“Life After Love”

Well, here we are. Life without Kevin Love is a growing possibility, although, despite all the same rumors from the same sources, he remains with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Cast Love aside for a minute, let’s look at what’s been built around him. The Timberwolves are fighting to refrain from encroaching the Luxury Tax.

From www.cbafaq.com, question #21; The luxury tax is a mechanism that helps control team spending. While it is commonly referred to as a “luxury tax,” the CBA simply calls it a “tax” or a “team payment.” It is paid by high spending teams — those with a team salary exceeding a predetermined tax level. These teams pay a penalty for each dollar their team salary (with a few exceptions) exceeds the tax level. The tax level is determined prior to the season.

On June 30th, 2014, which the current [13-14] season technically ends, these changes are certain.

  • Dante Cunningham becomes an unrestricted free-agent, unless he is resigned [unlikely], his time with the Wolves has ended.
  • Robbie Hummel‘s contract turns into a team option, he’ll have to make the 15-man roster to earn $1,016,482 throughout next season.

Current pieces

  • Nikola Pekovic will make $12,100,000 through the 2015-2016 season, and is due $11,600,00 in 2017-2018.
  • Kevin Martin is owed $6,792,500 for his services next season, $7,085,000 during ’15-’16, and $7,377,500 through the end of ’16-’17, before his contract expires.
  • Corey Brewer is due $4,702,500 this season, and $4,905,000 through ’15-’16.

Expiring Contracts that will become Unrestricted Free Agents, after the 2014-2015 season, and what they’ll be earning this year. These contracts are tradeable, for the recipient would only retain the player[s] for the upcoming season before they become free agents. However, Mbah a Moute is a one-way player, Barea, well — he’s Barea — and Turiaf struggled to stay healthy and is entering his 10th NBA season. Old, or overpaid, these players aren’t coveted by many other teams. 

  • J.J. Barea – $4,519,500
  • Luc Mbah a Moute – $4,382,576
  • Ronny Turiaf – $1,500,000

Rookies Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng will enter the second year of their rookie contracts. [[Shabazz -- $1,971,960, and Dieng -- $1,413,480]] Terms of rookie deals are dependent on when each player is drafted, in addition to the position as they are listed.

Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved will enter the final season of each of their first, NBA contracts, and will be dependent on the Wolves extended offers to keep them with the team beyond that. Rubio — $4,660,479, and Shved — $3,282,056.

Chase Budinger is contracted for the ’14-’15 season [$5,000,000] and can sign for an additional year at the same rate, next season, if he so chooses. He and Love have the same decision to make, assuming Love is with the Wolves for another year, at the end of next season.

Keeping things short-term, the Wolves will retain 11 players from last season — 12 including Love. Those 11 are due ~~ $50,325,051, collectively, through the ’14-’15 season. Throw Love’s $15,719,062 salary in there and you’ve got $66,044,113 in player-payouts. This leaves ~$5,703,887 to fill three roster slots and pay rookies acquired by way of the 2014 NBA Draft. So, assume those are fulfilled by Hummel [1,016,482] and two-draft selections.

The Wolves have the 13th overall selection, along with three, second round picks in the upcoming draft. Muhammad was selected at 14th overall, last season, and Dieng followed behind him in the opening round at 22. Together, those two were worth, a combined, 3,239,760 in their first year as NBA players. Because I can’t account for who the Wolves will elect in the draft, or future trades, signing Hummel and two draft selections for the noted prices would cost the team $4,256,242 next season — $1,447,645 under the Luxury Tax.

What if Kevin Love remains for the 2014-2015 season, only to sign somewhere else next Summer? There are a lot of variables involved here, so a lot of assuming is done when determining what the roster will look liking moving forward in the future. Love would be walking away from his one-year player option worth $16,744,218

  • Barea, Mbah a Moute, Turiaf all become unrestricted free agents. The Wolves drop $10,402,076 in salary
  • Budinger is retained, assuming he accepts his player-option [likely, very likely] +$5,000,000
  • Brewer, Martin and Pekovic are owed a collective $24,090,000 in ’15-’16
  • Assume Rubio is retained, but Shved is not offered a deal. The net of these two contracts in this scenario ~ +$2,621,160
  • Sign Shabazz and Dieng on rookie extensions + $3,531,360

We must account for the second year of the two, hypothetical rookies that have not been drafted — nor signed — to contracts as of yet. We determined their worth at $3,239,760 during year one. These contracts would pay each player more in their second season, but I’ll refrain from doing the math as the increase in their contracts will equal-out the salary cap expected increase.

If Love were to leave the Wolves next summer, he’d be leaving seven players worth ~$35,242,520. This number is $36,505,480 less than the current $71,748,000 Luxury Tax threshold. In this situation, Flip Saunders would need evaluate his remaining pieces and determine whether the plan is to structure around them — or go into rebuilding mode.

