Tagged: NBA

Happening in Vegas: Oh, We’re Playing Again Today


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The tough thing about being in Las Vegas to cover summer league is that, for starter’s, you don’t know how long you’re going to have to cover a team, and secondly, after the preliminary games you don’t know when that team is playing. Fast forward to this morning and that’s exactly what happened to me when I awoke to the updated schedule. So, today is game day with the Timberwolves playing the Kings at 7pm CST. I highly doubt this will be televised, so I would recommend keeping Twitter close if you’d like to follow the game, though I’m sure it will re-air later on.

For going 1-2 in pool play the Timberwolves earned the 13th seed, which is second of all teams with the same record and differentiated by things like quarter-by-quarter scoring (You get points in the tournament for things like wins, obviously, but a half point for things like winning quarters, which the Wolves have; they’ve just blown a couple of late leads, which is somewhat advantageous.) The winner of this game will play the undefeated D-League Select team at 7:30 CST tomorrow evening.

The Select team was the team that also defeated the Timberwolves in their first game.

Ben McLemore is of course a player of interest for the Kings. However, before yesterday’s terrific perormance McLemore look lost; you could almost say he bough his game at a “Thrift Shop”…eh….eh? No? Okay then.

Ray McCallum has also looked good for the Kings. The guard has shot .444 percent through three games with averages of 14.3 points , 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

As for the Timberwolves, they will need better from Shabazz Muhammad after yesterday’s win despite their victory. It looked like one of those days where nothing you throw up goes in, so this could very well be a return to the Shabazz that we saw against the Suns on Saturday.

I’m also counting on a Robbie Hummel redemption game today, as well as more strong play by Chris Johnson.

Additionally, while the Timberwolves have done a good job forcing turnovers, they really need to curb their own turnover issues. Through three games they are averaging 23 turnovers per game, which is in credible; the team finished with 28 alone yesterday. If they hope to play more games, enabling them to give their prospects more reps to grow with, then they need to take care of the ball better. Minnesota has lost momentum in each of their last games by giving up a couple of turnovers where the other team turns them around for easy baskets, and suddenly that once dormant team has found new life. Even things like Solomon Jones having three illegal screens on Saturday count and matter. In fact, Jones averaging 3.0 turnovers per game in 13 minutes per game is a big part of the problem, but he’s also far from the only one.

This may sound like a lot of thought put into a summer league, but it’s actually important. It matters to the Timberwolves and their future to get their prospects the developmental reps and it matters to the fringe players who aren’t just trying to woo NBA teams, but also those that are trying to impress D-League and overseas scouts also in attendance. So for guys like Lorenzo Brown, Demetri McCamey and John Holland, these games are huge for them, so that makes them a little more interesting.

Anyway, Timberwolves-Kings at 7pm CST. You can always follow along as I live-tweet from Cox Pavilion from @DerekJamesNBA or check the site following the game for my recap.

What Happened in Vegas: Timberwolves-Heat Recap


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Evidently the third time is the charm as the Timberwolves finally earned a summer league victory with an 80-79 victory over the Miami Heat. Normally when you commit 28 turnovers you should have no business winning, but the Heat committed 20 of their own that, when combined with their subpar shooting, kept them from getting back into this game.

Shabazz Muhammad struggled shooting once again, going 3-10 from the field including a few missed hooks off of the basket. Shabazz clearly wants to be a dynamic inside-out player, but in order to do so he is going to have to convert those high percentage looks. Perhaps some that can be attributed to nerves or just typical ups and downs, but no matter what the Timberwolves will need him to hit those looks.

Gorgui Dieng looked better than yesterday, shooting 4-5 for six points and five rebounds. The Timberwolves still had a frustrating habit of leaving Dieng at the top of the key with the ball with no other player movement, leaving Dieng with two options that don’t play to his strengths: take the jumper or attempt to drive the rim. Typically these plays have ended in a turnover or a forced pass. It would’ve been nice to see more activity and communication in these sets because it seems like they stop running the play as soon as Dieng receives the ball. And I can promise that is not the play call.

