Timberwolves at Knicks Preview: Three Long Years Away

It’s been three years since the Timberwolves have beaten the New York Knicks, which they did on November 12th, 2010. Back then, we didn’t know what Linsanity was and Corey Brewer had yet to be traded for Darko Milicic and Anthony Randolph (Bad thoughts…block them out…block them out…), who were still Timberwolves and Knicks, respectively. Heck, the Knicks didn’t even have Melo yet, so this is a very different NBA we are talking about.

At least the three consecutive games that they have lost to New York were all closely contested affairs. Jeremy Lin lifted the Knicks over the Timberwolves in February ’12 despite struggling for most of the game. Then last season they lost by three in their lone visit to Madison Square Garden by three (although the Knicks went 6-26 from three, ‘Melo had 33 points) and the Knicks would go on to sweep the series later on at Target Center.

How about the last time the Timberwolves beat the Knicks? If you’ll remember, that was Kevin Love’s big 31-point/31-rebound game. Not only is 31/31 impressive to begin with, but even more impressive considering the build of the roster around him at that time.

Wolves Knicks roster

Chart courtesy of Basketball-reference.com

My, look at those starters. Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson and Sebastian Telfair– the trio who enabled the Phoenix Suns to earn enough ping-pong balls last season to draft Alex Len. Then there’s Darko, who decided to ultimately walk away from the NBA altogether before last season with the Celtics. So, just three years later, the players aside from Love who started this game are either A) out of the NBA; or B) on minimum deals elsewhere.

This was also Nikola Pekovic before he was Nikola Pekovic: Destroyer of worlds, and be also before Kosta Koufos and Corey Brewer were able to carve out their niches in the NBA, otherwise I would regard the talent in this game much more highly. Still, Love didn’t just grab 31 rebounds: he needed to grab 31 rebounds given the personnel around him.

Although the Knicks were pretty imperfect from a roster standpoint, putting up 31/31 is remarkable to do against anyone. Now, if you replayed this game with these exact players, Love probably grabs 41. Look:

Knicks roster

Chart courtesy of Basketball-reference.com

There are some still very good NBA players on this  team — Gallinari, Felton, Mozgov, and Amare, when healthy — but it’s not so surprising they came into this game with a 3-6 record. I can recall at the time people questioning how long you could run Amare at center and hope to keep him healthy, but there’s a reason they traded for ‘Melo and a reason they would sign Tyson Chandler from Dallas the following season.  Still, Wilson Chandler, who found success last season in Denver as a power forward, was not going to keep Love off of the glass that night.

Additionally, this was probably also the greatest game of Michael Beasley’s career and the game fans of the team he signs his minimum contract with every season that HE JUST NEEDS MORE TIME!!! Beasley was efficient — 16 for 29, or 52% — and added four assists (Sounds high, but it’s true) and six rebounds on 35 points. Even I got caught up in thinking that there may be something here, but looking back it was a little naive since he took two free throw attempts all game. So what, right?   Well, that means that since he also took four threes that most of his attempts were of his famous midrange variety and wasn’t being as aggressive as he needed to be– a common Beasley complaint.

But it was an incredible night to be a Timberwolves fan since it had been such a long time since it had been so long since we had much to be excited about at all. Al Jefferson had just been traded months before to free up playing time for Love, and Love put up a historic performance early in the season, and was really the starting point of him taking that next step as a player. We even talked ourselves into Beasley, fronting him credit for weeks after this game, but realized that it’s probably not true if you have to talk yourself into it.

Finally, later on in that season Brewer is dealt to New York after the Timberwolves decline his option for the following season for Randolph and Darko as a part of the Carmelo Anthony trade.

The last time the Timberwolves beat the Knicks feels like it was much longer than three years ago since the NBA amalgamate has changed so much in that time. I mean, the ‘Melo trade was an absolute blockbuster, and whether or not you thought it would last, Linsanity had yet to be a thing and you probably had a strong opinion either way. For the Timberwolves, Love is a star, Nikola Pekovic is a max-contract player and Ricky Rubio has now been here for his third season now. For the Timberwolves, the NBA and everyone involved it’s been a whirlwind of days since November 2010.

Tonight, the Timberwolves look to push their winning streak to three and the Knicks will look to hit their stride at home. There are lots of new faces in New York including Ron Artest  Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani, which is Italian for “Bargsanity.” Perhaps a Timberwolves team coming off of a blowout of Oklahoma City on Friday night is not what the Knicks need to try to get on a roll, but Minnesota will have to be on the lookout for a trap game since the Knicks are likely a better team than they’ve shown and will wind up in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

These two teams have changed so much since 2010, it’s hard to recognize them when you reflect back on that game three Novembers ago. With both teams improved since then it should be another good game considering the subsequent three games have been very good. Besides, padding their first place division lead wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Timberwolves. Not at all.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

When: 6:30 CST

See/Hear It: FSN Plus and WCCO AM 830

Note: Ronny Turiaf is out tonight after fracturing his elbow on the hardwood at Target Center on Friday night.

