Monday night’s game between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves was not for the defense lover in your life. Each team scored 40 points in a quarter once and neither team scored less than 24 in any given quarter while the Timberwolves scored less than 30 in just one. Additionally, Kevin Love notched his 50th double-double of the season as the Timberwovles topped their divisional rivals.
However, this was a game that should never have been in question for the Timberwolves after the way the first three quarters went for them. They led 40-25 after the first; 66-49 at the half; and then 98-83 after three. The fourth figured to be a good time for both teams to get some rest for their starters as the end of the season nears. Yet, the Timberwolves manage to come away with a four point, 132-128 win.
The reason for this is rather simple, yet a tad ironic. The game in which the Timberwolves set the franchise record for free throws made and attempted in a game is the same one that they nearly lost it because they couldn’t make them in the waning minutes of the contest. At the same time, you have to give the Nuggets credit. Not only did they execute their hack-a-wolf strategy to near perfection, but they also got creative in running some plays to get their four three pointers in the final minute that made this such a close game. Let’s take a look and see just how they were able to get those shots off.
Ty Lawson 0:27 Remaining
Wilson Chandler 0:23 seconds remaining
Wilson Chandler 0:17 seconds remaining
Evan Fournier 0:12 seconds remaining
So, this is how a once-blowout became a nail-biter on the road for the Timberwolves. Denver is an especially tough place to play because of the altitude, but you still have to execute better down the stretch to avoid getting into this position in the first place. Fortunately for Minnesota they were able to gut out the win, but it sure was a lot closer than it had to be. Not that close wins count any different in the standings than blowouts, but why make things more difficult for yourself?
I should clarify something: I don’t actually want anyone to die. It’s just that this Lakers team on paper looks like a team that should be among the dregs of the league, but they not — and games aren’t played on paper — and the Lakers are somehow 3-4 and hanging around in the middle of the Pacific division standings. This team was supposed to have lost too much in the offseason without bringing enough back in, and to top it off they’re doing this all without Kobe Bryant.
They are quite the puzzling team in that we don’t really even know what to make of them. Through seven games we’ve seen them blown out and we’ve seen them blowout or steal wins from some good teams.
Here is a list of things this Lakers team hasn’t been very good at: making shots within the arc, making free throws and forcing turnovers. But they have been the league’s ninth-best three point shooting team and fourth-best defensive rebounding team which has kept them competitive throughout the early stages of the season. When you rebound well defensively you eliminate second chance point opportunities and are able to control the pace of the game. Coupled with strong three point shooting, you’re making high value shots while eliminating a way for your opponents to get second chance points– a dangerous combination on any given night.
The Timberwolves have not been a great defensive rebounding team so far this season, but they’ve been about an average offensive rebounding team this season and will need to continue to do that tonight. Additionally, even though the Lakers have shot the ball well from distance, the Timberwolves have forced opponent’s to shoot the three at the ninth worst efficiency in the league. In doing so, the Timberwolves will ideally be able to force one of the league’s worst offensive rebounding teams to step up or allow their opponent to control the game.
Minnesota also loves to force turnovers while Los Angeles really hasn’t so far. The Timberwolves are the fifth best team in forced turnovers percentage and the Lakers are the third worst, coming at 27th. While the Lakers have been good at avoiding turnovers, they will be tested by the Timberwolves’ defense and could present an opportunity for the visitors to come away with a victory in game one of this back-to-back.
#twolves haven’t beat the #lakers since March 6, 2007 (117-107 in 2OT). Last win in Los Angeles was December 2, 2005 (113-108). #nba
Then there is this subplot bubbling below the surface of this game. Yes, the last time the Timberwolves beat the Lakers at all I was a senior in high school and the last time they beat them at Staples Center I was but a sophomore. That’s a really long time, so it’s understandable that a lot of fans are going to be watching tonight to see if the drought ends tonight. Sure, there have been some blowouts and some close games in this 22 game losing streak, but the Lakers were almost always the better team.
Yet, now things are a little different right now. The Lakers are in a weird place between competing for a playoff spot and rebuilding. I liken it to denial and like to think of their roster as Mitch Kupchak saying, “Rebuilding? No. Yeah, we lost Dwight Howard, but we got Chris Kaman and Nick Young is going to be a steal. Oh, and Wes Johnson is just about to get it, just you wait.” Basically, Kupchak is building a clear bridge to nowhere while telling us that we’re going somewhere. For the Timberwolves, as long as they can extract useful contributions from their bench on at least a semi-regular basis, they’re going somewhere and the Lakers won’t be there. I don’t mean the lottery, either.
