All right, Timberwolves fans. Today is the day you’ve been waiting for. Yes, finally, today is the day that you can watch your favorite team on NBA TV at 3pm CST as they take on the Miami Heat (3-2). Like the Timberwolves, the Heat are coming off of a close loss on Sunday night to the Hawks. However, they’re not the ones coming off of a back-to-back– that’s the Timberwolves.
As for names to watch on the Heat Myck Kabongo was a draft pick in last month’s draft. You may also recognize forward Jarvis Varnando from such things as garbage time. Other than that, Anthony Marshall has played well at times, too.
The Timberwolves will be hoping to see Shabazz Muhammad strike that perfect balance between attacker and facilitator. Gorgui Dieng will look to have a better game than he did yesterday and it would be nice to see Chris Johnson utilized in ways that get him more involved in the offense. Demetri McCamey played well, which was fun, but the Timberwolves will be looking to see more from Lorenzo Brown and Brandon Paul continue to make their case to hang around.
You cannot forget about Robbie Hummel, either. He’s been by far the team’s most steady and productive player this summer league season, and you would love to see him continue to succeed in the hopes of hanging around with the Timberwolves next season.
Well it’s almost that time: time to get ready to head down to COX Pavilion to get ready for today’s tilt. Be sure to follow the @howlintwolf account or my account (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as I’ll be live-tweeting from media row.
The main story of the Timberwolves’ 91-89 point loss isn’t their inability to finish off their opponent or the fact that they gave away an incredible lead in the fourth quarter. No, the important thing is the individual development of the important pieces the Timberwolves have an investment in into players that can help the team in any capacity.
While Shabazz struggled after the first quarter shooting the ball, he showed a willingness to pass that people were concerned wasn’t there. If he can carry this willingness into the regular season, in addition to refining his shot selection, he could make a valuable fourth or fifth option for the team.
Robbie Hummel continued to be awesome, posting 18 points on 7 rebounds in his typical high-energy fashion. If there was a way the Timberwolves could wedge him on the roster I would be just fine with that.
Chris Johnson played an okay game with 3 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, but did have 6 fouls in 25 minutes of court time. It was not a good night for Gorgui Dieng.
The surprise of the night was Demetri McCamey with 13 points on 5-7 shooting off of the bench. If there was a title for summer league hero, McCamey would fit the bill tonight.
Otherwise, the Wolves went 19-34 from the line, so Marcus Morris’ three pointer should be irrelevant anyways. It’s almost impossible to win shooting 55.9 percent from the line. Ya know, committing 21 turnovers is still a problem. All of these things caused the game to have that slipping away feeling late. Timberwolves forward Robbie Hummel confirmed as much after the game, saying, “You can feel it. It’s one of those things where you have to keep grinding it out and for awhile we did. They got it down to 10 and we pushed it back to 14-15 and they just kept coming and we weren’t able to switch it. But hopefully it’s something we can learn from.”
At any rate, the Timberwolves will return to action tomorrow at Cox Pavilion against the Miami Heat on a game that will be aired on NBA TV.
Covering my first Timberwolves game in-person went about as much as expected in that it looked like the exhibition it was intended to be. At times, they looked great, but at others the offenses stagnated and the turnovers piled up. Either way, it was a pretty great experience despite the Timberwolves letting this one slip away to the D-League select.
Within the first few minutes of the first quarter it looked like the Timberwolves had things going as they opened up a double-digit lead. A big part of the Timberwolves’ early success was due in part to rookie Shabazz Muhammad who started off 2 for 3 from the field while converting from outside and just off of the block.
Minnesota entered the second quarter up 22-11 but their fortunes were quickly about to turn. The players that helped the Wolves build their lead in the first place — Muhammad, Kee Kee Clark and Chris Johnson — lost their rhythm, as the D-League Select’s Kyle Weaver and Other Chris Johnson gave their starter’s a lift. After only being able to score nine points in the second quarter, the Timberwolves found themselves trailing 32-31 at the half.
As the Timberwolves began the second half, they were going to need someone new to step up and ideally get some stops as well. They got one of those two as Robbie Hummel and Lorenzo Brown formed a nice two-man game, finding Hummel open for a nice three. Hummel finished the third quarter shooting 4-5 from the field after just 1-3 in the first half while adding 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
Nothing seemed certain as the teams entered the final frame with the Timberwolves down 59-55. Though Hummel had proven to be a valuable contributor and Chris Johnson nearly had a double-double at this point, the Timberwolves found themselves having a hard time not turning the ball over. No matter who your opponent is, if you front them 10 extra turnovers it’s going to be very tough to win, especially in close games. Attempting 8 free throws to your opponent’s 25 doesn’t help either.
