Zach LaVine, the Wolves 13th overall pick in 2014 NBA Draft

Timberwolves 2014 Draft in review

Zach LaVine, the Wolves 13th overall pick in 2014 NBA Draft

Zach LaVine, the Wolves 13th overall pick in 2014 NBA Draft

The NBA draft is over. You can exhale and safely bring back out the top-shelf liquor and crystal-ware to pour yourself a drink. After all, you deserve it! You stayed up late and watched the whole thing, didn’t you?

Well, in case you didn’t, here’s a very brief recap with a more in-depth analysis below:

  • Wolves take UCLA G Zach LaVine with the 13th overall pick
  • Wolves take Michigan G/F Glenn Robinson III with the 40th overall pick
  • Wolves sell the rights to the 44th overall pick (Markel Brown) to the Nets for $1 million
  • Wolves sell the right to the 53rd overall pick (Alessandro Gentile) to Houston for unknown amount

So, the Wolves had four picks heading into the draft and took just two players but probably made enough money in their two sales of second rounders to nearly pay LaVine’s first year salary. Nice! But let’s get into what really matters: The selections of LaVine and Robinson III.

Let’s kick things off with the first choice. Zach LaVine didn’t make the greatest impression on the Wolves community by saying a curse word — it started with an “F” — after hearing his name and “Minnesota Timberwolves” in the same sentence.

But can you hardly blame him?

LaVine is an intriguing prospect from — you guessed it — Minnesota’s favorite pipeline, UCLA. Although he didn’t play much during the season, in fact he only started one game, he still put up decent numbers as a sixth man. But what everyone truly loved about LaVine was his “potential” and all the measurables that go into scouting a player. But what really determines potential? To many, that means how well his game translates to the NBA. To me, it means his numbers, role and attitude/drive translates favorably to an NBA team.

Flip Saunders said, when he first started and reiterated when he was looking for a head coach, that he wanted analytics to become a part of the Timberwolves future when it comes to building the team. But, in an effort to completely throw that logic to the wind, Saunders did the opposite by taking LaVine, who is a complete testament to the old-school “eye test” when it comes to gauging a prospects, well, prospects of becoming a solid NBA professional. And by the eye test I mean you look at a guy and his measurables — height, vertical, wing span, hand size, shuttle time, etc. — in order to determine his fit and potential in the NBA.

But guess who will be the first to tell you that the “eye test” only goes so far: David Kahn.

Kahn was particularly keen on the eye test when scouting any draft. After all, it’s an old school measure of gauging a player’s transition and potential to the NBA. But in today’s stat-driven world, it’s an outdated method by immense measures. LaVine’s transitional statistics to the NBA are not good. In fact, LaVine’s per 40 minutes aren’t very good with just 15.4 points per game on 44 percent shooting. He’s not even close to good in terms of getting to the free throw line with just an average of three free throw attempts per game, despite a guy who’s athletic and likes to get to the rim. His true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentages are tempting but he turns the ball over too much and his usage rate was suspiciously high for a sixth man at UCLA.

Saunders falling for the eye test on LaVine is a critical mistake in the Timberwolves’ future plans. I don’t want to be the one to break him the news because I, in fact, have fallen for the eye test plenty of times, and often right alongside Mr. Kahn himself. Come draft time, I believed the Johnny Flynn projected to be an average NBA starter at the very least, and at the 6th pick, that’s not a bad deal some times. Then, with Wesley Johnson, I believed he was going to be another player with average starting capabilities. After all, he was long, had great size and defensive capabilities and could shoot the ball very well right out of school.

And then there was Derrick Williams. He was a little tougher to gauge, but in a draft that was so poor after Kyrie Irving, they really didn’t have much better of a choice. All three — Flynn, Johnson and Williams — turned out to be busts in Minnesota and put the franchise back about five years in terms of rebuilding.

Now, I’m not saying the LaVine’s fate will be very similar, but history lays out the path; the Timberwolves simply don’t draft well regardless of position in the draft. It’s a difficult reality to face, especially because they could be so much better than they currently are or ever have been, but the Wolves have been at the mercy of the draft’s crapshoot every season. It’s never been kind but part of that rests on the minds of the decision makers like Kahn and Saunders. In the end, there are new, innovative ways to approach creating a roster that fits the mold of your style of play and neither has been able to achieve that. Instead, both were stuck in the ancient ways of the eye test and have furthered the potential of failure for the coming years. I absolutely refuse to call Zach LaVine a failure before he appears before us in a Timberwolves jersey for at least a season, but forward-thinking with an emphasis on analytics has me skeptical nonetheless until he proves me otherwise.

As for Robinson III, he has a chance to become one of the best value picks of the entire draft, which Flip may or may not deserve credit for.

For starers, Robinson III is one of the more accomplished players in the second round, both in terms of statistics and team success in college. His per 40 minute stats are considerably better than LaVine’s in both of his seasons at Michigan. In most other drafts, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a late teens-to-twenties draft pick but this year was a tad different. Regardless, Robinson III played a big part in Michigan’s success the past two collegiate season, posting win shares of .178 and .142 in his freshman and sophomore seasons respectively. The regression in his sophomore season is a tad alarming, mostly because he was supposed to be the guy once Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. were out of town but that wasn’t the brand of basketball the Wolverines played, and if anyone reaped the benefits it was their key player Nik Stauskas.

Robinson III sorta just fell into Flip’s lap. If another name was called at 40, Flip may have had some explaining to do. Robinson III has a great chance to make the team, especially if Robbie Hummel is no longer an option — which he shouldn’t be. It’s not like Robinson III is a must-have on the roster, but he certainly adds a level of competition when it comes to making the squad, which is why he’s a great asset to have aboard.

If I had to give the Wolves a grade on last night’s draft, I’d have to say it’s INCOMPLETE. It’s a copout; I know that. But when you take a player like LaVine, who is such an enormous question mark, at a time where you really need players who can make an impact immediately, you’re taking on a huge risk. And as much as I like the Robinson III pick in the second round, it doesn’t make up for the fact that there were impact guys to be picked at 13 but you passed on them to take a potentially big project in the middle of a transitional period for the franchise.

If this were indeed a sign of things to come for the Wolves’ remaining offseason, I’d advise to brace for the worst. There are two things very wrong with what went down tonight that support that last statement. The first is that Kevin Love remains a Timberwolf. It’s not a bad thing but it means that you’re still skeptical of the offers on the table and that you don’t have a clear understanding of the direction you want the team to head in. Do we keep Love? Do we trade him? That sort of thing exactly. The second is that Flip has already publicly stated that he wants the Wolves to remain competitive and not go into any sort of rebuilding mode yet he took the most unpolished player in the entire lottery — perhaps the entire draft — at no. 13. What does that say about the direction of the team and where management would like to see things go from here? Doesn’t exactly scream “stay competitive” to me…

I have a strong gut-feeling that Flip doesn’t have any sort of plan for the present and the future states of the Timberwolves roster. Instead, he’s being very retroactive by sitting and waiting for things to change around him — like an unexpected trade offer for Love or the addition of Klay Thompson in a Warriors offer — but that doesn’t make the Wolves any better, or push the roster or future any further along in the present. Instead, that regresses the progress that was already taking shape because teams like the Mavericks, Pelicans and Nuggets are all making deals to get better as soon as they can.

That’s why I think the scariest part about last night’s draft wasn’t any of the picks they made or the sales they authorized; rather it was the general feeling of “what do we do now?” that seems to be resonating throughout the entire organization’s management, while the fan base is starting to slowly feel the rippling effect. Maybe it’s because Flip has never been in a situation like this before as the President and the Head Coach, but neither has a lot of employees. So buck up, dust off the best 5-point business plan you can find and present it immediately because the rest of us seem just as confused and lost as you probably are, Mr. Saunders.

kevinlove

Kevin Love Rumor Mill churning again

kevinlove

Kevin Love is a wanted commodity. You would be too if you can post a double-double as easy as tying your shoe. But now that he’s already let it be known that he’s not keen on staying in Minnesota past this upcoming season — with the ability to bounce thanks to David Kahn’s Kahntract that gave him in out after his third season — the rumor mill is moving fast with the draft approaching. And this time, the rumors could actually be truer than they were four weeks ago.

