Limbo, thy name is the first game after the All-Star break with one more to go before the greatest player in franchise history returns as a kind of éminence grise for a rawly talented but still rebuilding team. It wouldn’t have been surprising if the team had mailed it in, but pleasingly they didn’t and ended up holding on for a squeaker over the Suns. We’ll get to the Wolves in a moment, but let’s start with the Suns. Continue Reading…
Archives For Phoenix Suns
All hell broke loose a little bit ago on Twitter with the report from Fox10 in Phoenix and then Brian Windhorst from ESPN.com that the Minnesota Timberwolves were making a run at restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe with a max contract offer sheet. Bledsoe has been battling the Phoenix Suns all summer long, waiting for them to show up on his doorstep with a max offer. The problem is Rich Paul, Bledsoe’s agent, never set the market for his client like what happened with Gordon Hayward, so there hasn’t been any push between Bledsoe wanting the max and Phoenix offering four years and $48 million.
With less than two weeks until training camps start and no resolution in sight, someone decided to put some pressure on the Suns in a last ditch effort to force their hands. Windhorst says sources have told him the Wolves are making a push at a sign-and-trade with a max offer sheet on the other side of that transaction rainbow. From ESPN:
With just days before the start of training camp, the Minnesota Timberwolves are making a final push to acquire restricted free-agent guard Eric Bledsoe in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns, sources told ESPN.com.
The Wolves are offering Bledsoe the four-year, $63 million maximum level contract that he has been seeking, sources said, but because of cap restrictions, the only way he can join the team as currently constructed is through a sign-and-trade deal. Bledsoe and the Suns have been in a stalemate all summer after the team offered him a four-year, $48 million deal in July.
Now let’s talk about why none of this is likely to happen and why it’s being talked about: Continue Reading…
We’ve been here before, hoping for competitive losses.
I should clarify. I’ve certainly been here before. I can’t assume you guys are necessarily there with me and based on the frustration flowing through my Twitter feed and some of the local media on Sunday, I might be mostly alone on this one for now. That’s probably the case because this is the latest in a season the Wolves have been competitive in about a decade. It’s also probably because the expectations heading into this season were competing for the playoffs. With roughly three weeks left, it would take two monumental collapses and the Wolves not collapsing to make that a reality.
Because of the draft pick implications heading into the game against the Phoenix Suns, my hopes for the game were for it to be extremely competitive and for the Wolves to protect their draft pick lives. Losing to the Suns was going to all but guarantee they keep the pick, assuming the Suns don’t come through on the 1.8% chance of landing a top 3 pick on the night of the lottery (that’s also assuming they don’t make the playoffs). The Suns making the playoffs altogether would actually be ideal because the Wolves would almost certainly keep the pick.
What I wanted out of Sunday’s game happened. Continue Reading…
Note: The title of this post should not be construed as a statement that it’s time to blow up the team. Just read this poem by Jack Gilbert called “Tear It Down.”
Man, what happened? I mean, let’s be honest: The Wolves — in spite of getting Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger back, in spite of being on their home court, in spite of facing a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back after losing in Chicago and only two games into a five-game road trip, and at the beginning of a long road trip — never grabbed this one away from the Phoenix Suns. Their biggest lead? Nine points, while the Suns’ biggest lead was eight.
On the macro level, it begins with poor shooting. The Wolves’ three main scoring options — Kevin Martin, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic — ended the night just 16-52. Love was 4-20 and though Pek got it going a bit in the third quarter, he was 1-8 in the first half. Kevin Martin started torchingly, scoring 7 points in the first 2:11 of the game, a pace that would have yielded roughly 168 points, had he kept it up. Sadly, he did not. Continue Reading…
Its a given that this Timberwolves’ season has been a bitter disappointment. I always believed that prognosticating before the year even began was foolish; the calculus of variables was just too ornate to ever settle confidently on one outcome. I think its safe to say, though, that the year has become something close to the worst-case-scenario. Yes, Andrei Kirilenko returned to his mid-oughts form–at least until fatigue and injury robbed him of a little of his vivacity–and Ricky Rubio has made incredible strides in his recovery. But Kevin Love’s injury, and the plague of injuries to key players that has infected the team all year long, has negated all of that.