Of course, beating the Lakers tonight at this stage in the season doesn’t actually mean anything in the grand scheme of things. However, to a group of people looking to overcome years of futility against the same franchise, this means something. It’s no longer a relevant footnote and a weight to be lifted off of their back. So, it means something without actually meaning something. Make sense? It might be more fun to beat a stronger previous incarnation of the Lakers, but at this point we’ll just take what we can get.
While the team addressed their need of perimeter shooting, they incidentally compromised the integrity of the perimeter defense. At least if you’re going to do so you should have constructed an offense capable of running anyone out of the building on a given night, which the Timberwolves may have probably done. However, while the team may be more and more unlikely to retain Andrei Kirilenko, there may be another option available who you may just recognize.
Brewer would actually be a far better fit than he was during his initial stint with the team. Then he was asked to be a consistent contributor offensively which is just not who he is as a player. Now, he’d be responsible for bringing energy and playing good defense as the team needs, which he is capable of doing; any offense he contributes would only be a bonus.
When he hasn’t been asked to do too much — like he was at the start of his career with his Timberwolves — he has been a valuable rotation player in Dallas and in Denver. And in Minnesota he could reprise a similar role and solidify the Timberwolves’ chances at the postseason.
The fact that Brewer has hung around so long might mean that the Timberwolves could get him at a bit of a discount since the small forward/shooting guard market has shrunk considerably since the beginning of free agency. Meaning the team could save some a few slivers of cap space in case they need to later on. This would also make it highly unlikely Kirilenko is gone, but Brewer would be younger and cheaper than AK47.
So, this may be nothing concrete yet, but it’s certainly an interesting idea and one that could prove to be a very good one for the Timberwolves.
How often does a season take on such a drastic transformation from influencing one player into jumping off the edge of a cliff to jumping for joy, rocking a new, shiny piece of hardware on his finger? Corey Brewer did it. But, as we all know, it wasn’t easy.
Brewer started off the 2010-2011 NBA season as the veteran of veterans of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Only 24 years old at the time, he was the longest tenured T-Wolf on the squad and was looking to bolster a ton of the load in terms of defense and leadership on the court. Unfortunately for him, his offense never prospered and his awkward on-court demeanor didn’t quite fit the bill of a true con-court leader.
Even as a fan-favorite, Brewer was let go. He had to be. His development as a young NBA talent seized in front of our eyes as he continued to frustrate fans more than wow them. But again, even as a fan- favorite, it was difficult to let go. Whether it was the fact of losing our single perimeter defender with the ability to halt the best of the best from lighting it up, or seeing him go at such a young age where his NBA career was really just starting to look up, or even that goofy, awkward yet smily disposition he always sported that fans actually thought of as “sweet” or “cute,” it was painful to see him leave. It really was.
As Brewer left us to hit the Big Apple via the Melo deal, many thought he would do well there. Under a fast-paced offense where Brewer could utilize his length and athletic abilities, it seemed like he would fit in well while taking the backseat in terms of leadership to Amar’e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony. Mostly, many critics believed his defensive prowess, that tough, lay-down-your-life defense he was known for, would be a big score for New York. After all, they really did need some defense to pair with that powerful offense. The only problem was New York themselves didn’t see any use for Brewer and cut him loose quicker then a shark on the end of your fishing line.
After allowing teams to plead for his assistance in his brief time as a free agent, Brewer decided to take his talents to D-town, to join Dirk and co. as they assembled for a full-on assault in this year’s playoffs. They weren’t going to play the “soft” card this year and made it be known when they signed Brewer for extra help. Brewer came in and did exactly what they asked of him: To be a role player, igniting the defense and bringing the game’s pace and energy to a whole new level when he entered. It’s what he’s great at.
Even though Brewer’s stints in the postseason were minimized by Dallas’ immense depth at all positions, he still had his time. And that’s what I’m most thankful for, that he got his well-deserved burn in the postseason for having to suffer three painful, just dreadful, seasons in Minnesota. He went from being on the worst team in the league, having to be that catalyst as a starter and be a leader on the court when that was really never his calling. What he needed he received in Dallas and no amount of experience or playing time in Minnesota will ever make up for it.
With that, I stand here and applaud him in his season-long quest. But he doesn’t need my gratitude. No, he’s got a hefty prize to show for his intense and lengthy season: A championship ring. Ooooh, shiny.
