Archives For Sebastian Telfair

The Wolves’ 3-point shooting last season was pretty atrocious.

Despite being 23rd in the NBA in 3-point percentage, the Wolves just kept chucking up shots from long range. They finished sixth in the NBA in attempts from downtown, even when you adjust for pace. Perhaps one of the reasons the Wolves kept shooting them was because of a confidence built up the previous season.

In the 2010-11 debaclypse season, the Wolves were deadeye shooters as a team. They shot 37.6% from 3-point range, much better than the 33.2% they managed in the lockout season. They had the fifth best percentage off the 10th most attempts. They liked to fire from deep and they were good at it. In fact, it was really the only thing they were good at.  Continue Reading…

ESPN’s #NBARank (to which, full disclosure, I was a contributor) is approaching its zenith; we’re in Steph Curry/Tyson Chandler territory at the moment which, for me, is probably the most interesting and edifying swath of the NBA (sure hope I get to see them play sometime soon). If you ask me, the whole enterprise is pretty fascinating, not least for the pure chutzpah of assigning a comprehensive rating, down to the hundredth of a point, to 500 NBA players. (I mean, we all know that Pooh Jeter is precisely .01 better than Alonzo Gee–and just exactly as good as Eduardo Najera–but, like many true things, it does take some courage to come out and say it, you know?) It also draws heavily on the deep reservoir of compulsive list-making, stat-memorizing, Simpsons-quoting, no-girlfriend-having 16-year-old boy that lies just under the surface of almost all sportswriters.

We’ve already made note of Nikola Pekovic’s and Lazar Hayward’s presence in the top 500 (and should also point out that Malcolm Lee sneaks in at number 429, just ahead of Jeremy Evans). The next Wolves up the ladder are Wayne Ellington at 364 and Sebastian Telfair at 322.  For the dynamic bounce he injected into the Wolves blood whenever he was on the floor (particularly during that dark time after Al Jefferson’s knee injury) Bassy is pretty close to my heart. But I think we all know by now that he is one of those phenomenally gifted but fatally flawed players that are such staples of the NBA’s lower echelons. What’s more, there’s very little chance that he’ll be re-signed by the Wolves for what remains of the ’11/’12 season.

But the jury is still out on Wayne Ellington. If you consider only the fact that Ellington is a two-guard who hits nearly 40% of his threes it can be hard to imagine why his future in the league is in doubt. After all, every team needs a spot-up shooter. But while 40% from three is pretty good, it’s not quite good enough to make up for everything else. Ellington is a touch un-athletic and a touch undersized for a two and so has a tough time both guarding the NBA’s many dynamic scoring guards and finishing inside of 20 feet (last year he hit only 40.9% of his twos–not so great). And these lacks seem to cause him to play a touch too fast, exacerbating his already below average ballhandling and causing him to make hurried decisions. So we’ve got an undersized, turnover-prone two-guard with a career true shooting percentage of .509. Wayne’s got some work to do.

Photo by etchasketchist

It’s strange to see Lazar Hayward standing on the court next to other NBA players. The slightly stiff, deliberate way he moves and his modestly preportioned body make him appear to be an emissary from the world of normal people, a world of reasonably sized arms and recognizably human leaping ability. (None of this holds true when you’re standing next to him though; then he looks much more like a professional basketball player than any normal people I know).

So it’s been edifying to see him, over the last few games, make actually meaningful contributions to the team’s effort. Hayward will probably never be confused with a slashing, dynamic finisher; he still looks a little overwhelmed by the awesome size and speed that reigns in traffic and around the basket. But recently, Hayward has also been showing off his crisp, clean shooting stroke and, much like Wayne Ellington and Anthony Tolliver, has played with a hunger and exuberance typical of the Wolves’ second unit during this recent shorthanded stretch.

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At the moment that Kevin Love scored his 10th and 11th points of this game, notching his 38th consecutive double-double, breaking records held by folks like Kevin Garnett and John Stockton, I thought to myself: boy a double-double isn’t really much of a stat is it? After all, Love has shown us more than once that it’s possible to get one (more than one) without actually playing that well.

