Recap – Timberwolves 119, Bobcats 92

Spinning the Twolves wheels ... KG, to Big Al, to KLove

Spinning the Twolves wheels … KG, to Big Al, to KLove.

The 17-18 Timberwolves, “good” for 10th place in the Western Conference, hosted the Charlotte Bobcats / Hornets Friday night.  I am going to skip over my thoughts on the Kevin Love soundbytes for the time being.  I don’t have the will right now to tackle it from both sides or angles and it deserves both.  However, know that I’m not happy that it happened publicly or where this team currently sits in the Western Conference.

Here is how things went down Friday night.  No surprises or changes in the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The 15-21 Bobcats (currently residing in 7th place in the Eastern Conference?!) opened up with Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Josh McRoberts, and (Big) Al Jefferson.  Nice to see Big Al back on the Target Center floor! [Read more...]

Timberpups Weekly Preview | December 9th

This is the Timberpups weekly preview for the week of December 9th.

It’d be nice to have strong performances from the Minnesota Timberwolves this week. Looking ahead at the schedule, which is becoming fairly easier, there are some decent opportunities to get momentum moving in the right direction.

The Wolves have the opportunity to be, on paper, a better team than their opponent three of four times this week.

The Wolves have the opportunity to be, on paper, a better team than their opponent three of four times this week.

 

Tuesday December 10th. 

Wolves at Detroit Pistons. 

These two met at the Palace in Detroit during the preseason, this time the game counts. If you can remember the preseason meeting was a dramatic loss, Josh Smith hit a three at the buzzer and the Wolves lost a ‘heartbreaker’. The Pistons, like the Wolves, are hovering around .500 with a record of 10-11. Detroit had five players averaging double figures and enjoy a moderate paced game, picking-and-choosing when to run in transition — mobile big men; Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe aren’t slouches moving up and down the floor. The Pistons rank 14th in pace per game (the number of possessions a team uses per game) while the Wolves rank second.

Chauncey Billups and Wil Bynum are out indefinitely, Rodney Stuckey missed Sunday’s game with left knee tendinitis and it’s unsure if he’ll be ready to go for Monday’s game.

Prediction (and I’m no good at these): Wolves punish Pistons — 117-98.

 

Josh Smith whining, about something -- who cares?

Josh Smith whining, about something — who cares?

 

Wednesday December 12th.

Wolves -happily- welcome Philadelphia 76ers. 

There couldn’t be a better time to play the, less than stellar, 76ers — especially at Target Center. Philadelphia is allowing more points per game than any other team in basketball and are considered one of the favorites in the race to “Tank for Wiggins”. Former ‘potential’ Timberwolf Lorenzo Brown will be in the building, the Sixers recently signed him to fulfill the void that was created at point guard due to multiple injuries. One of those injuries was suffered by Michael Carter-Williams, the Sixers rookie has been a glimmering bright spot so far this year averaging 18 points and 7 assists per game but his status for this game is uncertain. “MCW” has a bacterial infection in his right-knee. Evan Turner will need to do a LOT for the Sixers to have a chance in this one.

Prediction: Wolves scoff at the Sixers — 110-89.

Barea drives hoping to score during a meeting with Sixers in the preseason

Barea drives hoping to score during a meeting with Sixers in the preseason

Friday December 13th.

Wolves at San Antonio Spurs.

This would be a rematch between these two teams, but because of the inexplicable generator fire in the Arena at Mexico City last week it’s the first meeting between these two this season. It’s no surprise that the Spurs are one of the best team’s in the Western Conference, this is the Wolves toughest challenge for the week. San Antonio is 11th in the league in offensive rating and 3rd on the defensive side of things. I’ll take the Gregg Popovich approach on this one by not saying much more; The Wolves have work cut out for them against a premier NBA franchise on the road.

Prediction: Wolves slip-up against the Spurs, late — 96-101

Rubio finding a way to pass around Danny Green to someone open in the lane for a dunk, probably.

Rubio finding a way to pass around Danny Green to someone open in the lane for a dunk, probably.

Sunday December 15th. 

Wolves at Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies may have proved a more difficult challenge than the Spurs were, but this matchup is a bit more even. Marc Gasol and Quincy Pondexter are sidelined indefinitely because of their respective injuries — a huge bonus for the Wolves. Tony Allen is also uncertain as of now, but his condition may be updated during the course of the week. The Grizz are 10-11 on the season thus far, but have suffered 20+ losses in their last two games; falling by 20 to the Los Angeles Clippers and 27 at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

Mike Conley, Jerryd Bayless and Nick Calathes are now the key components to success in Memphis, hopefully the Wolves are able to take care of business against a team wounded by injuries.

