A Philadelphia 76ers Roundtable, Hosted by Timberpups

So, I don’t know much about the Philadelphia 76ers. Is Allen Iverson still there? (Kidding)

But really, I don’t know much of anything about the Sixers.

Here’s a few bits.

  • Head Coach is Brett Brown
  • Record is 7-15
  • Royce White, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe were all Sixers at some point before the season, but are no longer — clearly Philly doesn’t like Minnesota Natives. So this one is personal, right?

Alright. That’s what I know. Anyway, to provide you guys with a little more (a lot more) in depth knowledge about tonight’s opponent — I’ve brought in the experts.

First, introductions.

My name is Jovan Alford and I am a senior communication major at La Salle University specializing in mass media and journalism. I am also the owner/editor in charge of totalsportslive.com, a site a part of the Broad Spectrum Sports network. My site covers Philly collegiate and pro sports and also national sports. I’ve been covering the Sixers for about two years now and you can find my work at totalsportslive.com.

Hi! My name is Emily Gruver and I am the Co-Editor of The Sixer Sense (Part of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided Network). I’m a huge Philadelphia sports fan. You can find my work at The Sixer Sense, That Ball’s Outta Here, and Hoops Habit.

O’Connor didn’t bother reading the ENTIRE EMAIL, but I had a chance to meet him over the weekend — he was in Minneapolis for business. After chatting with Sean during the Wolves-Heat game last Saturday, which was the most expensive loss I think either of us has payed for, I found that it really is true — people from Philly only talk about Philly, that’s it. (No disrespect intended, that’s what happened — he’ll tell ya) ALRIGHT HERE’S WHAT HIS TWITTER SAYS: “I write words on the internet, primarily at Liberty Ballers (Part of the SB Nation Blog Network)and occasionally at other places.”

Now, the good stuff.

1. Before we get into any talk about tonight’s game, and not to kick anybody in the dirt, but; how bad are the Sixers? Does it reach beyond player personnel and go up the front office ladder? 
Alford: The Sixers are bad. The sad part is as Philadelphia fans we expected them to be bad because once you trade away your all-star point guard in Jrue Holiday that automatically means you are going to have a couple of loses under your bag. I think this is all apart of Sam Hinkie’s plan to blow it up and bring in the players that he wants to fit the team.
Gruver: The Sixers are really struggling right now. With a 7-15 record, they are continuing to lose to teams that they are capable of beating. I think the main reason for this is injuries, mainly with Michael Carter-Williams recent absence for a few games now. I think it’s also the fact that they just don’t have enough talent to compete with these other teams. It’s really just these little things that are costing them these losses; injuries, turnovers, missed free-throws, and defense.
O’Connor: Well, even while they’re better than expected, the Sixers still have lost more than 2/3rds of their games. They haven’t won a game in regulation since November 8th, over a month ago. And it’s totally by design. 
2. Sixers and “tanking” are often associated, that’s what they’re doing — right? What is the best long-term result that could -possibly- come from this season for the Sixers?
Alford: I don’t think that the Sixers are tanking. The players don’t even like the word “tanking” it offends them. The best long-term result that could come from this season is hopefully you can find out who you want to bring back for the long term with head coach Brett Brown. You also want the players to be students of the game and learn how to play the game the right way. Also long term, they will eventually get back Nerlens Noel and possibly you will have two top ten picks so you can keep on building from there.
Gruver: The Sixers are in an odd situation because I actually do believe they don’t want to tank, but are continuing to just fall short. From listening to head coach Brett Brown, as well as the players, I’m actually getting the feeling that they want nothing to do with tanking, especially in the beginning of the season when they were creating miraculous comebacks.
O’Connor: “Tanking” doesn’t have a single, set definition. Some people take “tanking” to mean the intentional losing of games by the players put out on the court, either via holding people out with phantom injuries or an intentional lack of effort. This isn’t happening – the Sixers try really hard every game, and that’s part of Sam Hinkie’s vision. However, they are certainly not built to win games – which to me constitutes tanking by the organization. “Rebuilding” just sugarcoats the intentions.
The best case scenario from this year: vets play well enough to establish trade value, get swapped for future assets, MCW and Noel develop into all-star or borderline all-star caliber players, and the Sixers still end up with the worst record and the best chances for the number one overall pick and a guaranteed top 4 selection.
3. Have you thought of any trade scenarios involving Spencer Hawes, Thad Young or Evan Turner?(These can be as a pair or individuals)  If so what are they? And are you for or against them and why? 
Alford: I haven’t really thought of any trade scenarios myself but one trade scenario that I think we all have probably heard is Thad Young to the Houston Rockets for Omer Asik. I am not a big fan of this trade because nothing about Asik’s game gets me excited. The Sixers already have a big man sitting on the bench in Nerlens Noel so it would be no point. Trading a player like Thaddeus Young would be devastating to this team because he is the heart and soul. If you watch him play he is always hustling diving your balls and taking charges. Plus he is a great guy on and off the court.
Gruver: I haven’t thought of any myself, but I know of the report in which the Houston Rockets would trade Omer Asik in return for Thaddeus Young. Spencer Hawes hasn’t really been in many trade rumors here, and the Evan Turner trade rumors have surprisingly died off.

