Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Timberwolves Drop Slopfest to Grizzlies

"It's one thing to hear about it [free-throw shooting] from your coach, but when your wife tells you it stinks, you tend to work on it."
--Orlando Woolridge

<--In honor of missed free throws, I give you a picture of free throw shooting prominently involving Michael Olowakandi. Who can miss a free throw? The Kandi-man can!

The Memphis Grizzlies solved the mystery of the 2012 Minnesota Timberwolves, handing the Wolves a 90-86 loss in a often rhythm-free game. For those interested in box scores where a team shoots 54.2% from the free-throw line, see a St. John the Baptist elementary school game from 1992, or see this game's here.

It started ugly for the Wolves, and even though they rallied to earn a lead in the 2nd half, this duckling didn't turn into a swan. Unlike the solid showings against the Mavs and Spurs, the starting lineup reverted back to 2011-mode, spotting the Zach Randolphless Grizzlies a 16-3 lead (which got as high as 15 points) before any reserves checked in. Our squad clawed back, and appeared to take some control in the third quarter, but ultimately did themselves in with poor play and, once again, extremely pathetic free-throw shooting. I don't use the word "pathetic" loosely. A home, NBA team of professionals shot 54.2% from the charity stripe. I don't really know what else to call that without resorting to profanity.

The Timberwolves had several factors in its favor coming in like (a) momentum coming off kicking the tail out of Dallas and San Antonio in consecutive games, (b) a day of rest without travel, and (c) a Memphis Grizzlies team that recently found out Z-Bo is out 6-8 weeks. However, instead of a win we have to tell the tale of a team that lost a game by four points and, in case you missed the part where I talked about free-throw shooting, missed 11 free throws (to Memphis' 4 missed FTs) and turned the ball over 7 more times. In a game where the teams shoot relatively the same rate from the field (MEM-41.2%, MN-40.2%) and shoot identical percentages from the three-point line (33.3%), those free-throws can really make a difference. Combine that with the effort needed to come back from 15 points, and you've got yourself the recipe for a tasty loss.

I hope the Timberwolves can take some frustration out on Friday against a Cleveland Cavaliers team they really have no business losing to.

Other observations:

1) To the casual NBA observer, Kevin Love put up another fantastic NBA performance with 27 points and 14 rebounds. However, this was easily his worst game of the season. Love appeared frustrated from the time he got his 2nd personal foul fairly early in the 1st quarter, and seemed off at several points in the game.

2) Ricky Rubio's minutes creeped into the 30s this game. Another double-digit assist effort (and double-double) from the young Spaniard. Coach Adelman stuck with a Rubio-Ridnour lineup for much of the 4th quarter.

3) Michael Beasley still appears at times to have issues handling the ball since his finger injury.

4) Darko (and company) did a great job on Marc Gasol tonight. Gasol only had 6 points on 3-11 shooting, and I recall two of those makes being very difficult hooks over Darko's outstretched arms.

5) Along with the Wolves "winning steak," we also saw the end of the Loon's Nest air balls; however, tonight's "shooter" selected the layup, so his standard miss is probably worse.

6) Unless the Klondike Bar promotion brings the heat, it will no longer be worthy of my 30 seconds or less of typing. Tonight's Klondike Bar recipient needed only wear a bear costume for a period of time.

7) WCCO Radio needs to check their spots. On the way home from downtown (10:00 PMish), I heard an advertisement for, "The Minnesota Timberwolves v. the Memphis Grizzlies, tonight at 7:00 PM on 830 WCCO radio."

Friday night marks the first time the Timberwolves play a team that they should handle easily in the Cleveland Cavaliers. See you Friday Night!

Monday, January 2, 2012

No Country for Old Men

The Minnesota Timberwolves remain undefeated in 2012, beating a San Antonio team whose Spurs don't jingle-jangle-jingle like they used to. The Timberwolves starting unit played its best game, and the Spurs lost Manu Ginobli to a hand injury in the 2nd quarter. The final score was 106-96, here's the box score.

<-- I'm too old for this s**t.
(Photo: Jim Mone / Associated Press)

Yesterday, I wrote that I felt the Timberwolves had the more talented team coming into the game against the Dallas Mavericks. Tonight, again, the Timberwolves just looked bigger, badder and better than the largely-aging Spurs for almost the entirety of the game, with or without Ginobli. During the stretches where the Wolves couldn't find the bottom of the basket, they did a good job making sure the Spurs did not make up ground.

The starting lineup finally showed up tonight, with each starter putting up at least 10 points. The Wolves shot just over 57% from both the field, generally, and the three point line, and that includes a cold stretch at the end of the game where they didn't score from the 3:34 mark until the final buzzer. However, during that stretch, San Antonio only managed 2 points on 2 free throws.