On a lighter note, it’s likely we’ll see Jon Lauer. He’s a Minnesota native (Orono) and a University of Wisconsin Graduate (Something Alex knows very well). It’s always fun seeing guys I’ve watched in high school play at the professional level, though it doesn’t do much for my self-esteem.

Prediction: Wolves go Walkin’ in Memphis and leave victorious — 100-86.

Mike Conley is good, that's pretty much what I got -- but can he carry an injured Grizz roster passed the Wolves at home?

Mike Conley is good, that’s pretty much what I got — but can he carry an injured Grizz roster passed the Wolves at home?

 

Wrap Up: Wolves begin the week in Detroit, head back home for a cake-walk (or what should be), venture down south to hostile territory and hit Beale Street for a team suffering the blues. The travel continues, though it’s dispersed and there will be NO -I REPEAT ZERO- back-to-backs this week. That means there’s no excuse, other than being out played for at LEAST a 3-1 week.

 

That’s all for now.

Zach

Recap – Timberwolves 124, Cavs 95

 

Corey Brewer got the Timberwolves off to a strong start & they never looked back! (Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook page)

Corey Brewer got the Timberwolves off to a strong start & they never looked back!
(Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook page)

For the second and last time this season, the Timberwolves played the Cavs Wednesday night at the Target Center.  The Cavs edged the Wolves on their home court a week and a half ago.  To make Wednesday night’s game a little bit tougher, Kevin Martin came down with the flu and was a late scratch for the Pups.  With that announcement, the starting lineup looked like this: Rubio, Hummel, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  For the Cavs, no real surprises: Irving, Waiters, Gee, Thompson, and Varejao.

Game Summary

I’m taking a page out of Zach’s playbook for the overall Game Summary, as this wasn’t very close just a few minutes after the opening tipoff …

 

First Half 

Once again, the Timberwolves opened up strong.  Corey Brewer scored the first 9 points of the game for the Pups and they were off and running.  Ricky Rubio and Kyrie Irving seemed to go back and forth with one another on dribble drives … with Rubio creating for his teammates and Irving trying to shoulder the scoring load.  Note the word “trying” here, as the Wolves continued to put points on the board and pressure on the Cavs.

With a little under 5 minutes to go in the first quarter, Kyrie took what appeared to be an elbow to the cheek from Brewer, who was sweeping in for an attempted layup.  Kyrie went down and checked out of the game.  This led to a significant run from the Wolves, including a second three point field goal from Robbie Hummel.  At the end of the first quarter, the Wolves held a 38-24 lead.

The Wolves kept the pressure on throughout the second quarter.  This time, it was Kevin Love who was doing a lot of the damage.  Love put in 11 of his 19 first half points in the second quarter, continuing to get the charity stripe.  While Irving returned to the floor, it felt like the damage was already done.  At half-time, the Wolves held a commanding 70-47 lead.

Half-time notes:

  • During the 2nd quarter, Benz and Peterson talked about a little bit of news in that there is a bit of a hope that Chase Budinger could return by the time Christmas rolls around.  (Fingers crossed)
  • Every Wolves player that entered the game in the first half had a double digit + in the +/- box score at halftime.
  • Bored with a big lead?  Yes!  So bored in fact, I wound up putting together a mini-post in the Forum for Derrick Williams trade ideas, including running the Trade Machine for an updated deal for Evan Turner.

Second Half

I’m not going to lie, the 3rd quarter was amazing for the Timberwolves, but also wound up leading to a lot of looking around and fishing for some bit of news.  The Wolves completely dominated the Cavs again in the quarter, outscoring the Cavs 38-29 and building their lead to 108-76 … at the end of only THREE quarters.  What more do you really want me to say?  If you happened to miss last night’s performance, go watch a replay.  If the Wolves have an off night over the course of the next week or two, revert back to this game.  Zach sums things up pretty nicely here:

As one would expect, Rick Adelman sent in the reserves to play the 4th quarter, with AJ Price, Alexey Shved, Shabazz Muhammad, Derrick Williams, and Gorgui Dieng in it for the long haul (or those 12 minutes).  Naturally, this puts Williams at the PF position, thereby proving (again) that we aren’t even going to try with the SF experiment … because it isn’t going to work.  You know what, I’m just going to end that here as it isn’t the right night.