Assessing Assets. Let’s create a roster with the seven remaining players and determine needs.

PG – Rubio

SG – Kevin Martin

SF – Brewer, Muhammad

PF -

C – Pekovic, Dieng

With this $35,242,520, the Wolves may attempt to rebuild if free agency can provide competent pieces. Is this a potential core, assuming the Wolves are able to obtain a starting power-forward? For the sake of this hypothetical situation, looking at those who would be available (Current Age); Zach Randolph (32), LaMarcus Aldridge (28), Carlos Boozer (32) all pass the eye-test, but as mentioned earlier — a lot of assuming is involved. Yet, I’ll continue.

Realistically; Randolph is the most viable option of the three. Aldridge likely remains in Portland as a Blazer and Boozer will be amnestied by the Chicago Bulls this summer. Henceforth, he will likely be signed by a different team and will not be available. Randolph’s current contract is considered a $16,938,333 ‘Cap Hit’. That leaves $18,304,187 to bolster the roster with a backup SG and PG, and the 11th and 12th roster slots.

Considering the circumstances, it’d be unfair to speculate beyond where I’ve gone thus far. It’s also fair to assume that Flip Saunders has an abundance of things to consider moving forward, but the most significant decision will be the first shoe that drops. First, Saunders must determine the fate of Kevin Love.

There are 29-days until the NBA Draft, and Glen Taylor was quoted saying the Timberwolves wouldn’t trade Love before the draft — but much, much more has been said — so we’ll have to see where things land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what I know about the Kevin Love situation, I think.

klovesad

JORDAN JOHNSON/GETTY IMAGES

In 2012, Minnesota Timberwolves Owner Glen Taylor and General Manager David Kahn agreed it would be best to sign Kevin Love to a four-year, $61 million dollar, contract, as opposed to a five-year deal worth a projected $80 million. He hadn’t performed well, nor often, enough to be considered an elite player worthy of a max-deal ala Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, all members of the 2008 draft class. Rose and Westbrook received five-year deals with their respective teams, but the same was not true for Love with the Timberwolves.

Love has yet to lead the Wolves to the playoffs. However, the consequences of not securing one of the league’s top-10 players started to linger over the heads of fans over the weekend after Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News published a column over the weekend, stating the following.

“Kevin Love’s people reiterated to the Timberwolves this past week that they had better trade him or else he’ll leave via free agency when his contract is up after next season. With Love looking to exit, there’s your No. 1 reason the T-wolves have not been able to find a head coach to take over for Rick Adelman. Love wants to play for the Lakers but he’s also open to coming to the Knicks”

I don’t know how long Lawrence has covered the NBA, but I hadn’t known of his existence until reading this ‘report.’ Seeing how I was a little skeptical, I found Lawrence on Twitter and exposed his account for my followers to see. Turns out someone besides myself had a few questions.

“Love wants out”. Just another baseless claim made by a writer nobody has ever heard of that’s based in the largest media-market of them all, New York City.

AP Sports Guy is a moniker for Jon Krawczynski, an NBA writer for Associated Press based in Minneapolis.

Wojnarowski dropped on of his trademarked WojBombs around 3:00AM [CST], Sunday, that a rival executive told Yahoo Sports; “For the first time, [Flip Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option.”

The gig is up. 

– Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, or “Woj,” is reputable, he’s definitely a high-profile journalist — in my opinion. At the very least, I take the work of Wojnarowski seriously — however — he’s been wrong with claims regarding Minnesota Timberwolves before.

Earlier this season, as trade-deadline loomed nearer, Wojnarowski reported the following.

As you’re probably aware, for reasons that remain unclear, no deal between the Wolves and Grizzlies occurred this season.

“We’re proceeding the same way, that Kevin is part of our team, that we have,” Saunders told WCCO, early Sunday morning, “You’re always trying to get your team better. There have been reports we’re actively trying to trade him, which isn’t true. What we’re actively trying to do is get our team better. When you do that, you look to see what’s out there no matter what it is or for anybody. We’re a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years. We’ve got to get better.”

[this according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune]

Later that day.

Glen Taylor was confronted about the idea of trading Love if someone made a compelling enough offer, just before the Minnesota Lynx took the home floor for the first time this season. Taylor said he doesn’t expect a deal to be made by the draft, nor has he discussed the idea of trading Love, with Saunders. Taylor also states that Love has not asked for or told the team to trade him. Read the column from the Star Tribune by clicking this link.

Leaky Pipes.

In the relatively short time I’ve covered Flip Saunders, I’ve learned a few things about the way he describes himself, and the way he does business. ‘Flip’ gives the impression he’s a guy always on the phone, continually conjuring transactions and scenarios within his basketball mind that would make his team better.