Unless you were at Target Center tonight or otherwise taking advantage of the NBA League Pass trial (or actually having NBALP), you were not able to see the game. Other than a few instances of poor shot selection and 19 turnovers (which I would discuss more if the Spurs were able to actually capitalize on them), the Wolves didn't leave much to knit-pick. Again, they were the bigger, better, badder team, and they acted like it throughout the game. Given the toll the condensed season is going to have on some the aging Western Conference powers, and the skill, youth and athleticism of our squad, I think we might need to raise the bar a little on expectations this season. The only game the Wolves deserved to lose was the Milwaukee game (which they almost won), and if they had capitalized on a few free throws (the Wolves are currently ranked 24th in FT%), this team would have knocked off Miami and Oklahoma City.

Some observations:

1) Kevin Love puts up another 24 points and 15 rebounds, just another day at the office. Based on his body language during the game, I'm not sure Tiago Splitter wants to see too much more of Mr. Love. I mentioned this in the first preseason game review, but Love's three-point shooting looks very natural this season. As will be brought up often, the front office needs to lock this guy up if he's willing.

2) I was all-around pleased with Beasley's play, but it's clear the finger injury affected his game. His shooting looked the same, but he handled the ball like Wally Szczerbiak at times, and dropped passes like Troy Williamson.

3) I've written multiple times that Wes Johnson needs to (a) get himself open and (b) hit the open shots when the ball swings his way to have success in this league. He did both tonight and played decent defense. I hope to see more of this from Mr. Johnson.

4) This paragraph is both praise for Darko's play and delight at finally watching Tim Duncan struggle. As a fan who always rooted for KG back in his prime, nothing was more frustrating than watching Tim Duncan play flawlessly at Target Center. I always told people that if they thought the Spurs were boring back in their contender days, they needed to watch them, and especially Tim Duncan, in person to see how great they, and he, played the game. Tim was dominated by Darko, and pretty much anyone he guarded and was guarded by, all night. He still looks like the same person, but he's certainly not the same player.

5) Sweetest play of the night came relatively early in the game. Alley-oop from Ricky Rubio to Derrick Williams, who caught it with his back to the basket and tossed in a reverse dunk.

6) Klondike Bar promotion is getting weaker and weaker. They tied two fans together with duck tape for a few quarters. They should have saved that tattoo for later in the season.

7) 4-4 for Loon's Nest air balls.

8) The crowd continues to dwindle slightly, but I still think we need the powers-that-be to partner up with a fast-food provider for some kind of promotion where we get some junk food for scoring at least 100 pts.

Two years ago Timberwolves-Grizzlies would be a laugher, but this could be a good gauge for the Timberwolves if Zach Randolph's injury isn't too serious. If the Grizzlies have to play without Randolph and continue to play with Conley, I would expect a Wolves victory. See you at Target Center Wednesday.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Timberwolves Down Defending Champs at Target Center

While the king was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown..." - Don McLean

The Minnesota Timberwolves knocked down the defending champion Dallas Mavericks at Target Center tonight, winning 99-82 for their first win of the season, and their first victory in 20 tries stretching back to last season. The Wolves are now UNDEFEATED in 2012. The Mavericks looked much more like a 1-4 team than the Larry O'Brien Trophy raisers tonight. Here's the box score action.

<-- J.J Barea's current team looked more champion-like this New Year's Day. (Associated Press photo)

For once this season, the Timberwolves decided not to get down by a significant amount at any point in this game, and despite a few stretches of very poor play, they still came away with a 17-point victory.

This game was as much about Dallas struggling as it was Minnesota putting together a great game. Considering Dallas' off-season moves, including key losses and acquiring tough-to-plug-in malcontents, combined with the Mavericks' poor play to begin the season, I came into tonight fully expecting the Timberwolves to win this game. It might sound ridiculous given Dallas' recent rise to the top and the Timberwolves half-decade-plus mediocrity, but I genuinely believed the Wolves had the more talented and cohesive team at this point. As long as the Wolves kept the game in a place where Dirk Nowitzki couldn't single-handedly win with some last-minute heroics, I felt the Wolves matched up well in size, speed, athleticism, and skill. The only advantage I saw the Mavericks having coming in was experience, but their team seemed hastily put together and full of big-name players who were either past their primes (see: Jason Kidd, Vince Carter) or used to different systems (see: Lamar Odom).

On top of getting a win, the Timberwolves had several highlight-worthy plays, especially a dime by Rubio where he threw the ball between Dirk's legs to an open Anthony Tolliver in the corner for a three. This game was a showcase of two teams heading in different directions: the Wolves on the rise, and the Mavericks on the fall.