When the Love news broke out, the rumors went flying. That’s because a lot of people don’t have much else to do than to fuel the fire. But now it seems to be time where the Wolves actually have to consider the trades currently on — and even off — the table. Before we move further, check out current NBA future lines for the Minnesota Timberwolves and monitor how their odds move over the early summer as rumors come to fruition.

Many believe after yesterday that the Boston Celtics are the frontrunner. Why? Well, Chad Ford said so, DUH. But what also is interesting is all the hubba that Love stirred up when he vacationed the Boston. He caroused around the city like royalty and even met up with his agent and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo to take in a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway. Then David Ortiz got into the mix – Damn you! He tweeted at Love offering advice of how to move from Minneapolis to Bo-Town, like a boss.

But if you move all the drama and passive-aggressive behavior aside, the Celtics have a pretty nice little package to send the Wolves for Love. The problem is no one truly knows what it is — if there’s an official offer on the table or not. The Celtics have multiple young, talented players like Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Then they also have the 6th and 17th picks in this year’s draft. Then, if you want, you can maybe even throw in Jeff Green as a possibility. Flip Saunders has stated that he doesn’t want to rebuild, if a Love trade indeed happens. You can’t blame the guy but not dealing Love because you’re only getting picks back as the headline is the wrong mentality. But I digress. If you look at all the pieces the Celtics could potentially offer, it seems like they’re a great fit to; 1) gain some young pieces as you address the future of your roster, and; 2) gain some players who’ve played in the league at least a couple of years. It’s the best of both worlds, methinks.

It’s not fair to jump all over the Celtics as the only logical landing point quite yet. Just because Ford has merit to say so doesn’t mean it’s even close to true. But get this: Darren Wolfson tweeted that he thinks the front office is sitting ominously quiet like it’s the calm before the storm. I think the night before the draft will be “take cover” time and then the night of could be a full hurricane of phone rings, espresso shots and stress. Just because the teams are what they are now doesn’t mean they will be the same way on draft night. Which is exactly why another team will plot and move to change their roster just to get the chance to make a move for Love. Maybe Golden State finds a third team interested in taking on David Lee and also sends a first round pick to Minnesota for the trouble. Maybe Sacramento bites the bullet and does perhaps offer the boat just to have a chance at having Love for one season. Maybe Chicago decides to challenge Miami’s decrepit Big Three with a newly formed Big Four (Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love and Joakim Noah) and clear enough space and assets to do so.

All I’m saying is anything can happen. The rumors will start to fly — with the one from yesterday being the first in a long while. I just know that it could be a bumpy ride, and the chances for disappointment are always greater than for success. But, perhaps, for the first time in just about ever, maybe the Wolves will be on the other side of the fence looking over, smirking in happiness. “Ha ha ha, have fun with that lethargic oaf of a star!”

Oh what to do with Kevin Love

A Look inside Bill Simmons’ Mailbag

Oh what to do with Kevin Love

Oh, what to do with Kevin Love

How many hours have you spent on the trade machine this week? How badly are you trying to virtually aide Flip and the Wolves in getting rid of the cancer that is Love before we have to boo him during home games? No one feels comfortable stepping outside of the ‘We have to trade him sooner than later’ bubble, and I don’t blame you. For me, I’ve been trying to stick shovels, garden hoes, pitchforks (Why do I have so many gardening tools?) into the bubble’s shell from inside but it just doesn’t seem very plausible at this point.

So if it’s a reset button they have to press, let’s press the right one. AMIRITE?!

Go back to 2007, when the Wolves needed to trade Kevin Garnett. Subtly curving downward from his prime, there were suitors all over the league drooling over the chance at grabbing Garnett. McHale had his pick from a giant litter of offers that were laced with helpful assets as far as the eye can see. But in the end, he chose an enticing at the time but mediocre deal with his old friend and teammate in Boston, Danny Ainge. Did Ainge get the ‘buddy discount’? Of course he did but Minnesota still thought they got a decent haul headlined by Al Jefferson, two first-round draft picks, and then a slew of intriguing young players like Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Ryan Gomes. Oh, and Theo Ratliff was there too.

The return was enticing because of the similar stages each player was in at that point in their career. Although the key players coming from Gang Green all were young in years, at least they had some NBA-game action, which can be important when you’re trying to sustain at least a moderate level of success while still trying to mold a young athlete into the player/person you want them to be.

Looking back now, though, I think it’s pretty clear that that’s a deal you want to stay away from in the future. Do you really want a bunch of players who some experience and okay potential  in a blockbuster trade for you superstar when you didn’t even do the scouting/drafting of these players to begin with? Are you just gonna take the other executive’s word that these guys can play and are stand-up off-court characters? I don’t believe in that one bit. We all know how the Garnett trade faired for both teams in the end and a lot of Minnesota’s negatives from the deal stem from the lack of any of the young players’ abilities to find their fit/niche in Minnesota as well as Minnesota’s ability to not give them enough time (Gerald Green kicks ass now, if you didn’t know).

I think, if Flip and Glen Taylor want to make the right move and do this thing correctly, they need to trade Love early/on draft night to cash in on the highest value possible. But even more important than the timing is the return and that it NOT resemble anything like the Garnett deal in that you don’t take on players that you haven’t scouted thoroughly and just taking on because “the coach said they have potential.” This is a trade that’s going to dictate the path for the next five years and probably even further, so don’t set your future in another front office’s hands. The only way to get a solid return is to take on a slew of draft picks, where YOU get to do the scouting and drafting of these young men and choose the ones you want of 60 incoming players, not 15 from another roster. And then you also need to take proven commodities who have real experience in the league, like four to six years, not one to two. If those two requirements aren’t met by the time a deal is announced, then it’s a complete fail in my mind, and Taylor should sell the team, leaving Flip with the mess of another potential Post K.G. Era, where darkness, shame and bullying/abuse are all inevitable.

Bill Simmons of ESPN and Grantland wrote a snippet of his take on Love’s situation and went into detail on potential trades for different teams and then ranking them from least likely to most likely to trade for Love. First off, this guy must never sleep, or when he does, his brain is in eternal Trade Machine mode because he won’t give it a break. His ideas for potential trades are so out there, there’s no way he’s not scheming 24 hours a day. Anyways, I’m going to go through his potential trades and give my two cents on each one, starting with the least likely trade spots moving into the most likely. Herewego!

L.A. Lakers: Could offer the no. 7 pick, the chance for Love to come home, and the chance for him to be reunited with his girlfriend (the actress Cody Horn). I don’t know how any of this helps Minnesota. And also — if you’re Kevin Love, you’d really want to play with Kobe for two years on a poorly owned team with no other assets? Why not just stay in Minnesota one more year, then sign with the Lakers in 2015?

First off, I’ll get to what really matters first. Cody Horn is not that hot. Nope. She’s very meh in the world of Hollywood, which isn’t what you want to be there. Kevin, you can do better, I just know it. But I can tell you this much: Love isn’t going to L.A. for at least one season. The Wolves would keep him before trading him to the Lakers because they have NOTHING to give back other than that 7th pick. It just won’t work, but if Love really wants to be in L.A., he’ll do exactly what Simmons’ says and sign there as a free agent next summer. And even that’s a long-shot considering the Wolves are going to look for a place to trade him where he wants to go, so he can re-sign with them. Sorry, Lakers, but the Love sweepstakes odds are extremely low unless something drastic happens.

Golden State: Reportedly made Klay Thompson untouchable, which makes no sense because (a) he should be VERY touchable, and (b) you should want to flip David Lee and Thompson for Kevin Love every day and twice on Sunday. If they want to expand the deal with Harrison Barnes and Kevin Martin, that’s fine, too. Love and Steph Curry on the same team? Come on. Actually, why am I helping the Warriors? Definitely keep Klay Thompson! Best 2-guard in the league!

You know, I think Golden State has one of the better packages to offer. In this one, you get two players you know are good, which is key for me, remember. But you have to get Barnes to make things right, just because he’s the “Gerald Green” of the deal. I’m not high on those kind of players but getting just one on top of the real package of Lee/Thompson is better than fine. The only problem is, like Simmons says, why the hell would we help the Warriors? They took the point guard we were supposed to take in 2009. What the hell, guys!! No, no, screw you! This conversations is over.