The reserves did not play well, but largely maintained the advantage that the regular rotation had built in the first three quarters.  The Cavs outscored the Wolves 19-16 in the quarter.  Williams and Dieng looked relatively good down low, but the guard/wing play wasn’t very strong.  Shved hit on the Wolves final shot of the game and hopefully that is something to build off of.  ?

Mercifully, this one ended with the Wolves moving to 6-3 on the season and a final score of 124-95.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Corey Brewer – Beyond opening up the game with the team’s first nine points, Brewer was awesome!  27 points on 10-17 shooting, which includes a 5-5 from beyond the arc.  Perfect time to step up, given Kevin Martin’s absence.
  2. Ricky Rubio – It is Ricky Rubio’s world and we are just living in it.  16 points, 16 assists, and 6 rebounds.  I’m not even going to try to describe how amazing he was with the ball in his hands Wednesday night.
  3. Kevin Love – His double-double streak ended, but I am going to assume that isn’t going to be the headline from the game.  Love finished with a cool 33 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.

 Key Takeaways

  • This Wolves team is really exciting to watch.  However, there are still major concerns about the bench play beyond the 7 man rotation (which would contain Cunningham and Barea)
  • The Cavs are a mess and I don’t see how people view them as an up and coming team.  They have one really good player and that’s about all.
  • Good teams have players step up when adversity hits.  A golf clap goes towards Corey Brewer for his offensive game today in Martin’s absence.

Game Notes:

Shabazz Muhammad went 0-4 from the field for 0 points and 4 rebounds on his birthday.  (There is a rookie hazing comment here somewhere, right?)

Attendance for the game tonight was reported at 14,978.  Let’s see if that can go over 15,000 for a Saturday night game and coming off of this impressive victory.  (That was a challenge fans)

 

Recap: Wolves Drain Lakers, 113-90

Scattered about the web during, and before, the season — one phrase in particular lingers about the Minnesota Timberwolves fanbase; Wolves are Coming. Against the Los Angeles Lakers, under the lights and in front the sold out crowd of 19,000 at Staples Center, the Minnesota Timberwolves arrived on Sunday night.

The streak is over. Prior to last night, December 5th, 2005 was the last time the Wolves left Staples with a victory over the Lakers, they lost 22 consecutive games. Think about your life then, compare it to now. Yea — shocking. Because coaches and players are professionals it’s less likely that the streak continued because of failure to overcome a mental hurdle, however, this is Minnesota. Because pessimism and fatalism run rampant in the minds of Twins, Vikings, Wild and Wolves fans alike, the expectation of imminent failure and eventual disappointment lingers like gnats on the summer night of a beer-league softball game; will it be the Wolves that start to break the trend of negativity throughout the state? If something this monumental were to ever begin, the ball started rolling last night in L.A. It’s like the Lakers didn’t exist in the opening quarter.

Corey Brewer caught and finished an 85 foot outlet pass from Kevin Love.

Corey Brewer caught and finished an 85 foot outlet pass from Kevin Love.

 

Kevin Martin and Kevin Love ‘put on a clinic,’ as the cliche goes, shooting a combined 12 of 14 from the field, six of seven from downtown en route to scoring 34 of the team’s 47 points points in the first. Ricky Rubio, quietly (if it was possible for him to be low-key), assisted on seven baskets while snatching two rebounds and three steals. Rick Adelman and the Wolves offensive gameplan exposed Lakers’ center Chris Kaman, who was forced to defend Love on the perimeter, which isn’t easy, and K-Love had an easy time hitting 4 of 5 three-point attempts. K-Love, from the L.A. area, is outspoken whether it’s positive or negative and has been frank with his feelings since coming to Minnesota.

During the second quarter the bench continued it’s struggles and the Lakers outscored the Wolves 25-20, though many were still riding the high from the game’s first 12 minutes. Corey Brewer scored four, Nikola Pekovic had five, Martin added three and Love scored two as the J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved combined to score only four points; we’re left only to scratch our head and wait until the second-unit figured things out, it may not be until Chase Budinger returns.

