Meet the Wolf-Gang

That was a real tough loss at home against Utah yesterday. But I have to think it’ll leave us inspired for Friday’s Lakers game in Staples. Of course, there’s a little bit of business we need to take care of between now and then- namely, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Keep in mind that not only have we been defeated by the Wolves, but so too have the been Jazz have been the Jazz (yeah, grammar’s not anyone’s forte at 3 a.m.). I talked to the fantastic and exceptionally wittily named Timberwolves blog, “TWolves Blog.” I have to say, that’s one of the best designed sports blogs on the intertubes, and I’m sure it will entice many a free agent to brave the cold of Minnesota for the allure of having his face framed atop the website. The Old Logo and College Wolf were nice enough to answer my questions:

At the Hive: Recently, we have seen Minnesota play two great games against Utah (2 wins), as well as a very close game against Boston back in February. What’s the biggest change about this team since the beginning of the year when many considered them a lock for worst record?

TWolves Blog: I think two things changed. First, while Al Jefferson started as the centerpiece of the Wolves’ end of the KG deal, it was widely acknowledged that he would be a work in progress. Somewhere in the middle of the year, he changed from a “fantasy stat stud on a bad team” to someone that not only legitimately kept the Wolves in games, but sometimes won them for the team (both wins against the Suns and a home win against the Nets where he was unstoppable even when triple teamed). My primary concern with Jefferson as a cornerstone for this team was his lack of presence as an alpha-dog. However, something clicked in him and I’m convinved he can turn into a leader on a good team, as well. Second, the wins against Utah are the product of a team that started to gel, and the fact that Utah has a tough time playing away from Salt Lake City. At the beginning of the season, the starting lineup was Telfair (starting in place of an injured Foye), McCants, Gomes, Jefferson, and Ratliff. Injuries and rotation switched resulted in a wide array of starting lineups throughout the early portion of the season. As a frequent critic of Coach Wittman, I will give him credit for sticking to the players that might have a future here and for keeping his players motivated, and his decision to stick with some of the younger guys (or at least the players I think the Wolves may try to retain) has resulted in some positive chemistry and some cohesion on the court, which ultimately created some wins. – The Old Logo.

At the Hive: Talk a little bit about Al Jefferson- could he potentially be the “next KG” as some projected? What areas of his game does he still need to work on?

TWolves Blog: I hate to label Al Jefferson (or anyone for that matter) “the next KG”… because it’s really not fair to the player being compared. KG is one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. How is a 23 year old supposed to live up to those incredibly lofty expectations? All that can do is set Jefferson up for failure.

What Al Jefferson has done is become the new “face of the franchise” in the absence of KG. It is similar, but not a direct comparison to KG. Big Al has exceeded most (if not all) expectations that any reasonable fans could have had for him coming into this season. He has grown into a leader on the court, and is the number 1 “go to” option on offense with some of the best post moves of any player in the L. If the Front Office is able to land him some front court help, he could become one of the best big men in the game as he matures.

His biggest and most glaring deficiencies are undoubtedly his man defense and passing (namely out of the double and triple teams he sees on a nightly basis.) In Al’s defense, his passing has grown measurably from what it was at the beginning of the season. His defense seems to be improving as well, even if it may indeed be at the expense of some of his offense (which seems to be the case over the past month or so.) Hopefully he will be able to come back strong next season, and exert as much energy on defense as he does on offense throughout the course of each game… and entire season. – College Wolf

At the Hive: Obviously, losing a guy like Kevin Garnett can only severely hinder a team. However, statistically speaking, the dropoff in defensive efficiency has not been that bad from last year to this season. What’s going on in Minny that has allowed the team to compensate for the loss of a defender of Garnett’s caliber?

TWolves Blog: I have a few theories on it. KG is one of the best defenders in the league, but even his defensive presence could not make up for the Mark Blount, Ricky Davis, and Mike James poo-poo platter of defensive liability last season. Also, the tempo of this year’s offense allows for better defensive sets. The majority of the NBA watching population did not get to appreciate KG while he was in Minnesota because the team was only in contention once and the market is small. Now that he has some spotlight, I’m pleased that more people get to experience the magnitude of his game (though his best seasons, 02-03 and 03-04 are past). One thing people should have noticed is that he is a jump-shooter. Granted, he is a very good jump shooter, his offensive game consists of jump shooting and passing. While that passes on the current Celtics team, if you look at last year’s roster, Mark Blount at center (not only a jump shooter, but I’m not sure if he ever went into the paint), Mike James, at least for part of the season (jump shooter), Ricky Davis (jump shooter), and Trenton Hassell (no offense), it’s easy to see where the problem lies. Off of missed outside jumpers, the opportunity for fast breaks occur and that pretty much neutralizes KG’s defense. This season, Al catches it in the low post and beats people up, or else he’s down there trying to rebound the missed shot. Basically, the Wolves have better all around defensive personnel and their style of game allows the team to set the defense better. – The Old Logo

At the Hive: What’s your take on Glen Taylor’s comments about Garnett “taking games off”? Were they totally off the mark, or was there some hint of truth to them that the media just doesn’t want to acknowledge?