If it’s the right deal and the Sixers would get something reasonable in return, then I’m for it, but at this point, I don’t see the point in trading away any of them because I feel as though they can be solid pieces for the future.
O’Connor: I’m for trading all of them. Hawes and Turner are free agents at the end of the season – both could potentially help current playoff teams at the low, low cost of a late first round pick, and neither will be cheap or valuable enough to retain at the current market rate. Young makes more sense as a long-term piece, but he’s only guaranteed to be under team control for this year and next. I find it likely that he will opt out after next season, at which point it’ll be costly in years and dollars to retain him. He also should bring back a solid return in a trade.
As for individual deals, Young for Omer Asik has been bandied about quite a bit. I’m a fan if it’s part of a bigger move to eventually move Asik’s contract. Meanwhile, I’m a fan of pretty much any scenario that nets a first round pick for either Hawes or Turner, no matter what team really. But if I had to pick individual teams for them to move to, I’d say Hawes would fit well as a Clipper, while Turner could be useful in Atlanta.
4. No Michael Carter-Williams (<- Caution, there’s self-promotion in there) tonight means we’ll see Lorenzo Brown, right? He was one of the Wolves final cuts prior to the season, do you have any thoughts on his play?
Alford: You can probably expect to see some Lorenzo Brown tonight but more of Tony Wroten Jr. I think Brown has been adequate since he has joined the Sixers. I think he is better than Darius Morris, who the Sixers released earlier this season. In the last three games he is averaging 13.3 minutes per game. That is good, that means Brett Brown has him apart of this rotation and hopefully he can stick around for the entire season.
Gruver: Lorenzo Brown has been OK. He has only played 9 games so far this season and averaging just 7.7 minutes per game so I haven’t seen too much from him. He has just been a guy who will give you a few points and assists a game, but nothing special.
O’Connor:Brown doesn’t wow me in any way, but really that doesn’t matter. Sam Hinkie has brought in players to compete, and he’s lauded Brown for being a hard worker. The Sixers have him playing as a combo guard, but to me his shooting and/or passing (preferably both) need to improve to be a legitimate rotation player. At least he’s not Darius Morris, though.
5. Lastly, is there any way the Sixers beat the Wolves tonight? If so, how? If not, what scares you about this Wolves team. (Feel free to rant a bit here about anything really)
Alford: The only way this Sixers team beats the Wolves if they come out and play like they did to begin the season against the Heat and Bulls. They could sneak up on the Wolves tonight because Minnesota is coming off of a back to back. Those are the only two ways they win. But I think they won’t win because when you are going a team that has the likes of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Kevin Martin you are going to have to play solid defense. Rubio is a great passer, Love is a great passer and shooter, and Martin is a great shooter. The only person I can see defending Love is Thad Young because he is just as versatile. But Kevin Love has the ability to stretch the defense and he throws beautiful outlet passes. I also can forget about Pek who gets monster boards.That is a man in the paint and I hope the Sixers are ready to get punched in the mouth down low because if they aren’t it is going to be a long night tonight.
Gruver: I don’t see the Sixers defeating the Wolves tonight. First off, the Sixers are horrible on the road (1-8). What scares be the most about this Wolves team is that I’m afraid Kevin Love is going to completely go off and the Sixers won’t be able to defend him. Plus, the Wolves are 3rd overall in PPG, and 7th overall in both rebounds and assists per game. The Wolves just have the better talent and have Love and Nikola Pekovic who are dominating on the boards.
O’Connor: I suppose it’s possible that the Sixers could win but not likely by any stretch of the imagination.

Anyway, what scares me most about the Timberwolves is Nikola Pekovic. That was an easy answer! To be completely serious, though – the three-point shooting capabilities of Kevin Martin and Kevin Love. Though the game we attended in person had some of the worst shooting in the NBA this year, the Sixers are awfully charitable at giving up open three point opportunities. Having two guys that have the ball in their hands often that will fire away whenever open is a scary thought for a Sixers team that leaves people open entirely too often.
Welp. All of our guests today were fantastic. I don’t believe the Sixers can beat the Wolves, either — see weekly preview for further prediction. If you’re a fan of the Sixers or sports in Philly — give these guys a follow on twitter. If they were kind enough to answer my emails, they’re kind enough to befriend you guys.
Wolves-Sixers is tonight, 7:00PM CST — FSN North. 830 WCCO for Radio Goers.

Recap: Wolves Mash Mavericks (Again); 112-106

The Minnesota Timberwolves entered Saturday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks hoping to put the stop to a recent six-game-road-skid, which they did; 112-106.

Vince Carter, unlike the team’s matchup earlier this month in Minnesota, was in-uniform for the Mavs, however, he would need to compensate for an inactive Jose Calderon — who was sidelined with a bruised right ankle. Calderon scored 21 points when these teams met back on November 8th.

First Half

At the end of the first quarter the Wolves led 29-24 behind the starting five’s balanced scoring effort. Nikola Pekovic led the way with 10 points, Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin and Kevin Love all scored five and Ricky Rubio scored two to go along with two assists. Things were rolling again, early, offensively. Also, trade acquisition Luc Mbah a Moute began capturing the hearts of fans almost immediatly after he entered the game. Mbah a Moute (who I may begin calling ‘MooTay’ [[MOO-tay]]) showed grit, determination and toughness throughout the evening.

The Mavs were able to sustain the Wolves, energetic, -up-and-down- pace of basketball throughout the second quarter. Gal Mekel started at point guard for the Mavs due to Calderon’s absence, but Monta Ellis was trying to “have it all” offensively. Mekel ended the half with two points and two assists while Ellis, who was doing most of the ball-handling, lukewarmly scored 11 points on four-of-seven shooting from the field. Dirk Nowitzki, while potent, remained relatively at bay throughout most of the first half — “Dirk” was held to nine points and also had four assists. At halftime the Wolves led the Mavs; 54-47.

Second Half

The balanced scoring attack continued but so did the efforts of Ellis and the third quarter was a wash, both teams scored 30 points. Love scored eight, Rubio scored six and Pek continued to pound against a -sturdy- Samuel Dalembert by tallying six more to his 13 points first-half points. Ellis, who is the Mavericks’ leader in assists this season, scored 11 and had three-dimes and the game entered the final quarter.

Both sides tightened the defense and it became a battle, possession by possession, trying to claw-ahead or keep-a-lead. Nowitzki couldn’t be contained any longer, he scored 10 on five of six shooting but it was the Mavs’ bench that contributed 15 of the home team’s 29 fourth-quarter points. At one point Dallas cut the lead to 90-92 but the Wolves went on a run of their own behind 9 of Martin’s 27 points. With four-minutes remaining in the game Martin hit a jumper that put the Wolves up 100-92. Somebody named Kevin scored the Wolves final 12 points and Rubio remained in-the-game down-the-stretch; the Wolves executed and finished strong — it was a good, road, win.

Three Stars

  1. Kevin Martin – Scored 27 points and hit 10 of 11 foul-shots and has proven to be the Wolves only player capable of inserting the ‘dagger’ late in games.
  2. Nikola Pekovic  - Pek is a monster, he had 21 points on 10 of 13 field-goal shooting and grabbed nine rebounds, he’s been huge so far this season. The only issue is he’s playing a lot of minutes — until Gorgui Dieng proves he’s ready, Pek misses Ronny Turiaf; a lot.
  3. Kevin Love — Because, why not? Love had 21 points and 11 boards and it’s almost a formality to make him one of the game’s three-stars.