Howls from Around the NBA is our newest series here at HTW. Tom will be highlighting anything and everything NBA providing some structured analysis and tasteful bits of information. Tom’s first line of duty: Reviewing Corey Brewer’s work in the playoffs and his importance to Dallas’ run.
To the surprise of nobody who has watched the Timberwolves since 2007, the Dallas Mavericks are glad they nabbed Corey Brewer when the New York Knicks inexplicably dropped him like he was hot after picking him up in the Carmelo Anthony deal.
Rick Carlisle, after Brewer scored 5 points in 8 minutes, played some very solid defense, and helped spark a 16-point comeback in last night’s instant classic 96-94 Game 1 win over Los Angeles:
“We needed energy. We needed enthusiasm. Ever since we got Brewer, he’s come into practice every day with a phenomenal attitude. He has worked to get better and has gotten better. He had opportunities to go to other teams for more money and as good a winning situation as ours was. You’re talking about a kid who won two national championships in a row, so he knows about big games. We got in a dire situation and he went in there and made some good things happen for us.”
Yeah, that’s a pretty comprehensive summary of Corey Brewer, wouldn’t you say? Energy. Enthusiasm. Phenomenal attitude/work ethic. A desire to win. You really don’t think you could have used that, New York, especially after being out-hustled and out-played in a blowout of a series against the Boston Celtics.
Whatever. It’s definitely good to see Brewer getting an opportunity to contribute to a contender, and I think I speak for every Timberwolves fan when I wish him the best of luck in the remainder of the playoffs. Hopefully he’ll get some more quality minutes as the series progresses.
According to ESPN, the New York Knicks are nearing a buyout with the newly acquired Corey Brewer.
The Knicks and Brewer are closing in on a buyout agreement that will make the former Minnesota swingman a free agent, sources close to the situation told ESPN.com.
Because Brewer will be officially released before March 1, he’s eligible to play in the playoffs with another team.
Brewer’s sheer hustle and determination will make him a hot commodity on the market after the buyout. Any contender near the top will have to take a look at Brewer’s contributions. Some add that Boston, Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Dallas are interested. My guess: Chicago Bulls. What an upgrade he could be for that team at shooting guard.
Good for you, Corey. Wherever you land, we’ll be sure to root you on.
As you all know by now, the Wolves became the third wheel in last night’s mega Melo-deal, which sent superstar Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in exchange for every last bit of New York’s young, upcoming talent. The kicker, also known as the Wolves’ involvement, of the whole deal is having to say goodbye to the dearest Corey Brewer. He may not have been the most entertaining or productive players on the court, but the once longest-tenured Wolf had a way of energizing the crowd with his kamikaze-like style and stout defense.
Now, as you sob harshly into your palms over the loss of Brewer, consider what we got in return. First off, in order to facilitate the deal with the Knicks, the Wolves had to endure Eddy Curry’s obese contract — and body. It’s more than likely that he will just be bought out, thus justifying the $3 mil New York sent our way in the deal as well. Clearly this deal was made, and based, on David Kahn’s peculiar fixation on Anthony Randolph. Although picking another one of D’Antoni’s bench pieces may not be that peculiar at all. Randolph was a lottery pick back in 2008 — selected 14th by the Golden State Warriors. He has the physical talents to become a Lamar Odom-like player in the right system — which is exactly why I feel Kahn and Kurt Rambis fell in love with him. He has an aggressive instinct on the defensive end with a special ability to block shots to boot. His offensive game needs refining, but his outstanding ability to handle the basketball with a 7-foot-3 wingspan is impressive. He really is a young Lamar Odom with a stronger emphasis on the defensive end.
The real downfall to Randolph’s game is his shooting ability. Odom has the special gift of being able to hit open three’s and possesses an above-average mid-range jumper as well. Randolph’s arsenal of shots is severely limited, giving the Wolves a lesser chance of seeing production on offense out of him.
I like Brewer, but I’d trade him for Randolph in a heartbeat. Brewer is a solid role player who plays great defense but can’t shoot or dribble. That type of player has his uses, but that’s all Brewer will ever be. Helpful, yes, but fungible too.
Randolph has a lower floor but a much higher ceiling. He can’t shoot, he weighs 11 pounds and he’s a head case. On the other hand, he has rare shot-blocking talent, handles the ball unusually well for a player of his size, and is an elite athlete. He’s a potential game-changer at the defensive end and, if the light bulb ever comes on, he’s going to provide a very potent complement to Kevin Love’s skills in the Minnesota frontcourt.
