Coachelor

The Coachelor – Episode 2

Coachelor

Written by: Nick Allen and Jonah Steinmeyer

PREVIOUSLY ON: The Coachelor

With the recent retirement of Rick Adelman, the NBA has chosen me, the Minnesota Timberwolves, to be the first first-ever Coachelor. 10 potential coaches were delivered via limo to battle for my affections and a chance to coach the team, but Mark Jackson bowed out immediately upon stepping into the snowy conditions – like a bitch. With eight roses to give to the nine coaches remaining, it was Lindsey Hunter who would walk away without a rose or a chance at being part of the Wolves organization. There are now eight coaches left, and the pressure is on to cut the field down further as only six coaches will receive a rose.

OPENING THOUGHTS

I was pretty excited to get into the next round of the competition once things got going. I wasn’t fully onboard with the idea at first, but this could really be a beneficial experience. It was interesting to see what coaches the NBA corralled for The Coachelor, as I didn’t think a few of them would actually be interested in the job. There were others that weren’t included that I thought might have been good fits for the team or had even expressed interest in coaching. Stan Van Gundy was one of these names I thought could be good for the team.

SVG coached his team to the playoffs all seven full seasons he spent coaching the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic combined. The only time he didn’t make the playoffs was when he resigned as coach of the Heat after only 21 games into the 2005-’06 season. However, SVG expressed that he wasn’t interested in becoming a part of the Wolves after I threw his name out there a few weeks ago as someone I was interested in. I was initially concerned this was because he didn’t want to coach in a place like Minnesota after coaching in Orlando and Miami for so many years, but Detroit’s recent hiring of SVG makes me think otherwise. It will be interesting to see what improvements are made by the Pistons next year and if he can keep his playoff streak alive.

Steve Kerr wasn’t a name that had ever been in the same sentence as “Minnesota Timberwolves”, but his signing with the Golden State Warriors both interests me and scares me as to what the cost of signing a new coach might cost me. I mean, do I have to shell out $25 million over the next five years for a coach with zero experience? Nonetheless, these recent deals are getting me excited for my own potential signing. I’ve also become inspired by the Minnesota Wild’s recent playoff efforts as well. Seeing people rally around the team, even those who hadn’t watched a single regular season game of hockey like myself, was pretty awesome. It’s not that I don’t like hockey, it’s just that, well…Wolves and ice don’t always get along. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the Wild’s first playoff series win in 11 years; the ending of a long drought.

I have a couple of droughts I would like to end myself, and hopefully one of the eight coaches remaining will be up to the challenge.

ROUND DEUX – A FIGHT!

The second round provided myself and the coaches an opportunity to get a little more one-on-one time. I had some questions I just had to ask so I could gauge how serious some of the contestants were. Rumors have been flying around that Fred Hoiberg, Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan all will likely stay with their respective colleges. They’re all appealing options, though. I also had some questions for the guys with less experience and those who haven’t been coaching for a while. It was time for the gloves to come off and see who could deliver their best hadouken (translation: surge fist)!

I first met with the current collegiate coaches. I couldn’t help but confront them about things I’ve heard regarding where they’re currently at and where they see themselves in the next few years. Donovan, well…I’ll get to Donovan later. Hoiberg almost seemed like he was distracted when we were talking. It was like he wasn’t all there. I got him to snap out of it eventually when I spoke of his days playing for the Wolves and how Flip Saunders views him in such a positive light, but he didn’t seem very interested in talking about work. Izzo also seemed like he had something on his mind when I asked him about his current status with Michigan State. Were they really here because they were interested in the job or was this just an opportunity for them to be in the spotlight and perhaps put some pressure on their current employers to keep them there? Hell, Iowa State just gave Hoiberg a raise after this season when his name had started to be thrown around for potential NBA gigs…

The next group of coaches I met with were the ones that are coming off of a layoff from coaching, no matter how long or short. What new tactics can these coaches provide for the ever-evolving game of basketball? What trends have they noticed changing while they’ve been away from the sidelines? Sam Mitchell was fired by the Toronto Raptors 17 games into the season back in 2008 and hasn’t had an opportunity to lead a team since. Mitchell was quick to bring up the fact that he’s been scouting for the Brooklyn Nets for the last couple of years or so now and believes he has an edge over the others in that regard. George Karl has only been “out the game” for a year now and led the Denver Nuggets to the playoffs all ten seasons he coached them. Experience is not the issue with Karl, though, it’s the troubling fact that the Nuggets were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round nine times out of those 10 seasons. Nine. I recall Karl saying: “Hey, you wanna make the playoffs? I can get you there.” Making the playoffs is a start, but it’s not enough.