Other observations:

1) Per usual, Kevin Love was spectacular. 25 points on 9-16 shooting, 17 boards, and a winner's swagger. The Timberwolves need to lock this man up. Not only does he put up terrific numbers, he does it efficiently, and he's improved just about every aspect of his game from season to season.

2) I don't write about Rubio as much as everyone else, but make no mistake, I love watching him play. This team is a much more entertaining product, and he's one of the key reasons for that (when he's on the floor). 14 points (including a pair of threes), 7 assists, 4-4 on free throws, and generally looking to score when it worked best for the team. Trust me, I'm as pumped as everyone else. Speaking of free throws...

3) I didn't complain much up top because they won handily, but 17-24 for 70.8% is pretty pathetic. The Wolves have to get their acts together from the line.

4) As quick as I am to criticize, I am also game to praise. Michael Beasley had an all-around nice game. I felt he played within what the team was doing, showed great effort on the defensive end of the ball, limited his bad-shooting choices, and had a few key rebounds in traffic down the stretch. In other words, he did what I wish he did every game.

5) Welcome back to J.J. Barea. It's still nice having a guy on this team that tries to get in the lane and knows what he's doing when he gets down there. Speaking of guys getting in the lane...

6) ...just the opposite is Wes Johnson. Wes looks lost this season. Again, if he cannot consistently get himself open looks off screens or just generally moving without the ball, then also knock those shots down, his minutes are going to suffer. Through five games, I feel like he has regressed in almost all respects. I think Coach Adelman should give Wayne Ellington a serious look at more of Wes Johnson's minutes. As for struggling players...

7) As a fan of an opposing team playing the Dallas Mavericks, I could watch Vince Carter do Vince-Carter things all day. My favorite Vince moment was watching him pay close attention to Crunch try to juggle while Rick Carlisle was managing a huddle. I also love watching Vince do some of the things other once-athletic, now-older stars do like shooting turnaround, fade-away jumpers. The only difference is that players like Kobe and Jordan relentlessly worked on their games to hone those veteran-savvy moves while Vince makes those moves seemingly believing that they should come effortlessly.

8) Another nice game for Anthony Tolliver. AT is going to draw a lot of tough guards this season, as he just came off a game guarding LeBron down the stretch only to find himself face-to-face with Dirk Nowitzki. Tolliver and the other Wolves guarding Dirk did a wonderful job making sure Dirk almost always had to look shoot over someone's arms.

9) We're 3 for 3 on Loon's Nest air balls at halftime. Today's "shooter" picked the three point shot.

10) What would you do for a Klondike bar? I think the PR guys at Target Center blew their loads opening night with the tattoo. Tonight all one had to do was drink the juice from a can of black olives.

11) The defending champions weren't the draw the Thunder & Heat were as the upper level looked pretty empty.

See you at Target Center tomorrow night for the San Antonio Spurs. The last time I watched them on a non back-to-back or the front end of back-to-back, they destroyed the L.A. Clippers.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wolves Feel the Heat in December

What happens when there's great energy and flowing adult beverage at Target Center and the surrounding area? Next morning game review.

<-- Beasley just realized that he wasn't invited to LeBron's birthday party. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Another game for the Timberwolves, and another narrow loss with sub-par free throw shooting partially to blame. The Minnesota Timberwolves fell 103-101 last night to the Miami Heat at Target Center. If you want to see 60% free throw shooting and 25 turnovers in a box score, here it is.

The Timberwolves played a great game when the starting lineup wasn't intact. Unlike most writers, I do not feel the Timberwolves gave the Heat all they had. As previously stated, our squad shot an eighth-grade-basketballesque 60% from the free throw line and turned the ball over an alarming 25 times to only 15 turnovers from the Heat. Those turnovers morphed into a lot of fast break highlights from the best fast-break team in the league.

From our spot in Target Center, the crowd was often up in arms by the amount of calls that went against the Wolves, especially on the offensive side. I agreed at the time, but a review of the box score shows the Wolves got to the line more often and had 22 total personal fouls to the Heat's 21. The Wolves also worked the glass hard, out-rebounding Dwayne Wade, his sidekick and the rest of the Heat 49 to 41.

The minutes column in the box score also has a telling tale. With the exception of Love, the second unit's minutes were higher than the starting five's. This is a good thing. I like what Rick Adelman's offense has created early this season (a lot of open looks and a fan-friendly pace), but I remain puzzled by his insistence on a starting lineup that was largely responsible for a 17-65 record last season, and a starting lineup that just lost it's 18th consecutive regular season game. The second unit scrapped hard in the second quarter to take a 53-51 lead at the half. The starting unit returned for the third quarter, and nobody was subbed until 6:20 left in the third when Tolliver came in for Beasley. By the time Coach Adelman subbed out Milicic, Ridnour and Johnson, there was 3:11 left in the quarter and the Heat had pulled away by four.

