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.

Coachelor

The Coachelor – Episode 2

Coachelor

Written by: Nick Allen and Jonah Steinmeyer

PREVIOUSLY ON: The Coachelor

With the recent retirement of Rick Adelman, the NBA has chosen me, the Minnesota Timberwolves, to be the first first-ever Coachelor. 10 potential coaches were delivered via limo to battle for my affections and a chance to coach the team, but Mark Jackson bowed out immediately upon stepping into the snowy conditions – like a bitch. With eight roses to give to the nine coaches remaining, it was Lindsey Hunter who would walk away without a rose or a chance at being part of the Wolves organization. There are now eight coaches left, and the pressure is on to cut the field down further as only six coaches will receive a rose.

OPENING THOUGHTS

I was pretty excited to get into the next round of the competition once things got going. I wasn’t fully onboard with the idea at first, but this could really be a beneficial experience. It was interesting to see what coaches the NBA corralled for The Coachelor, as I didn’t think a few of them would actually be interested in the job. There were others that weren’t included that I thought might have been good fits for the team or had even expressed interest in coaching. Stan Van Gundy was one of these names I thought could be good for the team.

SVG coached his team to the playoffs all seven full seasons he spent coaching the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic combined. The only time he didn’t make the playoffs was when he resigned as coach of the Heat after only 21 games into the 2005-’06 season. However, SVG expressed that he wasn’t interested in becoming a part of the Wolves after I threw his name out there a few weeks ago as someone I was interested in. I was initially concerned this was because he didn’t want to coach in a place like Minnesota after coaching in Orlando and Miami for so many years, but Detroit’s recent hiring of SVG makes me think otherwise. It will be interesting to see what improvements are made by the Pistons next year and if he can keep his playoff streak alive.

Steve Kerr wasn’t a name that had ever been in the same sentence as “Minnesota Timberwolves”, but his signing with the Golden State Warriors both interests me and scares me as to what the cost of signing a new coach might cost me. I mean, do I have to shell out $25 million over the next five years for a coach with zero experience? Nonetheless, these recent deals are getting me excited for my own potential signing. I’ve also become inspired by the Minnesota Wild’s recent playoff efforts as well. Seeing people rally around the team, even those who hadn’t watched a single regular season game of hockey like myself, was pretty awesome. It’s not that I don’t like hockey, it’s just that, well…Wolves and ice don’t always get along. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the Wild’s first playoff series win in 11 years; the ending of a long drought.

I have a couple of droughts I would like to end myself, and hopefully one of the eight coaches remaining will be up to the challenge.

ROUND DEUX – A FIGHT!

The second round provided myself and the coaches an opportunity to get a little more one-on-one time. I had some questions I just had to ask so I could gauge how serious some of the contestants were. Rumors have been flying around that Fred Hoiberg, Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan all will likely stay with their respective colleges. They’re all appealing options, though. I also had some questions for the guys with less experience and those who haven’t been coaching for a while. It was time for the gloves to come off and see who could deliver their best hadouken (translation: surge fist)!

I first met with the current collegiate coaches. I couldn’t help but confront them about things I’ve heard regarding where they’re currently at and where they see themselves in the next few years. Donovan, well…I’ll get to Donovan later. Hoiberg almost seemed like he was distracted when we were talking. It was like he wasn’t all there. I got him to snap out of it eventually when I spoke of his days playing for the Wolves and how Flip Saunders views him in such a positive light, but he didn’t seem very interested in talking about work. Izzo also seemed like he had something on his mind when I asked him about his current status with Michigan State. Were they really here because they were interested in the job or was this just an opportunity for them to be in the spotlight and perhaps put some pressure on their current employers to keep them there? Hell, Iowa State just gave Hoiberg a raise after this season when his name had started to be thrown around for potential NBA gigs…

The next group of coaches I met with were the ones that are coming off of a layoff from coaching, no matter how long or short. What new tactics can these coaches provide for the ever-evolving game of basketball? What trends have they noticed changing while they’ve been away from the sidelines? Sam Mitchell was fired by the Toronto Raptors 17 games into the season back in 2008 and hasn’t had an opportunity to lead a team since. Mitchell was quick to bring up the fact that he’s been scouting for the Brooklyn Nets for the last couple of years or so now and believes he has an edge over the others in that regard. George Karl has only been “out the game” for a year now and led the Denver Nuggets to the playoffs all ten seasons he coached them. Experience is not the issue with Karl, though, it’s the troubling fact that the Nuggets were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round nine times out of those 10 seasons. Nine. I recall Karl saying: “Hey, you wanna make the playoffs? I can get you there.” Making the playoffs is a start, but it’s not enough.

