Offseason Update #1

The last time you heard from Timberpups, you were reading a recap of the final Minnesota Timberwolves game of the season. Remember? No? Ok, well they lost. It sent most of us into a dark place, mentally. Pair the post-season depression with other obligations and you’ll get an inactive blog. However, the show must go on.

There’s been a lot that’s happened since the end of the season, so the review will come over the next few weeks. Let’s do a quick rundown.

Record: 40-42. Third in the Northwest Division, 10th in the Western Conference — the second best team in the West that didn’t make the postseason [Phoenix Suns finished in the 9th spot out West].

Rick Adelman Retires. The moment many had been waiting for came into fruition just shortly after the season ended. Adelman leaves behind a legacy that will go somewhat unfulfilled. Although his motion-based offensive system has left remnants scattered about schemes all around the league, Adelman was never able to achieve the ultimate goal; he is not an NBA Champion, but don’t let that take away from any of Adelman’s achievements. And there are many.

I wrote some words about Adelman’s final season on an NBA sideline, and how the Wolves didn’t exactly give him a ride out of town on a horseback into the glorious sunset. Read them by clicking this link.

 

The Wolves need a new coach. Names such Fred Hoiberg, Kevin Ollie, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan, among others, have all surfaced as potential candidates. Look for more coverage from Timberpups on the search and hiring process, soon.

It should be noted that Flip Saunders has been mentioned, in some circles, as someone that may coach the Wolves next season. It’s known that team owner Glen Taylor doesn’t want this to happen. I don’t believe it will, but as each day passes I worry more and more that Flip will ultimately be coaching the Wolves next season. I’d give those odds about 10 percent, right now.

 

More to come from Timberpups.

-zb

Snow Falls in Minneapolis, Wolves Fall to Jazz; 130-136

Well, it’s over now.

Last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves dropped the season finale to the Utah Jazz, at home, and it was possibly Rick Adelman’s last game as an NBA Head Coach. What you would think would be a passionate, emotional, send-off type of performance, honoring one of the league’s greatest coaches, turned out to be just-another, underwhelming performance that ended in disappointment.

It’s been openly suggested, myself included, that Adelman may have lost the proverbial coaches-spirit long ago. The type of passion, necessary to spark an inspired, second-half run into the postseason was just not something the 68 year old was capable of doing. There are other variables at play, like player-performance and things like luck, but ultimately I believe Adelman is going to be pegged with many of the things that went awry this season. I also believe we’re going to find out that last night’s game against the Jazz was, indeed, his last game as the Wolves coach. [Read more…]

Wounded Warriors Battle Wolves, Minnesota Falls Late…..Again…

Entering Monday night’s game against the Warriors, the Minnesota Timberwolves sat on the .500 hump with two games remaining in the season. Their final opponent, the Utah Jazz, will venture to Target Center and face the Wolves on fan appreciation night. Combine the sentimental night with the notion that the Jazz have no intention, nor ability to go about winning that game — if there was a moral victory to attain it would be in the Bay Area, Monday.

The Warriors were without Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, which meant Gorgui Dieng would be the only one protecting the rim as these two, uptempo, high-scoring offenses took the floor.

First Half.

The Wolves jumped all-over the Warriors in the early going. When in the process of doubling-up GSW by the 7:10 mark in the game — 24-12 — Kevin Love buried four three’s, accounting for 16 of the Wolves total-points at that time. Conversely; as well as things seemed to be going, Stephen Curry’s status as an alien proved critical during the first quarter as he matched Love for each three-pointer that Wolves’ all-everything forward connected on. For the sixth time this season the Wolves scored 40+ points during the first frame. They led by 14; 42-28, heading into the second, but the Golden Curry’s had nearly caught the Minnesota Love’s, and the double-digit lead dissipated into a measly two points — Curry tallied 23 while Love racked up 26 points — during the final minutes of the first half.

Second Half.