The price of that trade was just swallowing Curry’s expiring contract, but because of the difference in salary between Brewer and Randolph and the $3 million coming from New York, it’s pretty much a wash financially. Basically it amounts to a free talent upgrade for Minnesota just for loaning out their cap space to get the Nuggets under the luxury tax.
You have to give credit to everything Hollinger says. Aside from his opinion of doing this deal in a heartbeat — I’m sure Kahn had to think twice on this one, maybe even thrice! — Hollinger hits some good points. As much as we all love Brewer, the reality of his situation was that he’ll never be the offensively sound player a serious contender needs. And although I am convinced he’ll be a tremendous role player for a winning squad, his game just didn’t coincide with Kahn and Rambis’ vision. Randolph, on the other hand, comes in with the skills to thrive in the triangle offense. And with his aggressive demeanor on defense, he could just be exactly what the Wolves need to improve on defense.
But where I really see this move going downhill is when you put all the pieces together. Some analysts, such as Hollinger, believe Randolph could be the perfect spouse next to Kevin Love on the floor. He’s big, athletic and extremely active on the defensive end. But what about offense? Sure, Brewer never succeeded much on offense either, but picturing a lumbering Love next to another fundamentally weak post player in Randolph could spell disaster for our offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if our offense finds itself in drastic lulls even with the starters in. Now, if Randolph somehow magically finds a shooting stroke up to par with that of Odom’s, that’s a different story entirely because then Randolph could space the floor accordingly and give Love more room to bash underneath for rebounds. But as of now, he doesn’t have it and I can foresee some weaknesses on the offensive side with those two in the ballgame.
Ultimately what I think this trade does is show that Kahn has faith in this team. For the past week Kahn has said that the major pieces are already in place — Love, Beasley, Rubio (If he ever gets here, that is) — and that just a few more tweaks should be enough. This week Kahn personally called out Beasley saying he needs to have a giant end to the season. Same goes for Love, despite his All-Star efforts of the first half of the season. Randolph isn’t going to change games but his presence is going to force guys like Beasley, Love and Darko to step up and produce like they should be. Because as we know it, this team is capable of bigger and better things. You can’t lose as many close games as they have without having competitive, professional athletes who care about their job. Now it’s just time to start pushing harder and desiring more. It’s all about heart and determination now, and although Brewer looked like he possessed it more than anyone on the court, Randolph could very well have a resurrection period — similar to Darko’s — and prove himself to be the player both Kahn and Rambis believe he can be.
Overall: It was a good trade for the Wolves and Nuggets, while the Knicks now have some work to do. Three teams already have shown it takes a big 3 to win in the East, so two superstars could very well not be enough to hoist them to the top. But although I’m happy to see an active and aggressive front office from our Wolves, who are desperately crying for help, it’s bittersweet to see Corey go and you can’t help but wish the best for him in his future endeavors.
New York finally got their man. And so did the Wolves. As a part of the mega Melo deal, New York and Denver will be switching all types of players for one another and the Wolves added Randolph, the guy they’ve wanted all along, to the team.
ESPN reported the news earlier tonight but I just had to get the basics out to you tonight. I promise there will be plenty of commentary posted tomorrow as well as a commemorative article on the one and only Corey Brewer. He’ll be missed dearly.
He’s healthy enough to play. We saw big things from him this preseason. He’s been highly touted ever since high school.
But will he live up to the standards?
Martell Webster’s return to this team could either mean one of two things; 1) The Wolves are receiving a huge boost out of the blue and a guy that could potentially crack the starting lineup given a few great performances; Or 2) Yet another souped-up Corey Brewer that will be nothing more than a 15-minute-per-game role player.
I never followed Webster very closely during his time in Portland for a few reasons. Apparently he was ready to come into the league as a high schooler and really dominate but we never saw it. He soon became overshadowed by the stardom of Brandon Roy and lost playing time that way. And finally he started losing even more playing time to the likes of Rudy Fernandez — Ouch. It’s easy to say that he’s just never lived up to the hype and became a simple bystander of the NBA’s hierarchy — If you can’t play, then get the hell out of here.