The halftime lead was 67-48 and feelings of worry, unease and excitement continued to argue on the Twitter Machine. It’s as if nobody knows how to feel when the Wolves are beating the Lakers on the road. Love and Martin combined for 39 points including six more triples on nine attempts in addition to Brewer’s 10 points he obtained doing his usual thing in transition by the half. The Lakers made a push in the third behind the three-point shooting of Steve Blake. Again, the Wolves were outscored in a quarter, 23-28 and Blake converted three of four from downtown to continue fueling any pessimistic fire fearful of an eventual Minnesota Sports letdown. Dante Cunningham and Barea played just under four minutes each and the starting-five stayed on the floor, hinting at Adelman’s lack of confidence in anyone sitting to his left.

“We’re trying to establish ourselves, I don’t want to get our guys playing 45 minutes a night but I wanted to win” Adelman said after the game.

 

At the start of the final quarter his bench had only amounted to four, seemingly meaningless, points and the Wolves led 90-76. Blake and Jodie Meeks led the way for the Lakers, if there was a place to go, with 19 and 14 respectively. The crowd began to clear during the final quarter close to the eight minute mark, the show was over and it was time to head home. Rubio earned his second-career triple-double and took a seat shortly after, ending with a stat line of 12 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists and 5 steals — nobody gave a ‘quadruple double alert,’ though it had been mentioned throughout the second half. The Wolves defeated the Lakers, 113-90 in a 23 point, no-doubt, show-stopping performance under the lights and accolades hanging in the rafters at Staples — success that started in the state represented by the visitors.

It’s a franchise guy, potential MVP and league superstar like Love that needs to perform well in order to change the culture of a city and it’s fans. The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s MVP last season, is an example of an athlete that optimists in the Twin Cities hold tight to in ‘turning perspective around,’ he’s not due to be a free-agent until 2018. Love’s situation, and dominance, isn’t proven to be the same as “All Day’s” yet, K-Love will be a free-agent in the summer of 2015 — fans of the Lakers twisted his performance last night into ‘The Audition” for his eventual arrival back to the City of Angels.

How long will Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love be the All-Star Tandem in Twin Cities?

How long will Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love be the All-Star Tandem in Twin Cities?

 

It’s about winning, period. Players, fans, coaches and even writers such as myself want to see local teams succeed whether it’s against or with the odds. Heading into last night the Wolves were the better team on paper, during the game they were on the court but Laker faithful and even some local skeptics refuse to accept one thing — the Wolves are here. They’ll play the Los Angeles Clippers tonight, 9:30 CST (Fox Sports North)

 

Zach.

 

 

(Photos are from the Minnesota Timberwolves website and may be found in the photo gallery)

Chase Budinger Injures Left Knee

Well, here we are again. Per @Twolves_PR: Chase Budinger has sustained a cartilage injury to his left knee. Budinger signed a contract extension worth an estimated $18-million dollars for his services over the next three-years —   he was excited about returning this season.

 

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Dr. Andrews is arguably the most renowned orthopedic surgeons in the country, he’s worked with multiple famous athletes —  Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter to name a few.

Budinger has been optimistic about the knee during the offseason. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune wrote a column July 13th regarding Budinger’s excitement for the upcoming season, in the article Budinger tells Zgoda –

 “I want to come back and show everybody the kind of player I’m capable of being.”

“The best thing this summer is I’m able to jump again, which I couldn’t do at the end of last season,” he said. “I’m happy to be able to jump and dunk again.”

Until this point, Budinger has been optimistic about the knee this offseason. I don’t believe him or the Wolves would warrant a visit to Dr. Andrews, founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute, unless it is worth his time — the injury could be devastating.

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We’ll keep you in the know.

 

Get better, Chase. Stay healthy, Wolves.

David Sherman: Getty Images

David Sherman: Getty Images

 

 

 

The Final Narrative

I didn’t count how many times I wrote,”..because of injuries last season,” for good reason — it was frequently. I’m certain there are others who wrote it more than I did, what’s even worse? Fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to hear it more and more. “..because of injuries last season” is a phrase included within many articles written to summarize the type of year the Wolves had last season. It’s because of injuries last season that the Wolves didn’t have a good year; this is the narrative fans were left with. It continues this season, Dave Benz and Jim Peterson will say because of injuries last season on Fox Sports North; Alan Horton on Wolves Radio 830AM-WCCO broadcasts will say the phrase, too. John Focke will have a chance to remind everyone prior to Benz, Peterson and Horton before tip-off during the Wolves Live program.