Lionel Hollins is another guy that’s only been sitting out for a year. His last season coaching Memphis was especially impressive, as the Grizzlies went 56-26 and reached the conference finals. His conflicts with management are troubling, especially after such a successful season. Sounds a lot like what happened recently with the Warriors and Mark Jackson. Hollins was quick to shake that off, however, stating that he learned from the experience and was confident he could help the Wolves achieve more success than they have in the last 10 years. Flip Saunders has had a couple of seasons off from coaching, but has still remained heavily involved in all things basketball. I did my best to keep things professional with Saunders, but I was all sortsa flustered. Ultimately, deciding to keep him around or cut him is going to be the hardest every time.

I saved Sam Cassell and Donovan for last because they got into a bit of a scuffle earlier in the day. I thought it was kind of odd that any of these guys would get into an altercation, let alone these two. I wasn’t present for it, but I was told it had something to do with Cassell telling Donovan to go back to Florida, because that’s what he was going to do anyway. Donovan, as expected, didn’t take too kindly to this and told Cassell he was out of his league with the rest of these coaches and didn’t have enough experience to even be here. While I don’t want to see them literally hadoukening each other, I think Donovan brings up a good point and it was something I asked both he and Cassell about. What I like about Cassell is his enthusiasm. He admitted that he may not have had an opportunity to be a head coach yet, but also stated that you have to start somewhere. Donovan, on the other hand, rattled off reason after reason why prior success as a head coach was exactly what the Wolves need in their next leader.

ROSE CEREMONY

It was that time of night once again. My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing but the ritual must be done. The remaining eight coaches lined up in front of me once again. Although, for some reason, this decision seemed a little bit easier to make than the first time. After all, I had gotten to know these coaches a lot better than I did in that one night, and I’ve also started to learn more about myself and my needs in a coach moving forward.

I grabbed the first rose and began handing them out one by one.

“Sam Cassell…”

“George Karl…”

“Billy Donovan…”

“Sam Mitchell. . .”

“Lionel Hollins…”

“. . . Flip Saunders…”

It came down to my final rose and I had two of the best collegiate coaches standing in front of me. There was just one problem; neither of them were even looking in my direction. In fact, through the entire Rose Ceremony, they were staring straight into their iPhones without once looking up to catch my attention. Before I made a final decision, I had to get down to the bottom of this.

“Tom and Fred, I noticed both of you more engaged with your phones tonight than me. So I have to know: Are either of you here for the right reasons? Do you even want to be my next head coach?”

The two glanced at each other, then at me, then at their phones one last time.

“We don’t,” they said in unison.

And with that, both Fred and Tom left the set, leaving me in tears. It was a hard decision to choose between one of them to stay, considering both were atop my wish list. But the fact is Tom has dodged being courted by an NBA teams for years and Fred is called “The Mayor” at his hometown university. Neither of them have the desire to leave their respective comfort zones. Maybe we’ll never see either of them in the NBA but I damn sure know that the league would be better off with one of them running an NBA sideline. So hopefully it’ll happen one day. But the situation in Minnesota just isn’t right for either of them.

Next Week on The Coachelor: With the two college coaches gone, the remaining five contestants begin to relax. Everyone but Donovan have NBA experience, and it’s starting to come out in their personalities. Can Donovan hang with the remaining big-wigs? Will his inexperience be his downfall? Or will it catch the Timberwolves’ eye to snag a wildly successful college coach with a knack for developing players? Stay tuned!

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Wolves release renderings of new Target Center renovations

October 13th, 1990.

That’s when the Target Center opened up in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. At the time, it was a state-of-the-art arena that gave the Minnesota Timberwolves a permanent home as well as high school basketball tournaments, concerts, monster truck rallies and just about anything else you can imagine. But it’s been a long 24 years for the Target Center, and it’s endured its fair share of pain. So it’s time for a facelift.

