Wolves Week 11
The Timberwolves still have a relatively short franchise history. In the 27 year history of the club, most of it has been negative. The short stint of KG & the boys being the one bright spot. All the guesses have the Timberwolves trending upward with their current roster and I am a party to that. But potential positives in the future do little to make up for all the years of heart strain. So when even the smallest of positive moments happen, it's noteworthy.
Such was the case on Friday for the Pups. They were the last of the four pro teams to win in 2016. Not too monumental, but scraping for positives is a part of the package, even now. The question moving forward is, can they keep up the level of play that they've managed for most of the last couple of weeks. The first test came tonight against the Portland Trailblazers.
Cut down by the Oregon Trail
In the latest contest where the Timberwolves went up against a team without their best player the Wolves made it tough to notice. Not having Damian Lillard should have given them a distinct advantage, but McCollum picked up the slack and they couldn't manage to slow him.
In the first step towards a future often hypothesized about, Rubio was put on the pine, Dunn played off guard with Wiggins initiating of the offense. If it's happened in crunch time during one of the earlier games this season I missed it. The likelihood is that the change was made for defense because Rubio couldn't handle McCollum.
Dunn had as good of a game as he has since the season started. Blocking shots, making shots, and just generally making the right plays can only grow his confidence. Wiggins may have accounted for the second most points in the game but I think that KD3 is the brightest spot for the hometowners. If he can only replicate how he played tonight, then the bench will begin to be much less of a liability. For now, they're still winless in the division and once again came out of halftime badly, to put it simply.
Will Dunn's effectiveness in replacement of Rubio start a trend? How many times in sports has someone lost their job after an injury or when the smallest of openings are presented? Only time will tell how the duo's playing time is handled. The first evidence to it either way comes tomorrow in Philly.
Chopped Wolf Steak
I haven't been doing this sports writing thing long. What I've already realizer is that sometimes the point or points come easy; sometimes they're a labor. The point's from tonights game were on the easy side. First & foremost, the game tonight was bad early and bad late.
However you want to spin it, the Timberwolves lost because they didn't deserve to win. The 6ers were up 26 in the third quarter. Normally that would spell disaster because of their track record coming back out of the locker room. For what it's worth, they showed an impressive amount of grit in the later stages and managed to tie the game with 1.6 seconds left in the game. During the comeback they also made some nice individual and team plays.
Was it cool that Rubio nailed the 3 pointed to tie the game? Yeah! Did Dunn make some more nice plays on his own and for his teammates? Absolutely! How much does it matter that KAT's most clutch play came on defense? Hopefully a lot!
But when you get into that big of a hole you don't deserve to win. The only reason they were even able to push it to a tie was that Philly played like they wanted to lose too. I rarely root for losses by the teams I support but after Philly executed on the close out play I wasn't disappointed by it.
Next point: The better team on the evening won.
😑 That Philadelphia managed to be the better team does give me a headache though. It's like losing to the Cleveland Browns or the Houston Astros. It just shouldn't happen, but it did and it was a deserved loss by the Timberwolves. I think the upward trend of last week has officially ended.
A Glance Through the Telescope
The Wolves lost again. I think it's actually more accurate to say that the Wizards beat them though. Not that such a differentiation actually accounts for anything when the season's over with, but I think it's accurate.
I'm more interested in as far as the team goes actually has to do with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The ballin' Lebron's have benefitted the Timberwolves several times. When he took his talents, the Wolves managed to get Michael Beasley for practically nothing. When he did it for Cleveland, the Cavs were hard pressed to add talent and thus traded for big box Love. The Beasy trade didn't work out but it was fun when he lead the NBA in scoring for like a solid month.
And I know that some people are souring on Air Canada's ability to contribute. I for one am not among them because he's got the temperament to be a second or third option while having the skills to go for 40+ in any given game, as he displayed by his performance tonight. When you get a guy like that, plus more, for a guy who clearly wanted off First Ave, I still call that a win. But enough about the history, bring it to today.
The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Ashton Kutcher's look-a-like today. Why does this mean anything to the Timberwolves? It's all hypothetical from here folks so if you don't want to go down the rabbit hole - the door's in the upper left.
When Lebron left Cleveland they were pretty talent bare. Then they got Kyrie, a couple years past & the king came back. They traded for Love and added other pieces along the way. JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson & so on & so on. They've kept adding guys around their veteran core of elite talent. Latest amongst them is Korver with possible other trades yet to be made.
So they didn't all come as free agents, but they were all added. It was all started because of the core though. So now onto the actual hypothesizing.
Keep KAT, Lavine & Wiggins intact & the rest will come. Some of em may already be here. Dieng's a nice player. Dunn's starting to show some flashes. I haven't thrown in the towel on Bjeli, yet. Rubio's still Rubio. Shabazz is fine on the bench, sometimes...Cole Aldrich fills a role. So the cupboards are not bare right now. Wolves fans have been getting so worked up about the way the season has gone so far & I can't blame them one little bit. But I'm not with em either.
Let these guys hit 23 years old! Let Thibs do the work with the players and the roster between now and then! First up on that list will likely be another lottery pick, unless things take a crazy turn upward. Do that and the guys will WANT to come to Minneapolis. In season trades for great players will happen to bring players TO the Wolves, not away from them. I wish the results were happening now but let's just let things happen before hitting the eject button on it.
So I know this didn't have anything to do with the game but the most interesting thing that came to mind this game day is just that the future is still bright, to boil it all down.
A Broken Record
It's astounding how the team keeps finding new ways to lose games. The sign of grand incompetence is that even Tom Thibodeau is baffled with the team's way of creating losses.
Last night it seemed like Zach Lavine was not engaged in the game. The end of game ball handling and decision making are the prime example of that but he made uncharacteristic and unacceptable errors on both ends.
1 step forward, five steps back. 😑
It's been said that Lavine is the epitome of a gym rat. That he just loves the game and with the leaps he's made in improvement this season I believe it. So I'm not going to draw any grandiose conclusions about it based on one game. And I do think it was just an isolated incident. Over 82 games, it's probably really easy to check out once in a while.
The timing of it late in game is tough to swallow but I don't think it took nearly half the season for it to happen. In conjunction with that, with his love for the game it seems likely he's being coached up on how to handle a situation like that in the future. Not the goofy ball handling but clock awareness and decision making.
It was another loss. Another creative loss at that. Anybody else starting to think about the draft? I was really looking forward to not having to watch for potential additions in the lottery but that plan seems premature now.
Until next time.