Mention of the the injuries last season will continue until the Wolves are able to give fans something else to remember. For reasons that go beyond the injuries suffered last season, there’s pressure on the Wolves to make the playoffs this season.

This will be the last narrative I write about the Wolves this offseason — I promise. 

The Twin Cities need something to take pride in; the Vikings are 0 and 3 and the Twins are, well, I can’t tell you, but it’s bad — real bad. The Vikings piled onto the usual misery with a loss to the Cleveland Browns in the Metrodome over the weekend. The Purple will avoid local media this week as the Vikings face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Fans root-root-rooting for the home team at Target Field are doing so because the stadium’s amenities still provide reason to take someone out to the ballgame. The truth is – the Twins aren’t winning many games this season and it’s a shame.

Thinking about the Vikings, Twins, Wolves and even the Wild’s recent success is painful. Some fans that are unable to let-go remain obsessed over the Kevin Garnett Era, Brett Favre’s run at the Superbowl and cling to newfound hope that Zach Parise will bring Lord Stanley’s Cup home to the State of Hockey.

Jon Krawczynski is an AP Sports Writer based in Minneapolis covering the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Gophers and Wild.

Jon Krawczynski is an AP Sports Writer based in Minneapolis covering the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Gophers and Wild.

No NBA franchise hopes to be absent from the postseason for an entire decade, however, this could be the team’s fate this season. It’s been nine-years since the last Wolves postseason appearance. Ten-years ago at 13 years-old, I just received my first cellphone and was entering my freshman year of high school. Now 23, I’m five-years removed from moving out of my mother’s home, living in an apartment not far from where I grew up and have a job managing a small business 50-hours a week and writing when I have the time, my phone is an iphone5. Where were you the last time the Pups made the playoffs?

This offseason the Wolves:

  • Rid their hands of David Kahn, brought in Flip Saunders to be the President of Basketball Operations
  • Made other staff changes
  • Waived Greg Stiemsma and Mickael Gelabale
  • Resigned and signed Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin, respectively
  • Drafted Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Lorenzo Brown
  • Signed Corey Brewer and Ronnie Turiaf 
  • After what felt like a lifetime, resigned Nikola Pekovic
  • Made a one-year offer to Andrei Kirilenko, which he denied, AK47 is now with the Brooklyn Nets

Sorry, I’m going to remind you one more time; because of the injuries sustained over the course of this previous year, it wasn’t a very good season for the Timberwolves. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love went down, so did Brandon Roy — it took only five games for his track record of injuries to catch up with him, ending Roy’s season and his career (again). Budinger never got things going, appearing in only 23-Loveless games or – games that didn’t include K-Love. Love and Rubio were on and off; more on than off, Rubio played in 57 and Love appeared in 18 games, the duo only played three-games together.

The loss of AK47 hurts the team defensively and I should probably miss his presence more than I do, however, attaining Brewer from Denver was an excellent move that can compensate for some of what the Wolves lost with Kirilenko.

It’s unrealistic to think there won’t be any injuries suffered during the course of the season — not every player can play every game. However, because of the injuries last season, if any of them do go down there’s an adept, experienced teammate to take their place. As an optimist I believe that something positive can be taken always be taken from any form of adversity. Last year; Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham both gained valuable experience playing expanded roles, we also learned a little more about former 2nd-overall pick Derrick Williams.

Watching Shved play with Russia in FIBA’s EuroBasket, I’ve grown fond of his game. Shved played significant minutes at shooting guard last season but he plays his best basketball as a point guard. Because PG was played mostly by Ridnour and Barea, Shved was forced to play off-the-ball for the majority of the season, this was very unusual for him; his natural position is at the point leading the offense. At EuroBasket, 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, but I’m hoping that provide him the opportunity to play most of the 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.

Cunningham played in 80 games last season, though only averaging 9 points and 5 boards he made those most of every minute — leaving everything out on the floor. Cunningham averaged 25 minutes per game last season, a sign he’s earned Adelman’s trust. If, and it’s a big if, Love is able to stay healthy and Williams continues to improve or have a breakout season, D.C. won’t play anywhere close to the amount of minutes he did last season.

Here are Love’s career averages.

Stats from Basketball Reference

Stats from Basketball Reference

Last year was only a small sample, his 22-percent 3-point shooting was on 20 of 92 attempts. Hopefully, Love is able to stay healthy and get back into the 37-42 percent range we know he’s capable of.

It wasn’t just Love not shooting well from behind-the-arc last season, the entire team was abysmal. The Wolves shot 31 percent from three-point range, dead last in the NBA — something that won’t happen again this season.

The first reason, Brewer and his ability to hit the corner three.

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If you don’t see where he’s at his best, it’s in the left corner when facing the basket. Brewer is a little over 41 percent on 49 of 119 shooting from that spot, he’s 42 of 176 from everywhere else. Adelman’s Princeton offense is dependent on players who can stretch the floor and shoot from the outside, Brewer can be successful playing within the system if he converts on the looks created for him in the corner.

Additionally, he’ll contribute when in transition. Brewer has a knack for sneaking behind defenses — essentially stealing points by cherry picking, Here’s where CBS’s Zach Harper explains it in detail. This will theoretically work hand-in-hand with the crafty outlet passes Love is notorious for, such as this one.

Kevin Love Outlet Pass

Two other reasons I believe the Wolves will shoot better from behind the line; Budinger and Martin are both knockdown jump shooters. Martin was 43 percent with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season and is 39 percent lifetime, Budinger’s lifetime average is 36 percent. Not only are Budinger and Martin lights-out shooting the ball, they’re familiar with the system — Adelman coached both players during the trio’s time spent together with the Houston Rockets.

Has Rubio improved his jump shot? It’s tough to tell. Here’s are his averages and game-by-game numbers recorded at EuroBasket.

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Looking at the accumulated statistics, Rubio ended EuroBasket shooting 46 percent from the field and 44 percent from the field; both are better than his two-year averages with the Wolves, though it is a smaller sample.

Here are his numbers with the Wolves.

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I wrote a column for HoopsHabit checking in with Rubio’s jumper, going a little further in depth than just box scores.

The following statistics represent Rubio’s numbers through Spain’s first eight-games of EuroBasket.

“Rubio is successful in the mid-range area; the middle of the lane extending past the free-throw line and before the 3-point stripe. He looks comfortable pulling up off the dribble into a jump shot near the foul line. He’s 5-of-12 thus far through the tournament in this area, which is a little over 41 percent. This is higher than Rubio’s 37 percent average from the field through two years playing in Minnesota.

Of the 12 attempts inside the lane, Rubio has made four of them. We established that he struggles around the rim — It’s as worrisome as it is curious, but from watching Rubio compete the attempts within the lane are contested and some of them have been late in the shot clock. Shooting 33 percent inside the lane isn’t going produce well enough by any league’s standards.

Shooting the ball from spots near the top of the key between the 3-point line and the free-throw line are where Rubio is comfortable. But just being comfortable in these areas won’t be enough if he wants to remain in the circle with the elite class of NBA point guards. Rubio needs to improve upon his strengths, but must also work to eliminate the current weaknesses to an adequate level if he hopes to improve as a scorer, and in turn, a better player overall.”

 

On June 30th John made a checklist of what plans the Wolves should or could have during the free agency period, I felt he was spot on.

  1. Resign Pek
  2. Sign a shooting guard
  3. Resign Budinger
  4. Balance the roster

Other than the order of which each occurred, Flip managed accomplished all of the above in somewhat of an efficient manner. Some may believe $60 million may be too much for Pek and that Martin is washed-up, however, the front-office did what was needed in order for the Wolves to compete for a playoff spot this year.

 

Last Friday in an interview with HoopsHype, Rubio was asked; “Is it playoffs or bust?”.

His response was this, “Too early to say if the playoffs are the goal. Let’s see how things go in training camp and how the new pieces fit in. Then we’ll see how things evolve during the season, it’s too early to talk about playoffs.”

From the coaches and players standpoint, Rubio’s right; It’s too early to talk about playoffs, but what about from the perspective of a fan? It’s tough to argue that the Wolves didn’t do all the right things this offseason, I believe they did, but when Timberpups looked at how the Wolves stack up in the Western Conference, Drew told us that there’s enough talent between the Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and the Denver Nuggets to keep Minnesota out of the playoffs. If the team isn’t poised for a playoff run this season — will it ever be? Has Flip made plans in preparation for the long-term? I don’t possess the knowledge. What I do know is that Minnesota has restructured and re enforced their roster — the Timberwolves are capable of not only of qualifying for the postseason this year, but becoming a perennial playoff team in the Western Conference…. assuming they’re able to stay healthy, of course….