I was thinking this because up to that point Love looked like the physically un-well man that he apparently was. He was pale, haggard and listless. Despite his rebounding numbers, he was not pursuing the ball off of the glass with his customary anticipation and abandon. He was struggling to shoot the ball with any balance and rhythm against the massively strong, thick-legged Chuck Hayes (everybody does). He was passive and slow on defense, getting smoked both by Luis Scola, the beautifully dissolute-seeming Argentine (understandable) and by Hayes himself (not so much). (By the way, I love that these two are on a team together. If Scola and Hayes were buildings, Scola would be some boozy, debauched 4AM tapas bar while Hayes would be the last remaining rock factory in Gary, Indiana.)

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On Friday, in my conversation with Sam of Raptors Republic, I said this about our Wolves: “they are grotesquely inconsistent when it comes to playing team defense, sustaining the kind of effort, awareness and concentration that a team needs to compete…the Raptors were worse than terrible in [the last] game; the Wolves are more than capable of returning the favor.” God, did that ever turn out to be true.

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No disrespect intended for the Charlotte Bobcats but the Wolves absolutely gave this one away.

And it feels really good to say that.

I’m not happy the Wolves lost by any means, but I’m extremely happy they were in a position on the road to have a game to put away. I don’t know that this team is necessarily better in the sense that the Wolves can keep this unit together for a few years and have it develop into a title contending team. This unit isn’t that. But they’ve been competitive since the Miami-Orlando-Houston debacle and Michael Beasley decided to take over as the on-court leader of this team. They still have future bench players starting in key spots but bringing in guys to push them down the depth chart will definitely make this team dangerous in the future.

The way they gave this game shows the growth they still need but it also shows that this team might not be such a pushover most of this season.

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From the Wolves:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has waived guard Maurice Ager. Ager appeared in four games for the Wolves this season, averaging 3.8 points in 7.3 minutes. He was originally signed by the Wolves as a free agent on Sept. 24, 2010.

This is probably for the best. Ager seems like a good guy but he was in over his head. Seems like a prime candidate for some quality D-League burn. It’s not clear whether this means that Luke Ridnour will play this evening against New York, or that Sebastian Telfair will be flying solo, or that the Wolves are on the verge of signing one of the other point guards they worked out this week. If they go the latter route, my vote is for Sundiata Gaines, for no other reason than this awesome moment (sorry about the excess Reggie Miller):

Update: Gaines it is:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has signed free-agent guard Sundiata Gaines. To make room on the roster, the Wolves last night requested waivers on guard Maurice Ager.

Gaines, a 6-1 point guard, appeared in 32 games for the Utah Jazz in 2009-10, averaging 3.3 points and 1.2 assists in 6.8 minutes per game. He is probably best known for hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Jazz a 97-96 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 14, 2010. It was the first NBA three-pointer of his career. Gaines also appeared in five playoff games with Utah in 2010, averaging 2.2 ppg.

Ok, let’s take a deep breath. The Timberwolves are not going to start the season with an 84 game losing streak. They are not going to lose every game by 50. They are actually a real basketball team. And lets also take note of the fact that the past week’s blowouts came at the hands of some serious basketball teams. Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, the Lakers, even the Grizz and the Rockets (their strange record notwithstanding): pretty nasty. In any case, over the past two nights it’s been nice to watch the Wolves play two nicely competitive games and even (am I really about to say this?) pick up a road win for the first time in nine months. Observe me observing:

  • I would be remiss not to lead off with Michael Beasley’s visit from the Cannot Miss a Jumper Wizard. Considering what one might expect a 42-point game from Michael Beasley to look like, this one was relatively free of ball-stopping and heat checks (at least in comparison with his typical 4-17 performance–Beasley is that rare bird who takes more difficult shots the worse he’s shooting). He was aided by Omri Casspi’s generous on-ball defense and Sacto’s generally sluggish pick-and-roll coverage which gave him ample space to shoot, particularly in his tranced-out 18-point first-quarter. But Beasley also made good decisions, particularly when running the Wolves three-man weave. And he shrewdly adapted his game by taking the ball to the basket when the Kings began guarding him more tightly in the second half. He really played an awfully nice game.
  • One final Beasley observation: it’s remarkable how much more energy he plays with, how much greater presence-of-mind he shows, how much more purposefully he defends when he’s hitting his shot.
  • Darko looked sharp with that mouthful of blood. It was a nice counterpoint to the gentle way he feathers the ball at the basket. I wanted to compliment him on his second straight merely mediocre game after that string of nightmares last week. And yes, his on-ball defense against Samuel D’alembert and Pau was definitely an improvement. But the guy has still missed 14 of his last 23 shots, most of them from within five feet. Barely mediocre.
  • Games like this cause me to succumb to pleasant, summery daydreams imagining that Sebastian Telfair is a capable NBA shooter and thus, a viable NBA backup point guard. (This would be especially amazing considering that Mo Ager looks distinctly unsuited to the task.) Didn’t Bassie  look composed and fluid hitting those calm step-back jumpers, like it was some kind of routine occurrence? One thing that helped: being guarded by Beno Udrih.
  • The Wolves bring a certain edge-of-panic wildness to the task of running a half-court offense, like they’re playing a step-and-a-half faster than they’re really able. (This is particularly true when Corey Brewer or Bassie or Beasley are on the floor). When they’re not hitting shots this produces a nauseating turnover-ridden disaster, a total mess of traveling calls, ill-conceived jump passes and carelessly heaved cross-court giveaways . But when, like tonight, they are getting bailed out by supreme shot-making its actually kind of charming. To wit: Brewer’s awkward, falling-over fourth quarter floater; the play that ended the first half, in which Ager spent many seconds aimlessly wandering the backcourt before sort of fumbling the ball to Nikola Pekovic, who softly dropped it through the net as time expired. It’s ok to laugh now since they won, but really: have you ever seen so many ridiculous backcourt violations in your life?

Does It Make a Sound?

Myles Brown —  October 31, 2010 — Leave a comment

photo by andreidan

On Friday night, the Wolves made it clear to both the Bucks and a pleasantly surprised home crowd that this is no longer a fifteen win basketball team. Unfortunately, on Saturday night the Memphis Grizzlies reminded us just how far we have to go. Of course chances are between the Hallow-eve holiday and this being the sole non-televised game of the NBA schedule, you probably didn’t see it. Good for you. No, really. The difference between the two nights was simply a matter of personnel. Brandon Jennings was kept out of the lane with relative ease and a recovering Andrew Bogut was denied positioning by an active and alert defensive effort from the home team. But as expected, a repeat performance with OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay didn’t go as well.

The athletes on this year’s unit provide more defense than past incarnations of small ball, but we still have to accept that on some-actually, many-occasions that won’t be enough. The tempo of last night’s match up was perfectly suited for Mayo & Gay who were more than a handful for any Wolves defender as they continually slashed wherever they pleased and rose over whoever they wanted. Michael Conley conducted a masterful floor game and Marc Gasol reminded Darko what a center really looks like. Memphis just was, and is, better. There was no shame in this loss, the Wolves were simply outmatched. However, in order to overcome such odds in the future there are some areas in which our pups have to show growth, while others need immediate correction.

Even Jeff Foxworthy knows that if you’re on your second stint as a Wolves backup point guard in the past three years, then you’re probably on your way out of the league. Maybe he told Sebastian Telfair, because Bassy certainly has the look of a man playing for a contract. The trash talking, the over dribbling, the quick trigger, the forced and unnecessarily flashy passes all are indicative of a prideful defiance he must feel is necessary in order to establish himself. I don’t. And I like him.

I’ve always been willing to overlook his size and poor shooting, because as a backup point he’s provided the stability and clarity of vision that our starters may have lacked. He utilizes proper spacing, moves with purpose and takes care of the ball. Well, he used to. You see, there’s a fine line between probing the defense in order to create open shots and pounding the air out of the ball only to pass as a last resort. Similarly, there’s another line between asserting and exposing one’s self. Bassy has crossed them both. I understand that his time is short considering that Jonny Flynn will be back demanding minutes soon enough, but in order to remain in the rotation Telfair needs to play to his current strengths, not try to create new ones on the fly.