Beasley's Rough Summer Continues

At some point, you need to just chalk it up to bad luck, right?

From NBC Sports Pro Basketball Talk:

According to a report from HoopChina.com (Tom’s note: I’d include a link, but it’s like heiroglyphics over there), one roughly translated through the marvel that is Google translate, it seems as if Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley injured his left wrist, perhaps fracturing it, while attempting a few dunks in the wake of an exhibition in China alongside Celtics forward Paul Pierce.

Beasley has made a few bad decisions so far this summer. Ok, maybe more than a few. But if he injured his wrist throwing down a few dunks for the entertainment of some NBA fans overseas…this isn’t one of them. It could have just as easily happened to Derrick Williams as he punished a couple of high school kids (seriously…wow) or K-Love as he bump-set-spiked.

Actually, I’ll stop before I jinx anyone. All this to say: get well soon, B-Easy.

Beasley now losing street cred

This via ESPN:

Michael Beasley’s offseason has been nothing short of shameful. While Kevin Love is utilizing his free time to soak up the summer fun by playing in fun, non-threatening games of volleyball that could damage his image, Beasley has had a run-in with the law and now an altercation with a fan at a streetball game.

The altercation isn’t what I would call that serious. I’ve been to these games; they all talk, and not very nicely actually. But what freaked me out was the anger in Beasley’s face as he screamed back at the fan. Beasley is usually super cool on the court, so whatever was said by the jawing fan must have set off a fuse inside Beasley that doesn’t usually get touched very often.

I continue to wonder how Kevin Durant is best friends with Beasley. As you watch the video, Durant is simply standing there and even goes and shakes fans’ hands after Beasley’s ejection! He’s one of basketball’s greatest players right now. He owns an outstanding following from these types of crowds, which only makes him that much cooler (All this streetball going on with NBA players is a real treat and Durant has been the King).

It’s just an observation, but why can’t Beasley look at himself in a mirror and realize he can do everything Durant does? Because his skill set certainly says so, but his twisted, deranged mind hasn’t allowed him to fully bud into the player he could be, and the question of “If” he even will is still a real possibility. My advice: Keep hanging with the cool-headed Durant, Beas, you’ll get it one day.

To sum this up, Beasley’s actions are starting to speak for themselves and they’re saying loud and clear that he still hasn’t matured. Perhaps he never will, which gives Derrick Williams the ultimate green light to seek out Beasley’s starting spot in the Wolves’ lineup.

Breaking News: Michael Beasley Smokes

Beasley in trouble, again.

The sky is blue. Grass is green. Summer is hot.

And, in a related story, Michael Beasley was cited for marijuana possession. Duhhhh.

From The Star Tribune:

Officers who stopped Beasley, 22, smelled marijuana in the car and found slightly more than a half-ounce in the vehicle, Boebroom said.

Beasley, who was not under the influence, was cited and released, the captain said. Beasley lives in Orono, west of where he was stopped.

So there you have it, folks. To everyone who claimed that there would be an increase in crime while both the NFL and NBA were locked out, your evidence is here, because clearly Michael Beasley wouldn’t be in possession of marijuana if the season were in full swing.

But this could be a serious offense at Beasley’s expense, if you think about it. The Wolves just drafted Derrick Williams, who some think could be the only star from a very weak class, and all signs point to him coming off the bench in place of Beasley to start the season. But if Beasley continues his juvenile behavior, he could easily watch helplessly as the level-headed and coachable Williams takes his starting spot like that. Or, ever worse, be traded because his delinquent ways have still not changed.

Or this could be just a minor speed bump in the road and make almost no difference with bigger things at stake, you know, like a lockout.

I’d be very curious what the Vegas odds would have been for Beasley being the first NBA player to be arrested for a fairly minor incident during the lockout. (Tim Duncan would be last.) You know, now that Metta WorldPeace is a upstanding citizen, and Stephen Jackson won’t be arrested until he snaps and kills somebody. Unfortunately, Nate Robinson beat B-Easy to the punch. Ah well. Better luck next time, Beas.