TWolves Blog: I really didn’t have much reaction to this. This is like a fourth grader that still uses, “My dad can beat up your dad.” Anyone who follows KG knows that the statement, at face value, is incorrect. KG can face legit criticism for not taking over games in the fourth (even though without him, we weren’t even in the games in the fourth), or deferring on offense too much (and by that, he had a statement that basically said if he has an open look from 10 feet and sees a teammate with an open look from 5 feet, he’ll pass it), but not for taking games off. All that intensity and pride he shows in the Celtics jersey now, he showed in the TWolves jersey before. The Twin Cities has seen sweat pouring and f-bombs dropping for ten years. This is KG’s Basketball-reference.com page. Check the Games and Games Started columns, and I think that speaks for itself. – The Old Logo

At the Hive: Finally, let’s suppose you were GM of the team, and you could pick only five guys off the current squad to have next year. Who do you take, and why?

TWolves Blog: Ah, if only I were the GM of this team. It’s probably not as easy as it sounds, but it would be hard to do a worse job than McHale during the past decade.

1) Big Al Jefferson – A no-brainer. He’s obviously the best player on our team and no one else is really close.

2) Ryan Gomes – The consummate “glue-guy.” He’s the type of high basketball-IQ guy that is good at everything, but not really great at anything. Still, all the great teams need at least one or two players of this mold in their rotation to succeed.

3) Corey Brewer – A versatile, defensive-minded player that only knows how to play at 2 speeds: Fast and faster. After seeing much of his college career and this first season, I am convinced that his offensive game can only improve.

4) Kirk Snyder – I couldn’t decide between Randy Foye and Rashad McCants, because quite frankly, I don’t really like either of the players all that much. Kirk Snyder has been playing decently lately and is capable of taking the ball to the rack almost whenever he pleases. The Wolves are in desperate need of a “slasher” that can create contact on the way to the hoop and get to the foul line. Snyder fits the bill and his soon-to-be free agent contract should be cheap.

5) Mark Madsen – I was thinking of being a smart aleck and putting “This Years Hopefully Top 2 Lottery Pick” here, but then decided… why the heck not, I’d keep The People’s Champion. He’s a great morale booster, member of the community, and his remaining contract isn’t very intrusive at all. – College Wolf

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17 Responses

  1. Man…if the voodoo continues and we lose to the T-Wolves, with all due respect to them…I’ll cry. Hopefully Byron will focus them on this game and not let them get distracted by Friday’s matchup with the Lakers.

  2. I really like this young team that the T-wolves have, and I root for them on most nights. That being said, I want to punish them tonight to get the bad taste out of my mouth that still remains from last night’s stinker.

  3. …and thank you again, Portland!

  4. Was watching the portland game yesterday… blazers almost gave it away, so scary at the end. It was sad the way the lakers got back into a double digit trailing game was the way we should have got back into theu tah game, starters, intense defense, and easy buckets on offense.

    we need the number one seed!!!!

  5. Very well done. Thanks for the opportunity to exchange some discourse.

  6. No problem, College Wolf, it was fun. Good luck in the game tonight!

  7. @mikey… why the @#%!% would you root for the timberwolves??!?!
    @mW… yes, this might be a trap game. really didnt like the way we played against new york before the golden state game so hopefully they learned a lesson.

  8. @DX… If I see them on NBA TV or something, I usually pull for them… especially if they’re playing a contender in the west that isn’t us. And hey, they’ve done something we haven’t this year…. beat the Jazz twice!!

  9. Lol, that’s similar to me and the Hawks. For some reason I started watching them early in the season and Al Horford and Josh Smith grew on me. So now I quasi-enjoy watching them play, without really rooting for them.

    Speaking of Josh Smith… he’s a FA this offseason. How much would that suck if somebody like Dallas got him? I am freaked out right now. San Antonio with Josh Smith? Utah with him?? I pray Atlanta convinces him to stick around.

  10. I think Cleveland is really gonna make a push for him, honestly. But you’re right, I don’t want to see him in the West.

  11. Also, i severly doubt gil’s staying in the District. especially after the docs refused to clear him, very possible he comes back out west. maybe the clips try to get him to team with brand, making just another contender in the west. i dont think any playoff teams risk messing up their rosters with gil though. same with josh.

  12. Yeah, I hear you about Cleveland Mikey. They do have the whole “oh no! Jay-Z is sitting courtside!” thing going on.

    @CP, yeah I don’t see the big guns (Utah, San Antonio, etc). make a run at Gil. However, I would not be surprised if Mark Cuban rolls the dice on that move… the Suns are kind of screwed financially, so they’ll be out of it. But hey! They’ve got the Big Cactus!!

  13. I don’t know about the Dallas thing… Cuban has been known to be loyal to his veteran players. But if its another summer of heartache in Big D, which it probably will be, he may have no choice but to shake things up.

  14. I remember that post Cuban did on his blog a few years ago when he had to get rid of Mike Finley. Really gave great insight into the human aspect of owning a team, as opposed to just fishing around for the best statistics. I hope every owner goes through that process where they evaluate not only a player’s contributions but also everything else. That said, the NBA is more than anything else a business.

  15. and Terry can’t be *that* mad backing up GILBERT ARENAS, can he?

  16. The way i see it, gil’s style is too different from dallas’ gameplan. He wwill force Jason Kidd to play in ways he is not used to, which might piss off the rest of the veterans on that squad, especially if he iso’s as much as in wash. last, have you seen the guy play defense? i don’t think anyone has.

  17. You guys might be right. Maybe I’m emphasizing the financial standpoint a little too much.

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