It look very little time for the Wolves to trade Derrick Williams for Luc Mbah a Moute, earlier this season. A column from ESPN 1500 explains that the Wolves President of Basketball Operations believed it was time to move on — but it’s this quote from Saunders that seemed to illuminate a little on his mentality working in an NBA front-office.

“What you have to do is you to look at what is the value where you’re at?” Saunders said. “What’s the value going to be at in two months? What’s the value going to be at the trade deadline? What’s it going to be next year? I just didn’t foresee Derrick being able to play much, and if a guy isn’t playing, usually your value isn’t going to go up.”

A few months ago, Saunders spoke with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd. Cowherd, of course, poked the bear by asking about questions about Love’s future in Minnesota.

Cowherd: Do you feel more empowered, or powerless, with a star player that other [specifically big-market] teams are interested in.

Saunders: “Well, I laugh. One, having had, conversations with Kevin –maybe– every week. Having a pretty good relationship with him, you understand where he’s at. There are many things that have been said about the, “Glamour Situations,” but, whereas Kevin said (referring to his recent quote in GQ Magazine); it might not be so glamourous.

“You know good players are going to be wanted. That really comes with the business, so, when you have a player that’s wanted by people; people are going to talk about them because that’s what goes on.”

 

Over the weekend and into Monday, an abundance of rumors, potential trade sceneries, and all-sorts of discussion have has swirled around Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Until Wojnarowski’s report, there had been no serious indication that Love would be on the trading block this summer.

Who we can trust remains to be seen.

I’ll reiterate that Taylor said the Wolves would not trade Love ‘by the draft,’ and I’m inclined to believe him. I’m also led to believe Saunders wouldn’t allow his greatest asset to walk away without determining its value, first.

This could all change if the right offer lands on the table, something rumors usually tend to induce. If somebody makes an offer that’s impossible to refuse, sure, I expect the Wolves to take it. However, the way I believe those close to the situation go about their business — I don’t think Love leaves Minnesota for another team this summer.

[From the Star Tribune column linked earlier]

Glen Taylor was asked in April if he now considers the decision to offer Love only the contract the team did a big mistake. He paused for five seconds before answering.

“Let’s wait one more year to answer that question,” Taylor said then. “I think it’s a good question to ask at this point because Kevin has played as well as we hoped, and maybe even better. To have him tied up long-term probably would be better than not, but we still have one more year and we’ll see. My hope is it doesn’t make any difference.”

Snow Falls in Minneapolis, Wolves Fall to Jazz; 130-136

Well, it’s over now.

Last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves dropped the season finale to the Utah Jazz, at home, and it was possibly Rick Adelman’s last game as an NBA Head Coach. What you would think would be a passionate, emotional, send-off type of performance, honoring one of the league’s greatest coaches, turned out to be just-another, underwhelming performance that ended in disappointment.

It’s been openly suggested, myself included, that Adelman may have lost the proverbial coaches-spirit long ago. The type of passion, necessary to spark an inspired, second-half run into the postseason was just not something the 68 year old was capable of doing. There are other variables at play, like player-performance and things like luck, but ultimately I believe Adelman is going to be pegged with many of the things that went awry this season. I also believe we’re going to find out that last night’s game against the Jazz was, indeed, his last game as the Wolves coach. [Read more...]

Wounded Warriors Battle Wolves, Minnesota Falls Late…..Again…

Entering Monday night’s game against the Warriors, the Minnesota Timberwolves sat on the .500 hump with two games remaining in the season. Their final opponent, the Utah Jazz, will venture to Target Center and face the Wolves on fan appreciation night. Combine the sentimental night with the notion that the Jazz have no intention, nor ability to go about winning that game — if there was a moral victory to attain it would be in the Bay Area, Monday.

The Warriors were without Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, which meant Gorgui Dieng would be the only one protecting the rim as these two, uptempo, high-scoring offenses took the floor.

First Half.

The Wolves jumped all-over the Warriors in the early going. When in the process of doubling-up GSW by the 7:10 mark in the game — 24-12 — Kevin Love buried four three’s, accounting for 16 of the Wolves total-points at that time. Conversely; as well as things seemed to be going, Stephen Curry’s status as an alien proved critical during the first quarter as he matched Love for each three-pointer that Wolves’ all-everything forward connected on. For the sixth time this season the Wolves scored 40+ points during the first frame. They led by 14; 42-28, heading into the second, but the Golden Curry’s had nearly caught the Minnesota Love’s, and the double-digit lead dissipated into a measly two points — Curry tallied 23 while Love racked up 26 points — during the final minutes of the first half.

Second Half.

