Category: 2011 Offseason

Timberwolves' Offseason Grade

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For those with ESPN Insider.

And for those without:


Key additions: Rick Adelman (coach), Derrick Williams (draft), Ricky Rubio(draft), J.J. Barea (FA), Brad Miller (trade), Malcolm Lee (draft), Robert Vaden (trade)

Key subtractions: Kurt Rambis (coach), Tony Ronzone (assistant GM),Sebastian TelfairLazar Hayward

For the first time in two years, GM David Kahn didn’t completely blow it. The talent on this year’s Wolves team is impressive. And coach Rick Adelman, one of the most underrated coaches in the game, seems like a perfect fit for what looks like a turbo-charged squad.

Ricky Rubio is finally here, too, and should be a really nice fit with this team, while Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea should add more firepower to an already potent offensive team.

Still, the question on everyone’s mind is, while a number of the individual parts look stronger than they have in a couple of years, will the team win enough games to matter? Give Kahn credit for amassing a number of assets over the years, but at some point assets have to turn into players and players into wins.


The Barea-effect

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JJ Barea, the newest T-Wolf

The Wolves are close to finalizing a deal that would bring J.J. Barea to town. The deal entails four years and guarantees around $19 million.

I couldn’t be more frank by saying this one is a head-scratcher and laugh riot to boot. Kahn has now signed three backup point guards via free agency in three different off-seasons (Ramon Sessions in 2009 and Luke Ridnour in 2010). That just garners we throw a roast in his honor — Maybe that’s been his goal all along? He worked hard to rid the team of the clot at point guard when he found a new home for Jonny Flynn, and allowed Sebastian Telfair to walk.

Starting the season with Ridnour and Rubio seemed like a sure-thing. Rubio, from the sounds of it, has looked good in practice thus far and seems to have won the vote of coach Rick Adelman for the starting spot, leaving Ridnour in that veteran back-up role that he played so well in Milwaukee for Brandon Jennings.

But throwing Barea into the mix knocks everything off-kilter; and I couldn’t love it more. The move may never be justified because, for those of you who think this is a snowball decision that will affect others down the line, I don’t think so; I believe Barea is here to stay.

Barea was a major contributor in Dallas’ title run last season. He’s the stereotypical spark plug off of the bench that injects the game with raw adrenaline. He flies around the court, drives the lane and dishes to open shooters; Kahn’s dream of what Flynn should’ve been. He also hits open shots — Sorry, Jonny. But the number one thing I love about Barea is that he can handle the ball. No, not like Ridnour’s ball-handling, like an actual point guard that secures the ball but keeps things moving. Ridnour often found himself last year in tough spots because he picked up the ball or drove to the hoop and had nowhere to go. Barea doesn’t let that happen.

But perhaps this wasn’t a basketball move at all. Rubio’s move goes beyond the hardcourt and will prove to be difficult. Rubio making the transition from Spain to America also means transitioning from Spanish to English, which is difficult for anyone, especially a youngin’ looking to make a difference in the NBA. With Barea alongside him, Rubio will now have a native Spanish speaker and a more relatable mentor in the locker room. You can still argue that Ridnour could be that guy, but what I’ve personally seen from Ridnour in the past season is that he likes to keep to himself and go about his business. Rubio will take much more mentoring than Jennings needed and Ridnour just might not be up to the task.

So it’s all puzzling. We see Kahn’s third back up point guard signing in three years. We see redundancy all over the board again at an unstable and uncertain position. But does it matter? This time the Wolves went out and grabbed a true winner; he’s a champion. Barea’s style fits the type of offense this team is going to play, and we don’t have to sacrifice much in age to get the effects on the court and leadership from the bench.

Having said that, I firmly believe Barea is here to stay. Ridnour on the other hand? He may now be packaged somewhere — perhaps New York — due to the sheer logjam at point guard; logjams are no-good when you have a young prodigy to mentor. Although we all know how Kahn handles logjams: he doesn’t. He sits on them instead. But I digress.

The Wolves aren’t done in free agency yet. We’re going to see two of three things happen next: 1) The move that sends Ridnour along his way; 2) Barea gets packaged and dealt for a bigger piece, say a starting shooting guard; 3) The Wolves make a minor deal for a shooting guard like Rudy Fernandez or Raja Bell — Barea could be a bargaining chip for Dallas to go after, giving up on Fernandez for less than what he’s really worth. My money’s on options 1 and 3 (Please be Rudy, please be Rudy.)