Takeaways

  • Well, the Wolves play another back-to-back game tonight in Oklahoma City — winning in Dallas was a big one.
  • Rubio executed late in the game, in huge moments, and continues to prove that leaving him open for a three-pointer is always a good idea.
  • Pek is huge and the production is nice, but, how much of a beating will his body take and will this much playing affect his health later in the season and beyond.

 

 

 

Derrick Williams Traded For Luc Mbah a Moute, Pending Physical

During the second quarter of the game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers, Derrick Williams -pending a physical- was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Luc Mbah a Moute.

It’s pronounced Luke, MMMM-BAH-EM-MOOT-AY, (that’s not professional, but you’ll get it soon enough)

Mbah a Moute is 27 years old and in his sixth NBA season. After spending five-years in Milwaukee with the Bucks, Mbah a Moute (WOW, THIS IS FUN TO SAY) was traded to the Kings for two-future second round picks.

He’s not very potent offensively, shooting less than 30 percent from three-point range and just under 50 percent from the field on his career. Though his field-goal percentage is deceptive, Mbah a Moute shoots 50 percent around the rim but less than 40 percent within’ the three-point-arc.

Just this morning Jonathon Santiago of Cowbell Kingdom published a piece on the swingman out of the Cameroon, who was beginning to appear in the starting lineup. Mbah a Moute started in five of nine games as a King. Sacramento’s head coach, Michael Malone, is in his first season at the helm and was warming up to having the tenacious defender in his starting-five.

 

“I wasn’t playing him a whole lot because he missed most of the preseason – six preseason games he was out,” Malone said. “He missed a lot of practice time, so once he put together a string of practices where (I could say) ‘Okay, I can see what you can do and you can do it and you can sustain that’, that gave me the confidence to put him out there and start playing him more.”

“He’s a guy that’s kind of made his name in the NBA as a defensive player,” Malone said.

He’s a hustle junkie, someone Rick Adelman is going to enjoy having very much.

@ZacharyBD grade the trade – how do you feel?

— Andy Whisney (@andywhisney) November 26, 2013

It’s somewhat saddening to see Williams depart without ever making a name for himself in Minnesota, but; this move benefits his development as an NBA player going forward. “D-Will” is going to see more playing time, in a system that isn’t Adelman’s (which he’s never been accustomed too) and the Kings are going to see this “Caged Lion,” released.

The Wolves will pay roughly two-million less over the next two seasons for Mbah a Moute, as opposed to Williams.

Mbah a Moute is a hustle junkie — he’s a perfect fit for this second unit. A lock-down defender who’s going to hustle every minute he’s on the floor, the only concern of mine is the pending physical. Not that I’m worried he’ll ‘fail’ the physical, but the fact he’s been somewhat plagued with injuries in his career.

Mbah a Moute has played all 82 games of the season only once, his rookie year, and any player that’s been injured in the past poses some -obvious- concern.

He was just beginning to gel in Sacramento and will start, another, new beginning as a member of the Timberwolves.

 

Welcome, Luc.

 

 

Week Three, Part Two: Cleveland Cavaliers

The Minnesota Timberwolves split the Staples Center Series and are back in action tonight facing the Cleveland Cavaliers at home in the friendly confines of Target Center.

Here are things, they’re for you.

I spoke with David Zavac, editor of Fear The Sword – A Cleveland Cavaliers Community, on yesterday’s Break The Huddle Show with John Meyer from The Daily Wolf and Billy Bohl of A Wolf Among Wolves. Here’s a link to yesterday’s show! (we experienced issues yesterday, so it’s only audio for the first 10:30).

Break the Huddle Show — 11/12.

There’s a great Q&A with Zavac that begins at the halfway point, 30:00 in.

Mr. Bohl and I host this hour long segment to talk about the Wolves every Tuesday, you can follow the show on Twitter -@BTH_Show- where we’ll promote for you guys to call in, ask questions and discuss random nonsense in a segment that’s fun for listeners of all ages.

PHEW, now that I’m out of the Promotion Ocean — we can continue. Read more about the meeting earlier this season between the Wolves and the Cavs, here.

