Timberwolves Ink Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin to Deals

Both Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin agreed with Minnesota on Tuesday, adding two much needed perimeter shooters to a group that ranked dead last in three-point shooting last season.

Both Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin agreed with Minnesota on Tuesday, adding two much needed perimeter shooters to a group that ranked dead last in three-point shooting last season.

Things just got very interesting for the Timberwolves only a few days into free agency. On Tuesday, Minnesota got things started by coming to terms with RFA SG/SF Chase Budinger on a three year, $16 million pact and made some noise later that day by agreeing to a four year, $28 million agreement with UFA SG Kevin Martin.

Budinger, 25, was originally acquired by the Timberwolves in a draft day trade last summer that sent Minnesota’s 18th overall pick to the Houston Rockets. The Arizona product had trouble staying on the court during his first season for the Pups, as he missed all but 23 games after tearing his meniscus just 6 games into the 2012-13 season. When healthy, he brings strong perimeter shooting and a very high competence of Rick Adelman‘s corner offense, of whom he played for in Houston for two seasons before ultimately landing in the land of 10,000 lakes. He will likely be the starter at small forward with F Derrick Williams and SF Shabazz Muhammad also seeing time at the 3. [Read more...]

Timberwolves 2012-13 Player Grades: Forwards

"Don't worry, we'll pick up the slack in your absence" Photo credit: AP

“Don’t worry, we’ll pick up the slack in your absence”
Photo credit: AP

Here are our first round of reviews from this past season’s body of work.  Ladies and gentlemen, the Timberwolves 2012-13 player grades for your offseason enjoyment!  We’ll be concentrating on the forwards that graced us with their presence this past season.  Let’s get right into the season review …

Player: Kevin Love

Season Summary

To put it mildly, it wasn’t a great year for Kevin Love.  He broke a bone in his right hand before the season even started doing knuckle push-ups.  He returned earlier than doctors and the team had predicted and had a monster game against Denver on 11/21 at the Target Center – 34 points and 14 rebounds.  While putting up big numbers in the box score, it was clear that Love wasn’t himself after the first week.  He was not in game shape at all and his shooting percentages started to spiral downward – his final shooting percentages for the season were 35% from the field, 22% from three point range and 70% from the free throw line, all well below his career averages.

In December, Love missed a game here and there and averaged 17.5ppg and 13.3rpg.  By no means are those numbers to yawn at, but not what we were expecting to see from our all-star forward.  Then, shortly after the turn of the calendar year, the season came to a screeching halt for Love.  Ironically, it came against the Denver Nuggets, the team that he opened up his season against.  During a fluke incident around the paint, Love ran into a Nugget and re-fractured his hand.

That wound up being the end of Kevin Love’s season.  Despite rumors that he might return towards the end of the regular season, he never saw the floor again.

Season Highlight

While Love had several very impressive games, I am going to go with the night previously mentioned above – his return to the floor for the first time of the season and putting up the 34 and 14, leading the team to a victory.  It felt like it was time to get the season really going when he got back on the floor and my own conventional wisdom had hopes that his return was the start of a playoff run and a string of returning players to the lineup.  Yeah, that never happened.

Love had a few other monster games, including a 23 point, 24 rebound night in Sacramento on 11/27 and a season-high 36 points on 10-19 shooting at home against Cleveland on 12/7.  However, his return helped energize the fan base; if only for a short amount of time.

Season Lowlight

This one is pretty easy.  The Timberwolves season unofficially ended on Thursday, 1/3/13 when Love re-fractured the bone in his hand.  He was having a monster performance on the boards that night – 17 rebounds in 24 minutes, and everything went kaput on a fluke play.

Final Grade: Incomplete

If it ever comes out that Love didn’t break his hand doing knuckle push-ups and was originally injured doing something even dumber, this grade will be changed to an F minus-minus.  Let the conspiracy theorists have some fun with this one.

[Read more...]

Minnesota Timberwolves 108 – San Antonio Spurs 95

Photo Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Photo Credit: Yahoo! Sports

The Pups had a chance to close the season on a winning note Wednesday night in San Antonio after losing their last home game at Target Center to Utah on Monday.  The Spurs came into Wednesday’s game a little banged up and it shouldn’t have been too surprising to see them give their regulars limited roles in the game.