 

Developing Affiliations.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are set to play the Milwaukee Bucks October 11th at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  It’s the team’s last preseason game.  Fans residing in Minnesota and Wisconsin hoping to catch their squad’s final tuneup before the season must put six-or-so-hours of mileage on their own vehicle, if departing from the Twin Cities. The drive, accordingly, is further from Wisconsin.

These exhibitions provide opportunity to get closer to witnessing professionals without thinning the wallet and sneaking closer to an open seat spotted from the nosebleeds. Aspiring journalists like myself, along with fans, lose the convenience of attending the game had the location been Minneapolis or Milwaukee.  I asked Eric Buenning, staff writer for SB Nation’s Brewhoop.com, a Milwaukee Bucks blog,  if he would consider attending the game had the location not been in the Falls. “Absolutely”. Buenning has no intentions of attending the game.

 

Moving beyond frustrations attributed from the location of the Wolves-Bucks matchup.

 

The Pentagon is used as the home floor of the Falls Skyforce, an NBA Development-League club owned by the Miami Heat.  The Heat made the Skyforce their own this off-season, leaving the Wolves in search of a home to develop players.  The Iowa Energy became the new D-League affiliation.

Would the Wolves would benefit by possessing a developmental squad of their own?  How’s this; The Spurs, Lakers, Celtics, Thunder and Rockets don’t share prospects with anyone.  If prominent organizations are doing it, why wouldn’t the smaller clubs, like the Wolves, covet an infrastructure intended to benefit their largest product?

In an interview with the Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda, Flip Saunders had this to say on the Wolves use of the D-League.

Zgoda: How probable is it that Shabazz Muhammed and Gorgui Dieng spend time in the D-League?

Flip“I’m a proponent of minor leagues. I was there seven years and had 21 guys called up. It’s a good development league, it’s not a punishment league. Guys can get better and gain confidence. We’re going to try to utilize it. I don’t think we’ve used it very much here in the past. If we send somebody down, we’ll send somebody from our staff with them so they don’t feel we’ve forgotten about them. That’s the biggest thing: You don’t want anyone that goes there to feel they’ve been forgotten.”

“Now saying that, we might not have anyone go down there this year, but we are very open about it and we’re going to have a very good relationship with our Iowa team. I’ve talked with Glen. We’re going to entertain the opportunity a year or two down the road here of purchasing a hybrid NBDL team.” 

The minor league Flip himself spent time with is the Continental Basketball Association or CBA, which has since disbanded. His accolades go further than a number developed ‘call-ups’.  He tallied 253 coaching victories, third highest in the league’s history, and led the LaCrosse Catbirds to CBA Championships while earning Coach of the Year honors in the ‘90 and in ’92 seasons.  Prior to arriving in the CBA, Flip worked as an assistant with the University of Minnesota and the University of Tulsa.  With achievements to use as credentials he found a place on an NBA sideline in ’95 with the Wolves.

In addition to Shabazz and Dieng, Robbie Hummel and Lorenzo Brown will also participate in training camp activities. Hummel, who showed improvement in the Las Vegas Summer League, has worked to rid himself from an injury bug that’s affected parts of his career.  With no intentions of returning to Spain where he played 30 games for Blusens (Obradoiro) last season, Hummel’s game must flow through the log-jam of forwards (Derrick Williams, Shabazz, Dante Cunningham, Kevin Love, Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer) in order to make the 15-man roster.

Brown, the Pups 2nd round selection, missed only two games during his third and final season at North Carolina State. He averaged just over seven assists in his junior campaign and played the primary facilitator in the Wolfpack’s offense. Playing 19.2 minutes per game in LVSL, Brown’s 50 percent from 3pt-range was impressive, but, he only managed 38% from the field. His 2.2 assists per game were negated by averaging 1.8 turnovers per game.  With the minutes available between Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved and Barea at point guard, I would be shocked if Brown claimed a spot running with this pack of Wolves.

It’s worth noting that each of the teams competing in the Finals going back to the 2006 season have included at least one former D-Leaguer on their roster.  Here’s a few recent developmental success stories.

  • J.J. Barea played eight games with the Fort Worth Flyers in the 2006-2007 season before being added to the Dallas Mavericks roster.  He averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists for the Mavs during the 2011 postseason and helped defeat the Miami Heat enroute to a championship.