The Wolves have released plans to renovate the Target Center, giving it a fresh, new look from the exterior as well as a brand new, eye-catching glass atrium. It’s no secret that it’s a must-have for the Wolves considering their attendance has been downright pitiful for the past 10 years. A lot of that has to do with the team failing to makes the playoffs in that span but having an old, decrepit building host your games that lack any flavor doesn’t help at all. That’s why these new renderings, although not official because the design process is subject to change, give new life to the fan base and a team looking towards a better future and better odds of making the playoffs. Speaking of, you can check here the latest news for the Timberwolves at Sportbet.com.

Below are the photos officially released by the Timberwolves via BizJournals.com:

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Also, if you’re interested, here is the official press release:

New initial renderings for the redesigned Target Center were released today during the Minneapolis City Council’s Community Development & Regulatory Services Committee meeting.

The renderings represent initial design ideas from the design team, and final renderings will be produced as part of the full design process.

The committee also approved a contract with Architectural Alliance and Sink Combs Dethlefs as the architecture and engineering team to update and improve Target Center. Following this meeting, the Ways & Means Committee will hear the recommendation on May 19. On May 23, the full City Council will vote on whether to approve the design team selection.

Target Center is a City-owned community asset that’s been heavily used for 23 years. It is the 22nd busiest building in the nation, and 51st busiest in the world. It hosts about 200 events annually, and about a million visitors pass through its doors every year.

A large portion of the investment in renovations will go toward enhancing the visitor experience for all events, including basketball games, concerts and family shows. This will include improving the flow of entering and exiting the building as well as moving around inside Target Center. The renovated Target Center will also be more integrated into the downtown Minneapolis neighborhood. The transformed facility will be more transparent, giving patrons new views of downtown, while also allowing people outside the building to see the activity inside.  Additionally, visitors at all price levels will benefit from new amenities, including a new scoreboard, new seats and additional gathering spaces throughout the arena.

Denver Nuggets v Brooklyn Nets

Wolves want Livingston?; Iowa Energy no more?

Denver Nuggets v Brooklyn Nets

 

Got a hodge-podge of stories for ya today. The first has to do with Brooklyn Nets’ back up point guard Shaun Livingston. And yeah, he’s the one who had that gnarly knee injury quite a ways back but is still playing basketball, albeit at a high level even. It’s really quite the story when you consider the scope of things

Livingston is going to be a free agent this summer, and given the Nets have already done their fair share of spending last summer to suck up their cap space, there’s a good chance that Livingston will be playing elsewhere this coming Fall. The Wolves were hot for Livingston a few years back under David Kahn, and the interest still seems to be there. According to Darren Wolfson, Livingston and Flip Saunders have a relationship from back in their Wizard days, which could make him a serious target this offseason. It’s no secret that the Wolves will be renovating their backcourt behind Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin. They’ll likely look to trade JJ Barea and maybe even Alexey Shved as well, even though both are signed through next season. Livingston is averaging eight points and three assists per game as the Nets’ go-to guard off the bench. But what’s more intriguing about Livingston is his size. At 6-foot-7, you won’t see many guards handle the ball and defend both positions as well as he does. Until the Nets finish out in the Playoffs, we won’t know exactly what his interest in moving elsewhere would be. Speaking of, check NBA Playoffs betting at TopBettingReviews.com.

Secondly, have you heard of the Iowa Energy? Maybe not but they were the D-League affiliate of the Timberwolves last year. Actually, Shabazz Muhammad was sent there for his brief D-League stint. Anyways, it turns out that they will no longer be the affiliate any longer after the Memphis Grizzlies decided to buy the team as their own. That leaves the Wolves empty-handed in terms of having that luxury at your dispense.

This seems to be a popular business decision around the league. As the D-League continues to increase its popularity and klout, more and more owners are seeing the beneficial gains of securing its own D-League franchise. I think this is going to continue to be a trend until perhaps every NBA team controls single-ownership of a D-League affiliate. That should be recognized as a good thing. It’s a minor leagues for the NBA. The minor league affiliates in baseball have been greatly beneficial in an effort to educate the young, while giving them a home and a chance to play. If the D-League were to expand to 30 teams to accomodate each NBA team, then the NBA Draft would certainly be expanded by at least a couple rounds. And then, by default, more and more college and international players would be given the opportunity to play basketball in America at a professional level.

I think only positive things can come out of this new trend. It’s likely a long ways from ever getting to the point that I envision but, if it ever were to, the NBA would become a powerhouse money-maker. Cha-ching.