I understand that teams have to have rotations and that the best players cannot play the whole game every game. However, the starting lineup the Wolves trot out each night is, again, responsible for 18 consecutive losses. It's a proven loser. Why make your second unit come in and have to make up the difference every game? Why not try to start out with leads and make the other team expend all the energy coming back?

Other observations:

1) I think his performances are going to get my top observation every game. Kevin Love had another outstanding performance with 25 points and 12 rebounds. In all the excitement with Ricky Rubio coming over, let's not forget to appreciate what Kevin Love is doing. Speak of the devil...

2) Great night for Ricky Rubio. I think his assist line would have been closer to 12 against OKC, too, if the Wolves hadn't gone 3 for 22 from beyond the arc, but his guys knocked a few down last night and he even showed some range in hitting two three-point shot.

3) I know LeBron put up 34 points, but I want to give a some props to Anthony Tolliver for his game last night. Tolliver put up 10 points, had 7 rebounds, and scrapped the whole time he was in the game. He's the perfect off the bench player for a team that aims to be good.

3) Let's flip the script. Wes Johnson. If Wes cannot consistently get himself open shots, then knock those shots down, then his career is going to lack any luster because he cannot create a shot off the dribble, and he cannot get to the free throw line. When you get a product that's a 23 year old rookie that played so many years in a 2-3 defense, you're getting a product that is largely finished. I don't think this tiger is going to change his stripes. He is a taller, more athletic Wally Szszczcerbiak, only he doesn't hit the shots consistently like Wally did (he also doesn't have that "I'm constipated" look every time he runs down the court).

4) +/- ratings (completely overrated in my book, but not for this game): Milicic -18, Johnson -11, Ridnour -11. Let's bring these boys off the bench.

5) Michael Beasley. Only six second-half minutes, no 4th quarter minutes, no problem here. Look, Beasley is the classic basketball player I just cannot root for. I admired how he played hurt a lot last year, but the bottom line is that he's not making the most of what he's been given. It sucks to have a player on your team that has so much talent, yet sulks around like a 6 year-old that got sweaters and socks rather than Transformers from Santa. Derrick Williams seems to have the same skill set combined with a great attitude and maximum effort.

6) On the flip-side of the ball, I'm bummed this was the only time we get the Heat here, but thankful they weren't one of the Eastern teams that won't make it to Target Center. Their fast-breaking is the best executed and most exciting fast-break to watch.

7) What would you do for a Klondike Bar? Well, against OKC, one guy got a tattoo. Last night, some dude had to sit in a sauna for a large portion of the second quarter. To make matters worse for the tattooed one and sauna boy, some dingo got $500 during halftime just for dancing for 10 seconds.

8) Speaking of halftime, we're 2 for 2 this season for Loon's Nest shooters not hitting the rim on their shots. However, it looks like someone at the lottery decided to make some sense. If you read my OKC game review, I wrote that the person who chose to make a layup would get $50 in lott0 tickets, yet if you missed a free-throw chance for $500, you still got $100 in lotto tickets. Last night, they changed the layup to $100 and gave the airballer $50 for his sad effort.

Happy New Year, and quick healing to JJ Barea! See you at Target Center Sunday for the Mavericks.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Timberwolves Comeback Comes Up Short in Road Opener

The local and national media buzz for the Timberwolves this season is that the squad had added enough pieces to make a significant improvement in the win column. Through two games, the Wolves have the same record as perennial juggernauts like the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and (at least as I type this), the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately, that record is 0-2. The Timberwolves mounted a second ferocious comeback within a one-week span in the city of Milwaukee (Algonquin for the "Good Earth"), but they fell just short of victory, falling 98-95 to the Milwaukee Bucks in their first road game. In case you want to see a high turnover number, here's the box score.

Neither team had the "back-to-back" advantage, as both teams came off short rest after narrow losses last night. The Timberwovles gave the OKC Thunder all they could handle and, quite honestly, should have won the game. The Bucks came off a loss at the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. Both teams had to travel, and while the Bucks get to come home, they had to travel farther. Unlike last night's loss; however, the Timberwolves did not deserve to win this game from beginning to end. Last night was a tale of missed opportunity from behind three point line and free throw line, but tonight was Adelman's early-preseason bane: turnovers.

On Twitter and during the broadcast, I saw and heard many references to missed opportunities from the Wolves on wide-open three-pointers. However, the squad shot 42.9% (6 for 14) from beyond the arc, so that's hardly anything to balk at (unlike last night's pathetic 3 for 22). At halftime, I tweeted that one of the two biggest problems for the Wolves was the rebounding disparity (especially allowing 11 first-half offensive rebounds to the Vanilla Sky combo of Bogut/Leueueuweueueuer), along with a repulsive 5 assists to 13 turnovers. At the end of the game, the Wolves had the same amount of offensive ballboards as the Bucks (16) and actually won the overall rebounding battle.