Lionel Hollins is another guy that’s only been sitting out for a year. His last season coaching Memphis was especially impressive, as the Grizzlies went 56-26 and reached the conference finals. His conflicts with management are troubling, especially after such a successful season. Sounds a lot like what happened recently with the Warriors and Mark Jackson. Hollins was quick to shake that off, however, stating that he learned from the experience and was confident he could help the Wolves achieve more success than they have in the last 10 years. Flip Saunders has had a couple of seasons off from coaching, but has still remained heavily involved in all things basketball. I did my best to keep things professional with Saunders, but I was all sortsa flustered. Ultimately, deciding to keep him around or cut him is going to be the hardest every time.

I saved Sam Cassell and Donovan for last because they got into a bit of a scuffle earlier in the day. I thought it was kind of odd that any of these guys would get into an altercation, let alone these two. I wasn’t present for it, but I was told it had something to do with Cassell telling Donovan to go back to Florida, because that’s what he was going to do anyway. Donovan, as expected, didn’t take too kindly to this and told Cassell he was out of his league with the rest of these coaches and didn’t have enough experience to even be here. While I don’t want to see them literally hadoukening each other, I think Donovan brings up a good point and it was something I asked both he and Cassell about. What I like about Cassell is his enthusiasm. He admitted that he may not have had an opportunity to be a head coach yet, but also stated that you have to start somewhere. Donovan, on the other hand, rattled off reason after reason why prior success as a head coach was exactly what the Wolves need in their next leader.

ROSE CEREMONY

It was that time of night once again. My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing but the ritual must be done. The remaining eight coaches lined up in front of me once again. Although, for some reason, this decision seemed a little bit easier to make than the first time. After all, I had gotten to know these coaches a lot better than I did in that one night, and I’ve also started to learn more about myself and my needs in a coach moving forward.

I grabbed the first rose and began handing them out one by one.

“Sam Cassell…”

“George Karl…”

“Billy Donovan…”

“Sam Mitchell. . .”

“Lionel Hollins…”

“. . . Flip Saunders…”

It came down to my final rose and I had two of the best collegiate coaches standing in front of me. There was just one problem; neither of them were even looking in my direction. In fact, through the entire Rose Ceremony, they were staring straight into their iPhones without once looking up to catch my attention. Before I made a final decision, I had to get down to the bottom of this.

“Tom and Fred, I noticed both of you more engaged with your phones tonight than me. So I have to know: Are either of you here for the right reasons? Do you even want to be my next head coach?”

The two glanced at each other, then at me, then at their phones one last time.

“We don’t,” they said in unison.

And with that, both Fred and Tom left the set, leaving me in tears. It was a hard decision to choose between one of them to stay, considering both were atop my wish list. But the fact is Tom has dodged being courted by an NBA teams for years and Fred is called “The Mayor” at his hometown university. Neither of them have the desire to leave their respective comfort zones. Maybe we’ll never see either of them in the NBA but I damn sure know that the league would be better off with one of them running an NBA sideline. So hopefully it’ll happen one day. But the situation in Minnesota just isn’t right for either of them.

Next Week on The Coachelor: With the two college coaches gone, the remaining five contestants begin to relax. Everyone but Donovan have NBA experience, and it’s starting to come out in their personalities. Can Donovan hang with the remaining big-wigs? Will his inexperience be his downfall? Or will it catch the Timberwolves’ eye to snag a wildly successful college coach with a knack for developing players? Stay tuned!

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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

 

 

Coachelor

The Coachelor

Coachelor

Written by: Nick Allen and Jonah Steinmeyer

Relationships aren’t easy.