  • Bynum is out for tonight because of family matters. This leaves Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao, and Tristan Thompson to make up for Bynums surprising productivity so far this season
  • Kyrie Irving had 19, 8 assists and 9 turnovers — the Cavs coughed the ball up 20 times
  • C.J. Miles went crazy, he’s the reason the Wolves lost and I’m convinced of it — won’t go on longer

Moving onto Friday.

The Wolves head to Denver to take on the struggling Nuggets.

  • Corey Brewer, who goes into tonight’s game leading the league in fastbreak points per game, played 82 games for Denver last season — he only started once. Brewer has started every game thus far as a Timberpup.
  • The Nuggets are 2 and 4 this season and are at home tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • George Karl, despite being awarded Coach of the Year honors last season, is no longer employed as Head Coach — a puzzling scenario to say the least.
  • Will the Nuggets have the one known as “The Manimal,” Kenneth Faried? Faried is averaging 11 points and 9 rebounds in Denver so far this season, but rumors surfaced today he may be involved in a trade that would send him to the New York KNicks.

News happens fast, so naturally after nearly publishing this post — I found this.

 

WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ANYMORE?!?!

I’ll talk to you guys again on Friday.

Tonight’s game will be aired on FSN North, 7:00 CST. You’ll also be able to hear it on the radio by tuning into WCCO’s 830, Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) will have the call.

 

Also, a Happy Birthday to Mark Remme and Shabazz Muhammad!

Zach.

Wolves Clipped by Clippers, 107-109

For the second time this season the Minnesota Timberwolves watched a shot fall-short that would have won, or tied, the game at the buzzer. The loss, though tough to swallow, doesn’t prevent Earth from continuing to spin. In yesterday’s recap I used the term fatalism; the belief that what will happen has already been decided and cannot be changed, and unfortunately, it’s what we may have seen in Staples Center last night. However, there’s still plenty season remaining and the Wolves have made it clear they’ve arrived as a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. The game was the second straight sellout, in back-to-back nights, in Los Angeles. Not bad for a small market franchise from the midwest.

BREWERDUDLEY

Brewer drives by Jared Dudley, both wearing the NBA issued headbands worn over the weekend and Monday night in honor of Veteran’s Day

First Half

Compared to Sunday’s meeting with the Lakers Monday’s opening quarter was frustrating although the Wolves led the Clippers at the end of the first; 26-23. Blake Griffin led all scorers with 11 points and it was apparent he was going to be allowed to shoot the 15 foot jumpers facing the basket, he was defended by Nikola Pekovic and not Kevin Love — the Wolves sacrificed strength for speed guarding the Clippers’ high-flying forward. Love and Kevin Martin, Team Kevin, scored seven point each, Ricky Rubio scored two points and had as many assist to go along with three points from Corey Brewer and five from Pek. It was a balanced effort showing Rick Adelman’s Princeton offense is starting to operate on all cylinders.

The starting unit this season has been remarkable and entered last night’s game scoring 80 percent of the team’s points, they needed to bail out the bench -again- Monday. Love, who played just over seven minutes in the first, played eight-and-half during the second quarter and scored nine points. Pek lumbered his big body around for over 10 minutes in the first, but did his heavy lifting over second minutes in the second — scoring 12 points on 5 of 5 from the field and 2 of 3 from the free-throw line. However the Clippers balanced scoring came to life, by halftime, every player that stepped on the floor before halftime had scored; the home team led at the half, 59-58.

First Half Notes

  • The Clippers bench outscored the Wolves 21-10
  • Rubio had only two points, but had five assists
  • Love, Martin and Pek scored 43 of the team’s 58

Second Half

The Clippers expanded their halftime lead in the third by outscoring the Wolves, 26-22. Griffin added 10 to his total and Paul showcased his midrange game after fancy crossovers that, although Rubio defended well, were just too much for the 23 year old to handle. At the end of the third quarter the deficit had grown to five, the resilience of the starting unit was keeping it close — the bench failed to score in the opening period of the second half.

Blake Griffin and Kevin Love   are two players that make Clippers-Wolves one of the NBA's most exciting new rivalries.

Blake Griffin and Kevin Love are two players that make Clippers-Wolves one of the NBA’s most exciting new rivalries.