(Derek’s Three ways to lose a close game: 1) Take bad shots; 2) Make turnovers like Arby’s; 3) Miss or don’t take many free throws. The Timberwolves did at least two of these. they could earn a pass for #1 since this is summer league and they were playing the D-League Select team.)
Halfway through the fourth quarter the Timberwolves had retaken the lead but at no point did it feel secure or like they were about to break this wide open. Which was a good instinct because they didn’t and the D-League Select walked away with the victory.
- Shabazz Muhammad looked like a rookie in that he struggled with knowing when to take the jumper and when to attack. Muhammad went 3-7 from the field but the fact that he didn’t get to the line once is a bit of an issue, but that can be improved upon. However, he provided some solid post defense against other wing players, so that might be something.
And no, I don’t know what position he is yet since it’s way too early to tell. I suppose we’ll figure that out between now and the end of preseason. Hopefully.
- Gorgui Dieng, the team’s other first round pick was a bit of a mixed bag, but played well as a whole considering his reputation for being raw. He showed some decent instincts defensively but will of course need to improve. Offensively, he needs some development but was able to provide them with a big body in the paint that acted as an incidental screen. Three turnovers and three fouls in his first D-League game isn’t the worst thing, though I wouldn’t expect too much from him this coming season (at this point).
- While Dieng develops it seems that the Timberwolves could have someone in Chris Johnson to bide them some time. With added size and a nice midrange game, Johnson was able to stretch the defense and drew taller defenders from the paint. A nice double-double on the night (11 points, 10 rebounds) but he committed 5 fouls in just 22 minutes, which he’ll have to improve upon if he wants to make any difference this season.
- Robbie Hummel. Robbie freaking Hummel. Of course I say that with the most positive connotation. Hummel looked like a player who could one day have a role as a player on the back of a team’s rotation that can hit some shots and provide them with some energy. His two fouls and single turnover standout as much as his 12 points on 5-9 shooting and 6 rebounds.
The title of this post is basically a warning to you that I know very little about this draft still, but still have enough knowledge of the lottery/draft and the Timberwolves’ situation to make penning some thoughts worth everyone’s time. Or at least I hope it is. If not, I’m sure both Tom and Jonah will have some thoughts for you guys. Still, there’s lots of ways they could go with this pick and you have to remember they are in a different position than they were at this time last year. Heck, they’re in a position as a team that they haven’t been in since I started high school and that was like a decade ago. *gulp*
A lot of fans on Twitter are saying trade the pick. Which is probably what I would do, but I would trade the pick altogether instead of trying to trade up since the likelihood of being able to move into position for Ben McLemore or Victor Oladipo is pretty unlikely. Moving up also likely means having to take back a bad contract or give up a valuable asset, which for a team like the Timberwolves vying for a playoff spot may not be the best idea.
The other reason it makes sense to move both the 9th and 26th picks if they’re not blown away by anything left on the board or a great offer comes by them is that they don’t need to get younger. They also don’t need a skinny project big or an athletic wing player still trying to work out that hitch in his jumper. The Timberwolves are still a win-now team that may need a backup center and shooting two-guard, but they need those types to be NBA-ready and cheap, too. If they think they can find that at nine and twenty-six, great, but they sure don’t need both and Flip even admitted as much after the lottery they don’t need two more 20-year olds on the roster.
Ideally, they’d be able to move the picks like last year for an established player, but there are not a plethora of teams with talented, cheap, and young players they are willing to part with for a draft pick.
If they do keep the picks, they’re likely out of position for any wings that could make an immediate impact or bigs at the same stage of development. That leaves the Timberwolves to choose from point guards (which they don’t need) and small forwards, which might work better if they can land a combo 2-3. According to Jerry Zgoda the Timberwolves have already met with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas, who gets props for not having me capitalize the “Shaun” in his name. As for point guards, the Timberwolves have been looking to move one of Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea since the last trade deadline, and…and…ok, I really can’t see them taking one with four players on the current roster capable of playing the position, so they’d have to move one.
