Timberwolves Summer League Game 1 Recap

Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng prepare for Summer League (Photo Credit: John Autey)

Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng prepare for Summer League
(Photo Credit: John Autey)

Welcome to the Las Vegas Summer League folks!  We’re joined “live” on the Google Nexus 7 because NBA TV has the Timberwolves game in the 4am-6am timeslot (replacing the Hip Hop Abs infomercial for one week).  The Wolves opened up Summer League playing against the D-League Select team.  Here’s a quick recap of how the team looked and how things progressed in a somewhat surprisingly entertaining evening of basketball.

Steve Smith was the commentator for the game, thereby saving me a handful of whiny, complaining tweets about Reggie Miller.  Thankfully.  The Timberwolves starting five consisted of Kee Kee Clark, Shabazz Muhammad, Robbie Hummel, Chris Johnson, and Gorgui Dieng.  The production team must be ironing out the wrinkles as well, as they had Gorgui Dieng playing shooting guard when listing out the starting lineups. [Read more...]

Timberwolves Summer League Preview

Sources exclusive to the Timberpups.com team have confirmed the following: the Minnesota Timberwolves will take part in the Las Vegas Summer League that takes place from July 12th – 22nd.  The Timberwolves announced the roster on Monday and here are our participating Pups:

Luke Sikma returns to the Timberwolves Summer League squad.

Luke Sikma returns to the Timberwolves Summer League squad.

Guards:

Marqus Blakely
Lorenzo Brown
Kee Kee Clark
John Holland
Othyus Jeffers
Demitri McCamey
Brandon Paul

Forwards:

Robbie Hummel
Solomon Jones
Shabazz Muhammad
Luke Sikma
Mychel Thompson

Centers:

Gorgui Dieng
Chris Johnson
Phil Jones [Read more...]

Timberwolves Waive Stiemsma and Gelabale

To close out the holiday weekend, the Timberwolves officially announced that they have waived Center Greg Stiemsma and Forward Mickael Gelabale.  Neither of these moves should really be too surprising for Timberwolves fans, but here was the official news from the Timberwolves PR Twitter account:

First, in regard to Greg Stiemsma, there simply isn’t enough room on the roster for him.  Given the presumed return of Nikola Pekovic, the drafting of Gorgui Dieng, and the guaranteed (and cheaper) contract of Chris Johnson, there really wasn’t an easier solution for the front office.  You have to assume at this point that the club has done their homework and will be comfortable matching any offer that comes to Pekovic.  Which of course is a good thing. [Read more...]

Minnesota Timberwolves 107, San Antonio Spurs 83

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Image

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Image

Game Summary:

On Tuesday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves played host to the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs and were greeted to a depleted Spurs team of their own. Gregg Popovich opted to give Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard the game off to rest while Tony Parker too currently remains sidelined due to injury. San Antonio’s starting lineup consisted of Matt Bonner, Stephen Jackson, Tiago Splitter, Cory Joseph and Danny Green.

After torching the Pups in his previous matchup, Danny Green provided early scoring for the Spurs from beyond the arc and off the dribble-drive. Since being exiled to the D-League less than two years ago, Green has established a very important role on the league-best Spurs.

Speaking of former D-Leaguers, Cory Joseph started at PG. As many of you may know, Cory is brother to Devoe Joseph, the former Gopher basketball player who ultimately transferred to Oregon. For the third point guard on a team, Joseph has a rare ability to create his own shots and brings tremendous size and athleticism to the point guard position. Joseph led all Spurs with 15 points in 26 minutes.

From the get go, this game was the Ricky Rubio show. Ricky absolutely thrived opposite of the young and inexperienced Joseph and left his tracks on the inside and outside. He did a marvelous job of gaining penetration and faced a much easier defensive group than they saw in the two teams previous matchup. Rubio was not only prevalent in his spectacular passing – highlighted by a Sports Center top play nominee – but he looked very comfortable pulling up for jump shots off of screens while even knocking down a few spotted-up deeper looks. Nothing but positive things to say about our captain who could be seen screaming and cheering for his teammates for the rare minutes he was not on the court leading the Pups to victory. He is truly a fantastic role model for all young Minnesota athletes.

The Timberwolves soard ahead 49-37 with less than 2 minutes to play in the second quarter behind 13 points and 7 assits from Ricky. Minnesota led after the first half 53-38 in a game that was shaping up to be a very rare victory over the Spurs. San Antonio’s lone active superstar, Manu Ginobili was ice cold and missed several wide-open looks that we are not accustomed to seeing. The second half got out of hand quickly as the Timberwolves gained a 25-point lead halfway through the third quarter. By the end of the third quarter, the game practically felt like it was over in a matchup between “which team’s roster is more depleted.”

