid culture, this team has been unprecedentedly appealing.

Which makes it all the more of a bummer to see them so completely threshed by misfortune that even home games against upper-echelon opponents have come to feel essentially un-winnable. Even before Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved hobbled off the floor, this game was pretty dark. Facing the single-minded, absurdly long Deandre Jordan, Pek was just 1-8 from the floor. Shved looked every bit the fatigued rookie, as he has for most of the past month. Dante Cunningham continued to awkwardly brick his signature jumper. Ricky Rubio continued to play as if he is recovering from a reconstructive knee surgery that kept him off the court for nearly a year. J.J. Barea continued to attempt yogic finger-rolls over multiple shot blockers. The Wolves hit 21.1% of their threes. They hit just 14 of their 35 shots in the paint (!!!). They whiffed on wide-open layups; they bricked dunks.

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As observers of the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of our favorite idle activities is wondering about Derrick Williams. There are a lot of reasons for this, but principle among them is a) the fact that, after he devoured everybody during his sophomore year of college, the Wolves made him the second pick in the draft and b) the fact that he is frighteningly athletic and talented but has yet to come anywhere close to living up to either his potential or his draft position.

The combination of those two facts tend to distort our perception of Williams’ performance. To us, Derrick Williams may always be “extremely talented/second pick” rather than simply “young player learning the game.” Incidentally, Rick Adelman, who has been around too long to be unduly impressed by either high draft position or exceptional, but unrealized talent, clearly views Williams through that latter lens. More than once, he has seemed mildly perplexed by the fuss that we all make over Williams. To Adelman, D-Will is just another gifted young guy who may or may not become good enough to stick.

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Now that we’re fully into the third wave of 2012/13 Wolves injuries, Malcolm Lee whose “hyperextended knee” is a relic of the second wave, already seems like a distant memory. But he played for the Wolves this year and had a moderately positive effect on the team’s defense when he was on the floor. He was still a newcomer to the nuances of NBA team-defense, but  his length and athleticism would certainly have been of use against the likes of Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon. But anyway he’s not playing any more basketball this season. From the Wolves:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that guard Malcolm Lee will undergo two surgeries next week. On Monday, January 14, Lee will undergo a right knee cartilage repair. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Jonathan Glashow at Midtown Surgical Center in New York. On Wednesday, January 16, Lee will undergo surgery on his right hip. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Bryan Kelly at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Lee is expected to miss the remainder of the 2012-13 NBA season.

So it looks like, in two years of NBA experience, Lee will have missed 113 out of 148 possible games because of injury. Thats a very tough start to a career.

 

So the Minnesota Timberwolves are a little shorthanded at the moment. They’ve churned their way through waves of fractured metacarpals, strained and torn knee ligaments, spasmed backs. They’ve cycled through backcourt combinations and shed multiple layers of wing players. They have descended so far into the black hole that Lazar Hayward’s illness takes real on-court significance.

It would probably be journalistic malpractice not to mention that Kevin Love and JJ Barea and Rick Adelman all missed Friday’s game in New Orleans. So there, I mentioned it. But fretting about such things, decrying our foul luck and muttering about what ought to have been, has become a truly futile, almost passe exercise, like complaining about congress or your stupid boss. At some point you just have to accept the fact that there certain aspects of reality are so asinine and unfair as to not warrant further mental anguish. And, really, the Wolves’ rotten luck has to be the least of these.

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Here’s Rick Adelman lamenting the Wolves’ effort against Portland last night: “I just hope this game taught our guys a lesson, because for the first three quarters we hung our heads, we didn’t make shots, we didn’t compete like we have to compete.” On the face of things, even through the first three quarters, this game appeared relatively even. Both teams shot poorly overall, the Blazers just a few percentage points better than the Wolves (indeed the Wolves made one more field goal than Portland on the game). The Wolves out-rebounded the Blazers by a significant margin and played solid on-the-ball defense. Free throws were roughly even; turnovers were even.

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So here’s some fun news from the Wolves:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) taken this afternoon at TRIA Orthopadedic Center revealed that forward Kevin Love suffered a re-fracture of his third metacarpal in his right hand. The injury occurred during the third quarter of Thursday’s game at Denver. Love will be examined by Dr. Andy Weiland, a hand specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, later this week. An update to Love’s status will be provided after that examination. Love initially suffered a fracture of his third and fourth metacarpal in his right hand on Oct. 17. For the season, Love has played in 18 games and leads the Wolves in scoring (18.3 ppg), rebounds (14.0 rpg) and double-doubles (14).

It bears mentioning, if only as an add-on to Zach’s excellent post from yesterday, that Love’s hand never seemed to have fully recovered from the initial injury. The strange swelling and the odd, angular way the ball came off his hand when he shot is evidence enough of that. We don’t yet know whether this injury is in any way a result of the initial break, but we do know this: the Wolves’ (and our) dreams of Love and Rubio playing together at full strength have been deferred again. Maybe this will make you feel better: