During the offseason Corey Brewer signed a deal worth a little more than nine-million guaranteed dollars to play a second stint for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
For the season opener against the Orlando Magic, Timberpups welcomes Zach Oliver! Oliver is a good friend of mine who covers the Magic for www.BallerMindFrame.com. The link to his author profile is here (http://www.ballermindframe.com/author/zoliver8812/) and you can follow him on Twitter for more Magic News, NBA chatter and some of the finest nonsense on the internet today — his handle is @ZOliver8812 .
Zach, hope all is well — I have a few questions about tonight’s game.
First, there was lots of hope and little speculation the Wolves would trade up to try and land guard Victor Oladipo out of Indiana University, how is he doing?
Oladipo just picked up playing point guard in the Orlando Summer League, after playing mostly the two guard spot throughout college at Indiana. His game is better suited playing off-ball guard but he’s developing ball handling skills and won’t hurt the current rebuilding process in Orlando. If he works out, great! We’ll have the point guard for the future and If not — he’ll be a fine secondary ball handler and continue growth as a two-guard.
How’d he play last night? How did the Magic perform in games played on back-to-back nights last season?
In his debut last night, Victor Oladipo looked good. While his stat line may not be something that makes you say “wow,” he was very solid. He struggled some with his shot, but he looked comfortable out there. Kid’s going to be special, he brings such high energy and physicality to the game each time he steps on court. Once he finds his niche, and a comfort level, he’ll be stuffing the stat sheets and growing in Magic fans hearts night in and night out.
As for back-to-backs… It wasn’t pretty for the Magic last season. They went an abysmal 3-9 in the second game of back-to-backs. The team opened up last night in Indiana against a tough Pacers squad, so thing’s could be rough early on. Remember, the Magic made their sole trip to Minnesota early last season on the second night of a back-to-back and lost 90-75.
What matchups will you be watching closely?
There’s two different matchups that I’ll be watching closely tonight. The Magic have a lot of intriguing young players who will be challenged night-in and night-out. The two I’ll be watching closely tonight is the battles at power forward, and when the aforementioned Oladipo is on court.
Kevin Love vs Enter Magic Power Forward
With Glen Davis out, the Magic have a question as to who will be the starting power forward throughout the season. Tobias Harris finished last season as the starter after he was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks at the trade deadline. Harris showcased his scoring ability and versatility in his short time with the team. While it’s hard to not start your best scorer, it might be the best for the team to bring him off the bench in a backup role at both forward positions.
Last years first round pick, Andrew Nicholson, showed some promise on the offensive end last season. However, he struggled mightely on the defensive side, and is a below average rebounder. While center Nikola Vucevic can help mask his poor rebounding numbers, there will be times when Love gets away from him and is able feast on the boards. Love would be a matchup nightmare for the youngster, so he might be best suited in the second unit.
Possibly the best matchup and healthy defender at the position for the team, Jason Maxiell, could slide in and grab the start. The team brought him in to add toughness to the teams soft interior defense, and while he might be better off coming off the bench, he’d be the best one to bang down low with Love.
The final candidate to see some minutes at the four would be second year big Kyle O’Quinn. The team experimented with him starting at the four next to Vucevic, but it’s less than ideal to start both together. O’Quinn is not afraid to go down low and bang his body around, but he has a problem with fouls, and he’s really the best option to play center with the second unit.
Victor Oladipo vs Ricky Rubio
Two exciting young guys going head-to-head. How could you not want to watch this!? Rubio could be the best passer that Oladipo is forced to guard this season, and it’s an early matchup for the possible defensive stopper. He’s got a good IQ while out there and is possibly the team’s best perimeter defender also. Will Oladipo take advantage of his size and take Rubio into the post more and try to score with his back to the basket or will he try to take him off the dribble more? There’s a lot of intriguing storylines to watch with this matchup.
Now, Zach, I have some questions about you and your Timberwolves.
How important is it for the Timberwolves to get a win tonight?
For those in attendance tonight, including myself — it’s very important. The Timberpups have high expectations this season, not only here in Minnesota, but around the league. If this club wants to a be a threat to make the postseason, they’ll need to beat the weaker teams in both conferences — tonight’s a chance to take care of business against a weaker Eastern Conference foe playing the tail end of back-to-back road games.
