A trip along Hardwood Lane

Jonah was kind enough to introduce me to the Howlin’ T-Wolf family already, so I won’t waste much time with introductions. But allow me to say…I’m very excited to be a part of this blog and to have the opportunity to really delve into the Timberwolves’ team.

So now, down to business.

Most of us as children saw The Wizard of Oz more times than we could count came away having learned one very important lesson: Somewhere, there’s a magical Yellow Brick Road on which one can find certain sorely needed character traits.

While this would be excellent news for those of us who might be in need of, say, courage, especially if we would prefer to just walk leisurely for a few hours to find it, those of us who witnessed the conclusion of the Timberwolves’ 17-65 season are aware that other traits might be necessary for Minnesota to see playoff success in coming years.

For this reason, we should make it a goal, as fans, to find a related avenue to the Yellow Brick Road, possibly called Hardwood Lane, along which basketball players can travel in an attempt to discover whatever athletic trait their game most lacks. Here’s what I hope some key members of the 2011 Timberwolves would find…

Darko Milicic: A new set of hands.

Darko, my friend, it seriously causes me physical pain and ulcers every time you manage to bounce the ball off your knee and out of bounds. Your shot blocking has improved so dramatically that it leads this committee (of one) to wonder if you haven’t been so ingrained with the idea of swatting the ball away that actually CATCHING the basketball on the offensive end seems counter-intuitive.

Too mean? Sorry. Let’s move on.

Michael Beasley: Shot selection.

Mike, Jonah did a great job of covering your more frustrating offensive tendencies here, so I won’t review everything he said. But I do feel the need to make a terrible pun. Your shot selection was (brace yourself) Beas-tly. (You were warned.) We need to see you attacking the basket more, mixing up shots a little bit, and taking fewer contested 18-foot jumpers. The Wizard of Oz does not appreciate inefficient shots from someone as talented and physically gifted as you.

Anthony Randolph: Consistent quality minutes.

In Minnesota’s last 12 games, Randolph averaged 25 minutes per game, which sounds pretty good at face value. But Randolph was consistently bounced around, from playing 9 minutes against Memphis on April 2 to playing 30 minutes 3 nights later against the Nets on April 5. Doesn’t it seem likely and/or possible that Randolph, a 21 year old in his third year in the NBA, might benefit from more consistent minutes? Especially considering this stat: per 36 minutes, Randolph averaged almost 22 points and 11 rebounds.

I realize all the negatives…he’s young, he can be tentative, and he’s a bit of a project. But his length and athleticism are superb, and he has the potential to be a VERY high reward project, if Minnesota decides to put in the time.

Wesley Johnson: Self-confidence.

This particular trait might be a little more likely to be found along the Yellow Brick Road. This season, Wes showed a decidedly rookie-like tendency to miss an open three early in the game and start passing up on good scoring opportunities. But his three point touch, when he shot it with confidence and certainty, was a thing of beauty, and his athleticism was clearly visible on a nightly basis as well.

The good news, of course, is that there’s a very good reason Wes played like a rookie…he was one. Of all the things on this list, Johnson’s discoveries on Hardwood Lane might be the most likely to be seen next season.

Ricky Rubio: A sense of adventure.

Ricky, we need you over here, bud. It’s getting kind of desperate. Plus Minnesota is great! All that talk about cold weather is exaggerated…there’s a solid three months a year that feature no snow whatsoever! Plus, you look kind of like a Jonas Brother. I don’t know if that particular group of “musicians” killed it in Spain the way they did here…but trust me, you will be a hit here in the states among the ladies! At least, until a baller who looks like Justin Bieber shows up and ruins your buzz.

And always remember: if you get REALLY miserable and homesick, and you just want to go back to Barcelona, just tap your heels together three times and say “There’s no place like home…There’s no place like home…”