Coachelor

The Coachelor

Coachelor

Written by: Nick Allen and Jonah Steinmeyer

Relationships aren’t easy.

Not just finding the right one, but maintaining them can be just as difficult. That’s been my problem lately. Well, I suppose I should introduce myself before going on much further. Some of you may know me as the Minnesota Timberwolves; others simply refer to me as the Wolves or Pups. It’s all the same to me. As you may have heard, I find myself in the same position I was in three years ago: without a coach.

It’s kind of exciting to be back on the open market, to be honest. My three seasons with Rick Adelman represented the second-longest tenure any coach has had with me before. Is it sad to see him go? A little. His 42.2% winning percentage is the third-best of the 10 coaches I’ve had since my formation in 1989, behind Flip Saunders (55.8%) and Dwane Casey (43.4%). Adelman helped me finish third in the division for the first time since the 2004-’05 season and finished just three wins shy of becoming the second coach to win 100 games with the team. However, he ultimately wasn’t able to snap the embarrassing streak of what is now nine straight losing seasons and ten seasons without making the playoffs. I think the timing was right for both of us to move on.

Of the 25 NBA teams that currently have a head coach, their “relationships” have lasted an average of about 2.8 seasons, or roughly 230 games so far. Gregg Popovich’s 1,410 regular season games coaching the Spurs kind of skews that number, though. Without Pop, that number drops to about 2.2 seasons, or around 180 games. The average length of my past relationships has been about 2.44 seasons, or about 200 games. It’s normal to keep track of these things, right? Either way, at least I’m not the Pistons, who have serious commitment issues, getting rid of two coaches in a in just 10 months from February!

I’m one of five teams that will already be hooking up with a new coach for next season, but the NBA chose to come to me with this unique opportunity. I wanted no part of it at first, but decided to give it a little thought. After weighing my options for several moons, I ultimately decided to take the NBA up on their offer; an offer that could potentially find me a new coach for the long-term, which is what I want right now. I couldn’t let it slip through my paws. I thought I’d be embarrassed to say it at first, but if it puts me in a better position to find a coach that will bring me back to the playoffs, then I must be prepared to admit that I am . . .

The Coachelor.

OPENING NIGHT

I was pretty anxious heading into the first night. Crunch offered to be there for support in making such a difficult decision, but I told him it’d be better for me to do this on my own. As expected, the NBA withheld the identities of the 10 coaches that would be arriving to the mansion. I was a little disappointed that I would have to cut the number of people from 10 to 8 by the end of the first night. The first cut would basically be all about the eye test. Who could pass it?

I was at least able to convince the NBA to do one thing, however. I figured one would need to be able to deal with the weather conditions if they’re going to coach the Timberwolves, so the NBA pulled a few strings with some people I don’t think I want to know. Several inches of snow were dropped throughout the state as temperatures plummeted and the arrival of spring prolonged. Sorry, Minnesota.

10 coaches to arrive and only eight roses to hand out. Let’s do it!

I put my cleanest jersey on and went to the front of the mansion to greet the group of potential coaches. A giant fountain stood in the center of the driveway, sprouting water high into the air as green and blue lights made the water glow in the night sky. That water must’ve been freezing. The first limo approached, passing by giant torches surrounding the fountain. I truly felt butterflies for the first time. Who would be the first to arrive?

The limo slowed to a halt, its tires crunching over the snow as the driver got out to open the door…

THE CONTESTANTS

George Karl: Rumors have been swirling around as to whether or not Karl is interested or if I’m even interested in Karl as a potential coach. The fact of the matter is, you never know how things will go down in the off-season and Karl’s presence on this list of candidates is to be expected at the very least. Five NBA teams have called on him before to lead their players and he brings 25 years of coaching experience to the table. Karl’s teams have only missed the playoffs three of those 25 seasons. However, he has never been able to win a championship. A lot to consider.

Sam Cassell: Here’s a familiar face! As many remember, Cassell played point guard with the team for a couple of seasons from 2003-’05. Cassell was made an assistant coach under Flip Saunders with the Washington Wizards back in 2009 and one can only imagine how useful his experience and knowledge has been for guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. How could he help Ricky Rubio?