What can we expect out of the small forward position with Chase Budinger out for the foreseeable future?
Derrick Williams, Robbie Hummel and Dante Cunningham started the final three preseason games at the 3 spot, respectively, for the Wolves. Tonight’s the first chance any of us will get to see how Adelman addresses the SF position. Provided coach doesn’t go completely unorthodox, Corey Brewer will get the nod and will be relieved by Williams, Cunningham and maybe rookie 14th overall draft pick -Shabazz Muhammad- gets out there tonight. There’s so many groups of five that we could see, tonight’s game may tell us a lot about the Wolves future regarding the SF position.
How does Budinger fit in with the team once he returns?
If and when ‘Bud’ returns he’ll be eased back into the lineup, slowly, because that’s how basketball injuries go. It’s a tough question to answer simply because he had his knee repaired but during training camp, things started swelling again, leaving us with the question — did he ever really recover? Dr. James Andrews removed around 75 percent of the meniscus and a hopeful timetable for Budinger’s return would be Christmas, but I’m just unsure. He’ll be part of the small forward by committee with Brewer, Williams and Muhammad and Adelman will use him where he thinks is best.
In terms of matchups, Zach, you’ve hit it right on the head. I’m going to keep an eye on Oladipo because of the speculation and the ambitious thought that he could have ended up in Minnesota. Whether he’s up against Kevin Martin or Rubio, he’s got his hands full defensively. Rubio will give him more fits on the offensive side of the ball than Martin will, ‘K-Mart’ will be less to handle defensively for V.O., Ricky might shred him up, if he’s not up to the task.
What’s your expectations from Ricky Rubio, not only tonight, but going forward this season?
Numbers wise, I hope he can average 15 points and 10 assists per game but I’m not big on predictions. If he’s healthy, he’s a threat to lead the league in assists, steals and possibly the non-existent ‘comeback player of the year award’ — that’s if Love doesn’t steal away all the spotlight from the Spanish Unicorn.
Production wise, Ricky’s going to do what it takes to win basketball games. He’s not afraid to take the big shot, as we saw last year against the Clippers when he tied the game with less than a minute remaining after hitting a corner-three, he’s a relentless defender and, half, of the face of this Timberwolves franchise. He needs to stay healthy, more than anything — that’s the key. (edit reminder)
Zach, this has been fun, do the Magic and the Wolves play any more times this season?
Yes, Saturday April 5th in Orlando.
The game will be aired at 7:00PM CST on FSNorth and 830AM WCCO Wolves Radio. Follow @TimberpupsBlog for live-tweets but JUST COMMENT IN THE FORUM BECAUSE IT’S GOING TO BE FUN.
Wolves are going to win tonight, not only on the court — but which one would you rather have? Seriously?
There’s only a few minutes before the Timberpups take on the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The game will not be televised or available on radio, but don’t worry — @timberpupsblog will be live tweeting the events.
I’m going to say sorry to the Sixers, they’re horrific and are expected to win the Andrew Wiggans Sweepstakes, an award handed out to the worst basketball team at the end of the season. I may say sorry, but I’m not.
The Sixers were last league in scoring in 2012-13 with 93.2 points per game and it marked the first time in franchise history the team finished last in the league in scoring. It’s safe to say this season — they’re the favorite in the to win the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. If you don’t know who Wiggins is, he’s going to be a freshman at the University of Kansas this year, the hype surrounding him in high school is similar to what we saw with LeBron James, though I understand that comparison is ridiculous. Here are a few of his high school credentials.
- Mr. Basketball USA (2013)
- Gatorade National Player of the Year (2013)
- Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2013)
- McDonald’s All-American (2013)
How sad is it that I’m writing about a player Philly doesn’t even have yet. Sorry, back to the regular scheduled program.
The players on the court for the Sixers tonight, by default, are NBA players. Head coach Brett Brown had this to say about his team in article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“You have six NBA players and then you have a bunch of guys who are fighting for spots and want to be seen and need opportunity.”
