Archives For Rudy Gay

There are few things in basketball as deflating as watching an opposing midrange jumpshooter on a hot streak. You know that, even with his impressive arsenal of fades and stepbacks, when he shoots that beautiful 18-footer over his defender’s outstretched hand, he is taking the least efficient shot on the floor. He is doing exactly what you want him to do. And still, the ball goes in the basket.

For the most part, the Wolves defended DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay the way that you hoped they might. They walled off the paint, prevented layups, kept the two long slashers off the free-throw line, stayed at home on three-point shooters. There are a few quibbles here and there–we might’ve liked to see Andrei Kirilenko give Gay less room to maneuver at the point of attack; they blew a rotation with two minutes to play that resulted in a DeRozan three-point play–but, in general, when we see anybody besides Dirk Nowitzki circa 2010 taking contested long-range twos, we can conclude that the defense has done its job. Nevertheless, there were Gay and DeRozan deploying their full array of pivots, hesitations and crossovers, hitting contested jumper after contested jumper.

Still, a team could do worse than allowing its opponents’ two best scorers–both unreasonably accurate from outside and preying on mismatches–to tally 51 points on 46 shots. Much more problematic, if you ask me, were a) the Wolves’ inability to fully capitalize on their 40-16 free-throw advantage and b) their inability to parlay moderate leads into decisive leads, to complete the job of beating a team that, for a while, was begging to be beaten.

Lets dispense with part ‘a’ quickly, because it is both aggravating and tedious. The Wolves, as they do, got to the line a lot. And, just as typically, they missed 25% of those free-throws. They missed three out of their last six free-throws and, of course, Ricky Rubio missed the one that would have tied the game at 94 with 1.7 seconds remaining. There, done.

Now for ‘b.’ The Raptors played some stretches of truly listless defense, in which, for instance, Alexei Shved was allowed to dribble unimpeded to within five feet of the hoop and loft an uncontested floater and Chase Budinger was given free reign to run off flare screens, rise up with a nice, clear look at the hoop and hit some perfectly relaxed, unimpeded jumpers. What’s more, the Raptors were saddled with the problem that neither Jonas Valanciunas nor Aaron Gray seemed capable of single-covering Nikola Pekovic without blatantly fouling him.

And so, in the first three quarters, the Wolves were able, with relative ease, to cruise out to leads of nine, eight and 11–but no more than that. That they were unable to extend those leads into more forbidding territory is a testament to their simple lack of consistent execution. A case in point are the minutes following the third-quarter Andrei Kirilenko three that gave the Wolves their one and only double-digit lead. Ricky Rubio penetrates the Raptors’ defense but delivers a pass to Pekovic’s feet. Derrick Williams falls over while attempting a rather ornate spin move in isolation. Luke Ridnour dribbles the ball out of bounds. Rubio attempts to initiate the offense by entering the ball to Kirilenko at the elbow; but AK does not fully seal his defender and Rubio’s pass is too casual. Rudy Gay jumps into the passing lane and streaks to the other end of the floor for a breakaway dunk. The Wolves go to a 2-3 zone in order to contain Kyle Lowry’s dribble penetration–and yet Lowry still manages to split the two backcourt defenders and hit an open floater at the third-quarter buzzer.

And things only got worse over the first few minutes of the fourth quarter when Rubio got his rest and J.J. Barea took the opportunity to perfect his ball-pounding, clock-killing, impossible-jumper routine. Its worth noting that at no point during the 12-4 run that brought them back into the game did the Raptors look particularly dynamic on either end of the floor. Minnesota’s slack execution simply allowed them to crawl back into the game.

By the time Rubio had settled things back down with a series of shrewd pick-and-rolls, in the process remembering to take advantage of Pekovic down low, the one truly shining matchup advantage at the Wolves’ disposal, Toronto had gained a measure of confidence. Their defense started to buzz, Gay and DeRozan got hot. It ended badly.

Photo by Kjell Edgard Endab Nerland

Well there’s very little to say about this game. The Timberwolves just did that thing that teams do from time to time: without warning or explanation, come out of the tunnel and play terrible, listless basketball. When great teams do it, they can struggle against even mediocre opposition. When the Wolves do it, they get killed by everybody. Still, there are some analytical crags to cling to. Let’s give it a try.