While it felt as if Curry was going to keep the Warriors in the game, the Wolves didn’t — and haven’t really done so at all this season — to assert themselves as the team that would ultimately win the game. As I watched the Warriors broadcast during the third quarter (no offense, Dave, Jim and Alan) the phrases, such as “there’s no desire to play any defense, this isn’t basketball,” used to describe the Wolves effort outside of scoring were quite entertaining. Usually, these type of things would irritate myself, or the common fan, but when there’s very little remaining to aspire to other than winning — sometimes teams will only look to outscore their opponents.

This was certainly the case, last night.

The bright side in the Wolves, 120-130, defeat at the hands of the Warriors — Kevin Love. Love surpassed Kevin Garnett on the all-time single season scoring list, adding his name to another to the top of another list of franchise records. However, most of the story within the game was just like a majority of other outings this season; bench woes, injuries, and questionable rotations kept the Wolves from jockeying for position to pull-ahead of Golden State before the game was over. No Wolves bench player tallied a double-digit point total, Love, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin played a majority of the third quarter (and the fourth; overuse) and the absence of a floor-stretching “Three and D[efence]” player all factored into, yet another, close loss.

Tomorrow, in Minneapolis, at Target Center the Wolves have a chance to end the season on a high-note against an abysmal opponent. There’s an uncertain future, with potentially cataclysmic possibilities in-terms of personnel restructure, but things will ultimately be O.K. The 40 win season is arguably the best the team’s had since the departure of Garnett, who was the only superstar to play for the franchise prior to the arrival of Kevin Love.

Three Stars

  • Kevin Love [man] — 40 points, 14 rebounds, and the new Timberwolves all-time single season record holder for points scored.
  • Gorgui Dieng – 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field, in addition to grabbing 11 rebounds. Jim Peterson mentioned during the broadcast this point — “If you were to redraft, last summer’s draft, at the end of the year — when does Dieng go off the board? The expectations will only grow during the offseason, higher than they already are, so it’s important to remember that he’s still a young, developing player — but man — we can enjoy what he’s brought us, thus far.
  • Stephen Curry – He’s an alien that scored 32 points and dished out 15 assist. Needless to mention, he’s the only player that I will look back upon and feel sorrow in remembrance of the Wolves failing to draft the guy. Not to bring up the negative of things, but this could ultimately be one of the game’s best scoring point-guards to ever play in the NBA.

Kings Overcome Love’s 43 points, Defeat Wolves 106-103

The Kings held off a tremendous individual performance by Kevin Love and went on to defeat the Wolves in Sacramento, thanks largely to the play of their man in the middle, DeMarcus Cousins. Despite leading by as many as 11 in the third quarter and getting 30 second-half points from K-Love, the Wolves fell to 16-24 on the road this season and dropped yet another game to a team that will be vying for a top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Between Love and center Gorgui Dieng, the Wolves’ starting frontcourt recorded 64 points and 25 rebounds. However, Corey Brewer (2-8 FG), Ricky Rubio (0-4 FG) and Kevin Martin (0-8 FG) combined for a lousy 12 points which went a long ways towards nullifying the exceptional performances of Love and Dieng.

The lengthy Ricky Rubio matched up against the shifty 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas, and failed to score a single point in 32 minutes while notching 11 assists. Despite possessing a significant size advantage, Ricky lacked aggressiveness on the offensive end as shown by his zero free throws attempted. Thomas, on the other end, had an off-game himself but was still able to weather through the storm and got the better of the matchup posting 14 points (6-13 FG) and 4 assists in 30 minutes.

After being taken with the 7th overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, Ben McLemore fell way short of expectations this season as he recorded horrific advanced statistics despite having started 54 games and playing an average of 26.5 minutes per night. Having a reputation as a dynamic scorer coming out of Kansas, McLemore has shot just 37% from the field while sporting a 7.45 PER (15 is indicative of “average”). With how terribly this rookie season has gone for him, he had every reason to be nonexistent in Sunday night’s game against Minnesota. Instead, he came out and had one of his best performances of the season. McLemore made Martin look like the struggling rookie, scoring 19 points on 6-11 shooting (3-6 3pt) while turning the ball over only once. On the defensive end, he held Martin to only 2 points.

McLemore and Cousins combined to make four big free throws in the final 12 seconds, ultimately solidifying a 106-103 win for the Kings. Cousins led the way for Sacramento with 35 points (13-21 FG), 15 rebounds and 6 assists in 37 minutes. He was able to help the struggling Kings overcome a monster 43-point, 11-rebound performance from the superstar Love and showed glimpses as to why he is on his own path to superstardom. Despite his huge performance, he disqualified himself from Sacramento’s upcoming final game of the season after being called for his 16th technical foul of the season late in the fourth quarter. Due to NBA rules, Cousins must sit out the team’s final regular season game against Phoenix on Wednesday.