That’s all I have for now, but I really can’t see them keeping both picks and I think we all know that they will be listening to offers for the 9th pick. Now, time to go bone up on this draft because I really need to learn more about the mid-lottery.
The Timberwolves will be considering many options to add depth to their frontcourt this offseason, and 1500′s Darren Wolfson has said that Eddy Curry is a name that is being — and I emphasize – floated around as a possible target. Now, before we overreact, the definition of “floated” has not changed to the point of becoming a synonym for “imminent”. It’s an idea, and one that seems pretty typical of the Kahn-Adelman era as a low-cost and low-risk/high reward option. Sometimes those gambles have worked out (Kirilenko) and other times they haven’t (Brandon Roy), and this appears to be another that could potentially be added to that category.
@twolvesfan That’s him. Just a name being floated. Nothing is imminent.
Curry would also come cheap based on the contract he signed with the Mavericks at the beginning of the season that was for the league minimum and also non-guaranteed. With the Timberwolves snug against the cap going forward, these are the types of contracts they’ll be looking to add.
However, Curry, who has played very little in the past years, showed several signs of rust with the Mavericks. In just two games, he somehow managed to post a PER of -0.1 in addition to averaging a comical 10.1 fouls per 36 minutes and just 5.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. As terrible as he was, his .500 FG% would’ve been his best since the ’07-’08 season, but that’s based off of only a two game sample in which he took just eight attempts.
Likely the only reason the 30-year old Curry still gets any mention is because he’s seven feet tall, and size like that will almost always ensure that you’ll continue to pique a team’s interest long after you’re even a worthwhile garbage time player. After all, the Spurs, Heat, and Mavs have all taken a chance on Curry in the past couple of years using the same low-risk/high-reward mentality.
At his peak, Curry was a solid contributor, but those days are long gone. It’s clear that the Timberwolves are turning over pretty much every possible stone to upgrade the backup center position, and apparently Curry’s name has been thrown out there, although that idea could very well be dead by now. Yet, it seems that help in that area will go by a different name and not Curry’s.
It’s safe to say that, while the Rising Stars Game is a meaningless exhibition, last night’s wound up being quite enjoyable for Timberwolves fans as the team’s backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved was showcased very well in primetime for Team Chuck against Team Shaq.
Both players were not only factors in Team Chuck’s163-135 win, but also made the win even more enjoyable to watch.
Even an All-Star Weekend hater like myself had to admit Rubio’s and Shved’s performance was well worth my time. In fact, even the national types took note, with former player and current CBS analyst Greg Anthony opining on Twitter about the performance and potential of the team’s backcourt:
@rickyrubio9 and Alexey Shved looking like one if the best backcourts of the future @mntimberwolves look to be in good hands!
If you’ve followed me on Twitter and ever seen anyone make even a passing mention to me about the Sacramento Kings’ Isaiah Thomas, who I’ve been a huge fan of since his days at the University of Washington, then you know how much I loved seeing him throw up this alley-oop to Shved.
With the game nearly in hand, and the entire defense literally just standing and watching (Ugh. H8 U, All-Star Weekend), Shved just missed a wide open windmill dunk. Still fun, and watching eventual game MVP Kenneth Faried finish with a windmill of his right after was still pretty neat:
Shved finished with 12 points, 1 rebound, and 4 assists on 5/8 shooting.
Saving the main event, Ricky Rubio, for last, last night’s exhibition was really the perfect platform for Rubio to show off his passing talents on a national stage. Seriously, Rubio’s game was Taylor-made for this kind of thing. Of Rubio’s ten assists, a couple were quite notable, beginning with this alley-oop to Manimal right here.
As if that weren’t enough, Rubio left perhaps an even better pass for later as he drove towards the baseline, guarded closely by Golden State’s Harrison Barnes of team Shaq, and flipped an incredible no-look (Actually, he was looking at the crowd behind the basket!), perfectly-timedpass between Barnes and Team Shaq’s Damian Lillard that found the Wizards’ Bradley Beal on a cut for the slam. Here, just watch here and here.
Rubio may have been the only Team Chuck member not to score in double figures, but let’s be honest, we’re not here to see him shoot. We want to see his remarkable court vision, and watch him hit passing lanes no one else knows exist. And no one is complaining about Rubio’s 5 points (2/4 shooting), 10 assist and one steal performance this morning. Nobody.
