The story out of Philly this season? Andrew Bynum’s hair is just dominating headlines. It’s growing out of proportion and critics are wondering if he’ll ever get it back into game shape.
It’s a fair question. The Timberwolves themselves have had some hair issues in their past. Think back to the Michael Beasley days. He himself had some hairdo issues as well. He tried out the Samurai Bun. No go. He tried out the Corn Rows. No go. He even dared attempt the afro.
Even this season, Wolves’ own Alexey Shved, the new, hip Euro-style swaggered-out guard came in with a ‘do dilemma. He came in with the idea that letting his long locks flow in the wind as he whipped up and down the floor would give the best results of both production and flair. What happened? His locks turned to sweaty dreads and drastically affected his shooting stroke and never supported his facial features in the right way. Not good.
A haircut brings up anyone’s day. You walk out of it feeling like a new you. People compliment you. You have confidence you’ve never had before. There’s just more pep in your step and people notice. Shved went through the shaggy-haired phase and decided it just wasn’t for him, so he cut it. And cut it short. And cut it good.
Now, Shved has turned into a leader in crunch time for the Wolves. Is it his playmaking ability? Is it his improved shooting? How about his secretly good defense?
Nope. It’s all in the ‘do.
Shved learned his lesson the hard way, which makes me think that Bynum will too. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling to sit in the barber’s chair and see chunks of your beautifully tamed mane fall off your shoulders to the floor but as the barber buzzes away, your newly clean scalp begins to gleam in confidence. It’s a proven fact.
As for on-the-court headlines, the Wolves are coming off a stout win at home against the Bucks. They’ve also had three days rest with a mental boost knowing that Rubio’s return is literally around the corner. The 76ers have underwhelmed this season — mostly because of Bynum’s obscure absence. Built around some awfully young pieces such as Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, the 76ers are certainly missing some much-needed experience in their starting lineup. They have Jason Richardson to help that cause but they also have Nick Young to hurt. It’s a lot of give-and-take in Philly but they’re lucky to have Doug Collins steering this ship.
Mercifully, the dreaded West Coast road trip is over, and our heroes are back at Target Center for one game before heading out to Philadelphia on Tuesday. Tonight, the Timberwolves host the Bucks, and decided to incorporate more of a Bucks fan’s perspective. Fortunately, I was able to recruit Dakota Schmidt of Behind the Buck Pass, and D-League Digest to assist me in this endeavor.
Derek James: Locally, here in Minneapolis, tonight’s game is broadcast on network TV. Usually, when that’s the case, it’s because the Timberwolves are playing one of the NBA’s elite teams. Now, the Bucks may not be elite, but they are still 7-6 and atop the Central division. What about this Bucks team in particular should make fans tune into this game on a Friday night?
Dakota Schmidt: The thing that this Bucks team that could be of interest is that we’re just an extremely confusing but entertaining team. I really have no clue what this Bucks team will do game in and game out, but I know that I’m going to watch an entertaining game either from the antics of Jennings and Ellis or the Bucks bench, which is currently the best bench in all of basketball.
DJ: What concerns you the most about playing this Timberwolves team, and why?
DS: This Timberwolves team may be 6-8 but they’re still a team that scares the living hell out of me now when I see them on the Bucks’ schedule. Kevin Love is an animal and arguably the best PF in all of the NBA, so he’s a player you have to keep your eyes on every second he’s on the court. Henson will likely be guarding him and he’s been a solid player in the short time he’s been the starting PF but I really don’t know how he’ll be able to guard Kevin Love.
DJ: Conversely, what will be the biggest obstacle the Timberwolves will face against Milwaukee?
DS: The biggest obstacle that the Timberwolves will have against this Bucks team will be the Bucks’ bench. Minnesota has some good bench players like Cunningham and Shved but this Bucks bench has taken over games (i.e comeback vs. Chicago) and will be a huge challenge for this Wolves team that is currently somewhat banged up. The two main pieces of the Bucks bench have to be Beno Udrih and Mike Dunleavy who are both top 5 in PER on the Bucks so far this year (18.4 and 17.0 respectively).