Not just finding the right one, but maintaining them can be just as difficult. That’s been my problem lately. Well, I suppose I should introduce myself before going on much further. Some of you may know me as the Minnesota Timberwolves; others simply refer to me as the Wolves or Pups. It’s all the same to me. As you may have heard, I find myself in the same position I was in three years ago: without a coach.

It’s kind of exciting to be back on the open market, to be honest. My three seasons with Rick Adelman represented the second-longest tenure any coach has had with me before. Is it sad to see him go? A little. His 42.2% winning percentage is the third-best of the 10 coaches I’ve had since my formation in 1989, behind Flip Saunders (55.8%) and Dwane Casey (43.4%). Adelman helped me finish third in the division for the first time since the 2004-’05 season and finished just three wins shy of becoming the second coach to win 100 games with the team. However, he ultimately wasn’t able to snap the embarrassing streak of what is now nine straight losing seasons and ten seasons without making the playoffs. I think the timing was right for both of us to move on.

Of the 25 NBA teams that currently have a head coach, their “relationships” have lasted an average of about 2.8 seasons, or roughly 230 games so far. Gregg Popovich’s 1,410 regular season games coaching the Spurs kind of skews that number, though. Without Pop, that number drops to about 2.2 seasons, or around 180 games. The average length of my past relationships has been about 2.44 seasons, or about 200 games. It’s normal to keep track of these things, right? Either way, at least I’m not the Pistons, who have serious commitment issues, getting rid of two coaches in a in just 10 months from February!

I’m one of five teams that will already be hooking up with a new coach for next season, but the NBA chose to come to me with this unique opportunity. I wanted no part of it at first, but decided to give it a little thought. After weighing my options for several moons, I ultimately decided to take the NBA up on their offer; an offer that could potentially find me a new coach for the long-term, which is what I want right now. I couldn’t let it slip through my paws. I thought I’d be embarrassed to say it at first, but if it puts me in a better position to find a coach that will bring me back to the playoffs, then I must be prepared to admit that I am . . .

The Coachelor.

OPENING NIGHT

I was pretty anxious heading into the first night. Crunch offered to be there for support in making such a difficult decision, but I told him it’d be better for me to do this on my own. As expected, the NBA withheld the identities of the 10 coaches that would be arriving to the mansion. I was a little disappointed that I would have to cut the number of people from 10 to 8 by the end of the first night. The first cut would basically be all about the eye test. Who could pass it?

I was at least able to convince the NBA to do one thing, however. I figured one would need to be able to deal with the weather conditions if they’re going to coach the Timberwolves, so the NBA pulled a few strings with some people I don’t think I want to know. Several inches of snow were dropped throughout the state as temperatures plummeted and the arrival of spring prolonged. Sorry, Minnesota.

10 coaches to arrive and only eight roses to hand out. Let’s do it!

I put my cleanest jersey on and went to the front of the mansion to greet the group of potential coaches. A giant fountain stood in the center of the driveway, sprouting water high into the air as green and blue lights made the water glow in the night sky. That water must’ve been freezing. The first limo approached, passing by giant torches surrounding the fountain. I truly felt butterflies for the first time. Who would be the first to arrive?

The limo slowed to a halt, its tires crunching over the snow as the driver got out to open the door…

THE CONTESTANTS

George Karl: Rumors have been swirling around as to whether or not Karl is interested or if I’m even interested in Karl as a potential coach. The fact of the matter is, you never know how things will go down in the off-season and Karl’s presence on this list of candidates is to be expected at the very least. Five NBA teams have called on him before to lead their players and he brings 25 years of coaching experience to the table. Karl’s teams have only missed the playoffs three of those 25 seasons. However, he has never been able to win a championship. A lot to consider.

Sam Cassell: Here’s a familiar face! As many remember, Cassell played point guard with the team for a couple of seasons from 2003-’05. Cassell was made an assistant coach under Flip Saunders with the Washington Wizards back in 2009 and one can only imagine how useful his experience and knowledge has been for guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. How could he help Ricky Rubio?

