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

Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Weekend Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Hot Minute

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

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

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

Timberwolves Break Losing Streak, Top Trailblazers 90-82

(photo credit: blogs.columbian.com)

(photo credit: blogs.columbian.com)

The Timberwolves snapped a six-game losing streak and came away with the “W” over Portland Wednesday night. Rookie Andrew Wiggins led the team with 23 points and 10 rebounds, notching his first career double-double. Corey Brewer followed with 19 points. On the opposing side, Damian Lillard tallied 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists in an effort to keep the Wolves at bay. In the end, though, the young Wolves squad pulled together for the 90-82 victory.

Minnesota came out looking familiarly weak in the very beginning, but the squad soon turned things around. Wiggins played well right out of the gate, and Shabazz Muhammad came off the bench in the first quarter to add six points in less than six minutes on the floor. The Wolves improved their shooting percentage to 41 percent in the second quarter—compared to just 35 in the first—and found their groove much quicker than their opponents.

Wiggins and Muhammad had already combined for 22 points going into halftime, and the Wolves held a nine-point lead. Fans may have felt that not-to-comfortable feeling with only a single-digit advantage, but the team came out charging to start the second half, and things only got better as Minnesota pulled away to extend the gap to 20.

Besides executing good ball movement and making their shots, the Wolves performed much better on defense than they have since Ricky Rubio was injured. Minny held LaMarcus Aldridge to only 10 points on the evening, an accomplishment for any team. Aldridge is averaging 21.7 points per game, and the Timberwolves shut him down. Wednesday marked Aldridge’s only scoreless first half since 2008. Overall, Minnesota blocked three shots and got away with an impressive 13 steals, five of those takeaways credited to Brewer.

“[The defense is] much improved recently,” said head coach Flip Saunders after the game. “In the last two games against two of the best offensive teams in the league we’ve come out and we’ve played hard and we’ve challenged.”

Portland did work to cut the deficit to four points near the end, but it wasn’t enough. Wiggins led the charge to hang onto a lead, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter alone.

“I feel comfortable and I know my team is always going to be there,” Wiggins said.* “We made plays together. It wasn’t just me. Without them executing the plays, helping me get open, I wouldn’t have found my shots.”

“Wiggins looked like the No. 1 pick tonight,” Saunders said post-game. “He got his shots, took things over, took big shots late, had 10 rebounds, got on the floor for a couple loose balls, had a couple steals […] He came and he delivered.”

Thaddeus Young added 13 points to the Wolves’ effort, and rookie Zach LaVine came off the bench to grab 10 points and dish out five assists. Newest addition Jeff Adrien also made an impact. The 28-year-old tallied eight points and 11 rebounds in just his fifth game with the team.

Brewer voiced the Wolves’ general feelings following the win, expressing that it was a much-needed win and will hopefully serve as a “stepping stone” moving forward.

As Saunders said, “the baby Wolves grew up a little bit.”

 

Up Next:

The Timberwolves will remain at home to host Oklahoma City on Friday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

*Listen to Wiggins’ post-game interview here.

Timberpups 2014-15 Season Preview

How will Minnesota fare following their offseason makeover?

How will Minnesota fare following their offseason makeover?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timberwolves Training Camp Roster

The Wolves front office hits the reset button and will be relying on Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins to bring the team forward. (Photo credit: Michael Rand, Star Tribune)

The Wolves front office hits the reset button and will be relying on Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins to bring the team forward. (Photo credit: Michael Rand, Star Tribune)

The Minnesota Timberwolves announced their 2014 training camp roster this week with little to no surprises.  The team has eighteen players on the camp roster and will need to cut that down to fifteen for opening night, 10/7 in Indianapolis to take on the Pacers.

Here is a look at the roster by position and probable depth chart heading into training camp:

  • PG: Ricky Rubio, Mo Williams, JJ Barea
  • SG: Kevin Martin, Zach LaVine, Corey Brewer, Brady Heslip
  • SF: Andrew Wiggins, Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, Glenn Robinson III
  • PF: Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett, Robbie Hummel
  • C: Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Ronny Turiaf, Kyrylo Fesenko

Several players on the roster can and will spend time at multiple positions.  The five players at the end of each position are also the most likely to not make the roster and you can make an argument for and against each one.

First and foremost, the team still needs to find a new home for JJ Barea.  If the team can’t find a team willing to part with him for a second round draft pick and/or another expiring contract, it would behoove Glen Taylor to eat the money and simply buy out Barea.  There is absolutely no reason for him to be in the locker room for the 2014/15 season.  With Mo Williams as the veteran, backup PG and some minutes likely going to Zach LaVine as well, Barea simply doesn’t need to spread the cancer around the club, particularly with so many young, impressionable players on the roster.