By my count, six players is generous. I have Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter Williams as credentialed NBA Players — though some guy named James Anderson has scored in double-figures in four of the six games this preseason.
The Wolves have a chance to demolish another feeble opponent tonight, they defeated the Boston Celtics on Sunday — 104-89.
- We saw more out of the starters than any preseason game thus far
- Derrick Williams started the game at Small Forward (5 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists) and the team picked up his six-and-a-half million dollar option through the 2014-2015 season. He’ll be expected to pick up the slack in Budinger’s absence
- Ricky Rubio scored 15 on five of 9 shooting from the field and was 2 for 3 from the three-point line — an awesome shooting night by his standards
- Love struggled from downtown, he was two of eight from behind the ark though he still scored 22 and shot eight of nine from the charity stripe
- Kevin Martin did Kevin Martin things, he scored 21 and was five of eight shooting from long-distance
I suggest you watch the youtube link below, HINT it’s Rubio highlights.
The Wolves might crack open the Liberty Bell that much more, at least I hope so. We’ll see how Rick Adelman decides to play the starters and go about running his offense. On Sunday against the Celtics the team was determined to execute in halfcourt sets, they did. Was it because of Boston’s pleathera of defensive weaknesses? I’m not sure, but they could have played a little more in transition — who knows?!
Maybe they work on their sets in the Princeton offense more tonight, but regardless, I’m expecting a Pups victory by a large margin tonight. They’ll travel to Detroit after the game, the Pistons are tomorrows foe in the back-to-back final preseason games of the season.
Robbie Hummel, A.J. Price, Lorenzo Brown, Othyus Jeffers and Chris Johnson are with the team on the trip, though the 15 man roster restrictions only allow for two of the five (if any) to make the team.
AGAIN, FOLLOW @TIMBERPUPSBLOG FOR ALL THE UPDATES YOU CAN HANDLE.
Wednesday – In front of a somewhat ruckus Toronto crowd of 9,111, The Timberpups defeated the Raptors 101-89. Six minutes into the game Kevin Martin went to the sideline, replaced by Alexey Shved, after feeling pain in his right achilles tendon –he remained on the bench the remainder of the night as a precautionary measure. The Wolves jumped out early and endured 10 lead changes before pulling away in the 3rd quarter, outscoring Toronto 28-16 during the period.
Do you think the team was frustrated with Monday’s overtime loss to CSKA Moscow?
Just about everything was better, compared to Monday’s, about last night’s performance.
- The Pups Field goal, three point and free throw percentage were at least 5 points higher.
- Raptors’ FG, 3pt and FT were lower than CSKA’s — Other than the FT’s, a sign of better defending from the Pups
- Only Othyus Jeffers, in a little over three-and-a-half minutes, ended the game with a negative efficiency rating (+/-) (NBA.com evaluates all players based on the efficiency formula: ((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) – ((Field Goals Att. – Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. – Free Throws Made) + Turnovers)). 12 Timerwovles ended with a positive efficiency score.
- Shved was significantly better than he was against his his former team, tallying 10 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal — shooting 4 of 7 from the field and 2 of 3 from long-distance.
- Kevin Love scored 20 on a mediocre shooting night (6 of 14) but he got himself in good in position in the paint, he shot 7 of 8 from the foul line in addition to nabbing 4 rebounds.
- We saw J.J. Barea and Daunte Cunningham for the first time this season.
- Barea, in almost 22 minutes, scored 12 on 5 of 10 shooting from the field and didn’t take one three-pointer — a sign he may have got his chucking out last year. Has become more selective?!?!?! We’ll see.
- Cunningham or D.C. as we also know him, who also played 22 minutes, scored 8 points on 4 of 10 from the field.
Things to know for tonight’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, which I touched on a little when talking about affiliations.
The Story of the evening is Bucks’ rookie Nate Wolters.
He’s a graduate of St. Cloud Tech High School (Class of ’09) where he contributed to the longest winning streak in school history (28 games). Eliminated by Minnetonka, led by C.J. Erickson and Anthony Tucker, in the Semifinals of the 07-08 State Championship, and Hopkins, who were stacked with Royce White, Joe Coleman and Trent Lockett — Wolters never won a State Title.