Tom Izzo: Will he stay or will he go? I have a feeling there will be a couple of other people that show up on here in similar situations as Izzo. Reports in March suggested that Izzo wouldn’t be interested in leaving his coaching gig at Michigan State for a crack at the NBA, but it hasn’t been ruled out. His presence here confirms it. So there. How can Izzo translate his collegiate coaching success into the NBA, if he so chooses to go down that path? Izzo seems to be able to rally his team as well as anyone by the end of the season, making the Spartans dangerous every March. Can he make the Wolves dangerous in April, May and June?

Fred Hoiberg: Ah, another former player of the team steps out of the limo. Hoiberg played on the team for the same stretch as Cassell, retiring after the 2004-’05 season. Hoiberg took a front office job with the Wolves and eventually became the head coach of his alma mater, Iowa State. The Cyclones have shown improvements after each season under Hoiberg, reaching the Sweet Sixteen in this year’s tournament. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him at Iowa State, but it may be tough to pull him away.

Lionel Hollins: After bringing the Grizzlies to the playoffs three straight seasons, losing in the conference finals in the final season of those three, it was a surprise to some to see Memphis cut Hollins loose. After having taken this season off from coaching, Hollins’ name has been floating around for a coaching job next season. While Hollins’ separation with the Grizzlies may have been largely due to conflicts with management, he’s still an interesting candidate for the job with proven success in his coaching career.

Sam Mitchell: Man, another one? I’m not complaining by any means, it’s great to see old players showing up for a chance to coach the team. Some may not know that Mitchell has head coaching experience. After spending most of his playing career in Minnesota, Mitchell spent a couple of years as an assistant nearby in Milwaukee. Mitchell was given a chance to coach the Toronto Raptors where he failed to make the playoffs for the first two seasons, but improved the team by 20 wins from the 2005-’06 to ‘06-’07 seasons, winning the NBA Coach of the Year in the process. He was never able to help the Raptors get past the first round, but he did show he can help a team improve.

Mark Jackson: I was kind of surprised to see Jackson step out of the limo, but interested in the prospect of him becoming coach nonetheless. Unfortunately, I recall things happening almost exactly like this… Jackson gets out of the limo, looks at the snowy ground and says: “Aw, hell no, take me back to the other side of the fountain. I’m out!”

And just like that, I only had to get rid of one person.

Lindsey Hunter: This is an interesting one. Hunter served as the interim head coach for the Phoenix Suns in 2013, going 12-29 in 41 games as the coach. The Suns ultimately went with Jeff Hornacek to take over for the ‘13-’14 season, leading Hunter to go to Golden State as an assistant coach. While the Warriors’ regime under Jackson was rocky, to say the least, Hunter could still be an option for the head coaching position. If not with Golden State, then maybe somewhere else.

Billy Donovan: I’m kind of surprised by Donovan’s presence. I didn’t really expect him to be here, considering his relationship with the Florida Gators. I don’t know how interested he truly is in a chance at coaching in the NBA. He agreed to coach the Orlando Magic back in 2007, but changed his mind less than a week later and ended up staying with the Gators. While his back-to-back championships several years ago and four-straight Elite Eight appearances are impressive, how interested would he be in moving from Florida to Minnesota? And would he actually commit to the deal if we got to that point?

Time for the last person.

The limo pulls up and the door is opened. My heart stops. I wasn’t expecting to see an ex- here tonight . . .

Flip Saunders: Although my owner, Glen Taylor, has stated he would prefer Saunders to stay in a front office role within the organization, I figure there must be a reason why Saunders is here with the others. Just to stir things up? To cause drama? I mean, he is the only coach to lead the team to the playoffs and have a +.500 coaching record over 10 seasons. And I know he won’t turn away because of the snow.

THE FIRST IMPRESSIONS

There are so many great choices, and thanks to Jackson’s early self-entitled departure, I only had to eliminate one more coach this very night. They all have so many great qualities, so I spent time getting to know them from the beginning. There was a lot of surface talk, chit-chat. I wasn’t all that interested but kept telling myself that this is a long, grueling process and I needed to be thorough. I couldn’t just get to know these coaches on that deep, intellectual level right away. Some seemed distant, like Izzo and Hoiberg. I tried to get them to open up but they seemed preoccupied, like their hearts weren’t really into the idea of the job because they had something else pretty great back home already. And then some were very forward in getting to know me more. I liked that but Hunter, more specifically, continually pushed himself into my conversations and really only kept talking about himself, like it was his way or the highway.