Exit Interviews: Michael Beasley

You're going to help, it's just going to take time

Michael, it looks like you’ve truly enjoyed your time here in Minnesota. I watched as you broke from your shell, hardened by your years in Miami under superstar Dwyane Wade and sensei Riley, and it really helped you grow as a human being. You seem more mature which has helped lead to your growth on the court over the course of this season.

But I have still some issues.

You love shooting that mid-range jumper. And, by golly, it’s silky as ever when it flutters through the hoop but it’s not a shot I completely advise taking. You attempted 360 shots from that distance, a distance generally associated with the most inefficient spot on the floor. That needs to stop. Your game has slowly become one-dimensional because of it — catch ball, jab step, pause… SHOOT! Defender or not, you take that shot too often. If you’re going to settle for jumpers from that far away, why not take a step back to the arc? You had your best year from three-point land (36%) and some of those were absolute daggers. We brought you in here because this city lacks that dynamic offensive star, who can take the big shot when needed. But why not make it easier on your self and limit your shots from 19-23 feet and start making your game more impulsive and unpredictable.

Let’s start with this: We really want you to get the rim much more next season. With your new buddy Kevin Love under the hoop, taking your shots at the rim allow us a much better chance of producing points. This year you only had 270 shots from the rim, 33 shots down from last year, but where the real problem lies is that your percentage went down. Significantly. By 9-percent! Only 55-percent of your lay-ups and dunks were converted this season. Michael, you’re a strong, athletic and long type of player — just what we’re looking for — and you can’t finish at the rim? You need to harness that energy you fail to exert on the defensive end and jump that much higher to slam the ball home on the rim! If you can start to do that, maybe we’ll let you stop playing defense entirely. I’m joking…

Actually, let’s talk about your defense for a bit. We brought you in here with the common knowledge that you struggle on defense. And, even though we did witness you improve on the defensive end, it still needs to get better. Your improvement on defense will only aide your offense that much more. The problem I’ve noticed with your defense is your too reactive. You only react to the ball and your opposition which leads to blown coverages and open shots. What needs to develop is your intuitiveness. If you start predicting what will happen while on defense, you’ll learn the art to be much easier than just relying on your reaction. Defense based on reaction is too slow and mechanical and because of it, you blink once and you get burned; defense based on prediction and aggressiveness results in pressure and, ultimately, turnovers. Study Corey Brewer. He’ll teach you the way to play active and intuitive defense. It’ll help your game immensely.

So those are a couple things we need to see from you next season on the court. But there’s still one more glaring weakness: Your stability. You struggled keeping your head on straight after mistkaes often this year. It led to technicals, turnovers and poor decisions. Coming out of college you were depicted as a beast, and rightfully so. But no matter how powerful, gifted or extraordinary you may be, it’s never going to translate properly into the NBA until you can calm yourself down and play technically sound basketball. Within those confines, you can use your beastly abilities to take over games on your own, but it all starts with the fundamentals. Learn those, hone those and become the best NBA player you can be. Until then, you’re never going to anything more than a #1b, or #2 option on any squad, even the Timberwolves.

That’s all for now, Michael. Get a head start in the gym and we’ll see you later this summer.

The singular move… Literally

David Kahn, the laughing stock he’s been of the NBA during his reign as GM here in Minny, has a plan — or is it had a plan? When he arrived about two years ago, so beautifully gracing our presence, he announced that the Wolves would no longer dwell in the NBA’s basement for much longer. He vowed that in 24 months this team would be turned around, well on its way to the Playoffs.

It’s safe to say that no one’s perfect. Neither is Kahn’s plan. Let’s be honest with ourselves: nothing ever goes according to plan.

But what I’ve taken away from the latest trade deadline to come and go without so much of a single “Ah ha!”move, it’s that Kahn’s plan has taken a turn for the worse. Or else he really does have something cooking and no one’s allowed to see magic happen behind the steam.

Kahn’s been preaching the “singular move” for quite some time now. Last season the Wolves teased with the idea of picking up a much-needed superstar to man one of the wing positions. Andre Iguodala was a relevant trend at the time and arguably a great fit here in Minny. This season, rumors flew about of the Wolves finally achieving some sort of stability at the point guard position. Whether that meant moving Jonny Flynn and simplifying matters for the future or making that risky move and reach for a big name such as Steve Nash, we figured something would’ve happened on one of the most exciting days of the year for a guy like me.

So what happened?

The past two trade deadlines have something eerily in common: They were both busts. Plain and simple. Kahn failed to nail down that singular move to turn the franchise around as promised before. Whether he just refused to work the phones like some desperate telemarketer working for pennies on the dollar or teams just really weren’t interested in our young assets — I highly doubt that — the deadline came and passed without the slightest ounce of progress towards the future — No offense, Anthony Randolph.