Despite the unfortunate timing of his High School Career, Wolters would attend South Dakota State University. And what a career it was playing as a Jackrabbit. He shot 49 percent from the field, 80 percent from the free-throw line and had a nearly 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio his senior season. Wolters would go on to total more points, assists, made baskets than any other player in school history.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Wolters said this morning. “I didn’t expect to play another game here, but it will be good. One more, so it will be fun.”
It’s somewhat of a homecoming for Wolters tonight as the Bucks face the Wolves, he returns to Sioux Falls and will be the first NBA star welcomed by an audience at the new Stanford Pentagon. Milwaukee’s head coach Larry Drew has hinted at making it a special moment for his rookie player.
View a photo gallery of the Pentagon — It’s really sweet! (For lack of a better description)
Timberpup story lines.
- There’s been no sign of Chris Johnson, who is owed $346,781 this season and it’s possible the Wolves could buy out his contract in order to make room for A.J. Price, Jeffers, Gorgui Dieng, Lorenzo Brown or Robbie Hummel. Maybe tonight’s the night for Johnson, though this could be foreshadowing of who is the odd-man out at center.
- Shabazz Muhammad didn’t play last night so hopefully the Falls will be exposed to some Bazzketball.
- Former Timberpup Luke Rindour will play for his former team, which is his current team against his another former team — the Wolves. (If you’re lost, he played for the Bucks, came to the Wolves and is now back on the Bucks) Though the Wolters Homecoming may limit his time.
- Will Martin play tonight or will the achilles keep him out?
- How will Rick Adelman distribute minutes? Eight players played over 20 minutes in last night’s game against the Raptors (I included Corey Brewer, who played 19:44 — fair?)
It will be fun to see a Minnesota Native receive a Midwestern Welcome from those who saw him play as a Jackrabbit, but the goal remains the same — How will the Pups progress? Hopefully we see more of the bench guys/camp invites and less of the main components because of the back-to-back games and traveling overnight. Last night’s “injury” to Martin really ruined the fun of how well the Wolves played last night, hopefully no matter who plays the team will perform well.
I’ll be at work, but, that won’t prevent me from watching or tweeting about the game, to an extent. You can watch it on FoxSportsNorth at 7:00CST but I’ll be tweeting from @timberpupsblog again if you wish to follow for updates.
Monday – Unable to overcome CSKA Moscow’s red hot start, despite rallying back from almost 20-points down in the first half, the Pups were defeated in overtime — 108-106.
Ricky Rubio scooped up the tip and passed it to the wing; From there Martin then made a hesitation move, beat his man off-the-dribble and proceeded with a running jumper in the lane — the ball deflected off backboard, clanked off the rim and into the hands of CSKA’s Alexander Kaun. This about sums up how the starting offense went about their business trying to score on Monday night. Nearly four-minutes went by before the Wolves first bucket from the field, a 15-foot jumper by our beloved Spanish PG.
- Corey Brewer made three-breakaway layups after gambling, getting behind the defense and corralling long outlet passes from Love and Rubio. He also hit a corner-three, where he’s at his best — he was 1-3 from 3pt range.
- Nikola Pekovic, introduced as ‘The Godfather’, looked as powerful and healthy as we’ve seen him in the past — scoring 8-points on 4 of 8 shooting and grabbing 7-boards.
- Kevin Love displayed the passing ability Rick Adelman wants to see more of this season — tallying 5-assists.
- Though Kevin Martin was inefficient from the field (5 of 15 FG, 1 of 4 3PT) he gave fans a look at what a shooting guard is supposed to play like, he scored 15-points by being aggressive and drawing contact — getting to the line. “K-Mart” converted 5 of 8 from the charity stripe.
- Derrick Williams scored 21 points on 7 of 15 shooting and 7 of 12 from the charity stripe. He was the Wolves’ superstar in the fourth quarter, though he tried to make the highlight reel on a few occasions in which just making the right play would have meant points rather than a lost possession.
Things to know for tonight.
- Toronto defeated the Celtics in their preseason opener, 97-89 Monday in Boston.