Tom Izzo: Will he stay or will he go? I have a feeling there will be a couple of other people that show up on here in similar situations as Izzo. Reports in March suggested that Izzo wouldn’t be interested in leaving his coaching gig at Michigan State for a crack at the NBA, but it hasn’t been ruled out. His presence here confirms it. So there. How can Izzo translate his collegiate coaching success into the NBA, if he so chooses to go down that path? Izzo seems to be able to rally his team as well as anyone by the end of the season, making the Spartans dangerous every March. Can he make the Wolves dangerous in April, May and June?

Fred Hoiberg: Ah, another former player of the team steps out of the limo. Hoiberg played on the team for the same stretch as Cassell, retiring after the 2004-’05 season. Hoiberg took a front office job with the Wolves and eventually became the head coach of his alma mater, Iowa State. The Cyclones have shown improvements after each season under Hoiberg, reaching the Sweet Sixteen in this year’s tournament. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him at Iowa State, but it may be tough to pull him away.

Lionel Hollins: After bringing the Grizzlies to the playoffs three straight seasons, losing in the conference finals in the final season of those three, it was a surprise to some to see Memphis cut Hollins loose. After having taken this season off from coaching, Hollins’ name has been floating around for a coaching job next season. While Hollins’ separation with the Grizzlies may have been largely due to conflicts with management, he’s still an interesting candidate for the job with proven success in his coaching career.

Sam Mitchell: Man, another one? I’m not complaining by any means, it’s great to see old players showing up for a chance to coach the team. Some may not know that Mitchell has head coaching experience. After spending most of his playing career in Minnesota, Mitchell spent a couple of years as an assistant nearby in Milwaukee. Mitchell was given a chance to coach the Toronto Raptors where he failed to make the playoffs for the first two seasons, but improved the team by 20 wins from the 2005-’06 to ‘06-’07 seasons, winning the NBA Coach of the Year in the process. He was never able to help the Raptors get past the first round, but he did show he can help a team improve.

Mark Jackson: I was kind of surprised to see Jackson step out of the limo, but interested in the prospect of him becoming coach nonetheless. Unfortunately, I recall things happening almost exactly like this… Jackson gets out of the limo, looks at the snowy ground and says: “Aw, hell no, take me back to the other side of the fountain. I’m out!”

And just like that, I only had to get rid of one person.

Lindsey Hunter: This is an interesting one. Hunter served as the interim head coach for the Phoenix Suns in 2013, going 12-29 in 41 games as the coach. The Suns ultimately went with Jeff Hornacek to take over for the ‘13-’14 season, leading Hunter to go to Golden State as an assistant coach. While the Warriors’ regime under Jackson was rocky, to say the least, Hunter could still be an option for the head coaching position. If not with Golden State, then maybe somewhere else.

Billy Donovan: I’m kind of surprised by Donovan’s presence. I didn’t really expect him to be here, considering his relationship with the Florida Gators. I don’t know how interested he truly is in a chance at coaching in the NBA. He agreed to coach the Orlando Magic back in 2007, but changed his mind less than a week later and ended up staying with the Gators. While his back-to-back championships several years ago and four-straight Elite Eight appearances are impressive, how interested would he be in moving from Florida to Minnesota? And would he actually commit to the deal if we got to that point?

Time for the last person.

The limo pulls up and the door is opened. My heart stops. I wasn’t expecting to see an ex- here tonight . . .

Flip Saunders: Although my owner, Glen Taylor, has stated he would prefer Saunders to stay in a front office role within the organization, I figure there must be a reason why Saunders is here with the others. Just to stir things up? To cause drama? I mean, he is the only coach to lead the team to the playoffs and have a +.500 coaching record over 10 seasons. And I know he won’t turn away because of the snow.

THE FIRST IMPRESSIONS

There are so many great choices, and thanks to Jackson’s early self-entitled departure, I only had to eliminate one more coach this very night. They all have so many great qualities, so I spent time getting to know them from the beginning. There was a lot of surface talk, chit-chat. I wasn’t all that interested but kept telling myself that this is a long, grueling process and I needed to be thorough. I couldn’t just get to know these coaches on that deep, intellectual level right away. Some seemed distant, like Izzo and Hoiberg. I tried to get them to open up but they seemed preoccupied, like their hearts weren’t really into the idea of the job because they had something else pretty great back home already. And then some were very forward in getting to know me more. I liked that but Hunter, more specifically, continually pushed himself into my conversations and really only kept talking about himself, like it was his way or the highway.