Demetri McCamey (who played well yesterday) and John Holland started and gave meaningful contributions as the Wolves took the victory.

After a strong summer league to that point, Robbie Hummel struggled; shooting 1-5 and just three points, although he did manage to bring in seven rebounds.

After the Timberwolves nearly let a lead slip away last night but learned from their game last night by not letting their mistakes mount. For instance, if they committed a turnover they would turn around and force one or get a stop on the next possession– mitigating the consequences all together. Or they would miss a shot, but instead of getting frustrating they would go right back to the same player and the same spot to make it. It’s called having a short memory and not allowing the previous play to affect the future of the game. It’s a trait of team maturity, which feels weird to talk about while referring to a summer league game, but it can absolutely make the difference between a win and a loss as it did today.

This only matters if the members of this summer league team that will play next season for the Timberwovles carry this over to 2014. At the least, it’s encouraging, and will be needed given the various improvements many NBA teams have made, especially those in their own conference.

What’s Happening in Vegas: Miami Heat-Timberwolves Preview


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All right, Timberwolves fans. Today is the day you’ve been waiting for. Yes, finally, today is the day that you can watch your favorite team on NBA TV at 3pm CST as they take on the Miami Heat (3-2). Like the Timberwolves, the Heat are coming off of a close loss on Sunday night to the Hawks. However, they’re not the ones coming off of a back-to-back– that’s the Timberwolves.

As for names to watch on the Heat Myck Kabongo was a draft pick in last month’s draft. You may also recognize forward Jarvis Varnando from such things as garbage time. Other than that, Anthony Marshall has played well at times, too.

The Timberwolves will be hoping to see Shabazz Muhammad strike that perfect balance between attacker and facilitator. Gorgui Dieng will look to have a better game than he did yesterday and it would be nice to see Chris Johnson utilized in ways that get him more involved in the offense. Demetri McCamey played well, which was fun, but the Timberwolves will be looking to see more from Lorenzo Brown and Brandon Paul continue to make their case to hang around.

You cannot forget about Robbie Hummel, either. He’s been by far the team’s most steady and productive player this summer league season, and you would love to see him continue to succeed in the hopes of hanging around with the Timberwolves next season.

Well it’s almost that time: time to get ready to head down to COX Pavilion to get ready for today’s tilt. Be sure to follow the @howlintwolf account or my account (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as I’ll be live-tweeting from media row.

Rumor: Timberwolves Eyeing Corey Brewer…Again?


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While the team addressed their need of perimeter shooting, they incidentally compromised the integrity of the perimeter defense. At least if you’re going to do so you should have constructed an offense capable of running anyone out of the building on a given night, which the Timberwolves may have probably done. However, while the team may be more and more unlikely to retain Andrei Kirilenko, there may be another option available who you may just recognize.

 

 

Yes, Corey Brewer. That Corey Brewer.

Brewer would actually be a far better fit than he was during his initial stint with the team. Then he was asked to be a consistent contributor offensively which is just not who he is as a player. Now, he’d be responsible for bringing energy and playing good defense as the team needs, which he is capable of doing; any offense he contributes would only be a bonus.

When he hasn’t been asked to do too much — like he was at the start of his career with his Timberwolves — he has been a valuable rotation player in Dallas and in Denver. And in Minnesota he could reprise a similar role and solidify the Timberwolves’ chances at the postseason.

The fact that Brewer has hung around so long might mean that the Timberwolves could get him at a bit of a discount since the small forward/shooting guard market has shrunk considerably since the beginning of free agency. Meaning the team could save some a few slivers of cap space in case they need to later on. This would also make it highly unlikely Kirilenko is gone, but Brewer would be younger and cheaper than AK47.

