The KG Celebration as Kevin Garnett Returns to Twolves

Kevin Garnett returns to the Timberwolves - what does that mean to me? (AP Photo)

Kevin Garnett returns to the Timberwolves – what does that mean to me? (AP Photo)

 

A new edition to the Timberpups.com staff is Don Ackerman – several of which you may know from the TwolvesArmy (Facebook and Twitter).  Don’s first piece below is a unique perspective on the return of KG to the Target Center.  Please welcome Don to the Pups team!

Game 1

The day KG was traded, I started imagining the day we could celebrate his years as a Timberwolves player. I imagined the day he would return and we would celebrate his number heading into the rafters. It would be a great night.  But, I never expected to have last night’s moment. I didn’t imagine Kevin Garnett being traded back to Minnesota. Instead of a great night, it was glorious.

It was glorious because we didn’t get to say goodbye and thank you. We got to say thank you and welcome back! This was the best atmosphere at a Wolves game since “The Season” (Wolves fan know well that year!).  The best part is that this atmosphere was all about the Wolves. I’m not even sure the opponent was introduced. Did the Wizards appear? Usually, the hype at Target Center is about Kobe, LeBron, Durant, Curry, or maybe even for a team like the Spurs. But Wednesday was all about KG.

This was more than basketball. This was not a game; this was a Celebration!

The Wolves started slowly (#PartyHangover) and I didn’t care. When KG blocked his first shot, the night was complete! What happened next was irrelevant.  With the Celebration in full swing, what happened next couldn’t have been better for the Timberwolves franchise. The Wolves, originally down 1-13 (yes, one measly point), turned it around and at halftime, had tied the game.

Halftime was a bonus. It was fun and was a great surprise to see Montell Jordan perform. I’ve been hearing “This is How We Do It” since the game ended.

The second half continued the Celebration. People got what they wanted from KG. The Timberwolves staff nailed it. We got highlights, smiles, and, yes, the dancing fan in the 15 jersey. When KG smiled and pointed to John Sweeney from the Brave New Workshop, the night was complete! When I saw him in attendance, I knew it would happen. Today, he’s again a Minnesota sensation (#FullCircle).

When the Wolves started cruising, it was Kevin … Kevin Martin who took over. I can’t help but think that everyone was there to celebrate the past, but truly the “Future is Now!” with a great supporting cast who turned an early deficit into a 20-point win.

So fans got to celebrate the past and see that the future is bright with the current Wolves. KG is a great addition to an already young team and now that 21 is back in the arena to play every night, he’ll attract well-deserved attention and fans to see KG plus the great talented team he joins.

As a fan who spends just about every Wolves game at Target Center, I hope many more Celebrations are still to come.

PS: I still plan to enjoy when 21 goes into the rafters, but until then, I’ll celebrate every night with KG on the court. What a bonus!

 

Game 2

I wasn’t sure what to expect against Memphis. So many fans missed out on Wednesday’s celebration that I knew many fans would fill Target Center tonight to get in on what I’m seeing called “The KG Effect.” (If you know the source of that, please let me know. It’s a cool phrase! #NailedIt)

The fans were there. They filled the entire arena. KG jerseys are everywhere. I haven’t seen that many 21’s in a long time. It’s great to see the fans supporting the Wolves. From what I see & hear, all is forgiven for KG. He gets to be introduced last and the fans love it. The cheer “Kay..Gee…” rocked the house.

I wondered if fans would be as loud and as exuberant tonight. The vibe was slightly different, but it was a loud house. The Wolves are loving The KG Effect and even offered $21 tickets. The fans are “all in” and showing up in full force. As Jeff Munneke put it “This is fun.”

Saturday’s opponent was a stronger one and it was a different game. Memphis is a solid team that is well coached. The Wolves fought to the end against a playoff team. As for the KG returns saga, the fans got the KG we know. He was fired up.

But after KG’s introduced, it’s back to the younger guns for basketball action. The Rising Stars MVP continues to show his stuff. Andrew Wiggins lead all scorers with 25 and surprise! Gary Neal – the player the Wolves were rumored to let go – was the second-leading scorer with 16. Who saw that coming?

Back to KG. He made his presence known. KG chipped in all over the stat sheet. He scored 6 points, had 3 boards, helped with 2 dimes, and added 3 steals. You might not be impressed by his production, but you should be as he made an impact all over the court.

Again, fans who came to see KG, got it, but if they stayed longer than he did (#EmotionalKGEjected), the fans got to see Ricky Rubio play well, see Gorgui Dieng do what he does, and got to see Martin hit some huge shots late in the game to give the Wolves a chance. Martin’s late big shots even tied the game.

