Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Tag Archives: Minnesota T’Wolves

All the way home, the rain didn’t stop

**This is the third in series of 10 poems and art pieces we’ll be posting leading into the 2018-19 NBA season. All art in this series is done by friend of blog, Andrew Maahs whose portfolio can be found at http://www.Basemintdesign.com.**

It’s October in Iowa
Raining like Seattle forever and ever
The NBA is in town
Kids, families, future would-be hoopers
Packing in Hilton Coliseum
Jerseys of all colors parade past in the wet slog
Somewhere in the bowels of Hilton sits Andrew Wiggins

No one expects much from pre-season games
Twenty some odd minutes
Odd indeed
Thibs is dressed like he just woke up from a Butler Bender or perhaps he’s still asleep
Bud’s hair is growing out and curls around behind his ears, it shines golden in the light
John Henson’s jovial and talkative, to opponents, teammates, fans
John Henson bangs and works but is powerless against KAT
Wiggins is a flat line

From the fourth row, Giannis is huge
Huge feet, huge shoulders, huge biceps with a huge vein pulsing
He’s serious
Brook Lopez is a mountain
Pat Connaughton’s hair is a high school dye job gone bad
The fans are mild, polite, the dads wear UnderArmour pullovers like they do everywhere else
I see Darvin Ham, Vin Baker, faces and names I’ve known for over 20 years
Thibs likes sticking Wiggins in the post
He’s game I suppose but it really doesn’t matter if it doesn’t matter

I barely notice the score, it really doesn’t matter when you’re in the fourth row and can carry on a conversation with KAT
“What size shoes do you wear?”
It’s a large foot in Jordan 8s, a large man, an unkempt beard; he’s adept playing through contact
KAT laughs, carries on, scores 33 in a variety of ways
KAT Is the best tonight in Ames
Wiggins maybe cracked the top-ten and I don’t think that’s hyperbolizing

Giannis is as tall as the mountain Brook Lopez
He’s deadly serious, gives a damn
Even on a Sunday night in a preseason game at Hilton Coliseum in Ames Iowa
Bud signals for Giannis to sit sometime in the third
The Greek doesn’t bother hiding his frustration
In a 20 point game in the preseason at Hilton Coliseum, the Greek plays most of the fourth quarter
Upon finally agreeing to exit, he seeks out Bud, they squash it, Bucks win I think
Wiggins looks and plays like it’s a Sunday night in early October

With low energy and little in the way of expression
Wiggins worked the offensive glass for five rebounds
That tied his career high and it appeared accidental
Though sometimes offensive rebounding can be unintentional
But Wiggins isn’t really the right place, right time guy
Instead, from the fourth row, and from the TV
He’s detached, devoid of whatever’s coursing through
Giannis and KAT and probably Jimmy and probably Thibs and Bud too

Wiggins is not a flat line and I shouldn’t have written that but won’t delete it either
Wiggins snatched those five offensive rebounds because among athletes, he’s athletic
Quick leaping, high rising with
Good hands, but
I drank my beer and scanned myself for confirmation bias
Zero assists, zero steals, zero blocks, zero defensive rebounds, four turnovers
Maybe, on one of his two missed free throws, he grimaced in frustration, blamed himself
Blasé blasé blasé

Walking to the car, soggy in the rain, my jeans heavy,
Me and Hamilton raved about KAT and Giannis
White Donte and Christian Wood too
Luol Deng looked a shell and was mercilessly stuck on Giannis
The crowd chanted “We want Rose! We want Rose!”
Jeff Teague pumped his fist to the chant, grinning at Derrick
Henson fouled out in 15 minutes and got a kick out of harassing the refs
Josh Okogie’s instincts were on display, Bates-Diop’s were not

Up close, in the flesh,
If you didn’t know better,
If you didn’t know Andrew and his background and potential,
You wouldn’t have noticed him
But a preseason game isn’t a place for drawing conclusions
And I often think about Andrew Wiggins and hope it all comes together
He’s only 23, averaged 23 points when he was 21, led the league in minutes
All the way home, the rain didn’t stop

