Archives For Nikola Pekovic

LovePost

I’m not sure a game like this loss to the San Antonio Spurs is ever good, per se.

The Spurs established their dominance by playing exactly how they love to play. The Wolves never were able to take back control of the game or dictate their own style. While both teams like to move the ball up the floor and use brilliant decision-making and passing to put the defense on their heels, the Spurs do it in a much less chaotic style. The Wolves can play that structured tempo the Spurs love to throw at their opponents, but everything has to be clicking for the Wolves.

Things certainly weren’t clicking Sunday night, outside of Nikola Pekovic continuing his torrid affair with scoring the basketball and being a presence inside. Kevin Love couldn’t seem to find a way to hit a shot or get past the solid defender that is Boris Diaw (that’s not pejorative either; he’s become a defensive presence). Kevin Martin couldn’t finish inside and he couldn’t knock down a jumper. Corey Brewer looked lost on both ends of the floor as he was a non-factor on offense and he got destroyed by Kawhi Leonard on the other end. Ricky Rubio distributed well but just couldn’t have a big impact against Tony Parker.

So while this loss wasn’t good for the Wolves as I stated above, sometimes it’s a nice reminder of just how important each part of the system is, so you don’t lose sight of the value of each component.  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…

nba-2k14-new-orleans-pelicans-vs-minnesota-timberwolves-gameplay-1024x576

If an exhibition game of NBA 2K14 is anything to judge by, the Timberwolves shouldn’t have any problem handling Moscow CSKA tonight at the Target Center. After one false start (ProTip: European teams’ visiting jerseys are white, so if you’re playing against an NBA team, you need to make them both wear home colors to tell them apart) I put the new-look Wolves through their paces against visiting CSKA. Continue Reading…

The title of this post is a lie. I haven’t stopped worrying, nor have I learned to love preseason rankings. But I guess I grudgingly understand why they’re there. Because following basketball closely — and I don’t mean your favorite team, but the whole thing — through its annual cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth is a lot like breaking up with a serious girlfriend every year. Like a five-year relationship compressed and injected into nine months.

It all begins with such promise in November and you don’t really know what’s going on or where it’s going but you just want to enjoy it. So you try to relax into it, thinking how all you’ve got is time. But then it starts getting serious. You stop taking it as it comes and start wondering where it’s going. And then, just like that, it’s over. This is June. Continue Reading…

Wolves and friends

Media got let into the gym with about 15-20 minutes left in a scrimmage between the A Team (no Mr. T) and the B Team. As I sat down, someone who was already in the gym leaned over to me and said, “By the way, that score is not a scoreboard malfunction.”

The B Team was wiping the floor with the A Team. They were up 20 points on them. By the time the clock on the scrimmage had run out, the final score was the B Team winning by 12 but even some late execution by the A Team wasn’t nearly enough to erase a deficit. There’s some good and some bad in the “other players” pushing the “main players” so much. It’s good to see adversity, no matter how irrelevant it might be a couple weeks from now, for the main unit of guys who should be dominating these scrimmage based on talent. To see how they respond in Day 3 of training camp will be very interesting.

“Well, I think all of our young guys are playing really hard,” Rick Adelman said after practice on Wednesday. “They just kicked the tails of our nine guys who are going to play a lot. They got killed in the first quarter against our young guys because they played their tails off.”

Guys like Lorenzo Brown, Dante Cunningham, Othyus Jeffers, Chris Johnson, and Shabazz Muhammad were scrambling all over the court, swiping down in the post, and causing the kind of havoc you’d hope from a second unit. They were catching the Wolves’ top guys off guard with offensive rebounding, lob plays, and just executing the basics on both ends of the floor. You saw the usual frustration out of guys like Kevin Love and J.J. Barea, who took a couple of chances to plead to the referees that they needed to call certain things.

Thursday, the Wolves’ starters will have a chance to take it out on the young guys. Here’s a look at a couple of notes I took while watching the scrimmage moments I got to see: 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…

Rubio leads the offense

On the surface, the question that is the headline of this post may seem preposterous to fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ricky Rubio is one of the best facilitators in the NBA and someone that can turn any offensive weapon into an offensive weapon with an ability to score efficiently. Team him up with Kevin Love and you’ll get a deadly pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll game. You’ll get post-entry passes on point that don’t require Love to give up precious post position. Team him up with Nikola Pekovic and you have one of the better pick-and-roll combinations in the NBA, despite Pekovic not exactly being a threat to drop the hammer down with an alley-oop dunk on the play. And again, the post-entry passes are so choice.

Run one of those fancy pick-and-rolls with Rubio as the initiator while having Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin in the corners and the defense respecting Kevin Love’s ability to stretch the floor and the bulldozer rumbling down the lane that is Nikola Pekovic and it seems like the possibilities for points are endless. Even when you throw some of the bench guys in the game with Rubio and we know Derrick Williams scores better at the rim with Rubio on the court, Dante Cunningham is a great pick-and-pop option in the midrange, and the Corey Brewer-Ricky Rubio fast breaks could be quick and deadly. There’s a lot to love with these combinations.

So what’s with the question in the headline? Continue Reading…