The fans stood up! KG must’ve been happy to see it. The crowd is all in on the Wolves. Even the Grizzlies noticed! They blanketed Martin after this big makes as they should. Until Chase gets it worked out, Martin is our big shot maker. Can Neal fill the void left by Chase Budinger? I sure hope so.

Even though the Wolves fell with a four-point loss (97-101), let’s remember that the Wolves and Grizzlies are record opposites. I’m pretty sure that any team that faced the Wolves before The KG Effect is glad and lucky to get the Wolves when they did. These Timberwolves are hungry and these days It’s Feeding Time!

Timberpups Roundtable on Andrew Wiggins

 

(photo credit: nba.com)

The Man – Andrew Wiggins (Credit: nba.com)

As we exit All-Star Weekend there has been one constant in the Timberwolves lineup this season, the future Rookie of the Year for the 2014/15 season, Andrew Wiggins.  Wiggins has played in and started every game thus far for the Wolves.  Let’s dissect his game a bit and what our projections are for the Timberwolves’ star.

Question 1: What has impressed you the most with Andrew Wiggins’ game?

John:

Every night he is guarding some of the best wing players in the NBA and he doesn’t seem to mind the task at all.  This has to be exhausting on any NBA player, but is almost unthinkable to ask a 19 year old to go out there and do this night in and night out.

Secondary vote goes towards his all-around offensive game.  I’m surprised it is as strong as it is already.  Once he starts getting the benefit of the doubt from the referees, he is going to make a living at the free throw line.

Lindsey:

His confidence in shooting the ball. I think in the first couple games you could see that he was getting used to that transition into the pros, but even then he didn’t hesitate to shoot. He knows what he can do, and he knows he’s capable of being a star in the NBA. It gives the Timberwolves an energy and spark on offense that I haven’t seen for awhile.

Alex:

So far this season, I have been blown away by Wiggins’ maturity and even-keeled approach to the game. We can talk all day about his physical tools, but his mentality and attitude have demonstrated a particular leadership that was missing in the Timberwolves’ last star. Sitting at a youthful 19 years of age, Wiggins has a chance to one day be a very special player.

Josh:

His consistency on offense. For a guy that was known to fade on offense at times at Kansas, Wiggins has found his spots offensively and been aggressive. His shooting form has also impressed. Even still, there’s plenty of room for more improvement to Wiggins game, and that has to have Wolves fans excited.

Question 2: Is Andrew Wiggins happy in Minnesota, and will he stay happy here?

Lindsey:

The short answer is, Wiggins is currently happy in Minnesota. No one enjoys losing of course, so there is that element of frustration, but I don’t agree with people who say that Wiggins feels negatively about being traded from Cleveland. Sure, he could have played with LeBron James in Cleveland and would have won more games. But he would have been in the shadow of LeBron and Kyrie Irving, and I think the Timberwolves gave Wiggins the best chance to step up and stand out as a rookie. Long-term, it’s hard to say how content he’ll stay if we don’t see a major improvement on the team. I do think he’s happy with the fans, city and especially his teammates, and there is still a lot of upside with guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine. Games have also been much more promising with Rubio and Pekovic back healthy–in my opinion, Wiggins is getting set up for a good situation here.

Alex:

An underrated aspect of acquiring Wiggins was that not only were the Timberwolves getting arguably the best NBA prospect since LeBron James, but also that he happened to be from Toronto, Ontario. Andrew seems to be growing very comfortable in his settings and I truly hope that this working relationship can continue for many years to come. And it’s as simple as that.

John:

Being traded to Minnesota was probably the best for Wiggins in terms of quick development.  Is he happy?  He sure seems happy when he is on the court.  This is really on the front office to turn things around very quickly moving forward.  The Wolves cannot afford to have two or three more losing seasons with Wiggins leading the charge (with Ricky Rubio).  Winning cures all.

Question 3: Is Andrew Wiggins going to hit the rookie wall?

Josh:

He may have already hit it. The last few weeks before the All-Star break Wiggins seemed to tire in the second half of games. He’s played the most minutes in the NBA since January 1st, and the week long break, should do him wonders as he works to get back in sync with Rubio.

Alex:

In short, yes, in one way or another Wiggins will ultimately hit the “rookie wall”. However, I do not believe that we will suddenly begin to see noticeable flaws in his game, rather that physical exhaustion and lack of proper endurance will take a step or two away from him. The truth of the matter is that he is an extremely well-rounded player who can beat you in a myriad of ways, and I do not expect to see him go down without a fight.