Yeah, it may not even have been in the big game (/snickers), but last night was pretty thrilling from a Timberwolves fan’s perspective. Seeing Rubio and Shved play well, and get recognized for their performances was great to see. Kevin Love may not have been able to make the All-Star team this season, but the Timberwolves were still well-represented last night.
Tom: I’m feeling less than negative about Luke Ridnour. Sure, he’ll never dominate a game that the Timberwolves actually win, but at least he scored! Plus he dished out five assists which isn’t really normal for him when he scores a bunch of points. PLUS HE HIT 50% OF HIS 3-POINTERS. Game ball, for sure.
Derek: Hey, Tom. Is that game ball partially deflated? Andrei Kirilenko had another well-rounded game with 12 points on 5-12 shooting, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 assists. Seriously, if it weren’t for Kirilenko I’d be crying myself to sleep like it was year two-thousand and Rambis all over again.
Tom: I don’t even know where to begin. The missed shots were atrocious. Blake Griffin had four and a half dunks (I counted). The 4-19 shooting from 3-point range. The 35.7% overall field goal percentage. Just an ugly, awful night all around.
Here’s the thing: I have to leave Derek a negative to write about and I don’t even feel bad having mentioned those four. This will still be easy for him.
Derek: Oh, you forgot the 65% on those pesky, uncontested free throws. You’re right about this still being easy for me, and since we don’t have Jonah tonight I can mention a few myself. They got beat inside, 50-30. They forced 18 turnovers, but committed 14 turnovers that negated much of the positives of the former. And they gave the Clippers to play their human victory cigar, Ryan “My Height Gives Me An NBA Job Every Year” Hollins, if even for a minute.
Tom: I’m not really worried about Nikola Pekovic’s bad night. Long, athletic centers have always bothered him somewhat, and DeAndre Jordan might be the pinnacle of long and athletic in the NBA. But given how close the Timberwolves were in the third quarter before the Clippers started really going to work and putting the game away, it’s not really a very fun thought experiment to wonder what would have happened if Pek had had one of the games we’ve been more accustomed to seeing from him as of late.
Derek: Ok, now that we got all of this out of the way, let’s put some perspective on this thing. This team is ridiculously shorthanded, and now even the guys who aren’t hurt are dealing with illness. Combine that with a team like the Clippers and this is what you get, even though they were missing Chris Paul.
Notes: Ricky Rubio was frustrated post game. On dealing with injuries: ”We have two ways to do it. One (is) complaining. … I don’t think that’s the way. The way, it’s (to) be a man.” Aside from Pekovic leaving the game early, Alexey Shved suffered an ankle sprain, collapsed in the hallway, but was apparently able to leave the arena on their own power…Before the game Lazar Hayward and Andrei Kirilenko were listed “probable” due to illness…Apparently help is on the way in the form of of big man Mickael Gelbale, who will wear number fifteen, but will hopefully not aggravate Derek to no end like the last Wolf to wear that number did.
It’s tempting to go down the road of a panic trade post, or some other irrational knee-jerk reaction after tonight’s game, but I’m going to fight that urge since we’re not even halfway through the season and, well, I’m not panicking. Maybe exasperated or discouraged. It’s not just that the Timberwolves lost tonight at home. It’s the three wins in their last seven games, the four five game losing streak, and seeing yet another injury pile up.
After all, we’re just 36 games into the season and the Wolves had just wrapped up a five game in seven stretch while being shorthanded, and also were playing the Clippers, who have played some of the best basketball I’ve seen this season. I mean, the Timberwolves just need time to get healthy, right?
I’m not one to make excuses, but this team is banged up. You really can’t call it an excuse because it’s so apparent how banged up they are. Every team deals with injuries — they’re a part of the game — but this team seems especially unfortunate. On top of Ricky Rubio trying to re-adapt to playing with his surgically repaired knee we have Malcom Lee, Brandon Roy, Kevin Love, Chase Budinger out for extended periods of time. This goes without mentioning Josh Howard being out for the season or the nagging injuries that have hit Nikola Pekovic, JJ Barea, and now Alexey Shved.
Yeah, yeah, it’s a long season, but this is getting ridiculous. Much like Malcolm Gladwell talked about in The Tipping Point with crime, Hush Puppies, and viruses– there has to be one for this insane injury rash, right? Or at least I hope there is one and that his idea even applies to this situation.