Phoenix Suns: They have a bunch of decent assets (the nos. 14, 21, 28 and 29 picks, Alex Len, the Morris twins, etc.) but no headliner. They’d have to package multiple picks to move up to no. 5 (Utah) and no. 7 (Lakers). Not likely. (More likely for them: Al Horford.)

Just no. The package is way too similar to KG/Boston’s minus the headliner of Al Jefferson. The picks are nice but where’s the proven commodity? They don’t have one except for Goran Dragic, who’s practically untouchable in the loosest sense of the term. Plus, there’s no way Love has actual interest in re-signing with Phoenix. We’ve already figured out that two Morris’ doesn’t make one good one. This isn’t Transformers, ya know.

Houston Rockets: Have to be mentioned because of Flip Saunders’s friendship with Kevin McHale, and because Love absolutely loved playing for McHale. But they’d have to convince Chandler Parsons to agree to a sign-and-trade, something they couldn’t do until July (after the draft). No way Parsons wants to live in Minnesota — he wants to be famous too badly. He’d rather attend Hollywood red-carpet premieres and become the next Bachelor. (I’m not even kidding.) So what if they sign-and-trade Parsons to the Lakers for whomever they took with the no. 7 pick (not inconceivable), deal Omer Asik for another first-rounder, then package those picks with other assets (future picks, Terrence Jones, etc.) for Love? Unlikely … but not impossible, right?

Julius Erving said a the Draft Lottery that the league has always worked in cycles. Generally speaking, teams are good for 5-10 years, and then turn bad again. Unless you’re the outlier like Minnesota but that’s a whole different conversation. For the sake of argument, let’s just assume he’s 90-percent right. That means it’s Houston’s time to rise for the next five seasons at least. Why would Minnesota want to push that cycle into overdrive? And for Chandler Parsons, who, like Simmons’ said, would never re-sign here and Jones, who would never re-sign when he’s ready too. Again, the potential package has no headliner and strikes to similar to the KG deal. It just won’t work.

Chicago Bulls: For Taj Gibson, no. 16, no. 19 and the rights to Nikola Mirotic. Not sure that’s enough for ’Sota. Also: That trade chews up the Bulls’ cap space, and, by proxy, their July chances for Carmelo. I can’t get a feel for the Bulls — I mean, that’s the same team that gave Luol Deng away in January, then claimed publicly that they weren’t quitting on the season. Huh???? It’s also the same team that plays in the third-biggest TV market in America and could sell for $2 billion tomorrow (not a misprint), only they operate their business like they’re stuck playing in Indiana or Milwaukee. Keep getting dem checks, Jerry.

It’s like a broken record at this point. No headliner. I do love Taj Gibson but not as the main piece. Mirotic may never be anything substantial. The only way it would work for the Wolves is if the Bulls do the hard work and shop picks 16/19 to move up into the top ten, somehow, and then give us a few future first-rounders as well. To make it work, the Bulls have to offer a minimum of three picks or find another team to help bring a headliner to Minnesota in a deal.

Okay, this next one is long because Simmons is a Celtics junkie:

Boston Celtics: They have a war chest of assets, including two 2014 picks (no. 6 and no. 17), two 2015 first-rounders (their own and an unprotected Clippers pick), two unprotected Brooklyn first-rounders (2016 and 2018), a pick swap from Brooklyn in 2017 (unprotected), a $10.3 million trade exception, Keith Bogans’s waivable-ASAP contract ($5.1 million, perfect for trade match), Brandon Bass’s deal (expires in 2015) and two decent young players (Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk). They can accommodate ANY Kevin Love trade. Oh, and they have Brad Stevens and one of the league’s most respected organizations, as well as the team that keeps celebrating its players and welcoming them home even after they retire. That too.

The most logical offer: Both 2014 picks, both 2015 picks, Sullinger, Bogans and Bass’s expiring for Love. That’s four first-rounders (including the no. 6 pick). If they pulled it off, they’d have to move quickly on Houston’s Asik, even if it meant taking Jeremy Lin’s contract as the price for Asik — conceivably, they could absorb Asik with the aforementioned trade exception and absorb Lin’s deal with their cap space — which helps Houston because they need to dump the Lin/Asik contracts to pursue Carmelo. You tell me: Could you compete in the East with a starting five of Love, Rajon Rondo, Asik, Jeff Green and Free Agent 2-Guard TBA? And could you make the Finals with a Big Three of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony? YES AND YES! Let’s do this!

(And if all of this happens, followed by an unhappy Celtics season and Love and Rondo bolting in 2015 to sign with the Lakers and Knicks, respectively, then I’m moving to England and throwing myself into the Premier League. No farewell column, no good-bye party, nothing. I’m out. Nice knowing you.)

Oofta. Can you blame the man for trying? I mean, four first-round picks? The problem is the Celtics aren’t that good. Bringing in Love will put them back into the top four or five teams in the East with a healthy lineup, but they’d sacrifice any chance at a future with Love beyond a year or so because they’d be absolutely depleted. It makes sense for the Wolves because they get the picks they really need, which is a must-have in my opinion. And if you’re getting four draft picks in the trade, who needs proven players? You have four potential starters at your disposal sitting in the draft somewhere. The Wolves would happily take Sullinger, who is more of a locker room guy than Love and also plays a little bit like him too. I like Sully.

I’d say, if the Celtics were willing to roll the dice on a deal like this, I’d shake on it with my mouth shut, if I were Flip. It’d be the dawning of significant work moving forward in regards to scouting for the picks and even moving them for players they might like. But the haul is probably too good to be true.

And last but not least:

Cleveland Cavs: It all depends on whatever Bat Signal LeBron is sending them. If they truly believe they can bring LeBron home this summer or next summer — remember, he can always opt back into his Miami contract for one more season, then leave after the 2015 Finals — then here’s what the Cavs SHOULD do:

Step No. 1: Trade the no. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett and an unprotected 2015 first-rounder to Minnesota for Kevin Love. That’s a MONSTER offer. Boston wouldn’t be able to trump it from an upside standpoint. And by the way, ’Sota could flip that no. 1 pick to Philly for no. 3 and no. 10, take whomever’s left between Wiggins and Parker, then have the no. 10 and no. 13 picks as well, plus Bennett! That’s a RESET button and then some.

Step No. 2: Pull Miami’s old Udonis Haslem trick — renounce Anderson Varejao’s rights (for more cap space), then re-sign him in July for a longer deal.

Step No. 3: Bring LeBron home.

Your 2014-15 Cavs (potentially): LeBron, Love, Kyrie, Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters and their choice of three ring-chasing veterans who would commit murder to play on that team. A little more palatable than that 2014-15 Heat roster … right?

Cleveland getting the 1st overall pick could be a blessing in disguise for the Wolves. I see two teams going the hardest after Love and that’s the Cavs and Golden State. But we already know the Warriors’ stance. The Cavs, however, have a lot more to offer and it’s all about the picks, baby. The one caveat to ANY deal with the Cavs for the 1st overall pick is that the Wolves MUST do what Simmons proposed and move the top pick to the 76ers for no. 3 and no. 10. That means you gain two lottery picks, a future first in another good draft and then Bennett, who’s a bit of an unknown but I still like him as the Gerald Green in the deal. But come on! With nos. 3, 10 and 13, you could come away with a down-the-road star and two starters within a year or two. That’s this draft flexing it’s muscles in front of our faces. And one of the best parts of the deal is Love would be heading East, not West. We’d never have to deal with his bullshit like we would in the East, just like Garnett. Love did a lot for this franchise and it’s been fun watching him over the years but the only way for him to gain his respect back from the fans is going out East, so we don’t have to see his mug on a regular basis.

Regardless of how many trades Bill Simmons con conjure up, he’s right about one thing and it’s the Wolves have to move Love by draft night. If not, his value will cut almost in half and the Wolves will be doomed for another 5-10 years. It’s just about inevitable. So, don’t let that happen. Pull the trigger on what feels right but just be sure that it’s the deal that YOU want and not another team’s misplaced oddballs that they call “assets.” It’s more effort but acquiring the picks and then finding the pieces you want in your puzzle is the way to go. Don’t screw this up, Flip.