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Freedom Isn’t Free

Benjamin Polk —  July 1, 2010 — 6 Comments

Photo by Bohman

We all knew that Darko and Rudy Gay would get a late night call from David Kahn. The other lucky fellow? The Knicks’ David Lee.  From Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune:

“The NBA’s free-agency clock finally clanged late Wednesday night and Memphis forward Rudy Gay and New York forward David Lee quickly accepted the Timberwolves’ invitation to visit Minnesota.”

Despite his size and so-so D, Lee is really the only other player among the second-tier of free-agents who makes sense for the Wolves, especially if they move Al Jefferson in the process (wow, a possible front line of Lee, Love and Darko–how Auerbachian is that?). But let me inject a note of caution here. Chances are, in order to entice either Gay or Lee, the Wolves will have to massively overpay them, and likely give up some players in order to facilitate a sign-and-trade (especially now that they’ve evidently committed $13 million over the next three years to Nikola Pekovic). Just ask Detroit how much value you get when you massively overpay second-tier free-agents.

And if the Wolves do manage to sign Lee or Gay, then what? So much for that cap room we Wolves fans have been fantasizing over for the past thousand years. A starting lineup of Flynn, Webster, Johnson, Lee and Love, with Darko and Brewer coming off the bench–everybody comfortable with that for the next five seasons? I realize this sounds ridiculous, but if you’re asking me, the Wolves should either pull out all the stops to sign-and-trade for Chris Bosh or sit out the big-money free-agent game entirely. There’s just no reason to spend that much cheddar and give up your flexibility for the foreseeable future if it’s not going to completely transform your team. Ok, I’m done now.

This time of year is always tough for me as a Wolves follower. The past few summers have led me to become more of a spectator than a speculator. I’ve found it easier-and far less frustrating-to analyze the developments at hand rather than agonize over the possibilities. There are simply too many loose ends to commit to any particular line of thinking. At the risk of a Simmonsesque analogy, watching the Wolves off season calendar is much like watching Lost, another pastime of mine that ultimately ended in disappointment. Far too often I’ve rationalized story arcs and envisioned positive developments, only to realize that I’m not in control, just subject to the whims of another. Alas, Locke is never redeemed, Ben never receives his comeuppance and Kate never learns a goddamn thing.

Spoiler alert: This summer could be disastrous for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But here I am, speculating anyway, with the faint hope that my imagination aligns with the script. As Ben noted in the previous post, Ricky Rubio has become more comfortable with the idea of Wolfdom, but is also well aware of the teams developmental needs. What lies between the lines of his apparent change of heart is essentially an ultimatum: You have one year left to get your sh*t together. While some may scoff at the hubris of an unproven teenager, I fully support management’s relentless pursuit of Rubio. I don’t consider him a franchise player, however I do consider him a franchise changing player. Given the right pieces of course, which is why I’ve changed my mind completely about the Wolves pursuit of Rudy Gay.

I like Minnesota. The winters are harsh, but the summers are grand, the arts/music scene is robust and the people are…um,”nice”. It’s perfect for a poor and angsty person like myself who enjoys his days outside. But if I were a millionaire with my choice of locales, I probably wouldn’t be here. Apparently this is a sentiment I share with much of the league’s vaunted crop of free agents, which is why Gay is probably the Wolves best shot; a talented, yet middling player looking for a big payday. This is normally the type of scenario that submarines rebuilding franchises, but the fact of the matter is that such moves are made by GM’s who must do something to establish a foundation and appease a dwindling fan base. It’s the lesser of two evils, the other being the use of cap space to absorb another team’s blunder, specifically Elton Brand. Given the increasing possibility that Evan Turner-much like Rubio-may fall into our lap and allow us to keep Al Jefferson, Gay may be the final piece to a respectable basketball team.

There’s been talk of trading our stalwart post presence bceause he and Kevin Love can’t coexist, but maybe this tandem deserves another chance. Maybe they couldn’t work together because of a barren perimeter that didn’t keep opposing defenses honest. Perhaps the floor would open up with the acquisition of two quality wingmen and a prodigious point guard. The 2011-12 Minnesota Timberwolves could consist of Ricky Rubio, Evan Turner, Rudy Gay, Kevin Love & Al Jefferson. It could return Corey Brewer, Ramon Sessions, Ryan Gomes and Ryan Hollins to their natural roles of contributing bench players who can provide an effective 15 minutes rather than be exposed over the course of 35. It could turn us into a playoff team. It really could happen.

Or this could be like the time I thought the skeletons in the cave were Jack & Kate, who sacrificed themselves to save the island from imminent peril. I was wrong.