DJ: The Bucks and Timberwolves rank 29th and 30th in three point percentage so far this season. Aside from the potential to witness some ugly basketball, could you see second chance points, and rebounding in general, playing a key role in the outcome of this game?
DS: I could see a whole lot of second-chance opportunities in this game but I really have a feeling it will be against the Bucks especially when they have a top rebounder in Kevin Love. The Bucks tried to load up the front-court in the off-season after trading Bogut for Ellis but they’re still allowing offensive rebounds. The way the Bucks are able to try to contain Kevin Love and, to a lesser extent Nikola Pekovic, on the glass will be a huge factor in this game.
DJ: One last thing. We have Packers-Vikings, anything Badgers-Gophers, and even Brewers-Twins, as area rivalries to some degree. Isn’t it funny how Bucks-Wolves isn’t regarded on that level? I mean, this isn’t even being billed as a border battle, so neither team is pretending this is one. Yet, it would seem if the Wolves would have one, it would be the Bucks. Why do you think this is? The quality of the teams over the years? Or the fact that they’re in different conferences, and only play each other twice per year?
This matchup has had no defining moments, ever, that I can think of. Maybe some of that would be helped if they saw each other more and even have the chance of a hard-fought playoff series. As it stands now, the two would have to meet in the Finals, if they were to meet in the playoffs. What do you think is keeping Bucks-Timberwolves from reaching the status of the other area rivalries?
DS: I really don’t know if I consider this exactly a border battle. Wisconsin and Minnesota are of course neighboring states but Milwaukee is on the eastern part of Wisconsin while Minneapolis is near that Minnesota/Wisconsin border. I really don’t consider this a rivalry because of the facts you stated which would be them being in separate conferences and they’ve both been mediocre teams in the past five seasons. Now I could really see something brewing with these two teams if they are both consistently in the playoff picture.
Thanks to Dakota for contributing to this piece. Be sure to read him regularly on BehindTheBuckPass.com, DLeagueDigest.com, and on Twitter: @Dakota_Schmidt.
Projected Starting Fives:
Brandon Jennings — PG — Luke Ridnour
Monta Ellis — SG — Malcolm Lee
Tobias Harris — SF — Josh Howard (Kirilenko; out with back spasms.)
John Henson — PF — Kevin Love (Questionable; food poisoning.)
After a one game absence, the game preview is back! Usually I’m pretty good about getting them up, but sometimes I do have a life that interferes with doing so, unfortunately. What? Why are you looking at me like that? I do have a life! Now that life is calmer today, I give you your Timberwolves at Clippers preview.
The Timberwolves managed to mercifully snap a five game losing streak in Sacramento last night to bring themselves within one game of .500, again. However, tonight is the second game in a three game homestand for the Clippers, who have been off since Monday, so they will be rested, but are also on a four game losing streak, themselves. And the Wolves are on the second night of a back-to-back playing a Chris Paul led team.
This will be interesting.
As far as injuries go, the Wolves will be missing the usual suspects, while the Clippers will be without Grant Hill, and Chauncey Billups, whose return is close, but not quite here yet.
I’ll be interested in see how Adelman works his rotation tonight, and see if he continues to roll with the smaller, nine man bench. I’d imagine that Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko wouldn’t see so many minutes, and that those minutes would be divvied up between the bench players in the frontcourt.
The Clippers are already one of the top teams in the Western Conference. However, they can be beat on the glass, and have the second highest Team Turnover Percentage in the league, meaning the Timberwolves could earn some extra possessions tonight.
Surprisingly, the Clippers have been a pretty good defensive team up to this point. Check these figures out:
Defensive Rating: 102.9 (11th)
Opponent Points Per Game: 95.6 (12th)
Opp. FG% Allowed: .436 (9th)
Opp. 3FG% Allowed:.384% (27th)
Opp. Turnover%: 16.4% (2nd)
Nothing really stands out there until you get down to opponents turnovers, where they have been excellent so far, but as I’ve noted above, they end up giving back quite a few of those, too.
Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, the one area on defense they could really exploit the Clippers in is with the three ball. Not that you’ll be shocked to learn this, but the Timberwolves are dead last in the NBA in three point percentage, making .277%. You don’t have to be a total stat head to figure out that’s bad. Like, really bad. The Wolves have been so bad shooting threes that John Wall and DeMar DeRozan make jokes about it. Ok, maybe not that bad, but they’ve struggled shooting from deep so far. Outside of Love, they may not have the means to exploit that weakness in the Clippers defense, either.
If they’d like to torch the Clippers tonight, they will also need better ball movement than they got last night in Sacramento. If the ability to torch the Clippers is there, the Timberwolves will have to scheme to get the best possible looks. Whether those passes come out of double teams from the post, or simply crisp perimeter ball movement, I don’t know– nor would I particularly care how they do it, as long as they do it.
Hey, maybe the Clippers are the cure for what ails them.
Luke Ridnour — PG — Chris Paul
Malcolm Lee — SG — Willie Green (I had to double check, but this is actually correct.)
One of my favorite Louis C.K. bits is an older one in which he’s talking to his daughter, and she asks him one simple question. However, in the sketch, Louis’ daughter is never content with the answer she’s given and asks “Why?” to each response. As C.K. mentions, she’s not content with just hearing that she can’t go outside because it’s raining, she has to ask why. Louis continues to attempt to placate her with each passing “why” by sputtering out sentence fragments about how the water cycle works before saying, “I don’t know.” To which he’s met with another “why”.
As the sketch winds down, C.K gets more and more frustrated, with the end playing out like this:
Tonight was supposed to be a celebratory night, as the Brandon Roy Comeback Tour was scheduled to stop in Portland. That’s the funny thing about plans: they don’t always go how they’re supposed to. We knew that Brandon would likely have a flare up, and that his decline might be more gradual, not so quickly. Didn’t you think that we’d get more than five games of Brandon Roy shooting 31% from the floor? Instead, we get the worst case scenario of having to watch a very likable human being’s career as his knees give out on him again. I mean, five games and an arthroscopic surgery, already? It’s such an unhappy occurrence (although not entirely unforeseen)to have happen, I don’t think any of us here at Howlin’ T-Wolf really felt like writing about it.
I will say that I’m glad that I did get to meet Brandon, and get the photo taken above before the season.
In the spirit of yesterday’s holiday, I’m going to focus on some of the cheerier aspects of tonight’s game, and list things about tonight’s game that I’m thankful for:
- Kevin Love surprise returns.
- Blazers rookie Damian Lillard making me want to watch all of his games. If you haven’t seen Lillard yet, watch tonight and you’ll understand why. His numbers are impressive, but he’s also an incredibly fun player to watch.
- Abundant, or even adequate, health. It always helps to get a player like Love back, but getting back more of the supporting cast in JJ Barea and Nikola Pekovic helps a ton. Now, we’ll just wait for Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger, and Brandon (hopefully) to get healthy.
- Andrei Kirilenko for keeping this team afloat. He’s on pace to have his best season since ’05-’06, logged heavy minutes, and been incredibly productive. Sure, he won’t average 8 rebounds per game next to Pekovic and Love, but he’s still outperformed expectations so far.
- The Blazers’ dead-last rankings in eFG% allowed, opponent points per game, and defensive rating.
- Kevin Love versus LaMarcus Aldridge, because…awesome!
The Timberwolves of course also come in on a three game losing streak having also dropped four out of their last five. Beginning a long west coast road trip, it would be great to start things off on the right foot and get a win. It won’t necessarily be easy since the Blazers can be pesky with Lillard, Batum and Aldridge, but if they can limit their impact and try to force the Blazers’ bench to pick up some slack, the Wolves’ odds of victory improves dramatically.