The Wolves will travel to Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors tonight at

Three Stars of the Game

  1. DeMarcus Cousins
  2. Kevin Love
  3. Ben McLemore

Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Final Week

 

Happier times for the Wolves 'big three' (Jim Mone/Associated Press).

Happier times for the Wolves ‘big three’ (Jim Mone/Associated Press).

Setting the stage:

Well, the end is near for our Timberpups.  The Wolves will not advance to the NBA Playoffs for the tenth straight season.  This is turning into quite the rebuild huh?  The Wolves have three games this week counting tonight’s match-up in Sacramento, tomorrow night’s game in the Bay Area and then one final game at Target Center against Utah Wednesday night.

Fans, this is likely your last opportunity to see Rick Adelman on the sidelines for the Wolves.  Who will be the next coach?  Will Flip Saunders be on the sidelines next season or will he be able to grab someone from the college ranks like Fred Hoiberg or Tom Izzo.  I would be ecstatic with either of those choices from college and mortified if Flip takes over as head coach.  Do you have any off-the-radar guesses or suggestions?

Onwards to the last three games of the 2013/14 season for the Timberwolves.  Can the team win at least one of the final three to lock in a .500 record?  Can they win two of three to finish over .500?

Game 80: Sunday, 4/13, 8pm – Timberpups @ Sacramento Kings (TV: FSN Plus)

The Kings come into Sunday’s game with a 27-53 record, having lost to the Clippers in LA on Saturday night.

Opponent to watch:

DeMarcus Cousins – While I ripped the Kings at the beginning of the season to the contract they gave Cousins, he has produced this season, leading the team in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks (22.6, 11.7, 1.5, and 1.3 respectively).  It hasn’t led to many wins though …

Predictions:

The Wolves take advantage of the Kings playing on back to back nights and guarantee themselves a .500 record for the season.  Final score: Timberwolves 108, Kings 101

Game 81: Monday, 4/14, 9:30pm – Timberpups @ Golden State Warriors (TV: FS North & NBA TV)

The Warriors are moving on to the playoffs it is just a matter of where they will be seeded with a 49-30 record going into Sunday night’s game in Portland.

Opponent to watch:

Stephen Curry – One last opportunity this season (until the playoffs start) for Wolves’ fans to curse David Kahn and his selection of Jonny Flynn over Curry.  Steph hasn’t missed a game this season and leads the Warriors in points, assists, and steals.  I would go into more detail but don’t feel like lighting myself on fire right now.

Predictions:

The Warriors will want to go into the playoffs playing good basketball and this game should be entertaining to watch.  I predict a barn burner – Final score: Warriors 124, Timberwolves 115

Game 82: Wednesday, 4/16, 7pm – Utah Jazz @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Nothing like closing the season with a win at home, right?  Right?!  The worst team in the Western Conference (although the Lakers are trying) visits the Target Center as we say “goodbye” to the Timberwolves’ season, and potentially “so long” to Rick Adelman.

Opponent to watch:

Not Applicable – For the final game of the season, let’s focus on the Wolves and not the opponent.  We’re talking about a bland Jazz team anyway.

Let’s give thanks to Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic for putting up all-star caliber numbers.  As an added bonus, Gorgui Dieng looks like a very strong third wheel for the Wolves moving forward, specifically as a defensive replacement when one is needed.

Here is to hoping that Ricky Rubio makes the much needed leap in the offseason and that we have a new backup PG behind him next season.  Finally, let’s hope that Flip can find a wing or two in order to upgrade the roster beyond Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, and/or Shabazz Muhammad.

Predictions:

Minnesota sends Wolves Nation home with a positive memory.  If they lose in Sacramento and Golden State, there will be some heavy motivation for the team to finish at .500.  If they win at least one of those games on the road, there is still motivation to finish on a positive note at home.  Final score: Timberwolves 104, Jazz 89

Wrap-up:

After recapping these final games for our Pups, we’ll be putting together thoughts on how the players looked this past season and what the team needs to do in order to finally get back into the playoffs.  For now, let’s go Wolves!

 

 

Corey Brewer Owns the Night – Timberwolves 112, Rockets 110

It's your world Corey Brewer, we're just living in it!  (Photo: Timberwolves.com)

It’s your world Corey Brewer, we’re just living in it!
(Photo: Timberwolves.com)

It feels like every Friday night the Timberwolves are back to .500 ball, entering tonight’s game against the Houston Rockets at 39-39.  The Rockets entered the game at 52-26 and in the 4th seed of the Western Conference, battling to maintain home court advantage in the first round with the Portland Blazers.