Coachelor

The Coachelor – Episode 3

Coachelor

Written by: Nick Allen and Jonah Steinmeyer

PREVIOUSLY ON: The Coachelor

After Mark Jackson and Lindsey Hunter became the first two coaches to depart from the competition, it was time to spend a little more one-on-one time with the eight remaining candidates. Things became a bit tense as Billy Donovan and Sam Cassell needed to be separated when heated words were exchanged. Tom Izzo and Fred Hoiberg didn’t seem to have as much interest in the job as I would have hoped and it was ultimately the two of them that would be sent home. There have been some new developments surrounding the team in the past week and it will be interesting to see how the six remaining coaches take the news as soon only four will remain.

THE POWER OF LOVE

I initially thought about trying to hide the news or at least downplay the reports that Kevin Love basically wants out of Minnesota. At first I thought the timing couldn’t have been worse. Here I am putting my heart out there for the world to see and now the discussion is how much longer I’ll be able to keep the star in town. I decided not to confirm or deny the reports, but instead use them to see who ultimately had less interest now that Love may not be a part of the organization come next season. It was time to give the contestants an opportunity to ask me some questions in an effort to weed out the serious contenders a little better.

I didn’t have a specific order in mind for this go around, but apparently Sam Mitchell was incredibly anxious to talk to me first. I figured there would be no harm to it, until he came storming into the office I waited in and slammed a manilla folder down on the table in front of me. I began to reach forward to examine what exactly had the man so fired up, but Mitchell snatched the folder up as he began sounding off:

“How in the hell do you expect me to help this team when your best player won’t even be here?! You completely missed the playoffs this season with him being healthy and you’re asking for immediate success in return from the guy that takes over coaching the team?! Listen, we definitely had some good days together, but you’re asking quite a bit of anyone that fills in.”

He put the folder back down on the table as he looked at me, waiting for a response; an answer to his questions. Anything. I picked up the folder, making sure he wasn’t about to pick it up again, and opened it to discover articles and blog posts about what exactly this news surrounding Love meant. A lot of it was speculation, truthfully, which led me to believe Mitchell just wanted to understand the situation better. However, I wasn’t very fond of how Mitchell went about trying to find out. I told him that everyone must overcome challenges if they are to succeed at the highest level. Whether Love is with the team or traded somewhere else, it doesn’t matter; success remains the goal and expectation.
This wasn’t exactly what Mitchell was hoping to hear, apparently. He thanked me for the opportunity to compete for the position, but told me he was no longer interested in becoming the head coach of the Timberwolves and withdrew himself from the competition. I had a feeling this might happen with one of the contestants, but I was a little nervous about this only being the first to talk to me. How strongly would the others feel on these matters? Would anyone else just get up and walk out like Mitchell? Before I had a chance to talk to anyone else, some representatives of the NBA overlooking The Coachelor wanted to talk to me.

I was informed that, due to two of the contestants voluntarily leaving the show, another coach was going to be brought in for me to interview. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. Who could be willing to join the competition after all of these rumors have been flying around? The representatives said the new person wouldn’t be joining until after this round of cuts, but that I would still have to eliminate two of the coaches despite Mitchell leaving The Coachelor. I wasn’t too thrilled about that. I was already having a tough time trying to determine which two would be cut from the six remaining, but the pressure of cutting two from five was even more immense.

My head was elsewhere and I decided to change things up a bit. Instead of meeting with everyone individually after talking to the NBA reps, I decided I would bring the five remaining coaches together and talk to them as a group. I explained that Mitchell had decided to leave the show, which some of them expected. Then I dropped the bomb that two of them would still be leaving by the end of the night and that yet another coach would be joining the competition after these cuts. This news didn’t thrill the contestants, as expected. George Karl guffawed, presumably expecting me to tell them it was a joke. The baffled smile slowly crept away from his face after he realized how serious things just became.

I had to tell them that things are what they are in Minnesota. While no promises can be made when it comes to the Wolves organization, it doesn’t mean I’m a completely lost cause! I expected to come here and fall in love with one of the coaches, not have to answer questions about Love. While some of them may have been displeased with the lack of facetime they got, all I needed to know was whether or not they still had any interest in coaching the team. This was their out, any of them could walk out now or remain on the show…

ROSE CEREMONY

As I sat thinking about my decision coming ahead, I felt like the drama was never going to end. I almost just wanted to call Rick (Adelman) and beg him to come back. But I knew that wasn’t right. All I have to do is breathe, slow my mind and make a decision.

Easy for you to say.

I gathered the remaining five coaches. We’re all used to this part by now but there’s still no denying the pressure it puts over each and every one of us. But, nonetheless, it had to be done. I picked up my first rose and decided I’d say a few words about each one receiving a rose tonight.

“Flip, come get your rose. It’s been hard for me to envision us getting back together in this capacity but I’m warming up to the idea every day. There’s just something about your charm that keeps me thinking ‘What if?’ Will you accept this rose?”

“Next, is you, Billy. Although I know your home is much different than mine but I appreciate how you’ve actually entertained the idea of coming to Minnesota. You’re much different than how Tom and Fred acted with me, and I like that. Please accept this rose.”

“And, finally, this is a really difficult decision for me. You three (Karl, Cassell, Hollins) each have a different, unique connection with me, and I appreciate you all. But I can only choose one. So…”

“George, come on up here! You and I don’t have a lot in common but I can see that you have a general interest in me. I want to see more of that in the coming weeks. All I ask is you not give up on me!”

And with that, Cassell and Hollins were gone.

“Look, Sam, I know that we’ve had our moments together. But I just don’t think you’re quite ready for a head coaching role quite yet. When you think you are, I want you to keep me in mind. And, Lionel, you’re resumé is outstanding and you’re an honorable man with ties to my city, but I want you to consider other opportunities. There’s going to be a special place for you like in Los Angeles or New York. You’ll get your dream job soon enough.”

Next Week on The CoachelorJust as the NBA promised, another coach was going to join my search quite unexpectedly. I mean, why so late in the competition? Does the next contestant even stand a chance considering all the time they’ve lost since we started? How will they get along with the other coaching candidates? Whoever it is, I’m both excited and nervous for them.

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The Kevin Love Roundtable – Part 2

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Kevin Love tells the Timberwolves he doesn’t want to stay in Minnesota or even talk a contract extension and all hell breaks lose. We wanted to give you, the fan, different takes and opinions on the sticky situation. This is Part 2 of our Kevin Love Roundtable discussion featuring Nick Allen, Zachary Bennett, Derek James as well as myself, Jonah Steinmeyer. 

Jonah Steinmeyer: I think regardless of which stance the Wolves decide to take, Kevin Love isn’t staying past two more years, at most, and will be traded at some point to at least cash in on part of his value. Because of that, I want to bring up a piece done by Phil Mackey of ESPN 1500. He wrote about what teams received in return for making a big-time deal using Win Shares as the measurement of comparison. For instance, he rated the Dwight Howard trade of 2012 to the Lakers in favor of the Magic because the pieces they eventually returned on Howard’s 15.6 win shares added up to be 23.3. That number comes from the likes of Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and more. Now those pieces didn’t come from L.A. directly, so what that tells me is that a trade is going to be about adding assets, not just a “player.” That means Flip’s going to have a hell of a hill to climb in the coming years that will tell the future of this franchise.

So what I want to ask you guys is what kind of return are you looking at cashing in on, if we all agree that a Love deal — at some point in time — is inevitable? Players that can play now? Expiring cap contracts? Young players/draft picks? Can you come up with a deal you’d consider right now, given the rumors out there?

Zachary Bennett: I’m going to the answer this question but i don’t want to be taken all that seriously, readers. Grabbing the pick that we gave the Phoenix Suns for taking Wes Johnson, back, in a deal that also brings the top-5 protected pick, a role player, and a starter our way would be nice. Although, that would never happen. Something that involves the Golden State Warriors sending Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would be nice. I have an irrational liking for Green, especially. Have to imagine the Wolves try sending Pekovic or Kevin Martin with Love just to rid themselves of questionable contracts, so there will be a lot of pieces in any deal if it were to go down.