What they sure didn't win was the turnover battle. Last night, the Wolves had 22 assists to just 12 turnovers. Tonight the Wolves flipped the switch in horrific fashion by having only 14 assists to 25 turnovers. The box score will also leave a second reason for Wolves fans to cringe: the Wolves left 12 points on the free throw line, going 33-45 for the game. I don't expect the Wolves to hit 90% as a team, but for those counting at home, the Wolves have lost two games by 7 points and have left 19 points behind on the free throw line.

Some observations:

1) Another terrific night by Kevin Love. I especially appreciate his effort to get to the line. As a matter of fact, Kevin set the Timberwolves single game made FT record (nitpick, he left 5 points behind on the line).

2) During Common's show, someone (I forget who) indicated they were happy to see Beasley at least WANT to take that late-game shot. I would like to be first in the line that DOES NOT WANT him to be taking those shots.

3) I like Derrick Williams' assertiveness when it comes to at least intending to score in the paint. However, I think he's quickly realizing that NBA defenders are faster and bigger than PAC-10 defenders. I think he'll figure it out soon, and when he does, he's going to be a force.

4) Darko had a terrible night. First off, the Wolves had 0 blocked shots (one of the lamest stats for individuals, but 0 blocks the whole game?!), meaning Darko also had 0. When he was in the game, the Bucks dominated the offensive boards. Top it off, Darko used all his fouls in flimsy fashion, allowing the Bucks to get in the bonus early and often. If Darko can't at least appear to affect play in the paint and keep guys off the offensive boards, he's going to find himself sitting on the bench next to Pekovic making a lot of Eastern Promises this season.

5) For the 0-3 of you that might read this site, I'll be making a lot of jokes about Eastern Promises when it comes to Pekovic and Milicic. All the credit to my buddy Ryan who has the other seat in the Ricky Rubio season ticket deal this year.

6) Condolences to the Adelman family.

7) I saw a promotion for the "Play Video Games with Derrick Williams Sweepstakes." What game do you think you play?

8) Terry Porter is looking a lot like the dude that was runner up on Biggest Loser (former NFL O-Lineman Anton Davis).

9) I'm watching this Lakers-Jazz game right now (with LAL looking like they'll escape the 0-win status), and listening to Kevin Harlan have to refer to the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest as Metta World Peace is pretty funny. I'm not sure it's going to stop being funny this season or ever. It's happened about five times and I'm still laughing like I'm in a serious meeting and someone just loudly ripped ass.

See you at Target Center Friday for the Heat game. If I'm not feeling lazy, I'll throw something up tomorrow or Thursday.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Timberwolves Opener: New Look, Same Result

For the first time in years, Target Center was an exciting place to be and it wasn't because of the marquee names on the other side of the ball. Aside from the excitement of seeing the Timberwolves' new additions in regular-season action, I felt a feeling from the crowd that the team had a chance to make a game out of the early Western Conference favorite Oklahoma City Thunder; and a game they did make. Unfortunately for our scrappy team that could, the OKC Thunder pulled out a 104-100 victory at Target Center tonight. This box score reveals a lot of what why victory eluded the Wolves.

The Wolves trotted out the same starting lineup they went with in the preseason, Ridnour, Johnson, Beasley, Love and Milicic. It's a lineup reminiscent of last season, a season no one wants to reminisce on. However, as the game continued, it became clear that Wolves will not (and should not) rely on this lineup often. With early foul trouble on Luke Ridnour, we saw J.J. Barea, then Ricky Rubio, early, often, and often together. If Luke Ridnour needs to get in foul trouble early for Rubio to make his first appearances, I petition wealthy Wolves fans to pay off referees to call fouls on Luke right away.

Rubio's crisp passing, the team's all around ball movement, and Adelman's offensive schemes created a lot of open looks for the Timberwolves both inside and out. However, the Wolves went a pathetic 3 for 22 from behind the three-point line (13.6%) and missed 7 easy points from the free throw line (19 for 26). While they had 22 assists to just 12 turnovers, those missed three point shots created a lot of opportunity for Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, and the rest of OKC to run the floor and create havoc. Kevin Durant's seemingly-effortless 33 points and the Thunder taking advantage at the free throw line to the tune of 29 for 31, combined with a few miscues and those open shots, was just enough to do in our favorite NBA basketball team.

Despite the typical Wolves "L"-column addition, the crowd exited the building with a buzz of excitement and hope. For the first time since Kevin Love's 31-31, I expect to see the Wolves a little earlier on SportsCenter tonight (if we ever get past footage of Drew Brees breaking Marino's record).

