As NBA General Managers go (or in this case President of Basketball Operations) David Kahn has been more than open to Timberwolves fans in talking about the team, their future, and the direction he has planned for them. Over the weekend he wrote his second letter to Wolves fans highlighting his disappointment in the team’s play so far and pledging along with the coaching staff to continue to work harder to get them to play better. His said similar things as well in interviews with Jonah Ballow of Timberwolves.com and Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press.
One of the highlights from the letter and the key message I thought was the following:
Starts running and attacking more on offense, as Kurt and I envision this team playing in the long term.On that last point, it has been hard for us to sustain a running game without our best rebounder, Kevin Love, and with Al Jefferson still not all the way back from his ACL knee injury. And our defense has been poor at times. It is extremely difficult to run when you are taking the ball out of the basket. But make no mistake – this will become a running team and that will be our identity.
There’s both bad news and good news in here. The bad news is that until Love returns and Big Al gets healthier and closer to his old self, the Wolves really won’t be able to run much. This of course means we’ll continue to not really have an identity. The good news is that when they do get their two big men back, the Wolves will be able to and should find their identity (finally) and it should be built around being a running team that plays an exciting brand of basketball.
Looking at this idea of the team’s identity explains why we haven’t seen much good basketball through the first 11 games of the season. Without an identity the team has been completely lost. As fans we’ve quickly become frustrated at the fact that the team has said they were going to run, and haven’t, have said they were going to run the triangle, and haven’t, and have said they were going to be exciting, and haven’t. The problem has been that the team has absolutely, positively no identity right now. They have no strengths to key on and rally around. Their best two rebounders, Love and Jefferson, are out so they can’t get the running game started. On top of that they struggle to get stops on defense. So using the fast break to get easy points is out. Meanwhile their remaining personnel’s best skills, Flynn and Sessions ability to run the pick-and-roll and get to the free throw line, has been completely handcuffed by the coaches installation of the equivalent to advanced calculus for the players, aka the triangle offense. So what exactly do the Wolves have for an identity? As we have so clearly seen through 11 games, there isn’t all that much to build on. Other than the occasional drive by Flynn or Sessions, a few decent Nathan Jawai or Ryan Hollins post-ups, a few decent Ryan Gomes or Oleksiy Pecherov jump shots, and a 1 in 10 succesful drives to the hoop by Corey Brewer. When you look at the options they do have it’s no wonder the Wolves have the third worst offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage.
So unfortunately again as it has been and will continue to be the message for us fans this season is to wait. Sure the front office and coaching staff are going to “work harder” but in the end all a Wolves fan can really do is wait. Patiently, very patiently, very very patiently. And then, just maybe the team can find their true identity. Heck right now any identity for this team would do.