With 9 minutes remaining and the game well out of hand, Ricky Rubio grabbed his tenth rebound marking his first career triple-double and the first triple-double of the season for the battered Timberwolves. While many point to the resting of Duncan-Parker-Leonard as the primary reason for the lopsided score and Rubio’s absolute domination, it must be noted that Minnesota is dealing with countless issues of their own and got a well-earned home victory. With a happy crowd gazing as the two teams spent the final few minutes running in sloppy transition, the Pups finished out this one by a score of 107-83.

Notable Performances:

Greg Stiemsma had himself a day with 3 goal-tends, and it is hard to think back on the early games of the season when the Stiemer was actually effective as a primary shot-blocker. I have been very disappointed with his sub-par play over the past few months and he will need to reassert himself at some time if he is to find a permanent home with the ballclub.

Minnesota’s bench was ridiculous in this game, as each player possessed at least a +21 on the floor combining for 48 points among Alexey Shved, JJ Barea, Chris Johnson and Dante Cunningham.

Tiago Splitter, who has developed into a very nice player under Popovich, went a dreadful 1-10 from the field and scored only 4 points in 22 minutes. When considering the favorable matchups against a depleted Minnesota frontcourt, Splitter really had an off night.

Keys of the Game:

  • Three-point shooting - I know you cannot point at only one aspect and say that it was the reason for victory, but the way the Wolves shot the ball last night was completely uncharacteristic and was a sight for sore eyes. The Pups shot 12-20 (60%) from downtown and fed off of each others makes, creating a very pleasant atmosphere in the Target Center.
  • Ball movement - Minnesota notched 30 assists as a team to only 19 by the Spurs. The Wolves had a very easy time with their lateral ball movement in the half-court offense, and worked at a very steady pace throughout the game.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Ricky Rubio - Congratulations to Ricky as he finally recorded his first career triple-double in arguably his greatest performance of the season. It was very refreshing to see Ricky having so much fun on the court and while cheering from the bench, and it makes me realize how truly lucky we are that Kahn’s big gamble paid off. In 35 minutes, the Spaniard put up the line of 21 points (9-17 FG), 13 rebounds, 12 assists and 4 turnovers with a +23 on the floor.
  2. Alexey Shved -Welcome back Shved! Alexey broke out of his terrible slump – for at least one game – as he finished with 16 points (6-8 FG) and 7 assists in 30 minutes. The Russian nailed 3 of his 4 attempts from long range and was even the beneficiary of a generous rim on his last make. A big theme throughout this season has been how when Alexey plays well, the Timberwolves have been very hard to beat. However, the rookie has had troubles becoming acclimated to the elongated NBA season in comparison with FIBA.
  3. Chris Johnson - Johnson clearly outshone the starter Stiemsma and was everything that we need for him to be in the role he currently is in. In 22 minutes, Johnson scored 6 points while converting on all 3 of his field goal attempts to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 blocks.

Minnesota Timberwolves 101, Washington Wizards 114

Wall blocking RickyGame Summary

The 17-22 Timberwolves travelled east to take on the 9-31 Washington Wizards on Friday night.  Hope everyone set their DVR’s.  The Pups opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Stiemsma.  The Wizards countered with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene Hilario, and Emeka Okafor.  Wall was making his first start of the season in his eighth game of the year, as if the Wolves have not been pummeled enough by opposing PG’s.

The early minutes of the game was played at warp speed.  However, it was also terribly sloppy.  Going into the first timeout, the Wizards held a 17-9 lead.  Washington was 7-9 from the field but had three turnovers.  The Wolves were only 4-12 from the field and matched the Wizards three turnovers.

Despite struggling mightily from the field for much of the quarter and falling down by as many as eleven, the Wolves closed the quarter on a 9-2 run.  Jordan Crawford hit a floater at the buzzer to give the Wizards a 29-25 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.  Going back to Wednesday night’s game, it would be nice to see the Wolves execute in the closing seconds of any quarter.

The second quarter was full of mini-runs by both teams and the Pups drew the short straw when all was said and done.  After building their lead to nine, the Wizards allowed the Wolves to cut it back to a two possession game.  Then, both teams set NBA basketball back about thirty years with some awful play in the middle of the quarter.  As soon as that train of thought started popping into my mind, the Wizards went on a nice run to close out the quarter.