Derek James: This is what I’ve been debating on. Assuming that no major pieces move, the team could still be very competitive. So, acquiring a guy who could play now could make a lot of sense. However, it doesn’t make much sense since moving a top option on your team would defeat the whole purpose of trading for Kevin Love since you would want to win now and get him to re-up with you. Also, teams are generally not in a hurry to part with their best players, so it may mean taking on a contract that is less than desirable. Think what the Nuggets did in the Howard trade by taking on Iguodola. That’s probably what the Timberwolves would have to do.

Realistically, their best option may be to look at some combo of young talent and draft picks. I’m not crazy about loading up on draft picks because they are really an unknown quantity, so it would be ideal to get someone that has potential that we know at least something about. Really, you have no idea what is going to come of draft picks, so a young prospect would be what I’m after here.

Nick Allen: I would be more interested in receiving expiring contracts if I had more confidence in Minnesota’s ability to bring in some top free agents when said contract(s) expire(s). Kind of like Derek was saying, receiving players that can play now could still keep the Wolves competitive and in the race for the playoffs. One potential trade I’ve seen people talking about is Kevin Love for Harrison Barnes and David Lee from the Warriors. Now, we obviously have no idea if that’s something Golden State would even be interested in, but a trade like that would give the Wolves two starters in return. I would be surprised to see a deal like that go down, though. I’m anticipating, if a trade is indeed made, that the Wolves receive draft picks and young talent in return. Draft picks can seem nice on paper if you get some good ones, but again like Derek said, you never know what you’re gonna get in that scenario and leads one to wonder if it will just lead to rebuilding the team again.

Kevin Love was once the face of their franchise's draft lottery hopes

Kevin Love was once the face of the franchise’s draft lottery hopes

JS: In a perfect world, I think the Wolves get a draft pick this year, a young player with potential and a player who can come in and fill the void Kevin Love left behind, at least in terms of a dependable starter. But this isn’t a perfect world. Far from it, actually. Because this news broke nationally, this could actually give teams the chance to low-ball until the Wolves have no choice but to pull the trigger on a so-so deal.

Regardless of the return, a trade is going to reveal a new path the Timberwolves have to go down for the foreseeable future, and it could be awfully bumpy. Do you think this dawns yet another Post K.G. era? What are there similarities? Differences? And do you think it’ll indeed take another 10 years to get back to a similar point that the Wolves are at now after unloading yet another superstar?

ZB: No, and I’m going to have to look into this some more. I don’t see Kevin Love leaving at the end of next season being anything like post-KG era. Unless the unthinkable happens and the Wolves hire David Kahn again. I think things will eventually rise above mediocrity for this franchise, it’s just a matter of time. The fans have endured enough, it doesn’t get much worse when you think about the past here — at some point things have got to become successful. Or I’m just crazy.

DJ: I think that would entail another front office change and the selling off of Pekovic, Rubio and others to begin a true rebuild. The big difference between what the Timberwolves did now and then will come down to admitting when it’s time to blow it up instead of trying to piece together a fringe playoff team with spare parts. It could be a long time, or it could be a couple years depending on how things play out. But that’s the thing: there really isn’t a whole lot to know yet.

NA: I think the post-KLove Wolves would definitely be in a better situation than the post-K.G. Wolves. If Love is traded before the ‘14-’15 season, I don’t really see the Wolves making the playoffs for a few years still. 10 years? No, probably not that long. Oh, PLEASE not that long! Similarly to the K.G. situation, however, is that the Wolves would once again be without a star. A professional athlete reaching star status in the state of Minnesota is a coveted thing and I think it could deflate some enthusiasm for the Wolves. Rubio just hasn’t turned into the guy we thought he might become, at least not yet, and it would leave the team and the fans looking for someone to step up. In that case, I could honestly see Wolves fans simply hoping for the Wolves to make the playoffs and be content with the rare achievement, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough. And that’s why we found ourselves having this discussion.

Love

The Kevin Love Roundtable – Part 1

 

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Kevin Love tells the Timberwolves he doesn’t want to stay in Minnesota or even talk a contract extension and all hell breaks lose. We wanted to give you, the fan, different takes and opinions on the sticky situation. This is Part 1 of our Kevin Love Roundtable discussion featuring Nick Allen, Zachary Bennett, Derek James as well as myself, Jonah Steinmeyer. 

Jonah Steinmeyer: Okay, guys. It’s been approximately 48 hours since the Kevin Love news struck Timberwolves nation (62 if you want to give any credit to the iffy New York Post). There’s been a lot of opinion and plenty of overreactions to the news.

First off, let’s just start with what your general feelings are.

Zachary Bennett: Adrian Wojnarowski is undoubtedly the first writer, with credibility, I’ve seen report rumors as they pertain to Kevin Love’s future; all the other ‘reports’ are similar to the NYP column that we saw on Saturday. So, is the gig up? Things feel up in the air, still, so I don’t expect any one-certain thing to happen. Although, I would prefer some things over others when discussing hypotheticals.

Derek James: Well, ultimately I’m not surprised by this news. I think that this was a bit of an inevitability after he was given the four year max instead of the five year max that he requested. As a fellow 25 year old, I understand Love’s desire to be successful and his frustration with the organization leading to his desire to venture to greener pastures. You know that you’re still young, but you want to reach that level of achievement of your peers and feel as if you’re falling behind despite the fact that everyone’s journey is their own.

It will have been seven years by the time it comes for him to opt-out, which is more than enough time to give an organization to prove that they’re the best place for them to be successful. He gave us a lot of great moments and will ultimately wish him well and enjoy watching him as his career goes forward. No hard feelings here.

Nick Allen: I thought it was a matter of time before this kind of news came out. The timing is a bit inconvenient as far as the search for a new coach goes, but it gives the Wolves an opportunity to figure out what they’re going to do with him before this year’s draft. That ultimately may not matter if they don’t end up trading him before the start of the season, but there’s a lot more uncertainty surrounding the Wolves right now than I’m comfortable with.

JS: Clearly you guys all share a very similar opinion at least on the news in general. I mean, Allen said it, it was only a matter of time. Minnesota’s not a great market. The weather is shitty. And the basketball history isn’t any good when you consider the Lakers technically own rights to all the good years.

But what I also think Allen hit on the head was regarding the timing on the whole thing. It’s a strange time because we don’t really know what set the news off. Are these feelings that he’s been hiding for a few years? Is it correlated to Adelman’s leaving? Ricky Rubio’s interview? What do you guys think about the timing on all of this?

ZB: I’m struggling to correlate to anything, because I’m still not sure where this came from. It’s likely denial, but if you do the digging, seems as if things remain still in both camps. Until this point the definitive value of Kevin Love hasn’t been determined; what is he worth? It’s a critical time for the Wolves, because of the implications player salary has while structuring for the future, each decision must be made carefully. All details should be taken into account; it’d be nice to know how much Love is worth.

DJ: It’s been said before, I think by Jon Krawczynski, that Love is very image-conscious and wants to make it a clean break. By letting the Timberwolves know now as opposed to later, and therefore avoid the will he/won’t he drama of Dwight Howard, it makes him look like the good guy by putting the team on the clock. If they get a good return, Love looks better because he gave the team enough time to work for the best deal. If they have to settle for table scraps, it’s not Love’s problem because he gave them lots of notice.

Now, I’m not implying that Love is manipulating the situation, but it makes perfect sense to me since it’s very important, especially with how big of a part Love is of the league’s image. I think that for everyone involved that the timing was rather perfect since it actually gives the team time to seek fair value. Although I don’t believe equal value really exists in these types of situations, unfortunately.

NA: I imagine Love has been frustrated for a few years now with the lack of success the Wolves have experienced. But, kind of like what Derek said, it does seem like Love is trying to give the Wolves an opportunity to work on something that will be best for the team. Well, “best for the team” would be keeping Love, but in a world where he leaves the team, they may need as much time to work on a deal as possible. Like Brian Windhorst said in his article (Which we’ll get to in a bit) about options for Love (and as Derek mentioned above), it’s tough for a team to get great value when moving a star out of town.