But perhaps with any ounce of hype still there, Webster could slowly start to develop here in ‘Sota. We’ve seen it in the likes of Mike Beasley and his newfound attitude this year which has led to nothing but good things for himself and the Wolves. Minnesota is a place of player development. David Kahn said that he wanted Minnesota to be a place of player development and growth when he first arrived. Players can come here to slow down, get a drip of themselves and figure out their role as an NBA player. I really didn’t understand the reasoning behind that dream but it becomes clear as day when you consider Beasley’s season.
So what are we going to see from Webster when he returns — hopefully Tuesday night at Golden State — and what kind of contribution is he really going to make for the rest of the season?
Of the two reasons I listed above, I’m going to take the middle-ground — I’m such a copout. Webster’s going to improve our overall strength, speed and athleticism, something that Wayne Ellington — the guy he’ll steal minutes from upon returning — has failed to do in his role. Webster is a 6-foot-7 wing and built like a bull but can run down the court just as well as any guard could. His natural tendency is to stalk the three-point line, where he’s shot a career 37-percent from. He plays hard-nosed defense and, thanks to his big frame, is a pretty successful defender.
All of those attributes I listed there similarly describe the game of Corey Brewer. Sorta scary, ain’t it? While I do think that a lot of their game’s have similar elements, Webster is going to produce more, but the key here is that he’s going to do it a lot more efficiently than Brewer.
Brewer has a dismal career PER of 10.73. The easiest way to sum that poor score up is to tell you that the league average this season is 15. Despite not playing yet this season, which does skew the scales considerably, Webster has a career 11.53 PER. The 0.8 difference may not look like much now, but once Webster starts accumulating minutes and producing, the differential should increase.
The reason I believe that differential will increase is coupled with the reasons I already told you why Webster is better than Brewer: He’s bigger, stronger, faster and, a characteristic that cannot be measured by statistics, smarter. Webster makes good decisions on the court. He’s a unique veteran player in that he’s only 24-years old but already has five seasons under his belt. He rarely commits turnovers, (1.31 career average) which is something that Brewer has struggled with throughout his career given his ball-handling abilities. Ultimately, he’s the veteran-type player the Wolves have been looking for that just seems to do all of the little things right and does it as efficiently as possible.
The facts are laid out in front of us. Now all that has to happen is for Webster to actually come back and see what he can contribute to this team. If in fact he returns and is a 10-ppg player that squeezes his way into the starting lineup, then you can consider this team to be a lot better, and I mean a 25-30 win season may not be out of the question. Even if he just returns as a 15-mpg role player, we should all be content with that too. Because at this point in the game, anything will help this inconsistent bunch.
Well as good as my 9-32 prediction for the Wolves over the first half of the season was (they were 8-33 and won their 9th in game 42) my 19-22 over the next 41 isn’t looking so hot. Not when the team fails to show up completely two nights in a row. We’ve seen a lack of effort from this young squad before for a half in back to back games but even during the 15 game losing streak I don’t think we got two back to back 48 minute stinkers like this one. Especially against a team coming off a 50 POINT LOSS! the game before.
The one and only good thing to take away from this game (and really their are no details worth sharing, we just stunk to high heaven across the board) is the one and only Corey Brewer. Seriously folks I am borderline speechless on his improvement. From calling him out as a possible bust early in the season to now thinking he’s got a crack at most improved player if he keeps up this play, I just don’t know what to say, other than job well done by Rambis and the coaching staff on their first big-time player development success story. Take a look at these numbers:
Over the last 4 games Corey has shot 31-50 FG’s (62%), 7-9 FT’s (77%), 11-19 3′s (58%), and averaged 19.5 points, 4.25 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.75 steals, 1 block, and 2.25 turnovers.
Unbelievable. If there was ever an award for the player most improved during the season, it would be going to Corey.
Just how good has this play been? I honestly at this point would lean toward keeping him if the staff thinks he can keep this up (don’t see any reason why not) rather than sending him off in a deal for Rudy Gay or Andre Iguodola. Certainly both are better players, BUT, if the Wolves are able to land either John Wall or Evan Turner in the draft then Corey becomes a much better complement at small forward than Gay or Iggy would, who might need the ball more to be effective. Not to mention a lot cheaper over the next two years.
I’m still in shock that I just wrote that paragraph. Need to go splash cold-water on my face.
Anyway I will be sure to watch Brewer closely tonight and see if he gets matched up on Lebron at all or if they’ll use Gomes more like they did in game #2.
And of course since I highlighted Brewer’s improved play he’ll probably be jinxed and throw up a stinker. At least us fans will have something to watch for though right?