Kevin Love, on the other hand, is someone who could stand a few new tricks. I understood and mostly agreed with Kurt Rambis’ decision to take Love’s talents to the bench on opening night. While he is clearly an outstanding boardsman and stellar distributor, he’s also an underwhelming defender and has quite a limited offensive repertoire. Presumably, these things will correct themselves in due time, but until then they’re stunting his development. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the fluid postwork of Al Jefferson, but it’d be easier for Love to show off that passing  if he could command a double team, or least get a defender to turn their neck every once in a while. And not unlike Al, he’d be able to stay on the court longer if he could make more of a contribution on the defensive end. These are both integral aspects not only to his success, but the entire team.

Let’s be clear, Love is going to be an excellent player for a contending team one day, hopefully one right here in the Twin Cities. But ultimately, it will be as a complement, not a centerpiece.

Until then, stay thirsty my friend.

Uh oh. Looks like Jonny Flynn and my grandma have something in common – a bad hip.

So Jonny is going to be sidelined for quite some time. If the early prognosis from Dr. Spears and his sources is correct then a surgery next week and a three to four-month recovery time would have Flynn missing the first month of the NBA season and maybe more.

While this bodes well for the playing time of newly signed Luke Ridnour, it puts a big question mark at the backup point guard position for the Wolves.

The question isn’t who will pick up the backup point guard position. That will go to the newly reacquired Sebastian Telfair.

I’m more curious about what Bassy can bring back to this team after having a very underwhelming six seasons to start his NBA career. The curious thing about Telfair is he’s only 25 years old. If some Wolves fans are going to give Darko a pass all day because he’s still just 25 years old, I guess we have to give the benefit of the doubt to the kid from Coney Island who is just 11 days older than the Serbian Gangster.

When Bassy was repping ‘Sota, he actually wasn’t all that bad. He had his two best seasons of his career (assuming we don’t consider his four games with the Cavs last year as a complete entity… sorry, John Krolik) at the Target Center when he started the majority of the games he played as a Wolf and distributed the ball very well. The problem with Bassy is the lightning quickness with the ball that made him a YouTube and mixtape sensation doesn’t really work in the NBA. Watch this video:

Fun, right?

Well how many times do you see listless defense with players in the wrong spot and not reacting properly to ball movement in the NBA? I mean other than what the Wolves did last season.

That’s the problem with Sebastian Telfair. He’s great against mediocre competition. Put him in the league with guys that are as quick as him (or quick enough to use their size advantage to neutralize his first step) and he’s all of a sudden at a big disadvantage. The way you can change this and open up the floor for him is by putting Bassy in an up-tempo system that allows him to get into big spaces and get creative with the basketball.

Telfair has never really played for a fast team before. The fastest paced team he’s ever really played for was the ’06-’07 Boston Celtics. That tanking Celtics team was 12th in the league in pace at 92 possessions per game (last year’s Clippers team averaged 92.6 possessions per game but he never really got consistent minutes with them). Last year’s Wolves were third in the NBA in pace with a staggering 96.1 possessions per. That’s something that should be somewhat alluring for this current situation.

The Wolves aren’t going to need his services consistently for the majority of the season if Flynn can come back healthy. They just need him to be a steady hand that creates for his teammates during the initial months of the regular season. They need him to back up Ridnour (there’s something I never thought I’d say about this team) for roughly 20-25 minutes per game and not screw things up worse than they already are.

Yes, it would be nice to have Ramon Sessions as the backup to Luke Ridnour to start the season but that trade to send him and Hollins packing for Telfair and 1/9 of Delonte West’s unguaranteed contract was something that needed to get done. Instead, the Wolves get to be a little thinner in the backcourt to start the season but set up better for the future.

For now let’s start making Get Well Soon cards for Jonny Flynn and hope his hip heals better than my grandma’s did.