Stay tuned because things aren’t over yet.

Let's gear up, we've got basketball to watch

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It seems like all that’s left to do is shake on it.

With news breaking of the NBA and its players finally reaching a tentative agreement that ended the  lockout, it’s time to move past the mysterious station of limbo in which we all floated in for so long.

Once the Dallas Mavericks were named NBA Champions back in May, every fan of the NBA slipped into a state of comatose; your faith and fandom in the NBA stopped but time kept cruising on without any regrets. Days passed, then months but still no deal was in place. Billionaire owners and millionaire players sat at long, mahogany executive tables bickering over who deserves more of our hard-earned money. It was everywhere. It was sickening. But, most of all, there was nothing we could do about it.

But it’s all over with. The NBA season — or at least a part of it — has been saved and we can all go back to enjoying the sport we love. I’m not going to go through the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of every concession on the new collective bargaining agreement because, frankly, the CBA is as complex and confusing as the show Lost — I’m only starting season 4 on Netflix; don’t spoil it for me.

One thing we can agree on is the fact that the Timberwolves are officially back in business but they have some lofty expectations to live up to.

While players were gone, basking on the beaches of Southern California or hosting charity games at local high school gyms, the Timberwolves’ place in the Target Center was shifted. A new basketball power came to order — not like the Wolves were much of a power to begin with. The Minnesota Lynx defied all odds and went on to post the WNBA’s best record of the season and grabbed a championship trophy while they’re at it. The Lynx, just like the Wolves, have been historically bad for their entire existence. But crafty roster moves — I still miss you, Katie Smith — and the luck of the draft (Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, the list really goes on) put them in position to break from their slump and grab the attentions of thousands in the greater Minneapolis area.

Just like the Lynx, the Wolves now have a roster that seems primed for a breakout season. The additions of Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams stabilize two positions the Wolves have failed to get consistent production from for years. Kevin Love is finally recognized as a top-class player amongst his peers. Depth, something Wolves fans know little about, now prowls the bench with veteran presence in Luke Ridnour, Martell Webster and even newcomer Brad Miller.

One reason the Lynx succeeded this season was because of the emergence of the once-forgotten Seimone Augustus. The former first overall pick has had an injury-riddled career that never shined like many had thought it would. She rose above all expectations this season and finally came to form, leading the Lynx to the championship. I find a striking resemblance between Augustus and Wolves’ forward Michael Beasley — And no, it’s not the hairdos. Both Augustus and Beasley are natural-born scorers. From anywhere on the court, they find a way to put the ball in the basket. What I saw in Augustus that was different from year’s past was her mental focus that helped her ignore the mere thought of getting hurt or failing. Beasley needs to find that focus as well. If he can soar past the thought of failing or getting hurt on any given play, he may finally have the chance to fully focus on the game and, in turn, breakout and crush the expectations he had after being chosen second overall in the 2008 NBA draft.

There’s one way the Timberwolves may be able to exceed their lowly expectations next season and that is Rick Adelman. The soon-to-be Hall of Famer enters his first season as the Timberwolves coach with a very special opportunity in Minnesota. A young roster, so talented it’ll make you salivate, needs a strict decision maker that will teach the game and discipline when needed.

Remember back to when David Kahn and the Wolves had Kurt Rambis hanging on a string. His future with the franchise was uncertain but neither side wanted to make advancements. Of course, the saga turned into the classic Timberwolves screw-up and we were portrayed to the basketball world as clumsy and flat-out stupid. Once Rambis was officially let go, the Wolves were lucky to toss such prestigious names into the drawing: Sam Mitchell, Larry Brown, Don Nelson. But one name, in particular, stuck out as the clear-cut choice, and that was Adelman. Minnesota sports, in general, usually have a difficult time choosing the right coach — Just ask the Vikings, for starters.

Adelman was officially announced and it was a day of rejoicement. For once, a professional sport in the state of Minnesota made the right decision on a coach. Thanks to that decision, even with the inexperienced roster, the season is just that much brighter than in years past because they have that passionate leader, poised to make basketball relevant again in the Twin Cities.