John:

I’m shocked that he hasn’t really fallen off too much.  He did have a few off games before the break, but it wasn’t like he fell off a cliff like many rookies do at some point over the course of the season.  With the rest, he will likely have recharged the battery for another few weeks; where maybe we start to see him tail off in late March or April.  I’m impressed that he hasn’t really shown a great deal of decline, particularly since he is consistently asked to guard the best wing players in the league every night.

Lindsey:

It’s hard to tell! He’s had a couple “off games” over the past couple weeks that Rubio has been back, but I don’t think he’s going to fully hit that wall that we see a lot of rookies up against. Wiggins has gotten progressively better and more confident throughout the season, and I have to imagine that finally having Rubio and Kevin Martin back will increase the morale and energy for everyone on the floor, but especially Wiggins.

What has caught your attention the most with Andrew Wiggins?  What was your favorite highlight thus far?  Let us know in the Comments below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Wolves Lose Both Games in Back-to-Back, Fall to Nuggets, Warriors

Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Weekend Recap

In the second and third games of their current 4-game road trip, the Timberwolves extended their losing streak to eight games while dropping to 5-24 on the season. As things currently stand, only the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers have worse records than your Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic. $23,552,979. Those are the three Wolves starters that are still out with injury, and that’s how much money they are combining to earn this season. After spraining his ankle on November 7, Rubio remains out and will likely need another 10 days before being considered to suit up. Pekovic, who looks like a fearless monster, apparently has the pain tolerance of a cuddly teddy bear. Pek has missed the last 20 games with a sprained wrist, and will likely be out until mid-January. Since signing his monster contract two offseasons ago, it is clear that re-upping on Pek was a major mistake for a team that already has enough trouble fielding a respectable group of healthy players year-in and year-out. Lastly, Martin has been slow to return from wrist surgery after breaking it on November 19, but is set to be reevaluated in two weeks.

After falling 125-104 in the highly anticipated first matchup against Kevin Love in his new home of Cleveland, the Timberwolves played a much more competitive game in Denver as they lost 106-102. However, they did not fair as well against the NBA-best Warriors who made mincemeat of the inexperienced and injury-riddled Pups, ultimately defeating them 110-97.

For Minnesotans looking for silver linings and consolation from the past two defeats, it may be best to look elsewhere. Although Andrew Wiggins gave fans plenty to get excited about in his 27-point outburst against the Cavaliers, which included 9-16 from the field and 3-3 from beyond the arc, his inefficiency on offense (8-18 FG) against Denver was a large reason for the Wolves’ struggles and defeat down the stretch.

When faced against premier wing defenders in Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala, Wiggins looked complacent and attempted a mere 6 field goals in 24 minutes on the floor. Questions concerning Wiggins’ motor certainly carry merit, as the 19-year-old rookie has not yet shown consistency in his aggressiveness and intensity mainly on the offensive end.

Now is also the appropriate time to call out Anthony Bennett for his many shortcomings this season. After a historically awful rookie season, Bennett looked to rejuvenate his career in Minnesota and impressed many by showing up to camp in significantly better shape and carried his new confidence into the 2014-15 NBA season by getting into a rhythm early. However, it is clear that the young sophomore has already hit a wall as his efficiency rating has fallen from above 20 to just 12.29 while shooting just 8 for his last 31 field goals while falling behind Robbie Hummel in the forwards rotation. If Flip Saunders has a doghouse, Big Daddy Canada is in it.

One Hot Minute

The Timberwolves need a coach. Not Flip Saunders, but a real coach. This is not a deliberate knock on Flip, as I believe he can continue to be apart of the Timberwolves’ long-term future, albeit in upper management and not at the end of the bench. The Wolves’ hired him as a personnel guy, and did everything last offseason to convince Dave Joerger to come and be their new head coach for many good reasons, one of them being so that Flip would not have to be in the same sticky situation that once before led to his firing.

Minnesota needs someone who is going to work these players tirelessly in order to help them squeeze out any and all potential from them, not someone who is there to be their buddy and to tell them it’s going to be alright during the tough times. This team has grown incredibly soft, and needs a dose of reality. If Flip is still the coach of the Wolves’ by the beginning of the next season, then I don’t like his odds of his second stint in Minnesota lasting as long as the first one.

I am done being the kind of fan that is going to wait for half of the season to be gone so I can then start to get excited for the NBA draft. There is no honor in playing for a top draft pick every season, and it is time for this fan base to start demanding more from this franchise.