Some might view the Brewer-Randolph/Curry trade as a complete bust. We gave up a fan favorite for two demoralizing human beings that have never been happy in the NBA. Curry has been nothing but an obliterate slob who refuses to lose weight and Randolph still has not found a place to call home where he can hone in on his outstanding skills and make something of his NBA career. But you could also spin the trade with “a glass half full” approach. Randolph has the talents to become a Lamar Odom-like player, who could prove to be vital on a title run as we’ve seen in recent years with the Lakers’ success. Sure, we gave up a lovable character in Corey Brewer, but let’s face it: he was never going to learn how to shoot or dribble effectively, and even his strength of being a defensive wizard never panned out — he was a tremendous on-ball defender but took way too many gambles going for steals and loose balls.

No matter which side you decide to take, we can all agree this wasn’t Kahn intended on being that singular move, you know, the one we were looking for. But why didn’t it happen to us? We saw the deadline turn the OKC Thunder into legit NBA title contenders instead of the Lakers’ punching bag. We saw the Portland Trail Blazers turn their unfortunate injury-riddled situation into one of the most physical defenses the Western Conference will ever see in the Playoffs — if they get there, of course. Even the Eastern Conference was awarded with two of the West’s ultimate superstars, who are likely to go on and lead their respective squads into Championship contenders.

Other teams left the deadline basking in the fact that they found a new hope or a fresh start. The Wolves left the deadline literally at the same place they began.

Fans should be angry. Fans should be disappointed. Not angry or disappointed in the fact that the big, singular wasn’t made but that no singular move was made to make our team better immediately. Randolph is good, don’t get me wrong, but like I said, he’s a project — a big one at that. I’m talking well beyond the one trade made over two days ago. From the buzz of things that I gauged on today’s Twitter feed and the flurry of ESPN reports, the Wolves had opportunities to make a move, something, anything. Nothing happened and so that’s why fans should be bummed out and deflated of all hope. Kahn had the opportunity to make one simple thing happen and elevate this desperate fanbase’s morale but it just didn’t happen. We were all let down for the second time under his command and there may not be any reason to forgive him for that.

What’s left to hope for?

Kahn’s plan isn’t worth jumping ship quite yet though. Even after bashing the man for his questionable calls and dormant manner at today’s deadline, he still has a chance to redeem himself. Only one chance that is.

With a new CBA in the works and tons of assets to handle, including a sure lottery pick — potentially top 3 — this team has some leverage. But as we’ve seen before, it’s a matter of being able to utilize that leverage and create a better situation on the court in 2011-2012.

The best reasoning I could muster up on why the Wolves didn’t make their move today is because they’re the team lurking in the shadows just waiting for the moment to pounce. The new CBA could crack down on the higher payroll teams more than we think, and who will be ready to welcome that “overpaid” All-Star from their team? The Wolves.

Hope also comes in the form of this magical being from Spain. The name’s Ricky Rubio. The game could very well stabilize a position the Wolves have never had properly filled for more than three years tops at a time. If indeed the magician from Barcelona makes his way to the frozen tundra, it’d be a whole new ball game. Whether or not he can be relied upon as the savior of this God-forsaken franchise remains to be unseen, but he’s easily our brightest glimmer of hope of having any success in the next year or two.

All hope is just a game of cat and mouse for now. The talk of the new CBA is just speculation at this point — A lockout is looming, for God’s sake. Perhaps it’s arranged in such a way it gives larger markets even more power than they have now, which leaves the Wolves in an even darker place. And the actual coming of Rubio is completely out of anyone and everyone’s hands except his own.

The only solid hope fan’s can insert their faith into is Kevin Love and potentially Michael Beasley. Without these two, this season, no, this franchise would be nowhere. We wouldn’t have to root for a double-double every night so Love can break some record. We wouldn’t have Beasley’s antics to sit back and enjoy as well as his raw potential of becoming one of the league’s most lethal scorers. Things would truly be in disarray without these two. They’re easily the building blocks for the future no matter what Kahn makes happen this summer and beyond.

All we can hope for is stability from those two. Everything else is as good a guess as yours. I advise not placing any wagers on the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves, especially with what could go down this summer.

For all those ESPN Insiders…

…Make sure you check out John Hollinger’s new article. He highlights everything that’s going right for the Timberwolves so far this season (i.e. Our new forward duo, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love).

It might just be time for the Wolves to start earning some credit and recognition on a national level. But I won’t say much more than that because then things could go terribly wrong and we find ourselves on a 10 game losing streak. Can anyone say karma?