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Kevin Love’s quirks are undeniable

JS: You all bring up great points but I want to visit what Derek said first. You made the comparison between Love’s situation with the absolute debacle that Dwight Howard had in Orlando. He made it clear to the organization that he was unhappy and planned to opt-out when he could. But then the Magic actually put together a strong season, putting the pressure back onto Howard’s camp. That basically forced him to make peace with the franchise and its fanbase to opt-in at least for another season.

I may be naive thinking this but the Wolves could certainly end up like that Magic team. Love might have leverage now but, if the Wolves play really well as a group to start next season with Love still there, they could make the playoffs and even make some noise. I mean, we’re talking about a team with one of the league’s best point differentials and a heap of losses that were within the final minutes. Couldn’t they turn things around quickly and force Love’s hand at opting-in even for just one more season? Your thoughts…

ZB: There’s almost infinite positives and negatives to the ‘Magic Method,’ as I’ll put it. Personally, I wouldn’t dislike the decision to not trade Love before the season. Someone said it earlier, but equal value doesn’t exist in this scenario. The roster in place is built around Love, and, as Jonah mentioned, the team isn’t horrible and there were a few L’s that could have been W’s. Financially, J.J. Barea and Luc Mbah a Moute both have contracts that will expire at the end of next season — and if Love were to walk away — the circumstances of other contractual obligations will allow for enough cap-space to respond from being dumped by a superstar and getting nothing in return. If you thought the team was fun this season, next year the stress and emotions would only be higher.

DJ: It’s possible, especially if the team is able to be aggressive in upgrading the roster, namely the bench unit. There will also be room for improvement from Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, which is a rarity to say of Timberwolves draft picks and actually a big part of the reason that we’re in this predicament in the first place. It’s still risky because you risk losing him for nothing, but even if he opts in, I’m not confident that he stays based on everything that has transpired through the years.

Still, I think the Magic got a good return and as of now are well-positioned to be successful at some point in the future. And they did so by holding their ground, which is different than what Denver did with Melo and what the Jazz did with Deron Williams. Could this work for the Timberwolves? Possibly, but the biggest differences there was that they had proven front offices running the show. And in a lot of ways, this may be the defining moment of Flip Saunders’ brief tenure as the decision maker. What gets back and where he goes with those pieces will certainly sway the public opinion of him, because we don’t really know yet.

My point is, if you  have a smart front office, you can come away from these situations looking alright. So no matter if they trade him on draft day, mid-season or after he opts in, if he chooses to, it will require a sound plan for execution.

NA: It’s certainly possible. Like Zach has been saying, we only know so much about the situation and how much Love would want to stay in Minnesota if things were going well anyway. If reports are indeed true that Love is interested in playing for Golden State, who’s to say he hasn’t wanted to get back to his home state to play for a good team for a while now? Kobe demanded a trade from the Lakers, then ended up signing two more extensions after the team was able to bring success to the table again by trading for Pau. What are the odds of pulling something like that off, though? The offseason then becomes a bold attempt by the Wolves to bolster up their roster for essentially making a big run THIS year. There aren’t any guarantees in that scenario and it could really blow up in the Wolves’ face if they aren’t able to make the playoffs and end up losing Love.

I’d like to think the Wolves are a move or two away from making the playoffs with the roster they currently have, but ultimately I’m just not sure what could be done to change Love’s mind if he really wants to get out of town.

A young Kevin Love on draft night before traded to the Wolves from Grizzlies

A young Kevin Love on draft night before traded to the Wolves from Grizzlies

JS: So, the ‘Magic Method’ will be risky to say the least. But it could be a way the Wolves go in this situation. After all, Howard and Love run parallels in how they want their image perceived by the NBA universe. They’re the nice guy with a big game and want to be adored by all. It really might not be a bad idea but the risk of warming him up to the fans and hoping for a strong season from the team is very risky.

Now, Brian Windhorst wrote about some other ways the Wolves could handle this situation. One was dubbed “The Kobe Plan,” which I really read as “The Dwight Plan” because Kobe was in L.A., not Orlando. Two totally different situations, if you ask me. But the other two were intriguing. The first being “The Chris Paul Plan,” which talked about how Paul essentially gave time for the Hornets to evaluate the best possible trade that helped both parties as best they can. What a guy, eh? The second being “The Deron Williams/James Harden Plan,” where both players were shipped out almost immediately once management knew they couldn’t hold on to them much longer, hoping to get the best possible package in a ‘bidding war.’ What say you guys on either of those options on handling this situation with Love?

ZB: Alright, this is going to sound worse that I intend it to, but, seeing as how losing Love would spark all of the depressing “[defeatist] Minnesota Sports” narratives. Because the writing with this scenario has been on the wall, essentially, since the moment David Kahn got us into this mess — why not just ride it out? Hate to simplify this; but the Thunder had to trade Harden, right? The beef between the legendary Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Williams certainly didn’t make him a fan favorite, so those situations were handled correctly from an outsider’s perspective. For Love and the Wolves, this has been an internal circumstance that Flip Saunders he arrived back in Minnesota. By keeping Love for the ‘14-’15 season, we’ll get to watch the ending of the mediocre movie we sat through this entire time, rather than thinking about what could have been.

DJ: I like the idea of the Kobe plan. Which is essentially the equivalent of telling a disenchanted lover, “Baby, I can change! I swear, I’ll be different!” and going out and grabbing a big name on the market to make a run that makes them change their mind. Or, as I like to call it: the #YOLO! plan. Go all-in. F*** s*** up, make some noise. I mean, what have they got to lose if Love is really gone anyway? Now, I realize the Kobe Plan is contingent on a team giving away their star for 10 cents on the dollar, but let’s not worry about that now.

KOBE PLAN! KOBE PLAN! KOBE PLAN!

NA: What I liked about the Chris Paul Plan was that it was essentially agreed upon that Paul would opt-in for his final year on the contract with whatever team was receiving him, guaranteeing the team two years with him instead of wondering whether or not they’d lose him right away. That would certainly make trading for Love more appealing to teams that may be in the market for him. As for the Williams/Harden Plan, I like the idea of a bidding war for Love because I’d like to think they’d at least be getting a decent deal, considering the situation. It would also be interesting to see what kind of offers would be thrown back and forth between teams. The one thing I really don’t want this all to come down to is a last-second deal before next season’s trade deadline because I’d hate to see the Wolves making some sort of panic deal.

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Ricky Rubio Interview From Spain

Ricky Rubio recently sat down to talk basketball in his native tongue, you can watch the interview in it’s entirety below.

Someone [username: Heimdal] in the Rube Chat forums at KFAN translated/transcribed the interview. You can see the original translations by clicking this link.

I’ve elected to highlight and comment on a select number of questions.

Q: You were a clear candidate to reach the playoffs. Wasn’t that a disappointment since there haven’t been that many injuries? Where do you think was the key for the failure: the close losses? the lack of a good defense?

A: The close losses were very costly. The Sest has been insanely hard. Still, no excuses. 40 wins were not enough. I would put the blame on the inability to play well on close games.

There shouldn’t be many that disagree, Ricky. The Wolves record in games decided by four points or less is the obvious black-eye on the 2013-2014 season. Although the reporter states Minnesota was a clear candidate to reach the playoffs, I believe Rubio bites his tongue a bit, as you wind find a quote from him believing that the postseason was the goal for Timberwolves this season.

Q: You are still almost untouchable in Minnesota. Your shirt is the best-seller, over even Kevin Love, but I’ve seen how the national media, when trying to explain why you didn’t win those games, or the team couldn’t reach the playoffs, they would give three or four reasons. Your shooting woes were one of them. How has that affected you? Given, during second half of the season, your field goal percentage was 42 percent. Was that an answer for your critics or have you felt better as the season progressed? How have you adjusted things in your game?

A: No, it wasn’t an answer. I don’t have to answer to them. I like to play and I needed to confirm to myself — it was not about my shot selection — I needed to lead the team. That made me feel more comfortable, so my percentages and shot selection improved. I have to take that end to the season and take it forward to the next.