  • Corey Joseph averaged 1.8ppg in a little over 7mpg in the finals this past season.  Though he didn’t contribute the most statistically, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich trusted him enough to be the floor. Joseph started 26 games for the Austin Toros and shot over 45 percent from both the field and behind the arc, averaging just under 20ppg.

  • Chris “Birdman” Andersen also didn’t do much filling of the stat-sheet but was pivotal to Miami’s success setting screens for LeBron James and doing the dirty work beneath the rim. Andersen was a member of the Fayetteville Patriots in 2001.

  • After a roster-rule exemption made by the league, Chris Johnson, previously signed to a 10-day contract, brought enthusiasm and cheers to the Target Center in the midst of a disappointing, injury plagued season.

Did the D-League help bring attention to these players while helping them sharpen the skills necessary to adequately contribute on the professional level? The D in NBA D-League, after-all, stands for development.

I recently had the pleasure of exchanging emails with Kevin Danna, broadcaster for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s unshared affiliate. He doesn’t hide his love for the D-League as it’s genuine. In our conversation I mentioned the upcoming Wolves-Bucks meeting at the Pentagon, leading my inquiry of his perspective on the S.F. Skyforce and it’s fanbase.

Kevin “I don’t know how many they usually get in South Dakota (attendance), but they are known for a strong fan base. Santa Cruz is also known for a very strong fan base; I’d argue the best in the D-League not just because I work for the Sea Dubs, but because I’ve been to 13 of the 16 (now 17) D-League gyms. Maine has passionate fans and they probably have more raw numbers because their gym is bigger, but no crowd gets loud like it does in Santa Cruz. From memory, I think Maine’s Portland Expo seats about 4,000, and they usually fill it up.”

Zach - If D-League teams have a fan base, why not have more teams?  Theoretically it’s good business.

Kevin - ” The reason the league gives for not having more D-League teams is that they want to expand slowly. The eventual goal is to have a 30-for-30 model where every D-League team has a single affiliation with an NBA team, but they don’t want to just open up 13 new franchises next year- that would be a nightmare and a half for the league to deal with.”

There are 16 teams shared between three Affiliates and 14 NBA clubs fraternize only with their own kind, making a total of 17 D-League teams.   The Energy are shared also with; the Bulls, Nuggets, Pelicans and Wizards.  This seems strange, but, D-League teams; The Bakersfield Jam and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants are also a hub for multiple NBA teams.  The Hawks, Clippers, Suns, Raptors and Jazz players play in Bakersfield, California while Fort Wayne, Indiana hosts those from the Bobcats, Bucks, Pistons, Pacers, Grizzlies and Magic.

 Danna would continue,

“It’s (D-League) entering its 13th season, and I think maybe its 8th completely under the NBA umbrella. It’s young. The league started out as 8 teams, all in the Southeast region of the United States and was completely a bus league, from what I’ve been told. It then shrunk to 6 before expanding and eventually leaving the Southeast altogether. So in the last nine seasons including this one, the D-League has gone from 6 to 17 teams; the league has indeed been expanding (albeit many of those teams were former CBA franchises and just jumped ship when the CBA imploded, but still) at a pretty good rate, and that’s with a few teams folding along the way (Arkansas RimRockers, Utah Flash (now the Delaware 87ers), and Florida Flame, for example). And the 30-for-30 model isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky idea; Orlando has come out and said they want a D-League team; I’ve heard the Nuggets are potentially interested; and there was an article in the Salt Lake Tribune not too far back about the Jazz wanting to put a D-League team in St. George.”

The schedule for the 13th D-League season was released today today. On opening night, the Energy will face the Tulsa 66′ers (Oklahoma City Thunder Affiliate) November 22nd at 7:00pm.  For more in-depth coverage, check out Ridiculous Upside. R.U., also part of SB Nation, contains the work of writers dedicated to providing accurate, current and up-to-date D-League, as well as NBA Draft, news and content.

After the Pups break camp in the fall, we’ll see which players join the Energy for the NBADL season.  This is essentially the genesis of Timberpups.com’s efforts intention to cover, not only potential Timberwolves and how they are performing in the D-League, but any and all steps forward by the organization towards obtaining it’s own Development-League affiliate.

Players, coaches, Buenning, Danna, myself, the T-Pups staff alongside fans everywhere; We are all developing as basketball continues to grow worldwide.

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