Brady Heslip is the next most likely candidate to miss the opening night roster.  He and Kyrylo Fesenko are the only two without guaranteed contracts.  Barring injuries to players ahead of them, in particular Heslip, it is very unlikely either make the cut.  In Fesenko’s case, there is still a longshot chance that the Wolves are looking to find a new home for Nikola Pekovic to make the rebuild 100% official.  However unlikely this is, there is still a chance.

The other player that Flip Saunders could be looking to move is Kevin Martin, who had a disastrous first season in Minnesota last year.  After a strong first two months, Martin’s game fell off a cliff.  Again, in the spirit of a true rebuild, Martin (and his contract) should expect to have a new home at some point heading into this year’s trade deadline.

Who do you think misses the opening night roster for the forthcoming season?  Remember, training camp is from Tuesday, September 30th through Sunday, October 5th – highlighted by the midnight “Dunks After Dark” event on Monday, 9/29.

Wolves Announce A Few Signings

Glenn Robinson III signed a guaranteed contract this week with the Wolves (Photo credit: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Glenn Robinson III signed a guaranteed contract this week with the Wolves (Photo credit: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

This past week the Wolves announced that they have come to terms with a few players that may or may not have a large role with the club this coming season.

Glenn Robinson III signed a guaranteed contract with the club this week, likely cementing his spot on the opening day roster.  Whether or not that is in street clothes or a uniform is likely to be determined during his performance in the preseason.  The biggest question on Robinson might be what jersey number he is going to where as he was introduced with the #22 jersey.  That has since been claimed by some Andrew Wiggins guy on the club.  I’m not sure if you have heard much about him.

The Wolves also announced that they have signed Kyrylo Fesenko and Brady Heslip to non-guaranteed contracts.  Both players played on the Wolves’ Summer League club and had their moments.  After Summer League I thought that Fesenko did enough to warrant serious attention for a roster spot, particularly without knowing what the specifics were in a forthcoming Kevin Love deal.  Heslip had a brief moment or two in Summer League that warranted some consideration as well, but it would be a stretch to consider him a “lock” to make the opening night roster.

There is an added wrinkle that could be of benefit to Fesenko’s chances of making the Wolves opening night roster.  It is being reported that the Wolves are offering Eric Bledsoe a max contract.  There could be a sign and trade to be considered in which Bledsoe comes to Minnesota for Nikola Pekovic and filler.  Not to hijack the above signings, but there are a lot of different scenarios that could be considered here and we are better off talking about that later this weekend and in a separate write-up.

Do you think Robinson, Fesenko, and/or Heslip will be on the opening night roster?  Let’s go Wolves!

Three Team Trade Sends Kevin Love to Cavs, Wolves Get A Solid Return

Kevin Love was supposed to be the next savior for the Wolves and that never came to fruition.  (John Autey, Pioneer Press)

Kevin Love was supposed to be the next savior for the Wolves and that never came to fruition. (John Autey, Pioneer Press)

It is August 23rd and the Wolves are back in the news, as it is now 30 days since Andrew Wiggins signed his NBA rookie contract and can now be traded.  It didn’t take long for today’s announcement, as Wiggins and Anthony Bennett are on their way to Minnesota for three time All Star, Kevin Love.  As had been rumored for weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers worked their way into the deal and will send PF Thad Young to the Wolves.  In return, the 76ers will receive Alexey Shved, LRMAM, and Miami’s 2015 #1 pick.

There are a number of pieces to this puzzle worth commenting on, so I’m going to break this up a bit.  The future of the Timberwolves is now much clearer and there is some strange light that I’m seeing in the distance.

Au revoir Kevin Love

First and foremost, I think the Wolves did a great job in finding a new home for Kevin Love when all things are considered.  He wanted to go play in a specific city and the Wolves found themselves able to acquire a decent haul that provides them with both talent and flexibility moving forward.  Love has never been able to get the Timberwolves into the playoffs, has occasionally been considered a stats-focused player, and certainly has limitations on the defensive end of the floor.  That said, he is an all-world rebounder, fantastic offensive player and is, in my opinion, the best PF in the game today.

Love has been the face of the franchise since 2010/11 when he became the teams go-to player.  Statistically speaking, he hasn’t disappointed.  In the four seasons as a regular starter, Love has averaged over 22ppg and almost 14rpg and that includes an injury riddled – knuckle push-ups led – 2012/13 season.  While he has been the most marketable player for the franchise, he has not been able to get the club back into the playoffs.  There are any number of caveats that can be thrown on this statement, but the fact remains that the Wolves did not make the playoffs during Love’s tenure with the club.  His attitude has been called into question and the quotes provided to the media left a lot to be desired.

It was time to move on and we should all do the same.  Kevin Love was not the next Kevin Garnett.  He was the first Kevin Love, an exciting player that brought some attention to the franchise.  Let’s not forget that a lot of this may have been avoided if David Kahn and Glen Taylor just gave Love the max-max deal and/or didn’t agree to his opt-out clause in his current contract.

