|Wolves' Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, and Corey Brewer.|
Angus Crawford: After a blistering 3-0 start that included a 19pt demolition of Oklahoma City, the Wolves’ season has ebbed and flowed, lacked consistency, and regularly wrestled with the idea of “.500 basketball.” As John Schuhmann of NBA.com notes, “The Wolves are [now] 0-9 in attempts to get back over .500 since falling to 8-8 on Nov. 25.” How frustrating has it been to follow this fluctuation, and what have been some of the primary causes of Minnesota’s inability to string wins together?
The Wolves didn’t play on Christmas day but they did manage to blow a late-lead against the Los Angeles Clippers. Kevin Martin caught an inbounds pass in the backcourt. I thought the play was well-designed, it got one of the league’s best free-throw shooters the ball with a chance to put the game out of reach. However, Martin dribbled laterally, had it stolen, the game was tied and the Wolves missed a three that would have won it at the end of regulation -- overtime.
The Wolves came home for the holiday’s after losing to both Los Angeles teams in Staples Center. This very easily could have been a, “Staples Sweep.” Since then it’s been drama. Close loss, blowout win, close loss, blowout win -- you get the picture.
Here are some of the frustrations buzzing around the Wolves, and my opinion on them.
- Whether it’s Ricky Rubio or J.J. Barea playing at the end of games, this team needs a leader guiding them in battle; consistently.
- Only the Kings are worse defending the rim (Wolves are 67-and-some-odd percent defending the restricted area) and there’s a lack of consistency on that end of the floor.
- The bench has played better as of late, but was abysmal nearly the entire season up to January.
- There was a moment in the Wolves two-point loss earlier this month to the Dallas Mavericks (I believe this was the game, but it may have been another -- the incident remains the same). Barea was on the floor and saw Rubio checking into the game with a little over 3:00 minutes remaining. Barea threw up an inexplicable three-point attempt and it was a possession that was wasted in a close loss.
- Of course, the Kevin Love incident after the Wolves loss to the Phoenix Suns is the biggest blow-up this team’s had. Love went out of his way, breaking his post-game routine, to call out two teammates (Barea and Dante Cunningham) for not being in the huddle in a late-game situation -- somewhere teammates should WANT to be together.
If you want to read more thoughts I had on Adelman possibly being a little past his time, here’s a link to something I published at Hickory-High on January 7th. An Old Dog Named Larry.
AC: The proverbial elephant in the Target Center is Kevin Love's ability to opt out of his contract with Minnesota at the end of the 2014-15 season, and what that means for the stability and direction of the franchise. Often times over the past twelves months, the team, it’s fan base, and Love himself have become submerged in the media-led hysteria and paranoia of “what if…?” scenarios, and mesmerised by the romanticism of the notion of Love leaving for Los Angeles. What sort of a distraction has Kevin Love’s contract proven to be for Minny, and how realistic a possibility do you feel a Love exile might be?
Taylor remains but Kahn does not, Flip Saunders is running the show in Minnesota. He’s got plenty of support locally, his daughters attend the University of Minnesota (like their father) and Saunders also has more wins as coach of the Wolves than anyone else in team history. He also knows what it’s like to see a superstar player named Kevin walk out the door (Kevin Garnett, for those who have forgotten).
The problem is Rubio hasn’t played well enough to earn a max contract, and Love may still not have the help capable of getting to the playoffs, let alone compete for a championship. Saunders will be faced with the choice of either --
- Sell Love when he’s at his highest value
- Get Love everything he needs to win a championship
Rubio can improve, but he hasn’t stayed healthy - nor has the team - for long enough and we just can’t assess his progression because of all the small sample sizes up until this point.
Budinger has been short on nearly every shot, we haven’t seen him in two years. However, the return Bud and Turiaf puts veteran presence around Barea, Shved, and Cunningham. Shved and Budinger can space the floor for Barea, who can create off-the-dribble of P-&-R of either Turiaf or Cunningham. Barea has favored dumping balls off to Cunningham at the elbow (that’s his spot) and I think having more experienced players will ultimately help Shved’s development.
The bench is in a position to get better, will they? We’ll see. This question cannot be answered at this time.
The worry, Pek is playing a lot of minutes (33 per) -- he’s never done this in his life. The man is 295 pounds and I’m worried about his health in the long haul, for now, he’s our rock of stability in the low-block.
Thanks to Zachary for his time and words on the Timberwolves, I recommend everybody track his Wolves-centric wisdom, and especially recommend his writing over at Hickory-High.com.