The Wolves announced that Kevin Love would not be in the lineup tonight with a hyper extended elbow.  Add in the injuries to Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and Chase Budinger and you have quite the recipe for “let’s end this season without any further injuries please”.  With all of those names out, the starting lineup consisted of Rubio, Brewer, Hummel, Cunningham, and Dieng.  Call me old fashioned, but it still doesn’t sit well with me that Dante Cunningham is in the lineup at all, let alone starting for the team at this point.  The Rockets opened up the game with Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, and Omer Asik.

First Half

If you were looking for someone to get off to a hot start for the Timberwolves, I hope you had your eyes (and money?) on Corey Brewer.  Brewer finished the 1st quarter with 16 points, leading the Wolves to a 39-32 advantage at the end of the first twelve minutes.  The Wolves actually held a 15 point lead with just about 90 seconds to go in the opening frame, but the Rockets closed the quarter on a 10-2 run, including a Jeremy Lin three pointer at the buzzer.

As goes the story of this season for our Pups, the end of the 1st quarter was a nice foreshadow of things to come in the 2nd quarter.  The Rockets stormed all the way back to take the lead about halfway through the quarter.  Going into a timeout around this same time, we saw Ricky Rubio holding his hand in pain and checked out of the game.  That pretty much sums up this season perfectly.  Thankfully, Rubio returned minutes later to close out the half.  (Phew)

At the half of this offensive juggernaut of a game, the Rockets held a 63-59 lead.  Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • Brewer … Wow!  26 points, which included a ~50 footer at the buzzer to cut into the Rockets lead!
  • Remember when David Kahn had Chandler Parsons on the Wolves?  Apparently, he does too.  18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
  • LRMAM and JJ Barea were -16 and -13 respectively in the first half.  Add in Ronny Turiaf’s -10 and you can sum this up with “bench play …”

Second Half

Normally, I would prefer to give a “how it happened” type of recap throughout the final 24 minutes of the game.  However, tonight was one of those nights and I’m not talking about this being my last recap of the season.  Tonight was special.  Why?

Corey Brewer went off.  Way off.  Off to the tune of 51 points and absolutely erupting the Target Center crowd.  Corey has been maligned since he was drafted by the Wolves many years ago and a number of fans hated when Flip resigned him to come back to Minnesota.  Tonight felt like a little bit of redemption and it is exactly why you should still attend NBA games even if your team is out of the playoff race.  Corey was 19-30 from the field, 11-15 from the FT line and added in 6 steals for good measure.

The final score of tonight’s events: Timberwolves 112, Rockets 110

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Corey Brewer – Obviously
  2. Gorgui Dieng – Somewhat unheralded given what was going on tonight, Dieng hit the final shot of the game to give the Wolves
    the win and finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds.
  3. Chandler Parsons – Huge game for Chandler who finished with 27 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals 

Key Takeaways

  • The only reason this game was still in doubt was the Timberwolves poor shooting from the FT line (27-40) and from 3PT range (3-12)
  • Ricky Rubio and Dante Cunningham each had double-doubles on the evening and they were both needed, as the Wolves got close to nothing from their bench tonight.
  • Congratulations to Corey Brewer once again for his 50+ point performance, a night he will never forget!

You want more …

Corey Brewer now averages 10.0 PPG, 5th-lowest career scoring average among players with 50 points in a game in NBA history. (@EliasSports)

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 12, 2014

Adelman on Brewer: "Theydidn't know what to do with him. And we didn't, either." #Twolves

— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) April 12, 2014

Wolves Fall to Bulls at Home 102-87

With only 5 games remaining in their 2013-14 campaign and the playoffs out of reach, the Wolves hosted the Bulls on Wednesday night. Led by Joakim Noah‘s fourth triple-double of the season, Chicago had little difficulty putting away a lackadaisical Wolves squad and out-scored Minnesota 54-34 in the second half.

Chicago has found a bright spot in D.J. Augustin, a former number-9 overall pick whose career had sputtered after stints with Charlotte, Indiana, and Toronto. A sharp-shooter coming out of Texas, Augustin had trouble getting acclimated to the NBA due to his lack of strength and questionable decision-making as a point guard. It appears that those concerns are behind him now with the mentorship of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, and Augustin has provided the Derrick Rose-less Bulls with a much-needed scoring punch off the bench that has the team vying for the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Wolves were without Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin, J.J. Barea, and Shabazz Muhammad on Wednesday night and dealt with even more problems after Kevin Love hyper-extended his elbow in the first half. Despite having a favorable match-up against Carlos Boozer, Love made only 7 of his 20 shot attempts and was noticeably off.