While it felt as if Curry was going to keep the Warriors in the game, the Wolves didn’t — and haven’t really done so at all this season — to assert themselves as the team that would ultimately win the game. As I watched the Warriors broadcast during the third quarter (no offense, Dave, Jim and Alan) the phrases, such as “there’s no desire to play any defense, this isn’t basketball,” used to describe the Wolves effort outside of scoring were quite entertaining. Usually, these type of things would irritate myself, or the common fan, but when there’s very little remaining to aspire to other than winning — sometimes teams will only look to outscore their opponents.

This was certainly the case, last night.

The bright side in the Wolves, 120-130, defeat at the hands of the Warriors — Kevin Love. Love surpassed Kevin Garnett on the all-time single season scoring list, adding his name to another to the top of another list of franchise records. However, most of the story within the game was just like a majority of other outings this season; bench woes, injuries, and questionable rotations kept the Wolves from jockeying for position to pull-ahead of Golden State before the game was over. No Wolves bench player tallied a double-digit point total, Love, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin played a majority of the third quarter (and the fourth; overuse) and the absence of a floor-stretching “Three and D[efence]” player all factored into, yet another, close loss.

Tomorrow, in Minneapolis, at Target Center the Wolves have a chance to end the season on a high-note against an abysmal opponent. There’s an uncertain future, with potentially cataclysmic possibilities in-terms of personnel restructure, but things will ultimately be O.K. The 40 win season is arguably the best the team’s had since the departure of Garnett, who was the only superstar to play for the franchise prior to the arrival of Kevin Love.

Three Stars

  • Kevin Love [man] — 40 points, 14 rebounds, and the new Timberwolves all-time single season record holder for points scored.
  • Gorgui Dieng – 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field, in addition to grabbing 11 rebounds. Jim Peterson mentioned during the broadcast this point — “If you were to redraft, last summer’s draft, at the end of the year — when does Dieng go off the board? The expectations will only grow during the offseason, higher than they already are, so it’s important to remember that he’s still a young, developing player — but man — we can enjoy what he’s brought us, thus far.
  • Stephen Curry – He’s an alien that scored 32 points and dished out 15 assist. Needless to mention, he’s the only player that I will look back upon and feel sorrow in remembrance of the Wolves failing to draft the guy. Not to bring up the negative of things, but this could ultimately be one of the game’s best scoring point-guards to ever play in the NBA.

Two Games, One Season, Many Outlooks

Spreak Break in Florida? 

Only fitting, the Minnesota Timberwolves ventured across the state of Florida — from South Beach to Orlando — shortly following last Friday’s thrilling, uplifting victory over the defending champion Miami Heat.

Yes, the Wolves had won a game against arguably basketballs greatest team. However, they were going to need another breakout performance from role players, such as Chase Budinger’s 24 point output in Miami, if they were going to take care of business against one of the league’s worst the following evening. Well, after Budinger went down in the first minute against the Magic, things went awry quickly and never went the way they were supposed to.

Just when it seemed the Wolves had attained some hope, rhythm, and excitement nearing the end of another disappointing season, the proverbial sky was getting darker and the light that shined on the team, via local media outlets, was glooming dark overhead, again. Timberpups did not report on the Daunt Cunningham arrests over the weekend because the legal process has a right to run it’s course, NBA players are apart of the union, and the Wolves did not suspend Cunningham after either arrest. Flip Saunders, in particular, receives the most heat for this decision. He could very easily de-activate Cunningham, but it would be a paid-leave as the team cannot take disciplinary action until he is convicted in a court of law.

He met the team in Orlando, but because the Wolves were without Kevin Martin, Kevin Love, Shabazz Muhammad, and Budinger, for all-but one minute of the game, the efforts of Cunningham and the active Wolves were performed in futility. The Magic avenged a loss from earlier this season, the Wolves opener — 100-92.

Tuesday, back at Target Center

The headlines focused on Cunningham up until Rick Adelman’s pregame presser, when it was announced that Cunningham would be dressed and available to play in Tuesday’s make-up game against the San Antonio Spurs. However, after tip-off, all of the negative light shed on the situation diminished, the Minnesota Wild were competing for their postseason lives across town, and a basketball game — that was never supposed to be played — started with very little looking-on from the seats at Target Center.