So, this may be nothing concrete yet, but it’s certainly an interesting idea and one that could prove to be a very good one for the Timberwolves.

Breaking News: NBPA rejects latest offer, plans to decertify


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

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

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

The rotting state of the NBA


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Aside from all the NFL mayhem and the MLB trade deadline, the biggest news in sports has to be about NBA stars bolting to play in Europe.

It started with one of the NBA’s best point guards, Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets, openly discussing the advantages of heading overseas while the lockout is in order. Once that sprung, lower tier stars began talks of doing the same, and now we’re even to the point where Kobe Bryant is even contemplating the jump.

But perhaps the biggest name to throw his eggs into the European basket: Keyon Dooling. Yes, you read that right. Dooling is the back-up point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks, but his biggest title lies in the NBPA as Vice President. When the Vice President of the Union is abandoning hopes of a season next year to dash overseas, well, then there are some serious issues at hand that need to be addressed when the upcoming bargaining sessions resume.

The owners and the players are set to start negotiations again in the first week of August. It’s not likely that any real bargaining will take place, rather the meeting is a means of gathering together and discussing where everyone is standing.

So while the owners continue to sit on their hands, the players are arranging other jobs, which actually give them a serious upper hand when negotiations commence.

What you really have to ask yourself is: Is all this a ploy to grab the NBA owners’ attentions, frighten the owners into losing their players and an entire season, and, ultimately, no profits at all? Because if it is, it doesn’t seem very ethical on the players’ part to expedite this type of leverage at the fans’ expense.

The league — both owners and players — can’t afford this nonsense to continue. Fans are now starting to form opinions on players bolting to Europe. Is it a copout? Is it smart? It certainly doesn’t contribute to their image in any positive way. But the same goes for the owners. Fans are now starting to notice as the owners — multi upon multi millionaires in the first place — sit on the sidelines and allow these players, their players, leave their league for other opportunities abroad. It really just reveals the greediness and stubbornness on their part.

A lot needs to happen in the next month to move toward a common goal. Until progress is made, I wouldn’t be surprised if bigger names continue to flirt with the idea of playing somewhere else next season and letting the NBPA and owners fight this one out, while they’re relying on a stable paycheck and touring the world playing ball. And all while that continues to happen, the image and of the NBA — the one that improved mightily over the past few seasons — as well as the state of the actual business will continue to soil and rot in front of fan’s faces.

Pity.

The end of things as we know it?


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How about those NBA Playoffs?! Derrick Rose is leading the Bulls like a once-led-by Jordan team did back in the day. Russell Westbrook has established himself as just as worthy and important to the OKC Thunder as teammate Kevin Durant — might there be some jealousy clouding the team’s Playoff hopes? We already witnessed the Hawks of Atlanta beat down Orlando and their muscly-chiseled giant and could very well see Memphis take the Best of the West down too. All that in the opening round, and it’s just heating up.

It’s really unfortunate that these lively and entertaining Playoff games have to be dolefully overshadowed by the unfortunate situation in Sacramento. Some may think nothing of it — Why should we care about what’s going on in a poor basketball town like Sacramento? But when the league’s integrity is at stake, it should be considered a big deal.

If you’re not up to date on the Sacramento situation, here’s where we are now: The Maloof’s, Sacramento’s “proud” owners of their Kings, screwed up, ran out of money, cut the costs of operations throughout the organization and now they’re in a pickle looking for a new arena and a new beginning. Unfortunately, a city as small as Sacramento can’t afford a new arena to please the Maloof brothers’ requests and they’ve explored the option of relocating. “Relocation,” it’s the only word that provides enough motivation in the word itself to bring a community together to fight the stronger powers of the world. So as the city of Sacramento rallies itself to save their lone professional franchise — The Maloof’s already allowed their WNBA team to hit the fan — the fate of the Sacramento Kings is now in the NBA’s hands, as they’re now figuring out if it’s worth their interest to keep the franchise afloat in a dismantled NBA market.