Playing 30 minutes off of the bench, Augustin scored 21 points on 8-14 shooting while knocking down 4 of his 7 three-point attempts. The Wolves as a whole converted on only 4 of their 17 three point tries. While Augustin made mincemeat of Minnesota’s defense, no player was more outstanding than Noah. With Rose constantly sidelined due to injury, Noah has elevated his game to new heights and notched his league-leading fourth triple-double of the season on Wednesday night with 15 points (7-13 FG), 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a game-high 41 minutes of action.

Six Bulls scored at least 13 points and they went on to handily defeat the Wolves 102-87. Minnesota is set to host the Houston Rockets Friday night at 7pm CT.

Two Games, One Season, Many Outlooks

Spreak Break in Florida? 

Only fitting, the Minnesota Timberwolves ventured across the state of Florida — from South Beach to Orlando — shortly following last Friday’s thrilling, uplifting victory over the defending champion Miami Heat.

Yes, the Wolves had won a game against arguably basketballs greatest team. However, they were going to need another breakout performance from role players, such as Chase Budinger’s 24 point output in Miami, if they were going to take care of business against one of the league’s worst the following evening. Well, after Budinger went down in the first minute against the Magic, things went awry quickly and never went the way they were supposed to.

Just when it seemed the Wolves had attained some hope, rhythm, and excitement nearing the end of another disappointing season, the proverbial sky was getting darker and the light that shined on the team, via local media outlets, was glooming dark overhead, again. Timberpups did not report on the Daunt Cunningham arrests over the weekend because the legal process has a right to run it’s course, NBA players are apart of the union, and the Wolves did not suspend Cunningham after either arrest. Flip Saunders, in particular, receives the most heat for this decision. He could very easily de-activate Cunningham, but it would be a paid-leave as the team cannot take disciplinary action until he is convicted in a court of law.

He met the team in Orlando, but because the Wolves were without Kevin Martin, Kevin Love, Shabazz Muhammad, and Budinger, for all-but one minute of the game, the efforts of Cunningham and the active Wolves were performed in futility. The Magic avenged a loss from earlier this season, the Wolves opener — 100-92.

Tuesday, back at Target Center

The headlines focused on Cunningham up until Rick Adelman’s pregame presser, when it was announced that Cunningham would be dressed and available to play in Tuesday’s make-up game against the San Antonio Spurs. However, after tip-off, all of the negative light shed on the situation diminished, the Minnesota Wild were competing for their postseason lives across town, and a basketball game — that was never supposed to be played — started with very little looking-on from the seats at Target Center.

Nickola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, and Shabazz Muhammad were all out, albeit Martin was dressed to play whereas the others sported classy suits. Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, Gorgui Dieng welcomed Robbie Hummel to the starting lineup for the first time since the season’s early goings. The Wolves, who had underachieved in the game following an inspirational victory of the prolific Heat (…), faced another one of the league’s best in the machine that is the San Antonio Spurs.

Tony Parker was sidelined, leaving Corey Joseph to start at point guard — he was accompanied by Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw. The Spurs machine usually just plugs-and-plays it’s components as necessary and rarely misses a beat, but Gregg Popovich may have elected to cut the power once they arrived in Minneapolis.

First Half

The Wolves took the lead and never looked back. Rubio led the way in scoring throughout the opening quarter with nine points, he also had two assists but those were negated by two-turnovers. Love, who, dare I say has struggled by his standards as of late, continued to clank the iron and shot only one for seven from the field during the opening frame. Despite the struggle to score, Love’s refined his passing throughout the year as a point of Adelman’s emphasis, and he tallied three assists passing out of the high post and Wolves led the Spurs, 27-19, after the first.

It was Rubio and Brewer that carried the offense throughout the first half, as they combined for 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting from the field. Brewer added three steals that contributed to easy buckets in transition. The Wolves had captured a 20 point lead on a virtually non-existent Spurs club that showed no interest in trying to win the game. Minnesota allowed just 34 first half points, the second-least points scored by a Wolves opponent in a half this season (Utah, 23 in 1st half on Jan. 18). On the night, the Spurs shot only 4-of-17 from three-point range, and they were 0-for-6 in the first half alone. This is a testament to the Wolves effort to contest shots, making everything as difficult as possible for the already lackadaisical visiting opponent.

Second Half 

The Wolves were outscored by the Spurs during the second half, but the margin was a single point and if you’re doing the math at home you’d know that it wasn’t enough to make a difference. San Antonio was flat, and the Wolves played with the same intensity that the State of Hockey’s team was doing across the way in St. Paul. The Pups weren’t performing in front of a very large audience, and the effort they played with on the court was reflective of a team that wanted to win in order to sustain their own moral moving forward.

Love and Rubio combined for 20 in the third, but dissipated bench failed to score. The Spurs, behind eight points in the frame provided by the short-statured Patty Mills, matched and surpassed the Wolves scoring output during the frame. Yet, the game looked emotionless as both teams were content just going through the motions. This inexplicably, and inspirationally, changed during the fourth as the bench could be season screaming, cheering, and applauding the effort of their brethren who were looking to put the hammer down on San Antonio before the game was over.