Some other observations tonight:

1) What would you do for a Klondike Bar? Well, one person got a Timberwolves tattoo (a real, for-life-unless-you-get-lasers tattoo of the Timberwolves logo).

2) Target Center is just not the same without Natalie and Little Wally Hype Man.

3) One of the my halftime favorites, the lady who rides a unicycle and kicks bowls on to her head, was back and better than ever.

4) Michael Beasley should never shoot the ball 27 times from the field.

5) J.J. Barrea plays defense about as good as you possibly can for being 6' tall.

6) Kevin Love putting up the standard 22-12-5. One of the five was a beautiful full-court pass to Beasley for an easy bucket.

7) The Loon's Nest certainly does not have a lot of logic behind the halftime shot contest. The shooter (usually a heavy-set, middle-aged woman) gets the option of shooting a layup for $50 in lotto tickets, a free-throw for $500 in lotto tickets, or a three-pointer for $1,000 in lotto tickets. The woman chose the free throw, didn't even hit the rim, then was told she still got $100 in lotto tickets. Huh?

The Wolves get the Bucks tomorrow night in an "it counts" game. The Bucks lost to Charlotte tonight, so they're either going to be pissed, depressed, or both.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wolves Enjoy Some Preseason Venison

My favorite statistic heading into last night's game was a Tweet I noticed about the Timberwolves "selling" 15,000 tickets for last night's game. Seeing that I already know each season ticket holder received two extra tickets for last night's game, I figured that statement was damn near fraudulent. However, as I approached downtown heading north on Hiawatha, I noticed heavier and heavier traffic. Could this be Wolves traffic? No, it couldn't. It was Hollidazzle traffic.

<-- He's Ricky Rubio. He's not like anybody.

Little has changed downtown since I last had season tickets three years ago. There's less crappy, empty bars and stores in Block E (who would have known Mrs. Fields would outlast everyone?), and Champps is now Smalleys. One thing is for sure, though, the product I saw last night was better than what I saw the past five - seven seasons. I know it's just preseason, but the ball movement and talent is simply better. The Wolves still have to improve in a lot of areas, but I think we're going to see a lot of triple digit scores (for both teams) and some highlight-worthy plays.

At the beginning, I was slightly disappointed that Adelman marched out last year's starting lineup. The last thing this team needed (and needs) is any continuity from last season. However, that lineup did a nice job holding the lead in the third quarter. The Wolves ultimately held on for a 117-96 victory behind some impressive (62.5 %!) three-point shooting. Here's the box score.

Obviously, the Wolves are not going to continue to shoot over 60% from the three-point line; however, with the passing skills of Rubio, Love and Barrea (and hopefully Luke Ridnour choosing to play some competent minutes at PG), the Wolves should get a lot of open looks with the kind of movement Adelman is installing. I would like to see a little more scoring in the paint, but, again, any steps forward are good steps for this franchise.

Again, the best feeling I had was that the product just seemed better. I look forward to heading to Target Center for 33 games this season. Some quick observations:

- I know Love improved his range last season, but I still kind of cringed when he gunned threes. Now, he looks like a natural. Congratulations, in advance, on that max contract.

- I was very pleased by Derrick Williams' range. I was not very pleased by how long it took to get him in the game.

- Beasley filled the point column very quietly. I remember asking my buddy Ryan if he remembered any of Beasley's 17 points (this was, obviously, before the end of the game and before he scored four more points). Neither of us did.

- I very much disliked Wes Johnson only scoring 5 points on 1-6 shooting. If he can't get open and sink shots, he may be no good to us.

- The Wolves need to find a way to score in the paint. If Love is going to be on the perimeter more, we're going to miss some of his put-backs on offensive boards. I'm hoping Derrick Williams is the answer.

- As the only person not to comment on it much, I enjoyed Rubio's first game. It has been a long time since this team had a player that could find someone open. I think Barrea will be good at this, too, when he gets in the lane.

I'm rusty, but I'm hoping to have a game recap for all home games, and I'll even put some up on televised road games. It's good to have the NBA back.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Greatest Wolves Center Ever? posted this article today indicating that Radoslav "Rosho" Nesterovic has retired from professional basketball. While this has virtually no impact on basketball at any level (except those levels involved with possibly having to pay Rasho Nesterovic), when I read the article two thoughts crossed my mind. The first thought was the memory of a no-look Kevin Garnett pass travelling through Rasho's hands and hitting him in the face. The second thought was an internal inquiry: Is Rasho Nesterovic the greatest Minnesota Timberwolves center in franchise history? After a couple of minutes of thought, my answer was "arguably."

<-- Rasho's patented "Ole!" defense.