After four days off the Timberwolves return to action against the Denver Larks. Er, Rockets. Sorry, the Denver Nuggets. Excuse the confusion. The Nuggets actually do have an interesting history that involves a Minnesota basketball legend. See, former Minneapolis Lakers great George Mikan was commissioner of the ABA back in the 60’s and 70’s. When their Kansas City franchise could not get an arena that was suitable, they moved to Oklahoma City Mikan persuaded ownership to move to Denver, so they did. Except, they were the “Larks” (Nothing is quite as terrifying as a lark, is it?).
However, the ownership group that was responsible for, you know, financing the team had a lack of funds and nearly lost the franchise. Fortunately, a new owner stepped in and (thankfully) re-named the team the “Rockets”. It wouldn’t be until 1974 when the ABA began planning to merge with the NBA that they were forced to change their name to the “Nuggets”, after the team of the same name that played there from ’48-’50, because there was obviously a team named the Rockets in Houston already.
Born under a bad sign
I been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all
-Albert King, “Born Under a Bad Sign”
Andrew Bogut! Stephen Curry! Kevin Love! Ricky Rubio! Brandon Roy! It’s the Golden State Warriors/Minnesota Timberwolves injury report, up next on Fox Sports North!
Teams in the NBA pursue talented role players because depth is important. It’s important because no team can reasonably expect to go the entire season with all of their players healthy. The Wolves have been devastated by injuries, well beyond the point that any team should reasonably expect or prepare for. At this point, it’s almost a joke (almost) because of the sheer ridiculous volume and importance of the various injured players.
But Golden State, though less snakebitten, hasn’t exactly been a picture of health either. Stephen Curry, though he has managed to stay somewhat healthy this year, is still listed as day-to-day because of ongoing injuries; a fact which makes Warrior fans cringe when thinking about his brand-new 4-year $44 million contract. Andrew Bogut, originally thought to be out just 7-10 days, has now had his return pushed back. Given Bogut’s previous health problems, this is more than a little bit concerning for Golden State.
But injuries to Bogut and Curry don’t render the Warriors toothless. Carl Landry, coming off Golden State’s bench for 26 minutes per game, has a PER of 23.6 so far this season. Klay Thompson, though at the moment little more than a volume scorer, still finds ways to put the ball in the basket, averaging exactly 16 points per 36 minutes.
Golden State’s biggest problem, however, is shooting efficiency. Curry and Thompson both average roughly five made field goals on 15 attempts per game, not the most efficient way a team can get (combined) 32 points. David Lee, he of the $80 million contract, has a TS% of .476 for the season, which is pretty abysmal .
Even with their injury problems, the Wolves aren’t assured a loss. They will once again be forced to lean heavily on the contributions of Kirilenko, who has played like a bona-fide All-Star so far this season. We are still waiting on word about Brandon Roy, Nikola Pekovic, Malcolm Lee and JJ Barea (GOOD LORD), so just how heavily the burden will fall on AK-47 remains to be seen.
The game starts at 7 pm on Fox Sports North. Bring your rabbit’s foot.
When Marv Wolfensen and Harvey Latner were awarded an expansion team, they were elated that their dream of owning an NBA team was finally going to come true. While they had a new site for an arena chosen for the team to play their home games, the building wouldn’t be complete until the ’90-’91 season. What they didn’t know, is that they never should’ve left the Metrodome (Did I just say that?)
Anyway, what they didn’t know was that a construction worker at the site discovered an Indian Burial Ground. Instead of doing the right thing, and leaving well enough alone, he removed a necklace from one of the remains. Now, most of us know that these are things you do not mess with, and that there are consequences for tampering with such a burial site.
Harv and Marv learned of this, and tried to track down the artifact, the worker, or both. However, despite their best efforts, they fell short. Still, they carried on, figuring it was silly to believe in such superstitions. Then, the team began to fare worse and worse in the standings, but they still refused to believe that the construction worker removing the necklace from the site was to blame.
Following a 15-win season that earned them the worst record in the league, they figured their luck was about to turn, but they fell to third in a two player draft. Therefore, in the ’92 draft, they took Christian Laettner; then Isaiah Rider in ’93, but still failed to win 20 games in the next two seasons, and Harv and Marv quickly realized there were greater forces at work here.