Nickola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, and Shabazz Muhammad were all out, albeit Martin was dressed to play whereas the others sported classy suits. Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, Gorgui Dieng welcomed Robbie Hummel to the starting lineup for the first time since the season’s early goings. The Wolves, who had underachieved in the game following an inspirational victory of the prolific Heat (…), faced another one of the league’s best in the machine that is the San Antonio Spurs.

Tony Parker was sidelined, leaving Corey Joseph to start at point guard — he was accompanied by Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw. The Spurs machine usually just plugs-and-plays it’s components as necessary and rarely misses a beat, but Gregg Popovich may have elected to cut the power once they arrived in Minneapolis.

First Half

The Wolves took the lead and never looked back. Rubio led the way in scoring throughout the opening quarter with nine points, he also had two assists but those were negated by two-turnovers. Love, who, dare I say has struggled by his standards as of late, continued to clank the iron and shot only one for seven from the field during the opening frame. Despite the struggle to score, Love’s refined his passing throughout the year as a point of Adelman’s emphasis, and he tallied three assists passing out of the high post and Wolves led the Spurs, 27-19, after the first.

It was Rubio and Brewer that carried the offense throughout the first half, as they combined for 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting from the field. Brewer added three steals that contributed to easy buckets in transition. The Wolves had captured a 20 point lead on a virtually non-existent Spurs club that showed no interest in trying to win the game. Minnesota allowed just 34 first half points, the second-least points scored by a Wolves opponent in a half this season (Utah, 23 in 1st half on Jan. 18). On the night, the Spurs shot only 4-of-17 from three-point range, and they were 0-for-6 in the first half alone. This is a testament to the Wolves effort to contest shots, making everything as difficult as possible for the already lackadaisical visiting opponent.

Second Half 

The Wolves were outscored by the Spurs during the second half, but the margin was a single point and if you’re doing the math at home you’d know that it wasn’t enough to make a difference. San Antonio was flat, and the Wolves played with the same intensity that the State of Hockey’s team was doing across the way in St. Paul. The Pups weren’t performing in front of a very large audience, and the effort they played with on the court was reflective of a team that wanted to win in order to sustain their own moral moving forward.

Love and Rubio combined for 20 in the third, but dissipated bench failed to score. The Spurs, behind eight points in the frame provided by the short-statured Patty Mills, matched and surpassed the Wolves scoring output during the frame. Yet, the game looked emotionless as both teams were content just going through the motions. This inexplicably, and inspirationally, changed during the fourth as the bench could be season screaming, cheering, and applauding the effort of their brethren who were looking to put the hammer down on San Antonio before the game was over.

Ronnie Turiaf hammered home two, alley-oop dunks within the final five minutes, a heavy-hearted Cunningham seeked to score unruly baskets within the final minute, and Othyus Jeffers even entered the game on the same day as he was signed to, yet another, 10-day contract.

The Wolves defeated the Spurs by 19, and what was most impressive about the victory is that they did it for themselves. There was no sold-out stadium, no role of spoiler to fulfil, and no playoff hopes to sustain going forward. With nothing left to play for, the Wolves did everything they could to win — and with the uncertainty that is this team’s future — that’s the most illuminating thing to take away from the weekend, and into Wednesday.

Three Stars

  • Ricky Rubio — 23 points on 10 of 17 shooting. He’s progressed, and more importantly, stayed healthy, throughout the year and seems to be improving in certain areas, offensively. I don’t currently have the stats to back it up, but expect a post on it soon.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute — 11 points, 5 of 7 shooting from the field — nice to see him getting playing time against solid opponents like we saw against Miami and last night.
  • Ronnie Turiaf — LOVE his energy, but it’s been missing on-the-court for most of the season. If there’s anyone that can keep this locker room glued going forward, it’s this guy. Seeing him score 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting, including his emphatic reactions to slams during the final quarter.