Martin was relatively quiet in the first half and went to charity stripe only four times thus far. He matched that output in final quarter and made good on all four attempts, asserting himself offensively during the game’s final minutes. The lack of productivity from the bench was taking it’s toll on the starters, Rubio failed to record a rebound in the second half, scored zero points in the final quarter but -as only he can- found a way to distribute four assists down the stretch. Love despite dominating the boards, snagging eight rebounds, scored only two points in the final quarter. The Wolves, again, had a chance to run a play with a chance to win on the road. Here’s a breakdown.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.03.39 PM

 Martin throws the ball in to Love from the far sideline, Love sets a screen on Matt Barnes and hands it back to Martin who dribbles to his left toward the top of the key. Because it’s this late in the game, the Clippers will undoubtedly switch on the pick-n-roll — leaving DeAndre Jordan to defend the smaller, quicker Martin.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.07.09 PM

Here, Martin can either pull up from behind the three-point line and go for the win if Jordan decides to sag and defend against dribble-penetration. Martin chooses to continue driving to his left, that’s the side of the court he’s most comfortable shooting the ball.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.10.19 PM

The play is well defended, Jordan recovers well and Martin is forced to shoot an awkward jumper; however, Pek has bullied Griffin almost completely under the basket Love is crashing the boards with the smaller Barnes on his hip. This puts both players in position to obtain the offensive rebound.

 Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.14.19 PM

Pek gets the offensive board because of his positioning, has a look at a baby hook to win the game. Barnes instinctively jumps to defend the shot, Love slips behind him toward the rim in front of Paul.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.17.44 PM

THIS, THIS IS HOW CLOSE THE WOLVES WERE TO SENDING THE GAME TO OVERTIME. Love’s putback sits on the rim for what felt like an eternity before falling off in the Clippers favor.

“When Kevin [Martin] had shot the ball, I knew we had 11 seconds left. Pek got the rebound, shot it up, so my natural instinct was to try and rush and put it up there. It sat on the rim and, like I said, 99 times out of 100 times, that goes in.” – Love said after the game.

He told fans the same thing he told his teammates just moments after the buzzer rang at Staples.

As he walked toward the bench, Love smiled. Despite the outcome, the game was fun — the Wolves have no reason to hang their head after this one, well, the starters don’t anyway.

 

Three Stars (Do we include Clippers players? I’m new at this)

  1. Nikola Pekovic – Pek scored 25, his highest output of the season, on 11 of 15 shooting and had 10 rebounds.
  2. Kevin Love – Mr. Double-Double scored 23 and grabbed 19 rebounds, he has a double-double through every game this season
  3. Blake Griffin – Silently matching Love’s scoring output with 25 points on 11 of 22 shooting in addition to 10 rebounds. He had zero turnovers.

The Wolves have today off but face the Cavs tomorrow at home. More on that one to come.

Wolves at Clippers: A Preview Featuring Trisity Miller

As promised in yesterday’s weekly preview Trisity Miller (@Trisity_) joins the PupsBlog for some insight on tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Miller is a Staff Writer as well as Editor of FullyClips.com, THE Clippers Blog of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided Network. She had me answer of few of her questions on the Clipper site, read them here.
Ricky Rubio drives passed Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

Ricky Rubio drives passed Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

Here’s a few notes.

  • Doc Rivers is now head coach, he’s called for the removal of Laker banners in the Staples Center during Clipper home games.

“This is our arena when we play,” when asked about the banners. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them (Lakers). But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”

  • The Clippers offense ranks first in the league in points per game — they’re piling 110 on their opponents
  • The Wolves played last night, the Clips didn’t, we’ll see how playing on back-to-back nights affects them despite not having to travel between games.

Here’s a few questions I asked Miller via Email.