Timberwolves Trade Rumors: Should Minnesota Keep or Deal Chase Budinger?

Budinger

According to a Yahoo! Sports article posted on Oct. 16, the Minnesota Timberwolves are shopping around small forward Chase Budinger.

Adrian Wojnarowski reported that two teams possibly interested in working out a deal are Detroit and Houston. The Pistons are without shooting guard Jodie Meeks, who is expected to miss eight weeks with a fractured back, and Budinger could be one option to fill the vacant spot.

The elephant in the room, however, is Budinger’s contract. The 26-year-old is guaranteed $5 million for the current season, and his contract also includes a $5 million player option for 2015-2016. Any team negotiating with Minny will need to assess if that type of contract will make sense for the return.

Last season, Budinger averaged 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in his second year with the Wolves. He performed slightly higher during the 2012-2013 season, averaging 9.4 PPG.

A trade does not seem imminent at this point; however, the Wolves have quite a few wing players on their squad, making it feasible for a trade to be in the books at some point. The question is this: is Budinger the best player to be dangling as trade bait? Should Minnesota continue looking to deal No. 10, or is he a stronger asset on the roster? One player who plays a similar role to Budinger is Corey Brewer. If presented with the opportunity, should the Timberwolves keep one over the other?

brewer

When comparing the two SFs, Brewer better fits the Wolves’ need.

As much as I appreciate Budinger’s style and temperament both on and off the court, he is more of a question mark. And in the NBA, a question mark equals dispensable. Minnesota originally brought Budinger in to improve the young team’s perimeter shooting. He showed promise early on, and Wolves fans looked forward to seeing how his development would improve the squad offensively. Since coming here, however, Budinger has missed a substantial part of each season due to knee injuries. In 2012-2013, he played only 23 games. Last year, he managed to participate in 41 games. The Timberwolves anticipate him having a healthy season, but knee injuries can be a never-ending problem.

Brewer, on the other hand, has remained healthy—missing only one game over the past two years. Injuries can happen at any time, but overall Brewer is the more physically stable player. 

Budinger’s numbers fell a bit last season, and his point totals fall short of Brewer’s. Brewer averaged 12.3 PPG in his return to Minnesota for the 2013-2014 season. In addition, Brewer is one of the most explosive defenders in the Wolves’ lineup. The Florida alum averages 1.9 steals per game, and he fires on all cylinders game after game.

Minnesota cannot afford to lose Brewer’s energy, especially heading into a season with so many new players and variables.

If a team is willing to absorb Budinger’s contract and the trade rumors come to any fruition, it would be an efficient way to move one of the many wings and add depth to the Wolves roster and allow more opportunities to utilize Brewer for the upcoming season.

Timberpups 2014-15 Season Preview

How will Minnesota fare following their offseason makeover?

How will Minnesota fare following their offseason makeover?

The NBA season is upon us Wolves’ fans!  With that in mind, we have put together an internal roundtable discussion on several hot topics with the 2014-15 Timberwolves.  As we look towards the season ahead, which Wolves’ players will make the leap, how will the rookies do, what are we looking forward to the most, and similar topics are all covered below by the Timberpups staff for the coming season!

With our #EyesOnTheRise, here are a number of questions that we passed along to one another to collect opinions and thoughts.

Question 1: What Wolves player are you most excited about as we enter the season?

John: I’m most excited, maybe intrigued, by what Zach LaVine can bring to the table.  Will he be able to effectively play both guard positions?  Will he continue to progress throughout the season?  How mentally tough is he as the season wears on and the losses likely start to pile up? He has all of the athletic talent in the world, as we have already seen.  I want to see him run both guard positions, getting different looks alongside Rubio, Martin, and Brewer.

Lindsey: I’m most excited by Andrew Wiggins. I’ll admit that along with excitement also comes some anxiety. Having the No. 1 draft pick is awesome, as there is so much anticipation and enthusiasm surrounding him. However, it also means that we haven’t seen him prove himself in the big leagues yet. How will he do in the transition from college to the NBA? How will he mesh with Flip and his offensive schemes? My gut feeling is that he will be more-than-ready for pro action and will immediately improve our scoring and speed on the court.

Josh: As a whole, I’m excited about seeing the youth of the team grow. If I had to pick one that I’m most excited about, though, it would be Wiggins. Through two preseason games, he already seems to be NBA ready, especially on the defensive end. He seems to be a great listener and is willing to take advice from teammates and coaches. Watching his develop should be enough to keep Wolves fans entertained even if they do end up well outside the playoff picture. [Read more…]

The End of an Era?