- It’s expected Steve Novak will make his Raptor debut, he’s a three-point specialist coming over from the New York Knicks during the offseason.
- Dwane Casey is head coach of the Raptors, he replaced Kevin McHale as the Timberwolves head from 05-07 and was fired with an overall record of 53-69
The Raptors Jonas Valanciunas is a beast
- Member of the All NBA Rookie 2nd team last season.
- Averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds during the Las Vegas Summer League — also named MVP of LVSL
- Led Lithuania to a Silver Medal at this summer’s Eurobasket
- Scored 10 points and 10 rebounds in Monday’s win over the Celtics
- Will matchup against Pek, rumor has it Raptor fans think he’s up to the task.
The game starts in a few minutes, though there is no local TV or Radio Broadcast.
Because we didn’t see Dante Cunningham or J.J. Barea – I expect to see them get time tonight.
Also, training camp invites A.J. Price and Othyus Jeffers played most of the fourth quarter on Monday, maybe Rick Adelman will choose to see more of Gorgui Dieng and Chris Johnson — going from guards to bigs with the playing time. Just a thought.
Follow @timberpupsblog as I’ll either be RT’ing updates or finding a stream to keep you in the know.
Because of my excitement for the Shvedder this season, he deserves a second preview.
In August, I previewed Shvedder prematurely — He’s played competitive basketball since then. If you don’t feel like clicking the link, these were my thoughts then.
I’ve expressed my concern over the Twitter machine about the roster’s depth at point guard, more than just a few times. A closer look at Shved has me less worried about the offenses production while Rubio is on the bench. However, he doesn’t solve the problem completely. He’s natural point-guard used to creating with the ball in his hand. Last year’s experience under his belt, a veteran presence he may observe play at his position (Shooting Guard), along with opportunity to play point guard (where he’s comfortable), this year may not only be a breakout season for Shved, but a valuable learning experience, too.
Shved’s EuroBasket summarized in the Final Narrative.
Shved was Russia’s top performer, averaging 16 points and 5 assist while drawing 5 fouls per game; performing valiantly in five games of group play — he was Russia’s top performer. He attacked the basket, finished around the hoop and found teammates for open looks, though his teammates didn’t often finish, but an area that Shved must improve his game: free-throw shooting. He shot 69% from the charity stripe during E.B. I can only speculate how Adelman plans to utilize the Shvedder, hopefully it’s with the opportunity to significant minutes at PG when Rubio takes a seat. His aggressiveness and creativity going toward the basket could create some decent looks for the rest of the second-unit.
Shved’s potential role is becoming more defined.
Guards Lorenzo Brown and A.J. Price start competing at camp with Robbie Hummel and Othyus Jeffers for the final few chairs at the Timberwolves Table. Price was recently invited to camp Brown was a 2nd-round draft selection; both are PG’s, indicating the Wolves are window shopping point guards. Is the team worried about Shved? We don’t know, yet.
J.J. Barea is another player potentially threatening Shved’s minutes. From what I’ve seen this offseason, Shved is the ideal backup point guard to Rubio, granted, I’m not Rick Adelman or Flip Saunders so here’s the question — Is Shved ready?
To bring some more perspective on our beloved Shvedder, I’ve asked for help.
First off, thank you for the opportunity to talk about our beloved Timberwolves.
I believe Alexey Shved is a great player. Here in Europe we know him well after watching him play his years as a member of CSKA Jersey.
I had doubts he could adapt to the NBA style of play, two of those doubts were his mental and physical toughness.
The Russian League is a League where CSKA only lost at two or three games a year — at the most. The most challenging games for players on these type of teams are the Euroleague matches. The NBA is different. You play every two days and, if you’re a rookie, in every game you have to prove that you’re worth the minute you play. It’s easy to make mistakes and end up on the bottom of the bench. Alexey’s managed some worthwhile contributions thus far and though he could have performed better during All Star Weekend last season, to have invited must be an honor . I am amazed to see how his game integrated with the Wolves roster and how Rick Adelman’s applies Alexey to his coaching scheme.