Rubio shot 38 percent from the field last season. By a small margin, his shooting percentage has improved each year Rubio has been in the league. Entering the season, Rubio’s ability to finish on attempts taken in areas around the rim was a concern. During the 2012-2013 season, he converted 78 of 180 attempts taken within five-feet of the basket [43%]. This year, after playing a full 82 games, Rubio made 143 of 297 attempts in the same area. The larger sample shows improvement in multiple areas; a good sign for Wolves fans.

2013-2014

2013-2014

2012-2013

2012-2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

[This question was asked later in the interview]

Q: This long jumper of yours, after beating the first defender, when you stop and execute a long jumper, which you practiced at the end of last season and with the national team. Have you practiced it that much? Have you not had the chance because of the team’s system?

A: I think it’s related to the team’s system. We didn’t have that option. It’s true you always have that shot, but when the ball doesn’t get it you don’t want to take it too often. I talked to Flip Saunders at the end of the season and he told me that I had taken 10 shots from 4-5 meters (14ft) in the entire season and that the number had to go up next season. It’s something I’m going to work on.

Disclaimer: Looking at this by the numbers is getting too deep into the answer. Rubio shot 19 percent [6 of 31] from that midrange area, but, took less attempts from the 10-14ft range than he did the season before. While he struggles from this region, Rubio understands that, which may be why he attempted less shots from that area than he did during the 2012-2013 season. Rubio is a distributor, and he’s right, Wolves fans should want him to distribute before looking to score from the midrange area.

Q: Have you felt your coach Rick Adelman? Being his last season, and with his personal problems, do you feel he was disconnected or “discouraged”?

A: Yes, maybe. Maybe the team lacked the proper motivation, not only from the coach, but the motivation of wanting to win from all of us. This includes the staff, coaches and assistants, and whoever else has command over that. When you know it’s your last season and you’re not 100 percent players can feel it. Still, even at 80 percent, Rick Adelman knows so much.

This answer is curious for multiple reasons. Rubio insinuates Rick Adelman wasn’t very inspirational tactics, but also, mentioned that the ‘want to win’ needs to come from everyone from the staff down to the players. Rubio’s answer here cements a notion I made back in March over at Hickory-High, where, in a column titled Lacking an Alpha, I proposed the idea that the Wolves weren’t winning close games because of leadership/performance on the court in clutch situations. Hopefully a new coach and a similar roster, next season, will be hungrier to venture somewhere the team hasn’t been for a long time — the postseason.

Q: Another problem, the bench. I think the Wolves bench was the worst in the league when compared to the starters. They offered the biggest drop off between starters and bench. Sometimes it’s because the lack of talent and sometimes it’s related to the “mixes”. Are you disappointed with the bench or some of your teammates? For instance, Gorgui Deng was great at the end, but, didn’t play much to start the season.

A: Yes, I think it was more about the team all around, not only the bench. It looked like a problem of adaptation among them and with the starters. We can’t focus on them alone but the entire roster. We’ve seen with the rotations, at the end of the season, when given minutes Gorgui Dieng responded. Maybe he could have had more chances at the beginning, but you never know. But it wasn’t just one thing. It’s rotations, mixing, getting to adapt to each other.

Let me just stop and admire this reporters ability to ask the hard questions. Admired, ok, let’s move on. Rubio’s saying all the right things by putting the lack of success on the entire team, rather than scapegoating anybody. The question regarding Dieng’s playing time, or lack there of, posed to Rubio was something many knowledgeable fans asked during the season. However, Dieng’s inability to play on the court without getting into foul trouble early in the season was ultimately what lost him more opportunities.

Q: It’s reached here, maybe because of the discouraging results, that Kevin Love would certainly leave the team for another franchise and a big market. That the situation ‘allegedly’ separates him [Love from the team a little bit. On his own, he's not being a leader inside the locker room. Was it like that with him?

A: No, Kevin Love is a special player, I mean his stats are amazing, but maybe the leader has to be someone else. He leads the team with his production, but he may not want to be the vocal leader. There are different kinds of leaders, so maybe we lacked a bit of that, a commanding leader, a commanding voice inside the locker room. Maybe he shouldn't be it, maybe Kevin Martin should have been the one, someone with more experience, or maybe I can take a step forward and be the leader once and for all. These things happen in teams so young, we missed that. If you take stats, it's clear Kevin Love is the one who must get the ball at the end. 

Again with the leadership questions, Rubio states that maybe the leader of the Wolves may not be Kevin Love despite the statistical prowess. He goes onto say that perhaps more of a commanding presence in the locker room [ex: Kevin Martin]. The encouraging quote is here is Rubio saying that maybe he can take a step forward and be the leader once and for all, but it’s great that he understands that Love must the one with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

Q: What’s your relationship with Flip Saunders? We know it was very good with David Kahn, the man who drafted you. It has to be crucial for you to stay in Minnesota.

A: Very good, he’s giving his all and he’s got the ambition of coming back to this franchise and taking it far again. Talking to him I’ve seen he trusts me a lot so I hope I can perform like he expects of me.

All is well, but what about Flip’s relationship with Love? No? Ok, moving on.

Q: Flip has work to do. Of course he has to find a new coach. He has the chance to extend your contract and decide what to do with Kevin Love, which is not easy. At this point their relationship seems to be in good shape, he wants Kevin to stay and extend his contract, but step by step, what coach would you like to have, of what kind?

A: The new coach must continue with the project. I mean, with his own wrinkles, he must be similar to Adelman in his style: offensive minded, liking the open court, because this team is made for that, it’s working and this team is progressing. Young players like me or Chase Budinger, players who are young and keep progressing, I think next year we can be much better if we have a coach similar to Adelman.

Agreeing with Ricky, the new Wolves coach shouldn’t try to implement a completely new scheme. Someone who will inspire, motivate, and challenge the roster would be an ideal fit. It’s fair to assume Rubio doesn’t seem to like the idea of someone else coming aboard and changing too many things.

Howlin’ T-Wolf took a closer look at who the Wolves next head coach might be. Click the link.

Q: So, you think this team doesn’t need to play better defense, so instead of finding a coach who offers that first and foremost, let’s bring a coach who gets the best of this team and adjusts certain aspects. With this profile I see two names who have been heard lately: George Karl and college coach Billy Donovan from Florida, the prestigious college coach known by his offense, who develops the “screen and continuation,” offence. I don’t know whether you have references or not from any of the two.

A: Well, yes, Corey Brewer talked a lot about George Karl this season, he loves him (laughs). He was COY 2 seasons ago and Denver played beautifully up and down. About the college coach, it’s true they are thinking about 3 or 4 college coaches, the one from Michigan and some others, but we’ll see. The problem with this is the coach who comes will have his doubts about accepting the job, because the star doesn’t know whether he is staying or leaving.They don’t want to gamble on taking the job and having to start from scratch. 

Won’t touch on too much of this one. Rubio referring to Love as the ‘star who doesn’t know whether he’s leaving or not’ is troublesome, for me.

Q: I wanted to ask you about Shabazz Muhammad, who is a strange player. His career, those cases when he was in college.. he’s known as a big time scorer, but the season was weird. At first, he got no chances, then he gets a few minutes, he seems to take the opportunity and does help, then he disappears again… how is he, as a basketball player and as a person.

A: As a basketball player he’s a little inconsistent. He’s a scorer but he’s a little raw (green), he lacks understanding of the game. He’s got many good things: a leftie with a very good hook shot, he posts very well and takes advantage of his size and strength and as an offensive rebounder I think he’s the best I’ve ever seen. He lacks a bit of knowledge of the systems, but I think that is normal in a college player who comes to the NBA, who needs to learn and adapt to the systems to understand basketball. On a personal level, he’s a young player with ambition, hard-worker. If he controls himself he’s going to make a name for himself in this league. 

Pretty accurate description of Shabazz Muhammad, I’ll call it a statement full of respectful feedback.

Q: What about Barea? He’s suffered a huge drop off in performance, a drop off that affected the team. Maybe regarding stats, there are stats where he’s probably regressed, but it’s obvious it’s the worse JJ of the last 3 or 4 years, right?

