The Timberwolves fought to the final seconds tonight, but couldn’t get over the hump against a borderline top-tier Memphis Grizzlies squad. Mid-broadcast, Dave Benz mentioned the Grizzlies haven’t won an opener since they moved to Vancouver. It was a tough 105-101 loss, but it’s important to remember the quality of competition that the Wolves were facing tonight, and the connotations that a win would bring for said competition.
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In the grandest barnstorming tradition, the Minnesota Timberwolves descended on the 4,500-seat Taylor Center on the campus of Minnesota State University Mankato for Dunks After Dark last night. One hundred percent completely sober students filled the arena to capacity quickly once the doors opened at 11 pm and they mugged for NBA TV’s cameras while being entertained for a good hour by DJ Mad Mardigan and an assortment of breakdancers and trampoline dunkers. As anticipation built for the Wolves to take the floor, the energy thrummed and the building pulsed with all the casual fun of basketball without playoff implications, without the pressure of filling a big arena, without the freight of the NBA proper.
But let’s not kid ourselves: in terms of actual basketball, last night meant less than nothing in the grand scheme of things, so let’s celebrate that with a bunch of GIFs of dunks and fun stuff, plus a couple observations. All GIFs are courtesy of the incomparable CJ Fogler. Continue Reading…
The first true superstar to play for the Wolves was Kevin Garnett, a power forward. Eventually, he was traded for Al Jefferson, a power forward/center, who was eventually (and, arguably, unnecessarily) replaced by Kevin Love, a power forward. Heck, even Tom Gugliotta and Christian Laettner put up big numbers for the Wolves in the early-to-mid 90s.
Power forwards have led the Timberwolves for nearly the entire existence of the franchsie. Thaddeus Young has a chance to lead the team in scoring this year, but for the first time in nearly two decades, the current shape of the franchise does not revolve around the development of a promising young power forward.
The Minnesota Timberwolves announced on Monday they will be affiliated with the last remaining hub D-League team for the 2014-15 season. There are currently 17 teams in the NBA with single affiliation situations with the D-League. That leaves 13 teams sharing the Fort Wayne Mad Ants next season and the Wolves will be one of those teams. The Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors will all share the Fort Wayne affiliate.
The NBA has implemented a flexible assignment system that will allow single affiliate teams to accept assignment of a player from a different team if the Mad Ants don’t have room for that player when he’s assigned. Here’s the press release from the Wolves announcing the affiliation with Fort Wayne: Continue Reading…
As Steve discussed earlier, the precise relationship between the Summer League and competition is a little foggy. We know the wins and losses mean almost nothing; we know that two thirds of the Wolves’ Summer League roster won’t be around in September. And yet it was still a little disheartening to see the stagnant mess that was the Wolves’ offense for much of the tournament. And it was still pretty cool to see that offense turn itself on and really flow as it did in the team’s final game, against the Pelicans. What do we take away from this? Well, for one, I think we discover what happens when Shabazz Muhammad takes half of your team’s shots.
I think we also discovered that most of the players the Wolves invited to Summer League really lacked the dynamism to get a real look in the NBA. Sorry to fans of Matt Janning, Dennis Horner, D.J. Kennedy and Markel Starks, who all showed flashes of skill but all struggled, for various reasons, to really hang. Jordan Morgan some charges and worked the glass, but his lack of size, skill and explosiveness really showed. Brady Heslip is, without a doubt, one of the purest shooters I have ever seen. Heslip is so pure, in fact, that it’s a damn shame he looked so overmatched in every other phase of the game. Depending on what happens with Kevin Love, the Wolves will probably have an open roster spot or two. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of these guys have a real shot. So: on to some players who we might be seeing in the fall.
In no particular order.
- Zach LaVine was largely as advertised. Fast and athletic, there’s a kind of wide-eyed innocence about the way he moves with so much more purpose with the ball than without, about how he sort of habitually performs a little inside-out sizeup dribble when he’s squared up to his defender. Nerves were evident early on when he lost his grip on the ball on a drive, but he settled in, particularly once the game was called a tie and the dunking exhibition started. More on that in a moment.
- Shabazz Muhammad showed a lot of the same gusto that was his calling card late in the season last year, going up hard for dunks and muscling his way into the lane for rebounds. He still loves the left block and that little jump hook, but that’s fine. Obviously, this pre-pre-pre-season is a time when players have to balance a desire to try new things or show their progression with the need to prove they can do what they’re good at consistently. It can be a tricky balancing act.
As I’ve written here probably too many times, first round picks — especially lottery picks — come with certain expectations because of where they were drafted. Some of that makes sense. A team is a failure/bad and their “reward” for being such is an opportunity to improve by selecting from the best young players coming into the league. The hope is these players will improve things right away, when often that’s not the case at all. The biggest improvements come from veterans on the team, not rookies coming through and setting the league on fire. Continue Reading…
“They’re all getting paid. They all have a job to do. Not only our organization – the whole league is going to judge them by how they finish out this season. And that’s what they have to understand. They’re a select group of people that get to play in the NBA.” – Rick Adelman
Ever since the final nail was hammered into the coffin containing the Wolves’ playoff dreams (back on March 5th), much of the discussion about the Timberwolves concerns expectations for the rest of the dearly departed campaign. Would Minnesota devolve into zombies, morbidly sleepwalking until the final buzzer sounds on April 16th? Would the starters exude professional pride, or fall into bad habits, knowing their futures are secure with guaranteed deals in place for next season? Will the team begin tanking? Would the bench, full of (mostly disappointing) parts, show signs of fight and life, hoping to leave a lasting impression on the front office, working earnestly for their next contracts? Has Rick Adelman checked out, or is he at least invested until the season’s done?
The answers are never black or white, never the same from night to night. The Clippers’ 114-104 defeat of the Wolves at Target Center on Monday had a little bit of everything – some good, some bad, some new developments, some familiar flaws, and comments from the coach about professional pride, effort, and finishing what you’ve started. Continue Reading…
Maybe that’s a tired cliche, pushed by sports media types looking to fill columns, game recaps and hours of airtime. After all, it seems like a funny concept: a group of individuals, well-compensated and competitive, sublimating their egos to the collective group, only to have the group assume an identity of its own. What function would it serve, other than a convenient talking point, a narrative driven by those outside the locker room?
And yet, it does seem important for a team to have something to fall back on, a support system, a consistent backbone to help them weather the various storms that pop up throughout a six month campaign. It could be defense, a run-and-gun-style, corner threes and free throws. It could be something sinister, like tanking for a draft pick, or dizzying dysfunction. Most teams around the NBA have a personality, whether they’re aware of it or not. Thus far, the Timberwolves are an underachieving bunch being dragged along by a superstar, which feels less like an identity and more like an indictment. Continue Reading…
What can you accomplish in 32 minutes and 35 seconds?
You can run a load of laundry. You can probably cook a really nice dinner as long as the preparation isn’t too time-consuming. You can watch an episode of Full House with commercials and even pause it on the DVR to use the bathroom or play Words With Friends without distraction during each move. All the while, you’re pondering how Joey Gladstone possibly made enough money to not be a complete burden on the Tanner family household. What Kevin Love was able to do in just 32 minutes and 35 seconds last night was pretty ridiculous.
And once again, Love set another weird “record.” Continue Reading…