 

Wolves Can’t Keep Up for Four Quarters, Fall to Raptors at Home

And here we are.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been playing predominantly well since the All-Star break, but faced a tough Toronto Raptors team on Sunday night. The Raptors entered the game as winners of eight of their previous 10 games, allowing only 96 points per game during those contests. Had it not been for a triple-overtime game against the Washington Wizards, in which Toronto allowed 136 points, that 96 opponents points per game would have been closer to 90 — they’re playing pretty good basketball.

Entering the day the Wolves sat five games back of the final seed in the Western Conference. The Dallas Mavericks (37-26) and Phoenix Suns (36-25) are holding down the final two slots with the Memphis Grizzlies (36-26) only a half-game behind the Suns and Mavs, whilst also standing between the Wolves and their highly optimistic playoff aspirations. The Mavericks were hosting the Indiana Pacers and the Suns were in The Bay Area taking on the Golden State Warriors, Memphis had the night off. Each team, minus the Grizz, faced a tough opponent but the Wolves needed a victory before worrying about the outcome of things beyond their control.

Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, and Terrence Ross took the floor for the Raptors while Rick Adelman sent out the usual group of Wolves to start the game. If you’re not familiar by now, that means Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic were the starting five for the Wolves. The pesky, lengthy, athletic core of the Raptors posed problems for the Wolves during their last meeting in Toronto, a game the Wolves did not win.

First Half

The first quarter, well, it seemed sloppy. However, the Raptors made the box score look clean by hitting 13 of 19 shots (68%!!!!). Each Toronto starter scored, but they were led by Ross who scored 10 points and didn’t miss a shot during the opening frame. Love led the way with 12 for the Wolves and the game was all tied up, 33-33.

The second quarter was a game of runs for both sides, and a wave of emotions for fans at the Target Center. Toronto started the quarter off on a 10-0 run, which was really 18-0 dating back to the opening quarter — yikes. However, the Wolves countered with a 17-2 run of their own and before anyone knew anything the game was tied again. The Raptors took a 53-52 lead into halftime, but failed to sustain the momentum they accumulated during the opening quarter and early part of the second. Love lead the way with 13, Pek added 13, Martin scored 11 and the rest of the Wolves managed to score 14 to aid the core in keeping things close.

Second Half

The Raptors started the second half on a 9-2 run, but the Wolves continued to battle. After some nice ball movement around the perimeter, Love found himself open for a three-pointer and buried it; passing Rashad McCants on the list of three’s made by Wolves player. At the 7:00 mark, J.J. Barea missed an easy layup that would have cut the deficit to two. Lowry, thankfully, committed an offensive foul that accounted for Barea’s miss and the game went to a timeout. The Wolves then trailed, 62-64.

Note – Love also broke the franchise record for most three pointers made in a season during this stretch. 

 Through Three Quarters

  • 83-76 Raptors
  • Four Raptors players in double-figures (three Wolves)
  • Love — 21 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists
  • Rubio — 16:38 minutes. Six points, three assists, four fouls

And here we are.

The fourth quarter began and Alexey Shved, who we haven’t seen on the court in a meaningful moment of a game, was playing point guard, albeit he was quickly replaced as Adelman only was trying to get away with what he had done for a small amount of time. Rubio, eager to return, checked in at the 9:21 mark and played — nearly — the remainder of the game, and it made a difference. Although the Wolves weren’t able to keep pace with the Raptors throughout the entirety of the game, the lineups playing when the game is on the line seem to be the combination of players that people want to see. Or maybe that’s just me reading my timeline on the Twitter verse incorrectly.

The Wolves, although narrowing the lead down to as little as two points, were unable to rally and win a game that good teams should expect to win on their home floor.

Three Stars

  • Kyle Lowry — 20 points, 11 assists, 12 rebounds.
  • DeMar Derozan — 25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 of 3 from three-point range — he’s a good player. (Great analysis I know)
  • Corey Brewer — 17 points, 6 steals, 3 rebounds, 3 assists.