THE ROSE CEREMONY

The end of the night was near, and I had to step away to make my decision on who was going home tonight. I sat and looked over their resumes and thought more and more about what kind of interaction I had with each of them through the night. Oh, this is just so hard. It made me question why I said yes to this whole ordeal in the first place. But then I thought of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and the Wolves’ restless fanbase, who just want to simply make the playoffs. This is bigger than just me.

I called the coaches in for the first Roses Ceremony. My hands were trembling as these prestigious basketball minds lined up in front of me. I picked up the first rose, and my words just stumbled out, “These roses belong to the coaches who truly believe that they can help the Wolves make — and advance — through the playoffs.” In no particular order, I started calling out their names to come take a rose.

“George Karl … Sam Mitchell … Sam Cassell … Billy Donovan … Lionel Hollins … Fred Hoiberg … Tom Izzo … and (gulp) Flip Saunders.

“I’m sorry, Lindsey, but you, just like your dear friend Mark Jackson, seem too bullheaded and selfish to be my next head coach. Things in Golden State ended pretty rotten, and although you did some terrific work while there, the baggage was just too much for me to take on at this point.”

With Hunter and Jackson officially gone, the remaining coaches gathered for a toast and I assured them all that I will do my absolute best to get to know them in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a long road in finding my new head coach but I’m embracing the challenge head on, knowing that my fans and players will have my back.

Next week on The Coachelor: The coaches continue to push for my attention and I’m kind of enjoying it. Not many before this point have vied for the job this hard, so it’s something new and exhilarating. But just as everything seems to be going just fine, one of our contestants tells me he’s just not ready to be with me on this level quite yet — or maybe even ever. Stay tuned!

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Ricky Rubio goes from setting defensive traps on the court to setting thirst traps on Instagram

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 9.17.39 PMOn Sunday night, Ricky Rubio posted a photo to his Instagram that got the female faction of Timberwolves Twitter all flustered. It was a shirtless photo of himself in front of a mirror with a caption that simply read “summer.” Everything about this photo was hilarious and the reactions ranged from “This isn’t your adorable Ricky anymore” to “Oh my…” For me, it was hilarious, and Rubio proved that he was just like the rest of us out there in the struggle.

First off, the shirtless mirror pic is a bit of a faux pas for any guy. Yet, I’d say 80 percent of us have probably done it at one point or the other, with the main idea being attention. There is literally no other reason to take an indoor shirtless mirror pic other than this. You can try to hide your motives behind the guise of a caption like “summer” but obviously it has nothing to do with summer. I mean, you’re inside and it’s May 5th, so this has nothing to do with summer! When you do post them, you certainly have to be ready take any amount of shit you get for being ‘that guy.’ Personally, I wouldn’t have even tried to hide my motives and own it, but to each their own.

I can see where Ricky is coming from. If I were a single millionaire in my 20s (I am two of those three things) I would do the same thing. And posting a pic showing off my hard work in the gym is a hell of a lot easier than trying to slide into the DM’s of attractive followers; why do the work when they can come to you, right? In some ways, it’s also encouraging to see that professional athletes have to go through the same things the rest of us have to go through.

My stance on this is the same with Shabazz Muhammad when he was caught with a girl in his room at the symposium: he’s just another 20 year old, big deal. Hell, I’d probably do the same thing and so would a lot of people, so I’m not trying to beat him up over this. When it comes right down to it, we’re all just human beings. But, before I go, let’s re-visit some rules for shirtless selfies:

1) Make sure you haven’t posted one in recently. You don’t want to come off as an obvious or desperate attention whore. Rubio got this one right since I can’t recall him doing this before.

2) You’re obviously trying to make a statement here, so don’t be coy. Get an “A” or get an “F.” Rubio got an “F” here for trying to cover up his intentions here with his caption. Make sure the lighting is good, and whatever you do, don’t pullback with a flimsy cover-up as the caption. You’re showing off, so show off! You threw modesty out the window when you took your shirt off in front of the mirror.