After one half of basketball, the Wolves trailed by 14 points, 60-46.  When would you like me to mention how the Wolves performed to close out the quarter?  Right here (it was awful) or through my Wolves lens and halftime thoughts …

  • At halftime, it had been at least six quarters since the Pups closed out a quarter well
  • The only reason the Wolves weren’t losing by 20 or more points is because of how well they were rebounding the ball on the offensive end, holding a 13-3 advantage over the Wolves
  • The coaching staff needs to rein Dante Cunningham’s jumper in a bit – 16 feet and in until he gets things going again (1-6 from the field in the first half)
  • FG and FT shooting are killing the Pups right now.  But other than that …

In the interest of not looking like a maniac, let’s agree that the second half was atrocious and just move on, fair?  The Wolves didn’t do anything right in the half, with Terry Porter leading the charge and just about every member of the roster following suit.  Derrick Williams finished the game with a double-double (18 & 11) but it felt completely irrelevant.  Luke Ridnour had a nice game shooting but he probably gave up double that on the other end of the court.  The Pups ten day contractors continued to put up positive results, but I’m not sure if this is actually a good thing or bad thing at this point.

Outside of rebounding the ball on both ends, the Wolves did virtually nothing well on Friday night.  The Wolves shot 44% from the field, while their defense, or lack thereof, aided in the Wizards shooting a lights out 58%.  As an added bonus, the Wolves missed thirteen (?!) free throws Friday night, going 20-33 from the “charity” line.

To complete the trifecta, the Wolves were 3-14 from 3PT range again tonight and there might be a need to ban three point shooting tomorrow night in Charlotte.  I wish I were joking, but if I were coaching this team I would consider fining anyone that shoots a three pointer tomorrow night.  The team really needs to focus on an inside out game even if their post players don’t fit the bill.

The Wizards go to ten wins on the season, beating the Pups 114-101 and it didn’t really feel like that close of a game at all in the second half.  The loss is the Wolves third in a row and eighth in their last nine.  Thankfully, Big Al is covering Saturday night’s game in Charlotte …

Keys of the Game

  • FT Shooting – I’m not sure I’ve done a recap where this hasn’t been a problem for the Wolves.  The cynic in me would point out that if the Wolves were perfect from the line, the game would have been tied and gone into OT.  I’m not that ridiculous though.
  • Energy – This might sound a little ridiculous, but the difference in energy levels and body language was very telling.  This Wolves team is obviously struggling and it is starting to show all over the place.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Bradley Beal – 16 points and a game high+24 in the box score, but more impressive was the 4 blocked shots, including one on a Wolves fast break that was probably the play of the game
  2. John Wall – Wall only played 20 minutes but he broke down defenders consistently and hit what became open jumpers.  Breaking: John Wall is good.
  3. Chris Johnson – Struggling to find a third star, so I want to give kudos to Chris Johnson, who put up 9 & 5 in a little over 20 minutes.  What I want to commend him for is banging in the paint and being some type of “presence” for the team.  Doogie sent out the note below that should be of interest to Pups fans …

Minnesota Timberwolves 92, Houston Rockets 79

Newly signed Timberpup Chris Johnson received "M-V-P" chants from a Timberwolves fan base in need of optimism (Photo credit; David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Newly signed Timberpup Chris Johnson received “M-V-P” chants from a Timberwolves fan base in need of optimism (Photo credit; David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Game Summary

What a difference a few more healthy bodies can make. Coming into the Target Center on a 5-game losing streak, the Timberwolves fended off a slumping Houston Rockets team that has now lost 7 straight games. Playing without Dante Cunningham (illness), Alexey Shved (left ankle sprain) and Nikola Pekovic (right thigh contusion), the Wolves saw huge contributions from newly signed players Mikael Gelabale and Chris Johnson, both of which recently received 10-day contracts to fill in for the numerous injured bodies the Pups have this season.

The Timberwolves got in front early thanks to some poor shooting by the Rockets. After scoring 30 points in his previous matchup against the Pups, James Harden was ice cold last night and was 5 for 18 from the field, including a miserable 0 of 7 from three. Given a mismatch playing opposite of Timberwolves starting SG Luke Ridnour, Harden was unable to use his size advantage to exploit the 6-foot-2 Ridnour. To the Timberwolves credit, they did a very good job helping on defense and effectively neutralized the Rockets’ new superstar.

Leaving his Spanish league team in Valencia, Spain, Mikael Gelabale played 21 minutes in his first game for the Timberwolves and did what was asked of him despite not being familiar with the offensive or defensive sets. The long and athletic French small forward previously played two seasons for the Seattle Supersonics before a torn ACL suspended his NBA career. With Minnesota more injury-riddled than ever, the swingman was once again given an opportunity to earn an NBA contract and I have to say he made a good case for a rest of year contract with his performance last night. Gelabale finished his Wolves debut with 11 points on 3-6 shooting, 4 rebounds and 1 assist without turning the ball over.