How, if it’s possible, do you stop the Clippers?
Slow the pace down and make them beat you in the half-court. Judging a team based on their performance against the defending champions in Miami isn’t smart, but it revealed a lot of holes in this team. Scoring and defending in the half-court is their biggest weakness as it has been for the past two years. Improvement is happening due to Doc Rivers putting his touch on the offense. Also getting Jordan, Paul or Griffin is one heck of a way to slow this team down. Neither have replacements that can come in and keep up wait they started. That’s a huge change compared to last season.
What, if any, are Chris Paul’s weaknesses?
Knowing when to cut the scoring switch on. I don’t like to call him a pass-first point guard like Ricky Rubio and he definitely isn’t a score-first point like a Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. He sits somewhere in the middle. But there are moments where the Clippers need a guy to take over the game. We saw him do it against Houston and Golden State. The Clippers needed that Chris Paul last night. Once he figures that out he’ll be as sound a player as there is in the league.
How does having Hall of Fame coach Doc Rivers chance the attitude in the locker room compared to last season?
On the outside looking in, this group seems to take more pride in what they’re doing now. The fun is still there, but there’s now a sense of knowing now is the time for the Clippers to win. The biggest change is the approach that DeAndre Jordan is taking to the game. He’s coming along on the defensive end, but there’s a change in the way he’s taken to being the defensive leader of this team. A sense of entitlement and a dose of confidence is what I’m seeing, something that Vinny Del Negro never helped him develop. He’s taking responsibility when the good and bad happens and knows that without quality defense from him his team can’t contend late into June.
What were expectations for offseason acquisition J.J. Redick prior to the season? Is he meeting, exceeding or below them at this point?
Redick was expected to come in and provide a dimension to the Los Angeles Clippers that the shell of Chauncey Billups couldn’t add. And he’s blown those expectations out of the water. For years all we as fans wanted from J.J. Redick was to see him on a team that wasn’t a bottom-dweller. Now that he’s on a championship contending team everyone sees why people felt that way. His shooting alone is a dynamic that helps those around him, but his off-the-ball work is what makes him a step up from being “just a shooter”. Most shooters you don’t want dribbling the ball. Redick’s the opposite as he’s an underrated pick-and-roll player and passer. And defensively he’s a million times better than Billups. Come playoff time defenses are going to absolutely loath him.
How good would Jamal Crawford fit on the Wolves? Or is Kevin Martin doing a good enough from from your perspective?
Crawford would fit well in a reserve role while Kevin Martin meshes perfectly with the Minny starters. Martin’s ability to move off the ball, draw fouls at a reasonable rate and knock down the three-pointer is something Wolves fans will love. Crawford is a frustrating player to watch all while being enjoyable at the same time, similar to J.R. Smith but without the shenanigans. The isolations are cool to watch, but Crawford often struggles to realize that there’s a time and a place to do that.
If you’re starting a franchise, do you pick Kevin Love or Blake Griffin as your power forward?
As much as Blake Griffin has improved this isn’t even close. I’m going with Kevin Love. There was once a point where I got a David Lee-esque feel from KL, but he’s blown that comparison out of the water. I will say this. Neither are bad options, but looking at Love’s skill set and where the NBA is currently heading a big that can hit the boards like no other and spread the floor is the new wave. If Blake Griffin can begin knocking down the 15-footer with confidence and consistency then the gap closes up due to him being able to affect the defensive end more due to his athleticism. But since that hasn’t come into fruition yet, Love’s the guy.
Blake Griffin dunks in warmups before the Clippers meeting with the Miami Heat

Blake Griffin dunks in warmups before the Clippers meeting with the Miami Heat

Kevin Love leads the league in rebounding and is second only to Kevin Durant in points per game thus far this season.

Kevin Love leads the league in rebounding and is second only to Kevin Durant in points per game thus far this season.

Miller is good stuff and churns out content like a machine for FullyClips and the other sites she’s involved with. On behalf of Timberpups I’d just like to take a moment to give thanks for the time she spent on this preview, as well as help with editing in the past (and probably the future).
If you’re a writer who covers an upcoming Wolves opponent and would like to participate in our previews, shoot me an email or DM — Zwbd333@gmail.com or @ZacharyBD. If you have any questions about an upcoming opponent feel free to DM or mention myself, Alex, John, Lindsey or the PupsBlog twitter (@timberpupsblog) with those. Also, we’re not opposed to fan posts — if you’re a regular reader here at the PupsBlog, we’d love to hear your opinions pertaining to our favorite team.
Photos are from the Clippers and Wolves team sites and can be found in appropriate photo archives.

Recap: Wolves Drain Lakers, 113-90

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Zach.

 

 

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