Ain’t no Sunshine when Ricky’s Gone

Up in Minnesota where winter is perpetual and ice ages are annual occurrences, the most intriguing pro athlete is banged and bandaged, unable to share his gift with the native Minnesotans who love him. It’s not future Governor and Minnesota Twin, Joe Mauer. Nor is it the switch-wielding Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. It’s not a hockey player either and if it was I wouldn’t know him. Ricard Rubio I Vives (said with the Spanish accent of an American, the words pop with flair and gusto), aka Ricky Rubio, is the most special of all Minnesota’s pro athletes. And after destroying his ankle on the night of November 7th, he’s shelved for no one knows how long as Minnesotans cope by listening to “Ain’t No Sunshine” by the late, great Bill Withers because if Elton John taught us anything it’s that sad songs say so much.

With the immaculate outlet passing of the wide-bottomed Kevin Love gone to the rosy environs of Cleveland, Rubio’s natural joy and effervescence has quickly become the guiding light of the young Wolves’ identity. In the four full games they played before the ligaments of his ankle shredded, Rubio infected his team with fun – laughing, smiling, sharing, competitive fun. They were 2-2 and showing the earliest signs of young definition. Always a great passer, Rubio was assisting even more with a career-best 55.5% assist rate and 11 assists-per-game in the four full games in which he appeared. His rebounding was up, his three-point attempts cut in half. Historically a sub-40% shooter on two-point field goals, he was up over 44%, but most interesting was his scoring on assisted plays. Prior to this season less than 18% of his two-point buckets came on assists, but this season it more than doubled up to nearly 37% which is significantly above the norms we see from point guards. In the tiniest of a sliver of sample sizes, Rubio’s prodigious talents were merging with patience and improved decision making and the entire team was benefiting.

111714 - Rubio faces

But what does it mean to lose the jewel of the 10,000 Lakes, that bright and shining beacon of the great snow blanketed north? Aside from the young Wolves (seventh-youngest team in the league) going from one of the most exciting teams to watch with Rubio they’re suddenly like a canoe of fisherman floating through the frigid Great Lakes with frozen snotsicles hanging from noses, men without spears and without oars, hunting for game which they can’t find, lost in the chilling mercilessness of a brutal voyage. Minnesota is a winless basketball team without Ricky, his absence felt in nearly every aspect of the game, but most notably his infectious positivity which can keep a team sane through the leanest of times.

111714 - rubio stats

The Wolves are now shooting more threes, but making less, unable to find the easy shots which Rubio creates. They’re guided by a 19-year-old wing miscast as a point guard in uber-athlete Zach LaVine. Not surprisingly, turnovers are up and assists are down. ORtg and points-per-game are falling like sad snowflakes alongside dips in shooting percentages. Most telling is the hit to DRtg. With Rubio, the team had a 104.5 DRtg which is better than the league average, but without the maestro that number leaps to 121.6 which is worse than the Lakers’ miserable 117.8. To be fair, the two drivers of that spike are a couple of blowouts against New Orleans and Dallas, but with Rubio, those blowouts are maybe mere six-point losses with character building competitiveness.

Stats from Basketball-Reference.com

Stats from Basketball-Reference.com

The timetable for Rubio’s return from this severe Grade three ankle sprain has been listed as 7-8 weeks which puts Minnesota at a Rubio-less disadvantage until sometime around Christmas or New Year’s. While 7-8 weeks can fly by in metaphorical blinking of eyes, that same time for a maturing team can seem like ages, particularly if the losses keep piling up like thick layers of ice. No one had great expectations for the Wolves this year, but missing out on 25 or more games of prime gelling opportunities is sickening and saddening for Wolves disciples and b-ball fans alike. So as much as Ricky is missed and we want him back as soon as physically possible, let’s hope he doesn’t rush and risk further injury. To paraphrase Mr. Withers, “ain’t no sunshine when Ricky’s gone, only darkness every day.”


