Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 1.52.23 PM

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.

A Second Bowl of Wheaties for You

And since it’s the inaugural weekend here why not a second bowl of the Weekend Wheaties for you?

  • Thanks to T-Wolves Blog for finding this Big Al interview:
    The “Sludge” marathon for lupus (?) on KFAN today included an interview with Al Jefferson. It’s maybe a third of the way into that link’s mp3 file.

    Al’s take, shorthand version:

    * Offseason in Florida, MN, and Mississippi.

    * Rehab’s feeling “real good,” says he’s feeling confident, it’s getting stronger. Ready for training camp, which was the plan.
    * January. Sigh. Several mentions of January.
    * McHale, coaching: Playing for McHale wonderful, didn’t feel pressure, could play through mistakes. Sitting back and waiting to see what happens.
    * Kahn: Kahn called him, they had a “great” conversation. Made Al feel confident.
    * Al says he “most definitely” wants to come back lighter, and says he and Kahn discussed that. Says he played heavier last year to play the center position. Wants to be more mobile, and being lighter would help the knee.
    * Sludge cannily uses LeBron to bring up defensive improvement: Al tosses Michael Jordan into the comparison. “I’m not there yet, if I want to be that guy…. I have to step up defensively.” Thinks the weight might help him. McHale and Wittman have “talked to him about” that. “80% of it is just a work ethic.”
    * The draft: Al likes “the idea of a great point guard.” Randy to the two, Sebastian backing up with the second unit is how he sees things.

Lots to like from this, that Kahn and Jefferson had a great conversation, that he’s looking to slim down this offseason (always a good idea in today’s NBA, I never understood the bulking up thing unless of course your Ndudi Ebi), and that he likes the idea of bringing in a great point guard and having Foye shift to the two. Kirk Hinrich anyone? (I should be throwing out my version of a “State of the Wolves” breakdown later this week with a more in depth look at the current team and where to go from here.)
  • After deeper reflection on the draft I am now throwing my hat into the “Wolves should use the #6 to make a move” camp. Here’s to hoping Kahn can leverage it in a deal and pick up a solid player that can contribute who’s team is moving him for cap purposes. (A couple of guys come to mind, Hinrich as I mentioned yesterday, Chris Kaman or Baron Davis would also fit nice and the Clips have to do something, not sure on how he fits but Jamal Crawford is a solid player that could be had from GS, and what about the Sports Guy’s hypothetical deal for the Wolves to get Tony Parker? Sign me up for that one.)
  • The Wolves have to bring back McHale at this point right? The players want him (and seemed to like playing for him and played hard) Otherwise who is left to bring in? It would have to be another current assistant (which always seems hit and miss on who pans out) as Flip and Eddie Jordan were both signed, although a guy like Boston Celtics defensive ace Assitant Coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t be too bad. Really we need a guy who can develop the young guys and isn’t the good stuff we always here about McHale his hands on development of our bigs from KG to Big Al to Love?

The Lay-Up Line – Kahn Edition

Each day I’d like to start out with a group of links to T-Wolves news, which I’m dubbing The Lay-Up Line. Something similar to what you find at TrueHoop with the First Cup every morning. I’ll be linking to content all over the place and hopefully it will evolve into something that is a jump-start to the day focusing on the Wolves.

From Timberwolves.com a good roundup of quotes/reactions from around the league on the Wolves hiring David Kahn as their new President of Basketball Operations:

“David helped me as much as anyone that I worked with during my time in Indiana, and his work with Conseco made it the best building in the league. He has a wealth of experience and will do a great job in Minnesota. David is very capable of capitalizing on the position the Timberwolves franchise is in and taking that team to the next level.”
- Donnie Walsh, New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations

“I think the world of David. I’ve known him since we first crossed paths back at UCLA and I have nothing but admiration and respect for all that he’s accomplished throughout his career. David will bring a tremendous background to the job, particularly from his time with Donnie at the Pacers. I’ve always had a fondness for the Timberwolves, and with the group of exciting young players they’ve assembled, I think they have a great opportunity in front of them. I’m thrilled that David is getting this chance and I think he’ll do a phenomenal job.”
– Larry Brown, Charlotte Bobcats Head Coach

“I’m very happy for David. He’s a very intelligent guy and knows the ins and outs of this league as well as anyone. David has all the tools to get the job done in Minnesota.”
– Larry Bird, Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Operations

“An excellent hire. David has great knowledge of both the basketball and business sides of an NBA franchise. He is a highly-motivated person that will bring out the best in the people who work with him.”
– Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks Head Coach

“David is a remarkably gifted individual, with a combination of high intelligence, a major-league work ethic, and a great understanding of what makes teams successful. His ability to understand the dynamics of an NBA franchise is a real strength and he’ll be someone the Timberwolves can look to for leadership and sound decision-making.
– Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs Head Coach

Kahn also had a Q+A with Maury Brown at bizofbasketball.com

One part I found interesting as its something I didn’t really think about. How often are teams scouting players and their character and talent to potentially acquire a player (as opposed to just figuring out how to stop them the next time they play them)?

“Generally, I think we spend an enormous amount of research scouting college players, high school players, and not quite nearly amount of resources of scouting the players who are already in the league. When, now all of a sudden, scouting them, you have a lot more ability to make some more careful assessments. If you have a college kid, you have to project everything. You have to project his place in the league, you have to project how he’ll fit into the league. Can he make the jump? Once they’re in the league, you don’t have to project anymore, you’re watching them play other NBA players. So now, it would seem to me that the need to have information shouldn’t stop when they come into the NBA. It should continue on and you can make the argument that it should be bigger and more substantive.

And the press conference announcing the hiring of Kahn via Timberwolves.com

From the corresponding article:

“Taylor found a new president of basketball operations that encompassed a diverse background seen in other sports. Several examples include Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, and Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane.”

That’s some pretty good company to be putting Kahn in. I can only hope he is as good as Morey is in Houston and Epstein is in Boston.