Hello, everyone.

Earlier this summer I didn’t believe the Minnesota Timberwolves would trade Kevin Love before the 2014-2015 season, unless the ‘right deal’ came along. Many things have happened since then, but, to summarize, a “handshake deal” is in place that will send Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who in-return will send Andrew Wiggins, along with Anthony Bennett and potentially some future draft selections to Minnesota.

Although, none of this is truly written in stone.

The trade cannot be consummated until August 23rd, because Wiggins may not be traded within 30 days of signing a rookie contract with the Cavaliers. Henceforth, the 23rd is already being referred to as “Wiggins Day”– mostly just by me, though. From what has been reported one would think an agreement between the two-sides is in place, but, because Cleveland isn’t allowed to trade Wiggins; neither team may not publicly confirm the reports of an alleged, impending trade between them.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t loopholes, though, like the one Wolves Owner Glen Taylor jumped through last week via the Pioneer Press.

“I’m saying it’s most likely because Kevin has made it pretty clear that that’s what he wants to do,” Taylor told Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press. Taylor expects Love will be traded sometime between August 23rd and September 1st, essentially reinforcing the notion that Wiggins will become the newest member of the Timberwolves.

 

Going away from the Love saga, the Timberwolves recently signed Mo Williams, who spent last season with the Portland Trail Blazers and provided an offensive spark by coming off the bench as their sixth man. His deal is for a little under $2 million for one season of work.

It is entirely possible that Williams could also be dealt elsewhere, although, for now, the belief is he will remain in Minnesota. This leaves a copious amount of guards on the roster. Williams, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, and Kevin Martin occupy six roster spots and over $10-million in salaries this season.

It is speculated that the two mostly likely to be dealt by the Wolves are Martin and Barea. Martin is owed a little more than $7 million over the next few seasons while Barea will earn just above $6 million next year (he is referred to as an “expiring contract”). I don’t see the Wolves buying out Shved’s contract, but, again, there’s certainly nothing that is certain just yet.

What Wolfson’s tweet does not mention is the Wolves reported interest in Sixers’ forward Thaddeus Young, who is coming off a career year albeit playing for one of the NBA’s worst teams last season. Young is 26 years old, and averaged 18 points and six rebounds over 79 appearances with Philadelphia last season. Flip Saunders’ going after a solidified power forward with decent skills playing around, or away from the basket is an indication the Timberwolves are intent on being competitive next season– despite Love’s unwillingness to participate.

Where does this leave the team, realistically, in terms of expectations for next season? I’m not interested in making that prediction. What I believe to be the admirable byproduct of the Wiggins deal is that a dense population amidst the fan base seems to be moving forward as if the trade between the Wolves and Cavs has already happened, and they’re excited about the future.

It’s not that they’re are expecting a run at the NBA Finals, moreover, the thought of rebuilding with the youthful core of Rubio, LaVine, Wiggins, and Gorgui Dieng bestows enough excitement to hopefully encourage people back into Target Center and cheering on the Wolves. Minnesota ranked 27th in attendance last season.

It’s a bitter ending to an era that failed to reach a realm of playoff contention; Love didn’t really have synchronized competency around him, whether it were crummy teammates or an uninspiring coaching staff. Unfortunately, plenty would rather have reminisced about the Kevin Garnett era than make the effort to go see Love fill up a statsheet at a game the Wolves would ultimately lose anyway. To top everything off, this entire offseason has taken its proverbial toll on those following the trade-chatter. At this point, it would be fair to assume most of us just want this saga to end, because when the Wolves obtain Wiggins there will be no more uncertainty– it will just be another chance to start over again.

 

Wolves Summer League Recap

Zach LaVine was a highlight reel for the Wolves in Vegas (NBAE, Getty Images)

Zach LaVine was a highlight reel for the Wolves in Vegas (NBAE, Getty Images)

The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the Las Vegas Summer League with a 2-4 record. After losing their first three games, the Wolves were the last seed at the start of tournament play only to pull off an ‘upset’ by defeating the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Sacramento Kings knocked the Wolves out of the tournament the next day – and wound up with the league championship. The Wolves finished their stay in Las Vegas with a victory over the Pelicans last Friday.

What did we learn in Las Vegas? How did our Pups perform, particularly those that are more likely to be on the opening night roster? Let’s take a look back at #WolvesInVegas with a ranking of the top performers on the squad and what implications said performance may have on the Wolves this forthcoming season. [Read more…]