Speaking of the Twin Cities, have you ever seen Target Field? Or perhaps visited St. Paul’s Winter Carnival? The Twin Cities could very well be a hot spot for incoming free agents. Kahn worked his magic last year convincing David Lee to visit as well as Rudy Gay — even though he de-boarded the plane after the Grizzlies called and offered him stacks on stacks of cash to stay. The Wolves have serious cash to spend and a guy who’s not afraid to spend it. In year’s past, we’ve seen owner Glen Taylor hesitate to dish out the money for a winning team, but with the NBA’s economic status in dire trouble, it’s now or never on deciding when to go big.

It’s an exciting time to be an NBA fan, and a specially exciting time to be a Timberwolves fan. There will be a lot more analysis coming, but let’s just leave it with this: How excited are you for basketball to be back?

Love not going oversees… Yet

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Contrary to what Tom reported yesterday, Kevin Love has now decided against signing in Turkey with Besiktas.

Love claims that playing abroad “is still very much an option” but playing in Turkey just wasn’t the “right decision for me.”

Besiktas of Turkey is a club team based in Istanbul and have already signed Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets. Other targets for the team include Chicago Bulls’ forwards Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng.

Wolves in a Foreign Land

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Kevin Love, wearing the right uniform

A little late to the game, but some Timberwolves overseas news: Kevin Love might team up with Deron Williams in Turkey, playing for Besiktas.

From Yahoo Sports.

“I’ve been going back and forth with Deron on it,” Love told Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears on Friday. “I’ll be making my decision in the next couple of days.”

It’s good to hear Kevin has the chance to make some lockout money playing a real sport, and his skill set, toughness and jump shots with range, will likely transfer well to the international game.

Still. It’s hard not to be a little depressed thinking about watching him on a grainy internet feed rather than on League Pass where he belongs.

In other much less surprising news, Ricky Rubio is thinking about returning to Barcelona if the lockout continues.

From Toronto Sports Network.

Rubio told Catalan radio ONA FM that “I want to wait until I see there is no chance of resolving the situation, and then I will sign with another team.”

Rubio said that he would contact Barcelona to see if he could practice with the team while the lockout continues, like Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol and his brother Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Considering the amount of time and money the Timberwolves spent trying to extract Rubio from Barcelona, this would obviously be a step backward.

Which, honestly, reflects the state the locked out NBA perfectly.

Rubio's USA debut

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Last night, Ricky Rubio played with some of the NBA’s best in a charity game for the Drew Gooden Make A Wish Foundation.

Stars like Demar Derozan, James Harden, Anderson Varejao, Dorell Wright, Shawn Marion and plenty more took the court alongside the Spanish phenom and helped raise over $10,000 for Gooden’s charity.

Rubio’s skills were undeniable. His court vision and passing skills were unfathomable. He was even able to hit open shots when given the opportunity. Granted that defense in these kinds of pick-up games are a lost cause, Rubio was able to dazzle on court and put a show on for the fans.

Clearly he’s something special and keeping him off of NBA courts is a sin. Hopefully the lockout can get cleared up soon before it’s too late and he changes his mind to flee home to Barcelona.

Breaking News: NBPA rejects latest offer, plans to decertify

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The fate of the entire season may now be in jeopardy after the NBPA officially rejected the owners’ latest offer at a collective bargaining agreement.

“Going forward, collective bargaining will not be how this process continues for us,” added union president Derek Fisher. “We’ll let our legal team really lead the charge.”

This isn’t going to end any time soon now.

Check this out

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Still not much going on with the lockout talks. A stalemate between the NBA and NBPA isn’t news until they start cancelling more games.

But in the meantime, check this article out. It’s a really great read on a topic that David Stern keeps bringing up: Payroll and NBA success are related. But are they?

Love breaks the news

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When the Minnesota Timberwolves decided to relieve Kevin McHale of his duties, Kevin Love was the first on the scene. Contrary to your average breaking news, a person involved in the situation, other than the boss, usually doesn’t crack the case. Love did in that instance via Twitter and paid the price.

This time, Wolves fans couldn’t be happier to hear the news from Love.

“Houston, we have a coach,” Love said via Facebook.

Although he hasn’t specified who the new coach is, it shouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure it out. The past few weeks the Wolves have flirted with the idea bringing in high caliber coach in Rick Adelman, a superiorly renowned coach that’s been coaching around the league since 1988, when he started in Portland with the Trail Blazers.

Adelman toyed with the idea of a year or two off when he and Houston split ways after the past season.

But now the Wolves have a coach and are certainly heading in the right direction. There will be much more to come once news of the contract details surface, as well as some commentary to go right along with it.