Ricky Rubio was able to contribute 30 minutes last night, which marks the most minutes he has played in a game this season. Having Ricky on the floor for the fourth quarter drastically improves the Pups’ ability to manage games, and a few torn knee ligaments were not enough to take away from his late-game poise. It is still blatantly obvious that Rubio’s knee is continuing to give him trouble in his acceleration and on his cuts, but he is undoubtedly improving. If Ricky can avoid any setbacks and get back to nearly full strength following the All-Star break, I completely believe that the playoffs are by no means out of reach. Tricky Ricky ended the night with 7 points on 1-3 shooting, 6 assists, 1 rebound and 2 turnovers.

Facing against a weak opposing frontcourt due to Omer Asik being in foul trouble, Minnesota’s starting frontcourt of Derrick Williams and Greg Stiemsma played very strong defense holding Houston’s starting frontcourt to only 5 points. Stiemsma, a defensive specialist, was +20 on the floor and contributed 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in nearly 22 minutes. Williams was inconsistent on the offensive end and highlighted his struggles finishing at the rim with a missed layup in transition that infuriated the Pups’ coaching staff. However, he did provide 11 points and 5 rebounds and was +12 on the floor. Williams’ inability to finish at the rim continues to baffle anyone who watches the Wolves play, and I simply do not understand why someone so athletic and coordinated cannot get the ball in the hoop from 5 feet and in. Relatively speaking, Williams’ problems are not as concerning as other problems he may have in his transition to the NBA game, because I think that with time it is totally fixable. In the meantime, his struggles around the rim are hurting the Timberwolves chances in closer games, and he needs to begin to knock down his high percentage chances if the Wolves are to make a legitimate run at the playoffs.

Last night saw huge performances from both Andrei Kirilenko and……Chris Johnson?! Yeah, I was just as shocked as everyone else watching last night by the play from the virtually unknown D-Leaguer who recently signed a 10-day contract with Minnesota. For those who did not see the game, Johnson reminds me of an Anthony Randolph without the “sad dog” face. Standing at 6-foot-11 and weighing in at a thin 220ish pounds, Johnson is very athletic and showed off his bounce with some very fun-to-watch slam dunks coming off screens and off offensive rebounds. Despite his lack of great strength, he held his own on defense and literally brought Minnesota fans to their feet on multiple occasions last night. I am excited to see his next game, because I hate getting overly optimistic from such a small sample size. Regardless, last night’s performance was encouraging to say the least. Oh yeah, and he even received a “M-V-P” chant during a pair of free throws.

Keys of the game

  • Personal Fouls - Houston 29, MN 19: Foul trouble was a big factor in the second half, especially the third period as Minnesota was in the penalty for much of the third period and took advantage of their chances at the free throw line. As a team, the Pups shot 29 for 36 from the charity stipe, good for 81%. After having a big night against the Timberwolves in the previous matchup of the two teams, Rockets center Omer Asik had a very quiet night due to foul trouble which limited him to just under 16 minutes of playing time. And although the Wolves did not have Nikola Pekovic in the lineup to take advantage of Asik being on the bench, newcomer Chris Johnson contributed a tremendous debut performance on both ends of the floor.
  • Turnovers - Houston 20, MN 15: Too many unforced errors for the Rockets who are clearly out of rhythm offensively in the midst of a 7-game slide. With James Harden struggling to produce offensively, there has been increased strain on secondary players to make plays, which has in turn led to too many turnovers. As Ricky Rubio continues to get stronger and play more minutes, the Pups have done an increasingly better job of securing the basketball and making smarter passes.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Chris Johnson: Johnson was the spark that fueled not only the Timberwolves players, but also a home crowd that was in desperate need of optimism. In a home environment that almost sounded eerily quiet at times, Johnson gave Minnesotans a reason to stand up and scream due to his emphatic slam dunks and timely defense. Although it was only one game, Johnson gave the Timberwolves a reason to smile. In only 18 minutes played, the big man out of LSU recorded 15 points on 4-4 shooting (7-8 FT), 6 rebounds and 1 block.
  2. Andrei Kirilenko: It is very difficult to properly put into words what AK-47 has meant to this ballclub this season. With a track record for being injury-prone, Kirilenko has been the team’s rock and most consistent player up to this point in the season. AK held opposing SF Chandler Parsons to 7 points on 2-10 shooting, while netting 21 points on 8-11 shooting with 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in 42 minutes.
  3. Luke Ridnour: Ridnour has seen big improvement in his game ever since being moved to starting SG with Rubio starting alongside him at PG. It is very evident that at this point in his career, Luke is much more suited to play the SG position. In 36 minutes, he finished with 16 points on 6-13 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 turnovers.