Cause for Excitement

If you’ve read any of my team preview posts, you probably picked up on the theme of excited curiosity that surrounds the unknown. We all know what Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard and Samuel Dalembert are capable of doing, but we’re still learning about young players and guys who have switched uniforms.

With that that in mind, I was tickled last night as I sat on my couch, New Castle in hand, feet kicked up and landed the remote on the OKC @ Minnesota game. There was that Russell Westbrook whipping and snapping all over the court, a new haircut for Nick Collison, a DC battle between Beasely and Durant, and then the Spanish question mark Ricky Rubio. Yeah man, I was all skeptical about Rubio. Skeptical about his defense. Skeptical about his foot speed. Skeptical about the hype. I wasn’t quite hating on the kid, but I wasn’t supportive either and I can make a case that I wasn’t even fair in regards to his NBA potential.

I’m fully aware that 26 minutes and 18 seconds doesn’t count for much of a sample, but watching Rubio thread passes through the tiniest and tightest of lanes and openings had me stroking the stubble on my chin and nodding in agreement: Yes, that’s a man who can pass. The passes he made were hard enough to see let alone execute and he repeatedly threw these passes without making a single turnover. Ahhh … it was a breath of fresh air and for Minnesota fans, you people (whatchu mean, you people?!?! – it’s not even like that) should be rejoicing in the name of all that is round, leather and flies through a steel rim:

Future: An Alternative to Winning or Losing – Minnesota Timberwolves

Did you know that Wesley Johnson (24), a rookie last year, is older than Kevin Love (23) and Michael Beasley (22)? Or that Beasley’s older than Ricky Rubio (21) and Derrick Williams (20)? The T’Wolves’ core is filled with youth, dreams and ceilings that reach beyond the firmament. To realize Kevin Love’s 30-30 game is to tip-toe into our past and dance with Moses Malone. To load up on youthful assets like David Kahn has done is put to faith in the future and bank on the development of at least one of Beasley, Johnson, Rubio, Anthony Randolph or Williams to partner with Love’s already historic body of work.

Being so bad for so long (last year, six teams had more wins (57 or more) than the Wolves have had over their past three years combined (56 total)), has helped Minnesota stockpile players who are barely old enough to drink. The front line is already established with a diverse threesome who can produce stats, but have struggled to generate wins. The backcourt, mostly point guard, is more mysterious. It’s not quite as confusing as crop circles, but Jonny Flynn, Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio give new Coach Rick Adelman options at the point. I picture a training camp where point guard front runners rotate on a daily basis like Republican Presidential candidates jockeying for position. With any luck, Kahn will throw the whole situation into chaos by drafting Marquis Teague to compete for the position in 2012.

Beyond the potential starters, Minnesota has elements of intrigue coming off the bench. Randolph perennially inspires stargazers to grab hold of isolated visions of potential and extrapolate them into 82-game projections punctuated by big, bold IFs. While the performances across his first three years as a pro have been marked by more valleys than peaks, it feels like we often forget this kid is just 22.

Then there’s Derrick Williams—Minnesota’s reward for being a terrible team yet again in 2011. Williams is an explosive combo forward; a strong rebounder with a slow, but accurate jump shot. Sometimes we see guys devour inferior competition in college, then get to the pros and look ordinary when faced with the world’s finest. Derrick is better than ordinary, but is he quick enough to guard Nicolas Batum? Is he beefy enough to bang with Serge Ibaka? Fortunately, Minnesota can ease him into these questions and peers like Love and Beasley can help provide the answers he seeks.

When winning’s not an option, an exciting underdog with a white hero to latch onto, a quadruple double threat and a previously post-hype Spanish point guard becomes an acceptable substitute. T’Wolves fans won’t have a lot of team success to celebrate this year, but the individual will be at the forefront many times over.

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