3) You don’t need to pull your pants as far down as Rubio did in his shot. If you have that elusive v-cut, you don’t need to go past your waist; people should be able to tell.

4) Be ready to accept the good with the bad. Your goal may be to get the attention of the one you’ve been crushing on for awhile, but more likely than not, you’re going to bring out the creep in the one person whose attention you weren’t seeking. Your actions will have consequences both good and bad.

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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.

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Brewer’s 51: Basketball as it was meant to be

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Credit: Unknown.

I know this is late. Like, five days late. But I still wanted to do something on the Rockets-Timberwolves game from Friday night. It was one of the weirdest games I had ever witnessed, and I was there for it no less. As weird as it was, it was also one of the most pleasurable games I have ever been a part of. For one night we got a reprieve from the widespread disappointment over the team’s season and the trepidation over their future.

First off, there were all of the injuries. For the Timberwolves, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Love and Chase Budinger were all out. For the Rockets, Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley were no-go’s. You could say bench play was going to be a determining factor, but really, it was all bench play. And despite the fact that there were so many players missing, the score after the first quarter was 39-32…Timberwolves. Yeah, this thing was going to make no sense.

The Timberwolves eventually won, of course, because sometimes basketball makes no sense, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Dante Cunningham had 20 points and 13 rebounds, Ricky Rubio had a double-double, and Gorgui Dieng finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds (including 10 offensive rebounds, thanks Dwight!)

Yet, none of those performances were the most noteworthy, somehow. This night belonged to Corey Brewer and his 51 points. Brewer rocketed out of the gate and never let up, scrapping his way for point after point,  converting several free throws, and draining a halfcourt shot. Having not watched every 50-point game in NBA history, this was probably the most unorthodox, given Brewer’s skillset.

At the same time, it really isn’t much different than any other. Whether it’s Steph Curry launching threes, Durant doing Durant things or LeBron being otherworldly; these players focus on what they do best and use that to their advantage. And when you take Brewer’s performance into consideration, is it really any different?

As Brewer’s point total continued to climb, the surprisingly filled arena became louder and louder. He roared through the 20′s, and when he charged through the 30′s, everyone clamored for him to touch the ball on each possession hoping he would hit the next milestone. Once he hit 40, the bench and the fans alike were on their feet to cheer him on. The score hardly mattered since everyone was enjoying themselves. It was really the essence of why we watch, or should watch, the game: for fun.

Too often in this season people have forgotten that basketball is meant to be enjoyed. Sure, the playoffs were the goal and they fell short, but the team still improved and will likely finish with their first .500 record in almost 10 years. That’s something to be happy about. On Friday night, none of that mattered. No one was worried about what Love what do in a year, missing the playoffs or whether Dieng or Pekovic should be starting.

Everyone in the building found joy in Brewer’s achievement. There were smiles all down the bench, and Rubio even jumped on Brewer after the game. There was an apparent camaraderie from everyone on the bench– a far cry from the disjointed locker room from early in the year. Really, it was a moment we all had to appreciate. How many 50-point games do we get to witness? After all, there are two in franchise history. More than that, Brewer tied Love’s record for points in a game, but set the record for points in regulation on top of getting the win.

I don’t know that I’ll ever get to see someone of Brewer’s stature hit that milestone again, but I’m sure glad I was there. Most of all, it served as a reminder how basketball is meant to be viewed: enjoyed.

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Everybody, Get Back to Work

The Sensitive Subject illuminated within the Timberwolves portion of local media outlets throughout the weekend was ultimately diffused, following a victory over the San Antonio Spurs, Tuesday night at Target Center. Albeit serious, the accusations against Dante Cunningham are his to deal with, the legal process doesn’t intensify with the same speed as news outlets after these stories surface; nor should they, and as Derek James points out — Dante Cunningham entered yesterdays’ game virtually unnoticed following the concerning news that took place surrounding his personal life over the weekend.

Before Tuesday night had ended, I can only speculate, the topic had left nearly everyone’s mind.