When healthy, this team is a playoff team, and that’s why you can’t just “make a trade” in hopes of solving all of the team’s problems. As unfortunate as the team’s injuries have been this season the solution won’t provide any sort of instant gratification, and that is patience. No, really. This team is missing it’s best player and its second-best player is still trying to regain it’s step.
We’ve still seen them fight through the injuries and play .500 ball with pretty much everyone but Love and Rubio. Love will be back. Budinger will be back. Rubio is getting his legs under him and hopefully we’ll start to see the team we thought would have been. I don’t think anyone penciled this team in for last in the Northwest, but injuries have a way of killing playoff dreams.
Since it’s not too late, I guess we just…wait. We wait and hope that the injuries curb themselves in time for them to still steal a low seed. Even if they don’t stop we still know that we have a very good team that is mostly intact for another season, but it’s not the time to concede the season either. If anything, I suppose the purpose of this post is just vent out some of these frustrations or discouraged feelings.
For once, I’m able to write something about everyone’s favorite trade chip — Derrick Williams — and have it not be a long-winded post about why and where he should be traded to. In fact, despite some of his struggles at the rim and rebounding, he’s making it more difficult for the Timberwolves to trade him. Or easier, depending on if you think he’s made his value increase. Mostly, I’m referring to his defense and his shooting from distance, which he has improved both. You can see it on the court, and the numbers back it up.
The biggest issue I had with Derrick playing the three, defense aside, was that he didn’t have the range to play the position. Even Rick Adelman wasn’t crazy about just giving him minutes there because he had never played the position. My case and point last year was in his .412 FG% and .268% from three. And this season didn’t start out looking any more promising for him, but look below:
Derrick Williams Three Point Shooting by Month:
November: .333% (12 games)
December: .412% (11 games)
January: .500% (4 games)
Admittedly January is a small sample that won’t hold at that high of a mark, but he’s still showing a gradual improvement while taking as many threes per game as he did last season (2.0). This is huge on a team that has a dire need for shooters, and even if Derrick’s .400 average on the season slips another couple of points this season, that’s above average, and greatly helps the Timberwolves. How much does it help them? Well, after last night they’re now 5-1 all-time when Derrick hits three or more threes in a game.
Maybe this shouldn’t be so surprising because he was effective from distance at Arizona once he got the reps he needed. Put his month-to-month splits from last season against this year’s and you’ll see that he’s in a nice rhythm that he didn’t have before:
Derrick Williams Month-by-Month Splits ’11-’12:
December: .250 (3 games)
January: .267 (18 games)
February: .444 (15 games)
March: .269 (17 games)
April: .167 (13 games)
The comeback of Rubio has probably helped Derrick get better looks at more opportune moments, but he’s still had to step up and hit those shots, which he’s been able to do (Unlike last year with Rubio). Even this year’s sample looks more steady and trustworthy than last year’s did where his month of February just screamed “outlier”. Despite his inability to finish at the rim at times this season, even things like his eFG% and TS% have improved considerably, and could continue to climb as he improves as a finisher.
Remember, I never said he could never play the small forward spot, but that he couldn’t play it now. And if he keeps shooting like this, he could play it well one day.
Even defensively, we’re seeing Williams improve. There have been a couple of instances where I’ve watched Williams and been very impressed by what I’ve seen as far as his growth as a defender. Consider the following:
- As a power forward, Williams has posted a respectable PER of 14.4, but he’s held opposing PF’s to a much worse 9.4 PER. PER is far from a be all and end all, but paired with the eye test, it backs up what we’ve seen from Derrick as a defender this season.
Compare this to last season when he had a 12.2 at the position and opponents posted a 16.6 on him, and yeah, he’s made strides.
- With Williams on the court they surrender 101.5 points per 100 possessions, and 104.4 points per 100 possessions, meaning the team has performed better defensively with him on the court this season. Offensively, they’re actually more effective with him watching the game in it, however.
As I said above, Williams needs to improve as a finisher still, and his defense, while improved, can still get better, but he’s done some nice things of late worthy of recognition. If he ever can get his rebounding up to around his college level, he’ll be even more valuable as a player. The thing to remember with young big men is always patience, and we don’t typically see them peak until around their mid-20′s and Derrick is still just 21.
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.