A: Well, yes, he arrived from Dallas, playing with huge confidence and these last years he came out of the bench and he was the spark (revolutionist). This year we missed that, the scorer from the bench was supposed to be Barea and because of the rotations, or for some other reason I don’t know why, he couldn’t provide that extra scoring when we needed it.

Even overseas there were those who noticed ‘Bad Barea.’

Q: I see, in my humble opinion, that Pekovic and Kevin Love, who I find both to be excellent players… are not very compatible. I see the team lacks intimidation. On defense, when they play together, defensive scoring efficiency isn’t very good. I don’t know, both players score a lot, but they lack some height. Do the media talk about this? What about the franchise?

 A: No, it wasn’t commented too much, but it’s true we lack some intimidation because we don’t have a blocker, something we got with Gorgui Deng. But on defense, for instance with Pek in the post… for instance, I remember after playing the Sacramento Kings I talked to DeMarcus Cousins and he was a little scared of how strong Pekovic was, how difficult it was to play in the low post against him, so maybe he didn’t offer the intimidation a blocker does, but he’s got the resistance. It’s true the defensive level…specially because we didn’t play… we played a game oriented on attacking and our game wasn’t centered on defense that much, but we lack something on defense and maybe with Gorgui Dieng we can add him to this couple and it can be very positive.

The reporter seems careful to ask this question by stating it is merely his opinion, going on to claim that Love and Nikola Pekovic aren’t very compatible on the defensive end. Rubio must not pay much attention to the media, because there were many that gripped to the fact the Wolves weren’t very good at defending the rim during the season. This issue was overblown, somewhat, but is also a concern — however — Dieng’s emergence as a shot-blocker is certainly going to help the rim protection next season.

Rubio on the postseason thus far:

I’ve enjoyed the first round, no surprises. Five series needed seven games but the best was the one that ended before; Portland-Houston. It didn’t get to seven games and it was great it didn’t after what Damian Lillard did.I expected more from Houston, with great players such as [Dwight] Howard, [James] Harden and Chandler Parsons. Players I expected to go further in the competition.

No big surprises, well, maybe Indiana and their drop off in performance — specially Roy Hibbert. But it’s not only him, it’s the whole team. You watch one of their games at the beginning of the season and one now and it’s like night and day. They are the ones who can give Miami trouble. I hope a team can stand tall against them [Heat] in the East, but I see Miami reaching the finals easily.

In the West, things are more complicated. The [Los Angeles] Clippers are playing well, but I’m still a fan of how the Spurs play, how they blend. One game against them, Kevin Love and I talked about it. We were losing bad. We were sitting on the bench with the game out of reach and we commented how well their bench was playing. They play a different basketball and it’s really beautiful.

-zb

 

 

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Certain, Uncertainty; Wolves lose to Warriors, 130-120

Heading into Monday’s meeting with the Golden State Warriors the Minnesota Timberwolves faced another opportunity to get over the .500 mark, a proverbial hump that they’ve failed to overcome throughout the entire season. Prior to the game, the Warriors announced that their starting center, Andrew Bogut, would miss the remainder of the season and some of the postseason. Andre Iguodala did not dress in uniform, either.

The Wolves jumped out to a double-digit lead during the first quarter, and by the time the frame ended they led the Warriors by 14. However, for every Kevin Love three-pointer (he connected on four of them in as many attempts) there was an equalizer provided by Stephen Curry. Curry connected on four of six attempts from behind the line and scored 16 of the Warriors 28 points during the opening quarter. Love, meanwhile, entered the second having scored 22 of the Wolves 42 and it should be mentioned that neither team emphasised the importance of defence during that time.

J.J. Barea, Corey Brewer, Dante Cunningham, Robbie Hummel and Luc Mbah a Moute — labeled an inept bench, in terms of scoring, by some —  combined to score nine points in four minutes on the floor together, during the second quarter. These five shot four-of-nine from the field, collectively, in addition to grabbing four rebounds and adding on three assists. However, a poor effort from the starters during a brief, three-minute stretch and less-than-stellar bench numbers helped the Warriors cut-down the deficit before halftime. Curry led the way for Golden State, and scored 23 points by halftime. Golden State cracked the thin-layer of glass around Maurice Speights, and his seat on the bench, and played the crusty veteran for nearly 10 minutes during first half due to their lack-of-depth at the center position. David Lee added eight and Draymond Green scored six points to aid Curry in cutting the score to 62-64, with the Wolves ahead at after two quarters.

Undoubtedly; the future of Rick Adelman and Kevin Love as members of the Wolves in already on fans minds. Sentiment arose Sunday in Sacramento, as Adelman potentially stood on the floor of Sleep Train Arena for the final time. The 67, soon to be 68, year old stoic — but too old to finish out the remainder of his contract — head coach has seemingly released the Wolves offense to hunt without direction, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The narrative is distinct as it pertains to Love. Regardless of his future, Love’s etched a place for himself in Timberwolves history throughout his brief time in Minnesota. Monday, despite the Wolves loss to the Warriors, Love embedded himself deeper within the Wolves’ still-adolescent history by breaking Kevin Garnett’s mark for most points (1951) scored in a single-season.

Yet, while the records of a beloved legends are broken, Love remains a potential villain pending his uncertain future. Fans are reluctant to label Love the ‘Best Timberwolf Ever,’ and that’s understandable, but that debate stands as irrelevant when looking at the bigger picture. Considering the majority of this roster was constructed under the David Kahn Era, and the salvaged functional components acquired during the offseason are thanks to a new ‘Shot Caller’ in Flip Saunders — Love and the Wolves around him have done a respectful job of almost digging themselves out from as deep down as Earth’s core, after being stranded there by men destined for a trip into the deepest realm of NBA front-office hell. Note: That’s from the perspective of Wolves fans, I think.

Following the same statistical patterns in defeats coming before Monday; the Wolves early, upbeat pace attained during the opening quarter was not sustained throughout the first half. Resulting in an offensively stagnant second-quarter.

First Quarter:

  • Pace (Possessions per 48 minutes): 121.60.
  • Points: 42.
  • Offensive Rating: 141.3

Second Quarter:

  • Pace: 101.28.
  • Points: 22.
  • Offensive Rating: 85.4

Decline:

  • Pace: -20.32
  • Points: -20.
  • Offensive Rating: -55.9 (!!!)

Since March 7th, the following is the Wolves first and second quarter averages in the same categories.

First Quarter:

  • Pace: 102.77
  • Points: 30.
  • Offensive Rating:116.9

Second Quarter:

  • Pace: 97.61
  • Points: 25.5
  • Offensive Rating: 103.06

Decline:

  • Pace: -5.16
  • Points: -4.5
  • Offensive Rating: -13.3

Well, the Wolves nearly quadrupled their usually decline in production within each category — resulting in the loss of a 14 point lead — and at halftime the score was 64-62, in favor of the Wolves. The sudden decline rises and falls with the Wolves starters. If Rubio, Love and the gang are scurrying around for 12 minutes during the third quarter, the offensive numbers are as productive as any team in the league, but when it comes time for those guys to rest the offensive efficiency, and overall-productivity, plummets uncontrollably [most often during the early minutes of the final quarter].

The Warriors, a team already over the proverbial, postseason hope, ultimately surpassed the Wolves and defeated Minnesota, 130-120.

Although the disappointment tied with failing to meet, set-goals and aspirations aside a notable amount of uncertainty  – involving the team’s best player —  surrounds the Wolves and the upcoming postseason. Moreover, one game remains on the schedule against the lowly Utah Jazz, the season should be ending on a good-note. If the Wolves defeat the Jazz, and I expect them to do, they’ll have won 41 games.

Wolves Wins by Season

  • 2009-2010 – 15
  • 2010-2011 – 17
  • 2011-2012* – 26
  • 2012-2013 – 31

The Timberwolves will likely win 10 more games than they did last season, they’ve already won more games than they did from 2009-2011 (a span of two seasons!). So, while uncertainty looms over the upcoming, imminent postseason, this collection of Wolves performed well-enough this season to aid a teammate into becoming the organization’s single-season scoring leader, in addition to helping fans forget an era whose presence still lingers within the clubhouse.