In-wake of injuries, the Wolves signed a familiar face, Othyus Jeffers, during the day. Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin and Shabazz Muhammad were inactive, likely for the remainder of the season, and those who would play seemingly didn’t have anything to play for. However, they were not a team that played that way.

While the Wolves and Spurs were supposed to play one-another on December 4th, a fire within a Mexico City stadium, prior to the game, kept them from doing so. Henceforth, the two met last night in Minneapolis. The match up’s significance had greatly diminished. The Wolves weren’t playing spoiler, there will be no postseason, and the State of Hockey’s beloved Wild were hosting a make-or-break meeting in St. Paul that would determine their postseason fate. There were very few in attendance, despite the presence of the stoic Spurs, in-town.

Ricky Rubio, Robbie Hummel, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love and Gorgui Dieng trotted out to start the game against Cory Joseph, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan. The Wolves scored the first basket, and the lead was theirs for the duration of the evening. Rick Adelman’s offense went to work, and Rubio and Love looked to do the heavy lifting during the first quarter. Love, despite shooting only one of seven from the field, was the Wolves’ top distributor during the opening frame with three assists. He’s refined his passing out of the high post throughout the year, a point of emphasis entering this season.

Rubio, although his scoring production is oft the subject of warranted criticism, has been notably more-and-more aggressive slashing to the basket as the year has gone on. Knowing this, the Spurs’ defenders encouraged him to settle for midrange jump shots by sagging into the painted area while Rubio dribbled at near the top of the key. He was able to successfully counter this familiar defensive scheme by connecting on three elbow jumpers on as many attempts during the first.

Without Tony Parker, Joseph and reserve point guard Patty Mills were left to orchestrate the Spurs’ proverbial offensive machine. Minnesota contested shots, denied entry passes and made everything difficult with tenacious defending. The disinterested Spurs scored only 34 first half points, the second-least points scored by a Wolves opponent in a half this season. Minnesota compiled a 20-point lead by halftime, and there seemed to be no passion lost from within the home club.

The one-sided route leveled during the third and fourth quarters, but the energy level from the bench refused to cease until the game was over. Love, who struggled from the field early, scored 10 third-quarter points. Rubio matched Love’s scoring output. Dieng added five points and five rebounds, and the Wolves’ starters balanced scoring provided a 22 point lead entering the final frame. Ronnie Turiaf, who plays as fiery as anyone, hammered home multiple, alley-oop dunks with less than five minutes to play. Even Jeffers, signed earlier during the day, Tuesday, entered the game before it had ended.

With a little over a minute to play, Jeffers received the ball and Cunningham set him a screen near the left elbow. He went around the screen, into the lane, and found a streaking Cunningham with a bounce pass. “DC Hustle,” as he is known, emphatically attempted to add an explanation point to the victory, but to no avail. He missed the dunk attempt and the game ended, the Wolves had beaten the Spurs — 110-91.

Whilst negative, pessimistic, feelings of defeatism oft surround sports in Minnesota, the uneasy — saddening and troubling — news that punctured the Wolves organization was left at-ease, at least temporarily, following Tuesday night’s victory over the Spurs. Adelman emphasized the importance of setting the tone for the remainder of the week, post-game, and victories, ala last night and against the Miami Heat, last week, are a prime representations of the Wolves’ mental focus as they approach the end of yet another disappointing season.

“Liked the way we played. We came out and played solid. The guys on the bench came in did a nice job. They missed a lot of shots in the first half but we were doing what we wanted to, making them jump shoot and not give them layups because they are such a great passing team. They get cut to the basket and we were able to at least limit that some.” – Adelman

Perhaps it’s the type of tone that could echo throughout the postseason, and even into next year. Regardless, they played with as much energy as a playoff-bound team, without the stadium full of roaring fans. In a surprising victory over the Spurs, on a night when most eyes were on the Wild, across town, the Wolves showed that they’re playing for their own benefit.

These were men, accustomed to performing in front of a grand audience, working to accomplish a task at hand. This wasn’t a job done at the request, or for the glory, of others. The victory gives the Wolves opportunity to feel confident about themselves, as well as what they accomplished.