In Sacramento’s case, we’ve quickly learned the fact that smaller-market teams are ruining the NBA’s limelight. By that I mean that they’re low attendance, poor marketing and tendency to withhold franchise players from going to a preferred destination hinders the league and its owners — and in Lebron James’ case, can curse a franchise and its fans. That won’t get you on David Stern’s good side, where he pictures the NBA as joyful as a fairy tale, where Chicago, New York, Miami, Boston and L.A. are all an integral part of each season and postseason.

But we’ve seen this all over, especially as of late with the Kings on the fence and other franchises in limbo. To make matters even more relevant than it blatantly should be already is that it happened in our very own city. Kevin Garnett hoisted this franchise onto his back and hauled it for 12 long, demanding seasons. But when KG left at McHale’s request — and ultimately for the good of the league — the franchise turned into a crippled and demoralized heap of excrement that proved to be more detrimental to the league than helpful. After that, all those involved, especially the fans, grew detached from the situation entirely. And now we’re winding down an awfully similar, and eery, path that the Kings tumbled down. We’re watching operation costs getting slashed, the fan support is decreasing and they haven’t caught a glimmer of luck, or hope, yet.

We’ve seen very similar situations happen multiple times — Seattle and New Orleans most recently — where the NBA’s front office has had to intervene in one organization’s business because either A) Owners go broke, B) Fans grow disinterested for any number of reasons, or; C) The team just flat out sucks. But more importantly, what all these troubled teams have in common is they’ve just failed to catch that break and, honestly, were never in the right caring hands to begin with.

Why didn’t the situation implode? Because Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge showed up. Because owner Paul Allen embraced how deeply Portlanders identified with his franchise and started emphasizing character. Because Allen hired an enterprising front office that used his money as a competitive advantage, buying extra draft picks, thinking outside the box with creative free-agent offers and raiding cost-cutting teams of solid veterans. The team built a good enough foundation to survive a few bad breaks (most recently, Oden and Roy), and now they’re giving the Mavericks everything they can handle in Round 1. Maybe the Blazers haven’t been totally lucky, but they’ve definitely been smart.

Bill Simmons said that here and I advise taking 15-20 minutes out of your day to read the article in its entirety. Anyways, back to the point: Teams in smaller markets are doomed in the NBA. Unless they’re being run by very smart people, such as the Blazers, or have just caught some lucky breaks, such as the Thunder, you’re years in the NBA, or at least in a specific city, are limited at best.

The next question is how can we fix this dilemma. Underprivileged owners in poor markets don’t have the gonads or the resources to survive in the NBA. It could very well lead to a contraction process in the NBA. Would contraction be a bad thing for the NBA? Looking forward both economically as well as the entertainment factor, a condensed and consolidated league could be the best thing going forward. No longer would Stern have to worry about bankrupt owners. No longer would city’s sit through season after season of suffering and aching. No longer would down-to-earth athletes have to make a professional decision about leaving their “home team” because of a “business decision.” The league would flourish in mounds of cash, sponsorships and the overwhelming amount of publicity they’d receive with all the different rivalries that could stem from big name players moving from one big name city to the next.

But at the same time, you can take Minnesota’s perspective and shoot all of those glamours of contraction down. We have the talent to turn things around. We have enough fan support, as we showed during the KG era, to make a statement amongst a league of coast-dwelling, tax-free states that have all the night clubs and warm weather to attract any talent they sought after.

The league doesn’t need to jump to any conclusions: If they find the right hands for a franchise like Sacramento, there’s hope. And if they also hit the lottery like OKC has, they could very well be the Blazers of tomorrow, even in a city as irrelevant to basketball as Portland once was. Minnesota is no different. Given the right amount of time and brains working behind the curtain, any team can be flipped right-side-up.

It’s just a matter of luck and intelligence. Isn’t everything?