Still, it could be so much worse. You could be a Wolves’ fan of four years ago, wondering if Randy Wittman could turn things around, hoping that Randy Foye and Rashad McCants could one day justify their lottery status. Remember that? Or even worse: you could be a Phoenix Sun’s fan right now. If that were the case, you would have endured a recent 10-game losing streak and a road record of 8-32, not to mention an entire season of Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson. You know what that’s like and it’s no fun. The “core” of your team would be Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley, fine players, to be sure, but nothing to build a team around. Your most recent lottery pick, Kendall Marshall, would look, and play ball, like a member of Das Racist. You would be placing your hopes for the future on the only front office with a claim to being worse on draft day than the Wolves. You would be cheering very hard for PJ Tucker and also for the Morris twins.
Although in our hearts we always suspected it to be true, we couldn’t help feeling a little distressed over Rick Adelman’s admission yesterday that he is considering walking away from the Wolves this coming summer. (Though you certainly can’t blame the guy for wanting to actually live with his ailing wife, especially after a pair of seasons as cosmically aggravating as these past two.) We can talk all we want about Derrick Williams’ development or Nikola Pekovic’s contract, but the truth is that the middle-term future of this franchise rests entirely upon the relationship between Rick Adelman, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. Take out one vertex of that triangle and, one suspects, the entire spindly structure might collapse.
The trade deadline is schedule for 2pm CT on Thursday and the Wolves are said to be buyers right now by enticing prospective trade partners with Brandon Roy’s salary relief and a future first round pick. This makes sense for the team if it means they’re adding a piece they can take into next year that helps balance out the roster without taking on too much money. While I don’t believe Glen Taylor to be a cheap owner by any means (when the team is good and producing, he historically spends the money and even flirts with the luxury tax), the Wolves do need to be cognizant of cost right now (more on that in a bit).
So what could the Wolves be targeting? Continue Reading…
The makeup of what this team is good at and what they struggle to do still confounds me a bit.
Going into this season, I don’t think there were many people who assumed the Wolves would struggle offensively (22nd) and be a defensive juggernaut of sorts (6th). A big part of the reason is the outside shooting of the Timberwolves. This team is still under 30% on the season and no team in the history of the NBA has taken more 3-pointers per game while making under 30% of them. The Wolves just can’t shoot the 3-ball right now and probably won’t shoot it well until Kevin Love gets back into rhythm and Chase Budinger gets back onto the court.
Until that happens, the Wolves have to go inside and they have to be clever about the way they go inside. Just straight pounding the ball into the post with Love and Pek is too basic to be consistently effective against opposing defenses. The Wolves have an advantage in the frontcourt that most teams don’t seem to have around the league. Between Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love, there are few SF/PF/C hydras as crafty at scoring the basketball as the Wolves’ trio. Continue Reading…
Let’s recap the past two games.
Jason Smith had 26 points on 16 shots against the Wolves a couple days ago. They lost to a tanking New Orleans team on the road. Monday night, Markieff Morris had 21 points on 15 shots off the bench. The Suns beat the Wolves IN MINNEAPOLIS by 24 points. There are so many problems with this that I don’t really know where to begin.
The problem is there is no beginning to figuring this out because I don’t really know if there is a point. The Wolves no longer care. They can claim that they care and provide all of the lip service a fan could ever dream of. They talk about coming together as a team and playing for pride and blah blah blah.
None of it really matters. If it matters, this team wouldn’t have lost six straight games the way it did. I don’t even care that they lost six in a row. On some level, I absolutely care because they were in the playoff hunt with a favorable upcoming schedule and managed to throw guano all over the situation. But losing streaks happen to young teams all the time. You can get over that.
What you can’t get over immediately is the way they lost them. Continue Reading…
On Monday, we wondered aloud about the consequences of losing Ricky Rubio for the season. We suggested that Rubio’s defensive skills–his “ability to create turnovers, disrupt the pick-and-roll game and conjure frenzied defensive energy”–might be even more keenly missed than his mystic passing. And, gracious, did that ever prove to be the case against the Suns.
Since the great Garnett-Stoudemire clashes of the mid-aughts, the Suns have had a knack for drawing the Wolves’ defense into a state of shambolic chaos. In those days, the looming nightmare was the choice between stopping Stoudemire’s rim assaults and staying home on Phoenix’s shooters. On Monday night, Suns’ big men Robin Lopez, Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris attempted only 19 shots between the three of them. But this had less to do with any concerted effort on the Wolves’ part and more to do with the fact that their perimeter defense was so unmercifully rotten that the Suns’ guards had little reason to ever dump the ball inside.