THE ROSE CEREMONY

The end of the night was near, and I had to step away to make my decision on who was going home tonight. I sat and looked over their resumes and thought more and more about what kind of interaction I had with each of them through the night. Oh, this is just so hard. It made me question why I said yes to this whole ordeal in the first place. But then I thought of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and the Wolves’ restless fanbase, who just want to simply make the playoffs. This is bigger than just me.

I called the coaches in for the first Roses Ceremony. My hands were trembling as these prestigious basketball minds lined up in front of me. I picked up the first rose, and my words just stumbled out, “These roses belong to the coaches who truly believe that they can help the Wolves make — and advance — through the playoffs.” In no particular order, I started calling out their names to come take a rose.

“George Karl … Sam Mitchell … Sam Cassell … Billy Donovan … Lionel Hollins … Fred Hoiberg … Tom Izzo … and (gulp) Flip Saunders.

“I’m sorry, Lindsey, but you, just like your dear friend Mark Jackson, seem too bullheaded and selfish to be my next head coach. Things in Golden State ended pretty rotten, and although you did some terrific work while there, the baggage was just too much for me to take on at this point.”

With Hunter and Jackson officially gone, the remaining coaches gathered for a toast and I assured them all that I will do my absolute best to get to know them in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a long road in finding my new head coach but I’m embracing the challenge head on, knowing that my fans and players will have my back.

Next week on The Coachelor: The coaches continue to push for my attention and I’m kind of enjoying it. Not many before this point have vied for the job this hard, so it’s something new and exhilarating. But just as everything seems to be going just fine, one of our contestants tells me he’s just not ready to be with me on this level quite yet — or maybe even ever. Stay tuned!

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2013-2014 Timberwolves Season Recap: 5×5

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The NBA playoffs are in full force and I can’t help but toss back whiskey and feel depressed watching them. The 2013-2014 Timberwolves were supposed to be playoff contenders. Maybe not a championship-worthy team but at the very least a solid playoff-bound squad, looking to make some noise and upset some real contenders. That clearly didn’t happen. Instead, the Wolves are facing yet another draft lottery selection and pretty much just one season to straighten things up, and in a big way. Looming roster changes and a new coaching search spell a new future for the Wolves. Where will it go? How did last season influence what happens next? Find out what the writers of HTW think below the fold.

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About Dieng Time?

Dieng or Pek? That shouldn't be the conversation...

Dieng or Pek? That shouldn’t be the conversation…

There’s been a lot of talk recently on the Wolves’ rookie center Gorgui Dieng. Most notably, David Thorpe had some overly nice things to say about the Louisville product’s development and, more importantly, his production over the last month.

The Timberwolves’ best news, though, has come in the form of their rookie center out of Louisville, Gorgui Dieng, who has exploded onto the scene and will now play a huge role in Minnesota’s future plans — a role that could also have a big impact on Love’s decision whether to stay in the Twin Cities.

Woah now! You’re telling me that Dieng could impact where Kevin Love is going to play basketball in a year and a half? Either Thorpe is psychic or he’s gone off the deep-end. But sure enough he stuck by his point/article and reiterated his enamor for the rookie big man on today’s version of TrueHoop TV.

Dieng has been a awful nice piece. I won’t fight anyone on that account. His per game numbers on the season are terribly misleading because of exactly what Thorpe said: Rick Adelman doesn’t want to play young guys unless; A) they can flat-out ball WITHIN the system; B) he’s forced to develop because management said so or now, in the Wolves’ case; C) injuries force Adelman’s hand to play unproven commodities. And if you argue with Adelman on that point, you’ll never win.

So instead, let’s take a look at his numbers for the past month since taking over for Nikola Pekovic, who is nursing a constantly troubled ankle that hindered him last year into this season. Firstly, Dieng’s numbers as a starter in eight games are pretty nice. He’s averaging just over 12 points and 12 rebounds as a starter. He boasts a solid true shooting percentage (59 percent) and, what I personally love, is that is usage rate is on the lower side compared to Pekovic, who runs as focal point 1B in Adelman’s offensive sets, especially early in ball games.