Nikola Pekovic sat out Wednesday’s game again, finishing the season having missed 20 of the 82 games, allowing legitimate questions about his durability given his forthcoming free agency.  That said, taking out Love’s 18 game season, Big Pek led the team in scoring and rebounding, with 16.3 and 8.8 per game respectively.

The Timberwolves opened the game with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Stiemsma.  The Spurs countered with Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, and Matt Bonner.  Minnesota actually got off to a pretty strong start, jumping out to an 11-4 lead.  About halfway through the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 20-11, with Tim Duncan looking like the only Spur to have brought a live body to the court on the evening.  Conversely, each Pup starter was on the board with at least one basket, led by Rubio and Williams.

In typical Spurs fashion, they continued to chip away into the lead over the next few minutes, tying the game at 24 with about one minute to go.  Rubio and Budinger hit a pair of three points in the final minute or so to give the Wolves a 30-24 lead going into the 2nd quarter. [Read more...]

Minnesota Timberwolves 80, Utah Jazz 96

Photo Credit: Greg Smith, USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Greg Smith, USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary:

The Timberwolves returned home on Monday night to take on the Utah Jazz for the second time in four days. Coming off a career-high 40 points against the Pups on Friday night, Al Jefferson looked to will his team to another victory with the Jazz continuing to fight for the eighth seed in the Western Conference with less than a week to play in the regular season.

In their second to last game of the 2012-13 season, the Wolves went with the starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Andrei Kirilenko, Derrick Williams, and Greg Stiemsma. Nikola Pekovic sat out his third consecutive game with a left calf contusion.

The Jazz got off a hot start, outscoring the Wolves 14-2 in the first four minutes prompting Rick Adelman to call a timeout. The Pups had initial difficulty swinging the ball in the half court offense with no Pekovic in the paint to keep Utah’s perimeter defenders honest. [Read more...]

Minnesota Timberwolves 97 – New Orleans Hornets 95

Who wants the green Twolves t-shirt?  The author of this recap.  Photo credit: NBAE

Who wants the green Twolves t-shirt? The author of this recap. Photo credit: NBAE

Game Summary

The luck o’ the Irish came through for the Timberwolves on Sunday, as Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic were back in the lineup for the team and the team pulled out the victory in the late seconds!  Here is how things transpired on St. Patrick’s Day.

The Wolves starting lineup looked like this: Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic.  The Hornets opened up with Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, and Robin Lopez.

Going into the first timeout of the game, the Hornets held a 13-9 lead.  The Wolves looked a little disoriented, trying to get Pekovic and Kirilenko back in the flow.  While Pekovic was succeeding in the paint, Andrei looked a little off in the early minutes.  Luckily, the Hornets had already turned the ball over four times.  In other words, the game was being played like you might expect from two teams that are a combined 41 games under .500.

Toward the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves managed to go on a little run to take a 28-27 lead into the 2nd quarter.  Derrick Williams came alive in the final few minutes of the 1st, including a three pointer as the clock was running down in the quarter.  The Hornets frontcourt of Lopez and Davis also had a nice quarter, shooting 7-9 from the field for 50% of the teams points.

A few minutes into the 2nd quarter, the Hornets went on a 9-0 run to take a 43-39 lead.  Adelman had seen enough and burned a timeout.  The rest of the 2nd quarter was only slightly better for the Wolves, as they never regained the lead from the Hornets.  The teams combined for 19 turnovers in the half but they went up and down the court enough to make for a visually appealing half of basketball.

At the half, the Hornets held a 52-50 lead.  Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Even with Rubio much healthier, Greivis Vasquez continued to eat up the Wolves; 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in the first 24 minutes of action
  • While Pekovic looked pretty solid, Kirilenko looked flat and out of sync
  • I would like to see a Chris Johnson & Pekovic frontline in the near future

Early in the 3rd quarter, Pekovic picked up his 4th foul and was quickly replaced by Stiemsma on the floor.  The teams went back and forth in the early minutes of the quarter until Luke Ridnour threw a behind the back pass to DWill for the flush, giving the Wolves their first lead in some time, 63-62.  The highlight led to a Monty Williams timeout with slightly more than six minutes left in the quarter.

Similar to prior quarters, The Wolves finished the 3rd quarter strong and took a 76-73 lead into the final frame.  Derrick Williams led the way in the quarter, finishing the quarter with 20 points.  However, the referees failed to call a foul on the Hornets as time expired in the quarter which would have (read: should have) sent Williams to the line with a chance to expand the lead.