Wolves Defeat Kings, 108-97

Before we get into things I’m going to display a few photos. One of these pictures you might be familiar with, as i’ve used it in recent recaps, but the other is something new.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 2.44.13 PM

Remember this? I determined that 7 of the 10 games following the all-star break were ‘winnable’ games by Wolves standards. Halfway through the stretch, Minnesota is 4-1 with victories over the Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, the lone defeat coming at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. On Saturday, the Sacramento Kings became the latest victim of the Wolves recent success. (I’ll get to that other picture in a little while)

First Half

Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic returned to the starting lineup after each played missed notable amounts of time due to injury.

Pekovic left the game against the Chicago Bulls on January 27th and the Wolves went 7-7 during his absence. A short time after Pekovic was sidelined, on the 7th of February, Martin played 34 minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans but fractured a finger at some point during the game. The Wolves played 8 games missing both Martin and Pekovic, but emerged victorious in all but three of those outings.

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Corey Brewer trotted out with Pekovic and Martin and matched up against Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. Some could argue that the Kings victory over the Wolves in January, at the Target Center, was the worst loss for Minnesota this season.

So, call it the revenge game if you must. Martin got things going without any further ado, shooting six of seven from the field and scoring 14 first quarter points. Pekovic, playing on a minute limit, was replaced by Dante Cunningham after six minutes of playing time. Despite the outburst by Martin the Wolves trailed the Kings at the end of the opening quarter, 30-31, as Gay nearly matched “K-Mart (K-Target)” basket for basket — Gay scored 12 points in the 1st quarter on five of six shooting from the field. Pekovic found his rhythm in the 2nd quarter, but Gay didn’t skip a beat and the Wolves were outscored by the Kings and trailed at the half; 53-56. Here are some quick notes from the games’ first two quarters.

  • Pekovic and Martin — 29 points on 12 of 18 shooting
  • Love couldn’t get much going but found ways to contribute. He was an abysmal one of six shooting but scored nine points after converting on six of eight free-throw attempts. Love also helped keep the game close with four assists.
  • Rest of team — 15 points
  • Rudy Gay — 22 points 8 of 11 FG, 4 of 6 3PT FG, 2 of 2 FT. This is something that shouldn’t happen.

Second Half

The 3rd quarter was a ‘whole different ball game,’ as the cliche goes. After the game was over, Love and Adelman both mentioned – on the Fox Sports North broadcast – that the team rallied in the locker room to play with a sense of urgency after halftime. Whatever happened in the visiting locker room at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Saturday night should be repeated over and over again for the remainder of the season. The starters trotted out in surefire form and outscored the Kings 31-14 during the third frame. Rubio, who only had three assists by halftime, tallied five ‘dimes’ distributed among the other five Wolves players that scored in the third. However, the offense wasn’t flashy as we’ve known it to be — the Wolves went to the free-throw line 12 times, converting on 9 attempts, and forced the Kings into six turnovers.

The Wolves scored six fast break, and five second-chance, points. The Kings were limited to zero fast break points and didn’t shoot one FT during the third, the home team was beat in almost every aspect of the game on each possession. Things got interesting, as they usually do, during the 4th quarter and after entering the final 12 minutes with a 14 point lead — the score narrowed and fans watching at home began to worry, and had every right to do so. Four minutes went by and the Kings outscored the Wolves 14-6 in the short span.

Albeit his performance since returning from knee surgery has oft been criticized, Chase Budinger performed well in these four — crucial — minutes of the game. Budinger had two key rebounds (one offensive, one defensive) and four pivotal points while the starters rested and waited to get back into the game. Martin, Brewer, and Love entered the game at the 8:34 mark by replacing Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, and Luc Mbah a Moute. J.J. Barea and Cunningham remained on the floor. The Wolves led by nine, 90-81, but the Kings push was imminent. It may have been close to a double-digit lead, but the game was not at all out of reach for Sacramento — the home crowd could sense it and tensions rose during the final minutes. — I’m not sure if Rick Adelman will continue going to Rubio to close out games, but he needs to start doing so — there’s been many, many calling for this to happen — because BareaBall isn’t always the answer. — The lead now down to eight, Rubio checked into the game for Barea with the score at 93-85.