I would like to present for your examination my support of the pro-Rasho argument. The following are all Minnesota Timberwolves players, as listed by, whose roster position is indicated by a "C", a "C-F" or an "F-C" (For the purposes of my listed years, "1990" would indicate the 1989-1990 season):

Thurl Bailey (1992-1994), Mark Blount (2006-2007), Calvin Booth (2009), Randy Breuer (1990-1992), Mike Brown (1994-1995), Jason Collins (2009), Michael Doleac (2008), Greg Foster (1995), Tellis Frank (1992-1993), Dean Garrett (1997, 1999-2002), Dan Godfread (1991), Paul Grant (1999), Andres Guibert (1994-1995), Ryan Hollins (2010), Marc Jackson (2002-2003), Ervin Johnson (2004-2005), Steve Johnson, (1990), Stacey King (1994-1995), Christian Laettner (1993-1996), Andrew Lang (1996), Gary Leonard (1990), Brad Lohaus (1990), Luc Longley (1992-1994), Kosta Koufos (2011), Darko Milicic (2010-2011), Oliver Miller (2004), Tod Murphy (1990-1992), Rasho Nesterovic (1999-2003), Michael Olowakandi (2004-2006), Cherokee Parks (1997-1998), Olesky Pecherov (2010, 2011), Theo Ratliff (2008), Eric Riley (1996), Stanley Roberts (1998), Clifford Rozier (1998), Sean Rooks (1995-1996), Brad Sellers (1990, 1993), Charles Shackleford (1995), Felton Spencer (1991-1993), Bob Thornton (1991), Anthony Tolliver (2011), Stojko Vrankovic (1997), Trevor Winter (1999), Loren Woods (2002-2003).

This list is not exactly a murderer's row of basketball big-men. Clearly, there are players on here that had better overall careers than Rasho, but this argument is limited strictly to performance in a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey. I would also automatically eliminate Christian Laettner from the list, simply because as a Timberwolves fan with memory of the Laettner era, I know he was not a center for us on anything resembling a regular basis. Curiously absent from the list is Al Jefferson, who didn't have "F-C" or "C-F" in any of the seasons. I would argue he was more of a center than many of the men on this list, and certainly the greatest "center" if he were included.

Rasho's tenure as a Timberwolves center (at least in whole years) is tied with Dean Garrett. Dean Garrett played at least one minute as a Timberwolf in 274 games. Rasho played in 316 as a Timberwolf. Their tenure's, for the most part, overlapped, making them the second great set of Twin Towers in Timberwolves Center history, the sequel, if you will, to the wildly popular original, Spencer & Longley.

I could go into further details about the merits of Garrett v. Nesterovic (including a statistical breakdown), but I am not going to. Rasho ultimately beat out Garrett for the starting job,a nd I would place Longley, Breuer, and Johnson over Garrett (and possibly more), as well. When I look back on Rasho's time with the Timberwolves, I think, "He wasn't that bad." I remember him being soft, slow to develop, and passive around the rim, but that describes almost every Timberwolves center in the franchise's brief history.

I originally asserted that Rasho is ARGUABLY the best Center in Timberwolves history. Again, I think that argument has support. However, if I had to put together a team with the centers we had, assuming they had the same skill set, experience, and age as they did when they were Timberwolves, I would pick:

Ervin "Non-Magic" Johnson

Johnson's time with the team was short-lived, but the Wolves organization has hardly employed centers on a long-term basis. Ervin Johnson was the perfect center for the best team we ever had. I think Ervin's role in that team's success is overlooked. The Timberwolves of the Kevin Garnett era were a outside jump-shooting team with good zone defense, this includes Rasho's years with the squad. When Rasho left for San Antonio, Michael Olowakandi and Ervin Johnson became the centers (with Johnson originally an afterthought and a money-dump by the Bucks). Between injuries and ridiculously poor play, Ervin quickly rose to more minutes, and eventually a starting role. For the first time in Wolves history, we had the correct complement of players around KG in his prime, with Big Erv taking up space down low while physically defending the opponent's bigs. (On a side note, Big Erv's stats for the season were laughable, so I think the only people that will agree with me are those that actually saw and remember Erv's play).

I still think we're one Sam-Cassell injury away from having won the whole thing that year.

In any event, enjoy retirement Rasho! That NBA money goes a long way in Eastern Europe.

So, who is your vote for greatest Timberwolves Center?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Things That Are Old: Old People Saying, "Back in the Day..."

I never wanted to write or otherwise reference my fantasy football teams, drafts, or really anything unless it was to persons that either (a) directly ask me, or (b) are in my league(s). However, as I went through a fantasy draft, and have another one coming up, I realized that my self-imposed boycott of anything NFL while the lock out was active resulted in me knowing less then I ever have about the NFL. It also made me realize how much I liked paying attention to football with my constantly-waning free time. My friends and I have conducted our drafts live for at least 9 years. After every draft, a few of the owners stay around to analyze (make fun of) each person's team and picks. This year's consensus team that had a questionable draft: my buddy Jason, who draft Chris Johnson and Peyton Manning in the first three rounds.