Apologies in advance for the brevity of the 4th quarter recap.  The game was actually enjoyable to watch and with about 90 seconds to play I noticed that I hadn’t typed in a single note from the quarter.  The Hornets and Wolves kept it tight throughout the final twelve minutes.  Greivis Vasquez had a huge quarter, scoring 12 of his 24 points in the 4th to keep the Hornets in the game.  However, after going down 95-91, the Wolves scored the last 6 points of the game to steal the win on their home floor thanks to two defensive stops from Kirilenko.  Pekovic and AK hit three free throws in the final seconds to put the Wolves on top and secured the victory!

Recap – Minnesota Timberwolves 97 – New Orleans Hornets 95

Keys of the Game

  • Blocks – When you are significantly outrebounded by your opponent, you have to find another way to win the game and the Pups did so in the blocks department; 10 blocks for the team, 2 apiece for four different players.
  • Free throws – First and foremost, the Wolves made them.  Second, they got to the line 11 more times than the Hornets and made 8 more, including the three in final seconds to put them on top.
  • Shutting down Eric Gordon – I’m not exactly sure how this happened, but the Wolves did a great job on Gordon tonight, holding him to just 7 points on 3-6 shooting.  Rubio was on him for a portion of the game, but this was a tremendous team effort to erase Gordon’s offensive game.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Derrick Williams – Career high 28 points for DWill to go with 7 rebounds.  More importantly, he attacked the rim and played aggressively against Anthony Davis and others.
  2. Greivis Vasquez – While he didn’t have a good shooting night (10-25), Vasquez helped keep his team in the game with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.  Note the 6 TO’s though.
  3. Ricky Rubio – Rubio had a nice game shooting the ball, as he was 7-11 from the field for 16 points.  He also had 6 assists and respectable defense against a solid Hornets backcourt.

Preview – Minnesota Timberwolves vs New Orleans Hornets 3-17-13

hornets wolves previewSetting the stage:

For the fourth and final time this season, the Timberwolves will meet the New Orleans Hornets.  Minnesota has taken two of the three prior meetings, including a rout last month at the Target Center, where our Pups pulled away early and never looked back, winning 115-86.  That win snapped a six game losing streak for the Wolves at the time, but they haven’t had much to smile about since.

While maintaining that big lead against the Hornets is one thing, the Wolves are coming off of a loss on Friday night to the Rockets in which they blew a 20 point lead in the second half.  While the team continues to play with only nine capable bodies, those types of losses shouldn’t happen.  As of this morning’s writing, there is no news on whether or not Pekovic or Kirilenko would be available for tonight’s game.  The team didn’t practice on Saturday and Adelman has cancelled this afternoon’s shoot-around.

The Hornets come into Sunday’s game on a two game losing streak as well.  Their last loss also came on Friday night against the Wizards.  If the team is looking for any type of good news, it can be found in the fact that Eric Gordon is back on the court again for the team.  Gordon has played 30+ minutes in each of the team’s last two games.

Our Pups are only 1.5 games ahead of the Hornets in the loss column this season, so this game could have ping pong ball implications.  If the Hornets win tonight, it brings the team closer to the potential coin flip for lottery positioning.  The entire premise of this paragraph is making me nauseous so I am going to stop now and not say/type where the rest of this goes.

Player to watch:

Eric Gordon – Gordon has missed a tremendous amount of time again for the Hornets.  However, when he plays, he is typically putting up respectable numbers.  Gordon matches up nicely against Ridnour and Shved, so it could be another big performance from the SG.

Match-up to watch:

Ricky Rubio vs. Greivis Vasquez.  This match-up has been highlighted before in earlier previews this season and there isn’t a reason to not do so again.  Vasquez has been phenomenal against the Wolves this season, averaging 13.3 ppg, 12 apg, and 5 rpg in the three, prior match-ups.  As you are likely well aware, Rubio has been a monster over the past month or so.  His earlier games against the Hornets were not very successful, but we should expect to see a much stronger performance from Ricky this evening.

Predictions:

Sunday home game for the Pups and let’s hope for a little luck o’ the Irish!

Final score prediction: Timberwolves 100, Hornets 91

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Derrick Williams
  3. Eric Gordon

Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 94, Portland Blazers 109

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

Game Summary

Closing out the western swing, the Timberwolves visited the Rose Garden Saturday night to take on the Trail Blazers.  Minnesota entered the game on a four game losing streak while the Blazers still have hopes of grabbing the bottom seed in the western conference playoffs.