After a string of hair-pulling events, the lead was narrowed down to two. The crowd was on their feet and a streaking Rudy Gay headed toward the basket for what seemed as if it would be a game-tying layup — he did everything but make the easy basket. Love grabbed the defensive rebound, Rubio brought the ball upcourt, dished it back to Love who missed a three-point attempt. Pekovic grabbed the offensive board and was fouled by Cousins. Pek made both free-throws and the lead was extended to four.

After a steal by Rubio, and some ball movement along the perimeter, Ricky fired a three from the right wing, with the shot clock winding down, that fell through the bottom of the net and the Wolves were in business. The dagger put the lead at eight with less than a minute remaining. The Wolves prevailed over the Kings, 108-97.

Here’s that other picture. 1620760_10202709983145019_561495350_n   Currently, Golden State, Phoenix, and Dallas are the teams rounding off the Western Conference Playoff spots. The Wolves, winners of 5 of their last 6, are five-and-a-half games out of the 8th seed in the West. The Warriors, Suns, Mavericks, and Grizzlies are all 2-2 in their previous four games. For the Wolves, albeit the door is slamming shut, have a chance to slide a proverbial foot over the threshold and into the postseason picture. Tonight, Minnesota is in Denver to face the depleted Nuggets, they’ll be 5-1 in games after All-Star Weekend with a victory.

Three Stars

  • Kevin Martin — 26 points on 9 of 16 shooting. Although only going 1 for 5 from three-point land, he converted seven of eight from the charity stripe. The free points were, and are always, important.
  • Nikola Pekovic — 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Pek recorded nearly 27 minutes of action and Adelman can be quoted, saying after the game, that he used the 295 pound center returning from injury — and still playing through pain — more than he would have liked.
  • Kevin Love — why not? 22 points on a horrible shooting night (4 of 12) but 12 of 14 from the FT line, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.

zb

Wolves Injury Update

Tonight, the Timberwolves are in Phoenix to take on the Suns for the third game on this a six game road trip. Still no sign of Nikola Pekovic or Kevin Martin, and Ronny Turiaf remains out indefinitely with a bruised right knee.

Before departing on this venture, Kevin Love’s Instagram account informed us that the Wolves resident Bruise Brother, Pekovic, would be returning sometime during this — pivotal — stretch of the season. Martin also remains sidelined with a broken left thumb, but saw a specialist in Los Angeles yesterday. After having things looked at Monday, as well as last Friday, @TWolves_PR has informed us that Martin is progressing well.

As for Pekovic, he participated in shootaround this morning in Phoenix. His status for tonight is labeled as questionable. Pekovic was active pregame in Utah before Saturday’s meeting with the Jazz, but did not play — which, admittedly, led me to believe that he would be active in Portland for the Wolves meeting with the Blazers the following evening.

This column by Mark Remme states that Pekovic isn’t feeling any more pain in his ankle, however, that does not mean the pain isn’t there. Pek is suffering from bursitis, an inflammation caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden, more serious injury. Because of abuse the game of basketball places on an athletes knees (specifically the bursa, tendons and cartilage) it’s unlikely that Pekovic, or any athlete for that matter, that suffers from bursitis will ever completely heal. Age also plays a role. As tendons age they are able to tolerate stress less, are less elastic, and are easier to tear. He can play, but that doesn’t mean it will be a painless experience.

Pekovic had this to say to media shortly after shootaround. (Per Remme Practice Report)

“I would like, if I could play minutes today, but I still have to do some things today so we’ll see how it goes.” – Pekovic

The Wolves are 5-7 since Pek was removed from the Wolves meeting with the Chicago Bulls late in January. They are 3-3 since Martin joined him on the sideline.

Gorgui Dieng, still being used sparingly, is averaging 11 minutes per game over the previous five games. Dieng is still a very raw, young, and developing player but has at least been serviceable in the absence of Pek and Turiaf. He is averaging 3 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block per game during the recent stretch.

 

 

zb