The Timberwolves conclude their six game homestand Friday night with a visit from the NY Knicks. The homestand has not been very successful, as the team has only been able to pull out one victory thus far. Adding insult to injury, literally, is the announcement that Andrei Kirilenko will miss Friday’s game with his quad injury. Earlier Friday, the team announced that they waived Lou Amundson and resigned Gelabale and Johnson for the remainder of the season.
The Knicks come into Friday’s game off of a surprising loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. I was hoping they would be asleep at the wheel for tonight’s game, but that loss was probably enough of a wakeup call. The Knicks hold a 3 game lead over the Nets in the Atlantic division and are 1.5 games behind Miami for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
This week, we continue our Q&A format for Friday night game previews with Knicks blogger Matt Shelter from Buckets Over Broadway.
Here’s our Q&A …
Knicks Question #1 for Matt:
The Knicks are in first place in the Atlantic division and right there with Miami for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Are they exceeding your expectations this season? If you could only select one or two key reasons for the team’s success thus far, what would it/they be?
I would say first of all, everyone has bought into what Mike Woodson is selling, and most importantly that includes Carmelo Anthony, who looks like he is finally getting what it takes to not only lead a team, but most importantly what it takes to play winning team basketball. Secondly, their depth is an asset. Woodson can go 10 deep or more on any given night, which a lot of teams can’t do. Also throw a hat tip to Raymond Felton, who plays his best basketball in a Knicks’ jersey. It is hard to underestimate his value to this team.
Pups Question #1 for John:
The expectations were high coming into the season. I had the ‘Wolves pegged as a playoff team. How disappointing is this season to ‘Wolves fans?
This season has been brutal. Expectations were sky high and the playoffs were well within range. The onslaught of injuries makes this season feel like a four month long episode of Punk’d. I’m half expecting Kevin Love to rip off his warm-ups and have a Lakers jersey on and turn heel.
All kidding aside, it has been rough to watch this team fall apart. They were able to tread water early without Love and Rubio. When Love came back from his first hand injury they started to float above water and greener pastures were awaiting with the return of Rubio. Unfortunately, it has all been flushed away with injuries to just about every single person on the roster. Love is out again, Budinger was phenomenal before going down, Roy’s knee is acting up (he’s done), Josh Howard going down for the season, and the handful or more games missed by just about every single other person. Not fun times.
Knicks Question #2 for Matt:
Given that they are the oldest team in the league (average age of 31.3), do you fear that the Knicks will start to show some of the wear and tear on their body as the season moves towards the playoffs?
Yes and no. Given their age, we have already seen guys like Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd suffer through injuries, but as I mentioned before, the Knicks have extraordinary depth. Now that Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert are healthy, Woodson will be able to limit their minutes to keep their legs fresh for the postseason.
Pups Question #2 for John:
The Knicks have had their share of injuries, but no team in the NBA has been as beat up as Minnesota. You can’t make excuses for injuries, but how good is this team if they are completely healthy?
They are definitely a playoff team in my mind, even in a very crowded Western Conference. With a perfectly healthy roster (or a lack of significant injuries over the course of the season) this year’s team was a 7 or 8 seed in the conference, given Rubio’s delayed return from his ACL tear. With a minor move before the deadline (Barea or Ridnour, or Derrick Williams) they could have moved up a bit further.
Next season – which is a familiar phrase for Wolves fans – will be critical. They need to resign Pekovic to stay on track, but they absolutely have to make the necessary tweaks to make the playoffs and “appease” Love and Rubio in an effort to have any chance of keeping those two around long term. With an upgrade at SG added to this roster, they could (not will, but could) make a deep run in the playoffs.
Knicks Question #3 for Matt:
Do you expect the Knicks to move Amare Stoudemire before the trading deadline? Do you expect the team to make any moves at all before the deadline? If so, what are you hearing could be in the pipeline?
First of all, Stoudemire isn’t going anywhere. Before his recent stretch of good play, the Knicks would have given him away for free for cap relief, but no team in the NBA will take on his salary with his injury history, especially with the new CBA. The Knicks need to add another big body, especially with Camby and Wallace on the shelf, but the problem is that they have 15 guaranteed contracts and would have to release someone and eat the contract even to sign a free agent like Kenyon Martin. That isn’t going to happen. The funny thing about winning for a change is that you aren’t linked to many players as the trade deadline approaches. The only player they have been linked to has been Lou Amundson and they aren’t going to mess with their roster to bring him in. My gut feeling is what you see is what you get.
Pups Question #3 for John:
Similar question. Do you see Minnesota making any moves and will they eventually be forced to move Kevin Love?
I expect the Wolves will try to move Ridnour (as rumored already), but I would prefer they try to move Barea. They may have already tried this path and come to the realization that they can’t. That said, I don’t expect any big moves from the team, especially when they continue to fall in the standings and out of the playoff race.
As mentioned earlier, I do expect them to make a few significant moves in the offseason though. That has to start with resigning Pekovic and then quickly finding a new home for Derrick Williams and Ridnour or Barea – if that isn’t already taken care of by that point.
While I would love to say that Kevin will be a lifetime Timberwolf, I just don’t see it happening. I fully expect him to opt-out of his contract and/or alert the team that this is going to be his decision, allowing the front office to find some type of package for him. By no means is this going to end well.
We hope you enjoyed the preview for this Friday’s match-up between the Pups and the Knicks. Again, you can read more from Matt at Buckets Over Broadway and follow him on Twitter. You can read more from John on Timberpups.com and/or follow him on Twitter as well.