Wolves Record This Week: 2-4
If you're a regular reader of this column(what's up, Dad), you've probably been wondering if it was gone for good, but wonder no more -- Simply taking a short-holiday week hiatus. But after two shortened holiday weeks, we're back to once again reflect on the positives and negatives in the world of Timberwolves basketball. Unfortunately, the squad had a rough couple of weeks: posting a fairly poor record, being stricken with even MORE injuries, and having arguably their worst loss of the season against Utah. Speaking of injuries, the Wolves have used 10 different starting lineups this year, including 3 this week. They've also missed 110 games from players due to injury/illness(Budinger, Roy, and Rubio lead the team with 24 missed games each). On the bright side they followed their worst loss of the year with one of their best wins of the season against Denver. They also came up just short in a few games, including an impressive comeback bid against the Trailblazers. Even still, when it all boils down to it, the record is the most important factor, and it just wasn't good. Let's look at some specific performances.
Kevin Love: D
K-Love have a very solid performance against Phoenix, a few mediocre performances against Denver and Utah, and a below-average performance against the Houston Rockets. In any other week, I probably would have rated him higher, but the biggest problem is that Love started and ended the week(s) injured. He missed the Sunday matinee against the Knicks with an eye injury that he sustained against Oklahoma City, but the biggest news in Timberwolves-Ville was that Love fractured his shooting hand -- AGAIN -- in Denver. The second such setback for Love this season(this time non-knuckle pushup related) will once again sideline the power forward for a period of weeks. We'll find out the exact time table soon, but most people are currently forecasting 6-8 weeks like last time. A generally disappointing season from Kevin Love gets even more disappointing. Here's to hoping he gets well soon -- physically AND mentally.
Ricky Rubio: C+
Speaking of injuries, Ricky was also pestered by them this week. Back spams have sidelined him for the past 4 games, but thankfully he'll reportedly be returning to action Tuesday night against the Atlanta Hawks. In the two games he did play, he finally got a little bit of his shooting touch back and got his minutes increased from 18 all the way up to 21 per game. No word yet if that will change at all against the Hawks. He's still not back to his old self(or even back to what he managed to pull off against the Mavericks in his first night back), but he's showing signs of progress here and there. Defense from the point guard position has suffered without him, and we're still waiting to see him on the floor in crunch time.
Derrick Williams: B+
D-Will has actually been on a pretty good run lately in the limited minutes that he's seen the court. Unfortunately, if he thought the injury to Kevin Love would give him some more run, apparently he was mitaken. With Love injured, most of us expected to see Derrick get some more playing time against the Blazers. However, that was not the case. He didn't see the court much until the second half, and was mostly relegated to garbage time. That said, he was a catalyst to the Wolves mounting the type of comeback that they did. His defense was still questionable at times, but it appears that his confidence on the offensive end is building a bit. He's one of few three point threats this season for the Wolves and is actually shooting them more accurately than anybody else on the team at 38% from the floor. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm personally an advocate for Adelman finally giving this caged lion a bit more slack on his leash.
Lazar Hayward: Incomplete
A familiar face was signed and released during the extended holiday week, sporting a new hairstyle and talking about things like meditation, spritual healing, and working closely with a medium. Hayward didn't make much of an impact in his rookie season with the Wolves, but showed enough potential to pique Oklahoma City's interest, and was traded to the Thunder for two second round picks and Robert Vaden(who was immediately waived by the Wolves). After a fairly unproductive season with the Thunder, he was traded to the Houston Rockets(who immediately waived him). Desperately needing some help, the Wolves signed the Free agent, but he only saw the court in two games before he was released again, averaging 1 point and 1 rebound in 6 minutes per game. Used almost exclusively as "a guy to let Andrei Kirilenko get a breather", it almost seems unfair to grade him at this point. If the Wolves re-sign him to a 10 day contract(as rumors would have you believe), then maybe we can get a better read on him.
Nikola Pekovic: A-
Aside from one putrid game against the Rockets(in which he was stricken with an illness), Pek has been one of the most consistently solid players on the roster this year. In the other 5 games, he averaged 18.4 points and 10.6 rebounds in about 30 minutes per game. Unfortunately, the better Pekovic plays, the more he makes you realize how much this team could use a competant backup offensively. Pekovic does a great job of knowing what he can do and doing those things really well. He also is a beast for offensive putbacks(including his own). He's actually 6th in the league in offensive rebounds per game and affords the team a lot of opportunities for second chance points. As consistently efficient as he's been, he's also probably setting himself up to make a decent amount of money in his next contract. Pek is currently making a little over $4.6 million this year, the last of his rookie contract. Hopefully the Wolves can sign him to an extension without breaking the bank, or they're going to need Center help in a bad way.
JJ Barea: A-
JJ was another consistent bright spot this week, and almost single handedly pulled off the win against the Nuggets. JJ scored 12 of his 17 points in the 4th quarter and made several key shots near the end of the game to either keep the game close, or pull his team into the lead. He's been really good in the clutch lately, and is reminding Wolves fans and opposing teams why he was so vital to the Mavericks title run a few years ago. Interestingly, even though he has scored in double points in 15 of the team's last 16 games, he's only sixth in scoring on the season. In any case, he's been one of the more consistent players for the team over the past month and change.
"Playoff Push": A
In an interesting development, the Wolves announced a pretty aggressive marketing plan to help sell season tickets. I haven't heard of anybody else in the NBA doing this, so I have to give them props for their idea. If you haven't heard about it, here's the gist -- the organization is so confident in their ability to get to the playoffs this year, that if you purchase season tickets this year, and the team doesn't make it, they're going to give you a 10% kickback on your overall cost. I happen to think that's a pretty cool deal.
Wolves Highlight of the Week:
There were a few decent plays to pick from, including a nice put-back dunk from Dante Cunningham in New York, and a largely impressive block that Cunningham had on a J.J. Hickson breakaway dunk attempt, but I have to give this to another put-back dunk by another forward. Derrick Williams had a pretty good week, and had this pretty authoritative dunk off a JJ Barea missed jumpshot. In the words of the immortal Trent Tucker, "Throw it down, big fella!"
Wolves Twitter/Instagram Photo of the Week:
As much as we've talked this season about the inconsistency and recent turnaround(but lack of increased playing time) of Derrick Williams(on Instagram as dwillvii), life isn't all bad for the young man. He still gets to drive around a Bentley and wear a Rolex:
Image Courtesy of Derrick Williams via Instagram
Stick with me this season as we continue to look back on the Wolves Week that was. Comments, criticisms, etc? Please drop me an email at email@example.com with your thoughts. Or discuss it with me on Rube Chat here.
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This article was written by jab. You can normally find him meandering around Rube Chat. Or feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.