They looked to sell and run. No matter how many coaches or GM’s they tried, nobody could get this team off of the ground. Only if they could find that construction worker…
After the NBA blocked their move in ’94, local businessman Glen Taylor purchased the team to keep them in Minnesota, and brought in legendary NBAer Kevin McHale to run his team. With new leadership and decision makers in place, Taylor figured that the Wolves were due for a turnaround. However, Harv and Marv never warned Taylor of the curse before the deal was complete and Taylor was revered as a local hero for saving the team as a result.
The Timberwolves had their peaks and valleys through 2003, but always wound middling as a team that was bounced annually in the first round. Considering the rash of injuries to once healthy players, boneheaded contracts by smart basketball people, and failed trades, Taylor took to Harv and Marv to ask why they could never get the team over the hump.
After a few minutes of prodding over the phone, the two former owners told Taylor everything. The burial ground. The construction worker. And even the necklace.
Taylor laughed, telling them he didn’t believe in ghosts. Maybe or maybe not motivated by his conversation with the two men, he met with McHale to hash a bold plan for the upcoming 2004 season. This was the season they got over the hump at all costs. In doing so, they brought in Sam Cassell, Latrell Sprewell, Ervin Johnson and Michael Olawokandi (No curse involved here; he was just bad at basketball).
And it almost worked.
They were the best team in the West that season, and the only semi-important injury was Wally Szczerbiak’s injury that forced him to the bench, and then later, more seriously, Cassel. Yet, they rolled through Denver, and took Sacramento in seven, but met their end against the Los Angeles Lakers after Sam Cassel was ruled out of the series. They were so close, yet so far from escaping the grasp of the curse of the construction worker.
Then the next 8 years were a blur. The Marko Jaric Trade, the bad contracts (T-Hud, Hassell, and Mike James), and poor drafting (Rashad McCants, Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson, Ndudi Ebi…etc), are all evidence of tampering with a sacred burial ground. If you need more, there is also Randy Wittman over Dwayne Casey and Kurt Rambis over…well, anybody.
Nothing else could really explain us having to endure both Darko Milicic and Ryan Hollins, either.
Now we look at this season, and how it must’ve sensed our hope and optimism. Consequently, it’s taken Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, and now Chase Budinger from us. And tonight, we go up against a team that figures to compete for the same playoff seeds. Yes, the Mavericks are missing Dirk, but they don’t have 1/5th of their roster in business suits instead of warmup suits!
The Mavs may not be a great defensive team – 25th in opponent points per game – but the Timberwolves have just about all their scorers on the injured list, making it tough to combat the Mavs’ 104.7ppg, second-best in the league.
The Mavs will be without Shawn Marion, so that will help, but who keeps OJ Mayo in check? Maybe Andrei Kirilenko, but hopefully he’s causing Vince Carter to settle for as many jumpers as possible. And if there were ever going to be a time for Derrick Williams to step up, that time is now. Injuries like this can serve as a good test of the depth and makeup of this team. Guys like Luke Ridnour, Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic, and even Malcolm Lee just became that much more important. If this is really a good, tough team, then they’ll do everything in their power to step up.
In the mean time, I’m wondering if we have a name or last known address on this construction worker.
In this space, I normally try to think of some interesting or clever tie-in to the game that makes you want to keep reading. Or maybe it’s trickery. But the Timberwolves play the Pacers at home tonight and I am hard pressed to think of any cool Indiana related tie-in. I’m trying—I really am! I guess I’ll just have to find something, since that is my job of sorts.
Let’s see…I could talk about how tonight is the night that the Timberwolves exact revenge for their WNBA counterparts defeat to the Indiana Fever in the Finals.
I have a bone to pick with you, Florida. No, it’s not about your sunny skies, white sandy beaches or the bikini clad ladies that grace them. Heck, even your state taxes are pretty neat. Instead, we need to talk about something things that have been bugging all of us; not just me.