Unfortunately, more changes were needed in the Wolves starting lineup Saturday night as both Kirilenko and Pekovic were scratched from the game.  The Pups starting lineup consisted of – Rubio, Ridnour, Gelabale, Williams, and Stiemsma.  The Blazers opened up with Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and JJ Hickson.

Going into the first timeout / stoppage of play, the Blazers had built a 7 point lead, 17-10.  Greg Stiemsma was already on the bench with two quick fouls.  With Pekovic’s injury it was a given that Chris Johnson would get minutes Saturday night, but Stiemsma’s inability to stay on the court and avoid foul trouble has become a bit nauseating for Wolves fan (or at least one of them…).

The Wolves defense struggled to do anything to stop the Blazers in the 1st quarter, as the home team held a 31-19 lead after the first twelve minutes.  Story of the quarter is vastly similar to the past few weeks (months?) for the Pups: 9-24 on FG’s for 38% and 0-4 from 3PT range, while the Blazers were 12-23 from the field for 52% and 3-5 from 3PT range.

The 2nd quarter was pretty slow going, or at least it felt that way.  The Pups outscored the Blazers 25-20 in the quarter but trailed by six points, 51-45.  While the Wolves were able to cut into the lead, no one stood out on the team beyond Derrick Williams (broken record alert).  The Blazers cooled off in the 2nd quarter and that felt like the crux of why the Wolves were back in the game more than anything else.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • I’m just going to assume that Ricky Rubio is going to be working on his jumper all offseason and will be a solid offensive threat next year.  (Fantasy league stud in 13/14)
  • An underrated move from several weeks ago was the Blazers acquisition of Eric Maynor.
  • Chris Johnson needs more PT.  Please!

The game more or less fell apart for the undermanned Wolves in the second half.  The Blazers built a 17 point lead in the 3rd quarter at several points.  Without Pekovic, the Wolves had no answer for JJ Hickson, who hit the double-double threshold early and kept going.

I’m not sure if Alexey Shved has hit another wall or not, but Adelman is not giving him heavy minutes and it really can’t, or at least shouldn’t be, due to what Ridnour and Barea are doing on the court for the team.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Blazers held an 83-71 lead.

The Wolves made several very small runs but never truly threatened to take over the game in the 4th quarter.  Luke Ridnour caught fire early in the quarter, but it felt more like a nice run by an individual player vs. the start of a big move that would help catapult the team to take over the game.  Sure enough, Terry Stotts would call the appropriate timeouts and get his team back in gear.

The Blazers outscored the Wolves 58-50 in the second half and pulled out the 109-94 victory.  The win completed the season sweep for the Blazers over the Wolves, which wound up being the fifth time in six seasons that Portland has been able to claim this feat.  Given all of the missing cogs in the Wolves machine, this really should not have been a surprise for anyone watching the game on NBA TV.

While Rubio flirted with another triple-double (12, 9, and 9), he continues to turn the ball over too much and opposing teams are laying off of him on the offensive end, daring him to shoot jumpers.  Unfortunately for us Wolves fans, that plan is working, as Rubio continues to struggle to with his shot.

Rather than harping on that particular part of the game, I found myself asking what would be the better scenario for the Wolves moving forward more often than not while watching the second half.  Is it moving forward with Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, both, or the supplemental players that the team can put together by moving one or the other in the future?  I need to think about this a lot more before putting down my thoughts on paper.

Keys of the Game

  • Talent / Health – I am absolutely copping out on this one, as this claim could be made for most of the season.  The Pups were missing way too much talent on the floor in Saturday’s game at the Rose Garden.
  • Shooting – The Wolves shot under 40% again for the game and only made 1-12 3PT’s.  While the team continues to show an ability to get to the FT line, they missed 11 FT’s, going 25-36 from the charity stripe.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. JJ Hickson – Hickson finished with 18 and 16 on the evening and torched Stiemsma and CJ throughout the evening.
  2. Damian Lillard – Newsflash, Lillard is good, putting up 24, 6, and 4 for the future ROY, and a game high +22 in the +/- category.
  3. Derrick Williams – Williams missed his season high by one point but still put up a 23 and 8 for the Wolves and was probably the lone bright spot for the team.