Ronnie Turiaf hammered home two, alley-oop dunks within the final five minutes, a heavy-hearted Cunningham seeked to score unruly baskets within the final minute, and Othyus Jeffers even entered the game on the same day as he was signed to, yet another, 10-day contract.

The Wolves defeated the Spurs by 19, and what was most impressive about the victory is that they did it for themselves. There was no sold-out stadium, no role of spoiler to fulfil, and no playoff hopes to sustain going forward. With nothing left to play for, the Wolves did everything they could to win — and with the uncertainty that is this team’s future — that’s the most illuminating thing to take away from the weekend, and into Wednesday.

Three Stars

  • Ricky Rubio — 23 points on 10 of 17 shooting. He’s progressed, and more importantly, stayed healthy, throughout the year and seems to be improving in certain areas, offensively. I don’t currently have the stats to back it up, but expect a post on it soon.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute — 11 points, 5 of 7 shooting from the field — nice to see him getting playing time against solid opponents like we saw against Miami and last night.
  • Ronnie Turiaf — LOVE his energy, but it’s been missing on-the-court for most of the season. If there’s anyone that can keep this locker room glued going forward, it’s this guy. Seeing him score 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting, including his emphatic reactions to slams during the final quarter.

 

Timberwolves Fall on the Road to Lowly Magic, 100-92

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Game Summary

Just a day removed from a thrilling double-OT victory against the Miami Heat, the Timberwolves traveled to nearby Amway Arena on Saturday night to face an Orlando Magic team that will be picking near the top of the lottery once again this summer. With the playoffs out of reach, Kevin Love (back spasms), Kevin Martin (foot) and Shabazz Muhammad (knee) had a chance to rest their various ailments while the bench got extended run.

Dante Cunningham filled in for Love in the starting lineup and played 34 minutes despite being released from prison nearly 24 hours before the game. Cunningham was charged Friday with one felony count of domestic assault by strangulation after choking his girlfriend of eight months during a domestic altercation. The Timberwolves organization released a statement Friday concerning the charges:

We are aware of the matter involving Dante Cunningham and are in the process of gathering more information…The Minnesota Timberwolves organization takes the matter very seriously and does not condone the type of behavior that is associated with this situation. However, we need to let the legal process run its course, and will have further comment at the appropriate time.”

Under the NBA’s labor agreement with its players, the Wolves will wait until the legal process unfolds with Cunningham before suspension or any other sort of disciplinary measures are brought by the team and/or league. Cunningham will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and there is a high likelihood that these next few weeks will be the last that he is spotted wearing a Timberwolves uniform.

Following a season-best performance in which he netted 24 points which included 5-7 shooting from beyond the arc, Chase Budinger was forced to leave after the first minute of the contest due to an ankle injury and was unable to return. In his place, seldom-used forwards Robbie Hummel and Luc Mbah a Moute played extended minutes with each getting over 30 minutes a piece.

The Wolves led the Magic 48-46 after the first half. Led by Ricky Rubio taking advantage of a porous Orlando defense, the Wolves built upon their lead in the third quarter and led 72-59 at the 4:45 mark. However, the momentum soon shifted when Rubio went to the bench for a breather as youngsters Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris helped the Magic inch back within 77-72 heading into the final quarter.

Orlando outscored Minnesota 28-15 in the fourth and ended the game on a 10-1 run, ultimately defeating the Wolves 100-92 for their 22nd win of the season. Oladipo and Harris had near identical nights coming off the bench as each player was a +26 on the floor while each shot 7-12 from the field. Oladipo finished with 16 points and 6 assists while Harris tallied 17 points to go along with 6 rebounds.

With their primary scorers out, Rubio was forced to take on a larger offensive role and attempted 18 field goals, converting 7 of them on his way to a game-high 18 points and 10 assists in 33 minutes. Gorgui Dieng continued to build upon a tremendous past three weeks and he finished with 12 points (5-9 FG), 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 36 minutes.

Minnesota lacked aggressiveness against a clearly inferior opponent on Saturday night. The Wolves held nearly every advantage statistically as they committed only 13 turnovers to the Magic’s 23 while Orlando committed 23 personal fouls to only 10 by Minnesota. However, the Magic out-rebounded the Wolves 40-30 while netting 9 of their 17 three-point attempts. Minnesota, conversely, shot a ghastly 1-15 from long range.

The Wolves (38-38) are set to host the first-place San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night and have just six games remaining for the 2013-14 season.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Victor Oladipo
  2. Tobias Harris
  3. Ricky Rubio