It’s hard to make predictions about of Alexey’s future. One year of experience will serve him well, although I the loss of his Russian Friend and former teammate, AK 47, in the locker room will be felt under the human element of things.
Both on Team Russia to CSKA he played only a very few minutes in PG as those roles were already covered by J.r. Holden and Milos Teodosic. However he still managed to show-off the ability to pass the ball which may allow him, as Zach has said, to play some minutes at PG behind Rubio off the bench.
The European Championships were disastrous for Team Russia, who is are usually among the favorites. Because of injured players and absentees Kirilenko, Viktor Khryapa, Alexander Kaun, Timothy Mozgov, Andre Vorontsevich and Sergey Bykov Alexey was only able to lead his team to 21st place. Despite this, Alexey played a European where-at times-has proven to be NBA level player.
Alexey showed good skills playing PG.
All this will be enough? Who knows …in the meanwhile….
Alexey, change face – be happy.
Follow and talk with Manuel yourself – @itaTimberwolves. In the meantime, he’ll continue to join Timberpups by helping me finish the player previews for this season.
Here are some Shved quotes from Wolves Media Day!
Setting the stage: The Timberwolves travel to Chicago to face the Bulls in the second game of a back to back for our Pups. Game time is set for 7pm for all of you in the Central region, but this is also a self-reminder that the game starts at 8pm on the East coast. Yes, our first game day preview article has East coast bias. Deal with it.
The Twolves won a thriller last night at home vs. Indiana, despite not having Barea and losing Roy for the second half. The win moves the Pups record to 4-1 and they lead the division very early in the season! As announced on Friday, the Twolves will be without JJ Barea for tonight’s game (and potentially again vs. Dallas). Brandon Roy never returned to the court in the second half of Friday’s game in order to rest a sore right knee. We’ll probably see a good amount of this over the course of the season, so I need to start setting my own expectations a little better (after hyperventilating for a few minutes last night). All indications are that Brandon traveled with the team to Chicago but no news on whether or not he will suit up later this evening (as of this write-up in the early AM).
The Bulls had Friday off after losing to Oklahoma City on Thursday night, dropping their record to 3-2 for the season. This is another big, physical test for the Wolves after facing Indiana less than 24 hours ago. The Bulls are a defensive juggernaut and led by a very strong frontcourt of Deng, Noah, and Boozer, with Taj Gibson coming off the bench as a solid performer for 20 mpg or so. There are no tears to be shed here for the missing Derrick Rose, as the Twolves look to continue their early season successes without its core components of Love and Rubio, along with Barea and potentially Roy.
Player to watch: AK47 – It will be interesting to see who the coaching staff has Kirilenko on to start the game. I imagine they will start the game with AK47 on Deng. However, if Boozer gets hot again, like he did in the preseason game against the Wolves, I suspect there will be a change and the staff will slide Andrei over to the PF spot. At the same time, Andrei will need to continue to fill the stat sheet in order to counteract what is coming from Chicago’s frontcourt.
This might be a game where Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham see big minutes, in order to cover Deng while Andrei slides over to the 4 spot. I just don’t see how DWill matches up at either forward spot against Chicago.
Match-up to watch: In a draft shell of this pregame, I had jotted down Roy vs. Hamilton despite the obvious answer here probably being Pekovic vs. Noah. Now that Roy is a question mark for the game, I’ll stick with the obvious answer. Pekovic is coming off of a rough game against the Pacers big men – Hibbert and West particularly. It wasn’t until the 4th quarter that we really saw anything from Pek. Noah is off to a very strong start this season, averaging 14.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and filling the rest of the box score as well. Noah is playing just under 40 minutes per game and will be a handful for Pek.
Predictions: As much as this pains me, I have to say the Bulls pull this one out. They had Friday off and got to sit on the loss to OKC for a bit. The Wolves are coming off a tough game on Friday against the Pacers and are forced to travel for the second of the back to back. This feels like the end of the small streak of wins for the team and my streak of game day recaps for the site.
Final score prediction: Chicago 92 – Minnesota 84
Three stars of the game predictions:
- Carlos Boozer
- Luol Deng
- Andrei Kirilenko
Despite those predictions, let’s go Wolves!