What Thorpe was so excited about in regards to Dieng was his defensive aptitude and the always-sexy athletic intangibles. He’s right that Dieng is a fantastic above-the-rim defender, whereas Love and Pek, now both average to above-average defenders, stay well below the rim, utilizing their strength to move bodies and grab defensive rebounds. At 6-foot-11, 245 lbs., Dieng is a force in the paint who can jump above the rim and force penetrating guards out and make some of the most offensively skilled big men to think twice about their movements.

Gorgui Dieng has exploded as a starter in lieu of Pekovic

Gorgui Dieng has exploded as a starter in lieu of Pekovic

But what I’ve noticed looking at the numbers is that Dieng only, and I stress only because of how Thorpe pumped up Dieng so highly, averages just over a steal and a block per start in an average of nearly 32 minutes in a game. Perhaps probing steals and blocks in just eight starts makes me look out to be a cynic but considering five of those eight blocks came in just one game, maybe you’d think more about Dieng’s rim-keeping abilities.

I know I’m being harsh. After all, the guy has a 99 defensive rating total on the year, which ranks him amongst some of the best big men (Tim Duncan, Deandre Jordan, Roy Hibbert, just to name a few) in the league. But that’s the point. Everyone is so hopped up about Dieng’s play, which stirs some converse feelings about Pekovic’s standing on the Wolves in the future.

Thorpe is convinced that Dieng is the answer and that the next proper move would be to exchange Pek for some help off the bench or perhaps try to lure one more star in here, at least for the short-term, to convince Love to stay five more years. I understand how refreshing it is to watch Dieng play but do we have to go back and remind everyone just how good and valuable Pek is to the Wolves too?

Pekovic is a better defender than what many give him credit for

Pekovic is a better defender than what many give him credit for

Pekovic came from nothing when he started in the league. He was foreign to NBA basketball and even the USA. He fouled too much, he was reckless and turnover-prone on offense and he didn’t seem to care all that much, taking after his good buddy Darko Milicic. But then something snapped, Pek got hot in his second season, corrected a lot of mistakes — many of which had to do with basic defensive positioning — and eventually performed consistently enough to land him a hell of a pay day last summer. Although the injury bug flies often near Pek’s home, he’s still a top-five offensive center with a knack for banging the offensive boards better than anyone BUT Kevin Love. Pek is actually the fourth-best starting center in terms of offensive rating and also a big-time free throw shooter at nearly 75 percent this season.

Pekovic clearly has value to this team, despite his faults of not being a great defender or a low usage rate guy on offense. But in terms of statistics, he and Love have formed a formidable pair over the past two seasons, which is why he was awarded his fat pay check in the first place. As we all know, statistics aren’t exactly the best way to measure a team’s success — the Wolves would be the first to claim that after this abysmal, disappointing season — and wins are still the ultimate decider. Footnote: Dieng has a .139 win shares per 48 compared to Pek’s .170.

Getting back to coach Thorpe’s idea of trading Pek to make way for Dieng as the new starter in Minnesota, I think it’s obviously clear that that’s not an easy decision to make. Dieng’s sample size as a starting NBA center is too small to determine is long-term potential, and Pekovic’s inconsistent court time could simply be chocked up to shitty luck.

So here’s an idea for ya: Keep BOTH of them!

I’m a full-believer that Dieng can develop into a quality starting center one day but he, just like every rookie, must go through the learning curve, which will see plenty of ups and downs. Just as Pekovic. And as for Pekovic, having watched him grow over the past three seasons, I fully believe that he’s a top-five offensive center — perhaps even top-10 offensive big man — in the NBA. Just like Dieng’s hopping ability and length, Pek’s size and brute strength are healthy qualities to have at your disposal, no matter who’s coaching. So what’s so wrong with keeping both?

Here’s how I see it. You have a top-five, rim-protecting defender with great agility, some good abilities on offense and always plays with high energy in Dieng. You also have a top-five low-block scorer, who is at the very least average on interior defense and a rebound mogul. One is still learning the game, such as positioning, trends and playing styles and the other has been forced to miss a lot of time due to injury. Also, according to both players’ by minutes averages, they both play their best ball when seeing the court anywhere from 20-29 minutes per game. 20 plus 20 is a full game of basketball, folks.

If you ask me, together, Dieng and Pek create one of the most dynamic, physically-gifted tandems the league has seen out of two centers in a very long time. There’s no reason to think that these two players couldn’t play together for the next couple years and make an impact on both ends of the court each and every night. Playing a “center by committee” isn’t a popular strategy but it’s one that could very well work in Minnesota given Dieng and Pek’s strengths, abilities and physical and mental boundaries.