Normally, I would never criticize these picks, but when we drafted, Chris Johnson was holding out for a better contract, and Peyton Manning may or may not have an early-season (if not longer) threatening injury that no one outside of the Colts (and possibly only a few Colts) are aware of. Team Jason's success pretty much depends entirely on the performance of these two players. Jason is now secure in in Chris Johnson taking the field, and Chris Johnson will be a very rich man when that happens having recently signed a $53 million dollar contract, with $30 million reportedly guaranteed. Hold-outs like Johnson have been the ire of NFL and individual team fans for years. Apparently, Johnson's hold out resulted in a Twitter-storm of hate between the speedy back and his fans. All that aside, the general view on hold-outs is that they are greedy, individual-first players. This view is apparently not limited to NFL fans, but former NFL players, as well.

This morning on Paul Allen's show, former Viking great and NFL Hall-of-Famer Paul Krause discussed several things NFL with KFAN. I generally listen to KFAN in the background while doing work, and one of Krause's comments caused me to pay greater attention. The comment, in summary, indicated that players today do not think of the team and only think of individual reward and glory, while players of Krause's generation competed for the team first. Krause asserted that only a handful of players in today's game are an exception (with PA supporting Chad Greenway for this proposition). While I am not fan of contract hold-outs for higher pay, I find these comments by old-time players completely ridiculous. Didn't players of Krause's time and that of NFL generations after his fight for precisely the type of rights that players like Johnson use to leverage negotiations to this day? This would be like Obama complaining about his government-backed insurance coverage in 2030. It is my understanding that the owners held much more leverage over the players of Krause's generation to keep and hold the players to lower contracts to the point where players competed in tug-of-war competitions just to make more money. Again, players of those generations fought to make sure players of future generations had the right to take actions like demand more money or hold-out on current contracts.

I am willing to bet that if we could hop in a DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor, pump 1.21 gigawatts into it, travel back in time and make immediate changes to the rules, these team-first old-timers would be hall-of-fame hold-outs.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

D. Trunks v. W. Getup

All it took was a check of the Twitter feed last night to figure out that a vocal sampling of sports-following individuals are not enamored with boxing. Regardless of boxing's decline, a group of friends and I decided, like we usually do, to order the fight, grab some drinks, and watch some boxing (with the Celtics-Heat game making some cameos between rounds on the undercard).

Like many, I realize boxing's popularity has waned, and boxing's decline is further highlighted by MMA's rise in acclaim. I like MMA, but it's also my opinion that when you get a good boxing match, it's still one of the best shows in sports. Last night's fight was not one of those matches.

I found the undercard to be surprisingly satisfying, though I would have felt like I wasted my money had I ordered the package on my own. With Kelly Pavlik fighting early in the night, it was the first time I was excited for the undercard in a long time, possibly ever. Unfortunately, the Pavlik clearly had to shake the rust of rehab off, and it wasn't nearly as exciting as his fights against Jermaine Taylor or Bernard Hopkins. Next was a fight between something named Arce v. something named Vasquez, Jr. for some organization's Junior Featherweight championship. If there was one pleasant surprise to this evening, this fight was it. They threw good punches the entire fight, there was real back-and-forth, the challenger, Arce, used the Rocky Balboa strategy of leading with the face, and the fight was called in the 12th after a flurry of punches by Arce that clearly did some damage. Vasquez, Jr.'s bruises on his face all merged together to form a Gorbachev-like marking on his face.

Finally, the main event. Our biggest reaction of the night was to "Jami Jamison" singing "Eye of the Tiger" while walking Manny Pacquiao out to the ring. General laughter and several variations of "I'm sure he was available" surfaced. You can read about the fight several places, but my theory on this bout before it happened came true, and if I'm right, then Mosley accomplished exactly what he set out to accomplish. Leading up to this fight, no one thought Mosley would win. I would sooner bet on Ray Edwards beating the Klitschko brothers at the same time. At 39-years old, and with the direction his career has taken lately (the guy Floyd and Manny pick so it doesn't seem like they're mailing it in), I think he trained specifically to keep his "never KO'ed" streak alive (although all of Mosley's swelling made him look like a garbage-pail kid after the fight). He only threw 260 punches, and to add to the general mediocrity of the fight, Manny threw about 400 less punches than he throws in a typical 12-rounder.

This match did nothing to help boxing's dropping popularity. I think Common Man Dan Cole would refer to this fight as a Dusty Trunks v. Willie Getup.