The franchise core moving forward

Flip Saunders now turns his attention to rebuilding the Wolves once again.  There are certainly pieces to work with, including Ricky Rubio, last year’s 1st round pick Gorgui Dieng, and this year’s selection, Zach LaVine.  When you throw in Wiggins, there is a lot of promise and potential in the Twin Cities.  This is certainly a core group that Wolves’ fans can get excited about and it is a group of players that should be able to grow together with extended minutes on the court next season.

There is one glaring need when looking at that core of four and it is outside shooting.  That is where the remaining flexibility that Flip has, or will have in the coming 18 months, needs to be  focused on.  For those wondering, no, Kevin Martin is not the answer here.  He and JJ Barea are the next two players that need to be moved to another city.

The remaining pieces of the Wolves roster

Anthony Bennett had a terrible rookie season, averaging 4.2ppg and 3rpg in under 13mpg.  However, he is 21 years old and now has a season under his belt.  I’m glad he is staying with the Wolves and was not part of the package that went to Philadelphia, based simply on a “let’s roll the dice and see what we have with him” philosophy.  He may not get much better, but he’s one year into his rookie contract so there isn’t much to lose in this situation.

Thad Young just turned 26 years old this summer but has seven years of NBA experience.  He is a fantastic athlete who averaged 17.9ppg and 6rpg last season on the 76ers.  I’m skeptical as to what Flip Saunders thinks he is getting in Young, but for what the Wolves gave up to acquire him, this was a no-brainer.

(You can pretty much assume that Chris Bosh gets injured this coming season, the Heat sit Wade once this happens and Miami wins the NBA lottery, thereby giving the Sixers this pick.  This is what happens when the Wolves are involved in the lottery.  The title of a novel based on the Wolves’ history in the lottery would be rightfully named “The Worst”.)

The only other player on the Wolves roster that warrants mentioning here is Corey Brewer.  He is likely the only other (relevant) Pup that I see being with the Wolves 24 months from now.  His ideal role is an off-the-bench, energy guy in a 8 or 9 man rotation.  Assuming Coach Flip doesn’t have a “we must win this game” mentality next season, Brewer should start to become acclimated to this role.

In summary

Pinch me, but I think the Wolves received quite the return package for a player that wasn’t going to be here much longer and two guys that underachieved and/or underwhelmed during their tenure in Minnesota.

What do you think Wolves Nation?  Are you happy with the return or are you boycotting the Target Center next season?  I think you’ll see some exciting basketball being played on the floor, with a good number of speed bumps hit along the way.  I’m happy to see this drama resolved, that we have a core group of guys that can grow together and players that could very likely lead this team back to the playoffs one or two seasons from now.

Timberwolves Release 2014-2015 Schedule

Let's go Wolves! Timberwolves 2014/15 Schedule Release Party ...

Let’s go Wolves!
Timberwolves 2014/15 Schedule Release Party …

Unlike last season, there were no unexpected delays in releasing the 2014/15 NBA schedule. I guess the Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins trade isn’t big enough to cause the entire league to be put on hold. You can find the full Timberwolves’ schedule here on Timberwolves.com. As you likely saw, the team announced the preseason schedule as well about a week and a half ago.

The Wolves open up on the road in Memphis to take on the Grizzlies on Wednesday, 10/29. They quickly return home to take on the Detroit Pistons the following night, the first of nineteen back-to-back series the Wolves will endure over the course of the season.

Here are a few additional games, stretches, and/or storylines worth discussion from the Timberwolves’ regular season schedule:

  • The Timberwolves don’t have a home stand or road trip that is longer than four games. Both happen four separate times throughout the season.
    • Four, four game home stands: 11/19-11/26, 12/8-12/14, 1/1-1/7, 2/28-3/7
    • Four, four game road trips: 12/23-12/30, 1/13-1/19, 3/9-3/15, 4/7-4/11
  • The Pups will play the reincarnated Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte on 1/19 and then will host the “new” franchise on 3/22.
  • Given trade rumors, the Wolves host the 76ers on 12/3 and then play in Philadelphia on 1/30.
  • Given that one, big trade that everyone knows about, the Wolves play in Cleveland on 12/23 and then host the Cavs on 1/31.
  • The Timberwolves close the 2014/15 season at home against the New Orleans Hornets … wait, Pelicans, I’m so confused by the last decade, on 4/13 and the Seattle Sonics / Oklahoma City Thunder on 4/15. (Adam Silver needs to be more straightforward than his predecessor on some things …)

We know where this season is heading, let’s hope the front office commits to rebuilding the right way. Do any particular games or stretches catch your eye?

Let’s go Wolves!