That is why there should be nothing wrong with these two playing together. But still, the problem with many NBA critics today — myself included — is they’re too quick to judge and immediately look to fix any mistake or redundancy they can find. Just because Dieng has looked great in eight starts does not mean that the Wolves should trade away a center in Pek, who’s posted PER numbers of 21, 20 and 20 that past three seasons. That’s why it’s utter lunacy to think and act on such a short-term basis. Most of the time, you’ll just end up sounding like a fool when all comes to fruition. And believe me, I’ve fallen victim to this more than I’d like to know.

In the end it’s a “Why get rid of one when you already have both?” situation for me. There’s no reason to rush a decision of who you have to keep right now when you can enjoy having both of them for the foreseeable future. While I appreciate reading and listening to David Thorpe and others bask in Dieng’s glimmer of success because it has been a silver-lining to what is yet again a very depressing season, there’s no reason to throw ideas of moving in a new direction or trading anyone when, in actuality, keeping both could be all the depth the Wolves need in the first place.

Gas tank on empty; Wolves lose 129-106

Gorgui Dieng doing work

Gorgui Dieng doing work

How did you spend your Wednesday night?

Well, mine started with an ice-cold one as I sat on the couch, put my feet up after a long day at work. Then I remembered the Wolves were in Dallas for a pretty pivotal matchup with some serious playoff implications, which Nick so gratefully laid out for us.

To all of our delight, the Wolves came out in the end with a brutally hard-fought victory. Brilliant efforts from Ricky Rubio, who recorded his first triple-double including a very rare 20-point performance, and Gorgui Dieng, the unheralded rookie, who’s found time due to Nikola Pekovic’s injury, led the charge over the Mavericks. It was the kind of victory that had a lot of beef to it; an overtime bout against a formidable foe, who’s pushing right alongside the Wolves for a spot in the playoffs. You’d really think it’d create some momentum heading into the second night of a back-to-back in good ole’ Texas.

Well, unfortunately that wasn’t really the case. In fact, outside of just one good quarter tonight in Houston, — the first quarter, to be exact — the Wolves pretty much ran out of gas and fought for the sake of saving some embarrassment all night long. At the hands of the red-hot Houston Rockets, though, what more could you really expect?

One thing I would’ve liked to expect was back-to-back great nights from Ricky Rubio but that was just like trying to piss in the wind. And just when I was so jazzed up after reading Britt Robson’s great piece on the Spanish point guard and watching him play so well last night. Instead, Rubio may have been the first to tune out due to fatigue, only playing 25 minutes total after burning the hardwood for 49 ticks last night. He finished disappointingly with just five points and eight assists.

Another thing I would’ve liked to see tonight was a consistently sound performance from Dieng, but we didn’t get that either. Actually, fans got to gaze upon something much more special than that. Dieng finished with career-highs in points (22) and rebounds (21), which included a ridiculous eight offensive rebounds. Sure, the Rockets were indeed without All-Star center Dwight Howard but Omer Asik is a more-than-capable fill in and Dieng worked him to pieces. He benefitted from the perimeter-oriented Rockets’ attack but the numbers are gauntly, so daft that even the $12 million dollar man himself (Pekovic) probably couldn’t top it any better. It’s now been three games in a row that Dieng has brought his game when called upon and became a real force to be reckoned with.

Other than Kevin Love’s standard night of 29-6-5, though, the rest of the Wolves really fell in line with Rubio’s doing; simply just a lackluster performance that was fueled by fumes and 5-hour energy shots more than anything else. You can’t blame them because they probably felt the way I did after work on Wednesday night. And let me tell you, that’s never a fun place to be in. Well, unless you have beer and a comfy sofa like me. But instead they had to go out and play another game against one of the hottest teams in the league. That’s just cruel.

The fact of the matter is that this was still a tough loss and excuses probably shouldn’t be made. In fact, with Howard being out, this actually could’ve been a win for the Wolves, given how well they’ve been playing the past month. With the playoff picture practically just mathematically alive, any game, whether the opponent is great or not, is coming down to must-wins. Time will run out if the Wolves aren’t careful. And although it’s an extremely difficult uphill battle, the odds are still alive. Why not at least make a push?