Wolves Record This Week: 1-2
With three more losses this week to extend their current losing streak, the Wolves also extended their lease to remain residents of Loserville, USA. The less-than-stellar week included losses to the Washington Wizards(10-31) and the Charlotte Bobcats(11-32), who snapped a 16-game home losing streak to the woeful Wolves. I know I said this last week, but is there anybody out there who still thinks the Wolves are better off without Kevin Love? Didn't think so. Wednesday night the Wolves welcomed Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic, and Rick Adelman back into the mix with open arms. Unfortunately they were not enough to fend off the Chris Paul- and Chauncey Billups-less Clippers, but to be fair, they did look much more vivacious. With the return of Shved and Pekovic, the Wolves had 12 healthy players for the first time since their December 26th game against the Houston Rockets. If you're keeping score, that ended a streak of 16 straight games at less than full strength. Health? Who needs it! Actually this team does quite a bit, so at least some of the pieces are back in place.
Ricky Rubio: B
Slowly but surely, Ricky Rubio is morphing back into the player we saw on the court last year. He's not all the way there yet, but he's as close as he's been all season. His streak of games with 6+ assists ended at 7 when he only compiled 4 against the Clippers, but he also had one of his better games of the season in terms of scoring. Rubio's shooting percentage still isn't great, but he seems much more comfortable attacking the rim and had several very nice conversions on drives to the basket. The one thing that really can't seem to get back into gear is his jump shot. Even as inconsistent as it was at times last year, his mechanics actually seem a little bit worse this year, which is kind of surprising. Recovering from knee surgery theoretically should have given him a lot more time to work on his shooting form, and yet his shot still looks so flat -- sometimes even more so than it did last year.
Derrick Williams: C-
After recording his third double-double of the season in a losing effort against the Wizards(18 points and 11 rebounds), his effectiveness trailed off during the last two games of the week. He followed up a tough night against the Bobcats with a foulfest against the Clippers, which kept him on the floor -- as a starter, mind you -- for only 12 minutes. It's hard to get any momentum when you're committing fouls every 2 minutes. After watching Chris Johnson over the past few weeks, I also can't help but wish Williams would play a tad more aggressively down low. We know he has the ability to hit a jump shot, but I'd like to see him attempt to draw more fouls while going up strong. He's an awfully athletic dude, but seems to get a tad gunshy at times at the prospect of getting bodied up. When Derrick is aggressive on offense, good things tend to happen -- it just needs to happen more consistently.
JJ Barea: B
JJ Barea has now scored in double figures in 6 straight games and in 8 of the past 9. He's been a solid offensive weapon off the bench, and had some solid games this week. His effort against the Bobcats was hit and miss, however. He hit some big shots down the stretch to keep the Wolves in the mix, but when he was given the ball with 4.6 seconds left and a chance to win the game, he botched it just about as badly as one could. In a driving attempt to create off the dribble, he awkwardly tried to force some contact and tumbled to the ground. There's nothing more frustrating than not even getting a shot off in a situation like that. You also can't leave a decision to the refs, because they're likely going to swallow their whistle. Shoot it, JJ!!
Nikola Pekovic: B+
The return of Nikola Pekovic this week was a very welcome one indeed. In the six games he was out with that thigh contusion, the Wolves were frequently out-rebounded or last the battle for points in the paint. No Love and no Pek make the Wolves rather futile in both of those categories since they're really the only two players on the team that can consistently positively impact them. Oh sure, they still fell short upon his return, but you have to expect a challenge against the Clippers dominating post duo of Blake Griffin & DeAndre Jordan. For the first time in 6 games the Wolves were able to throw the ball into the post and have a chance to get high percentage shots from their front court.
Greg Stiemsma: C+
What a weird week for The Stiemer. He started the week with a pretty non-descript game against the Wizards. Typical Stiemsma, I suppose. Then he nearly set a career high in points in the first quarter against the Bobcats(he had 10, and his career high is 13. He finished with 11), and caused a ruckus at home against the Clippers. After setting a hard screen on Matt Barnes twice, Barnes shoved Stiemsma once, and then shoved him directly in the neck, which is about as punch-like as you can get without actually punching somebody. Barnes got tossed out, but Stiemsma's rampage wasn't finished yet. Two plays later, the aptly named Stiemer grabbed Grant Hill on a rebound attempt and visciously slammed him to the court with mighty force(may or may not be an accurate description of what actually happened). Immediately after he Stiem-rolled the aging Grant Hill, he was immediately accosted by Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler and Rony Turiaf. Butler and Turiaf were both given technical fouls, and Stiemsma was charged with a flagrant foul. For a guy who seems pretty easy-going, he sure does piss a lot of people off. As JJ Barea said in the post game, "We've got a bunch of nice guys, but I think we have to be a little tougher." Well done, Greg -- Well done.
Alexey Shved: A-
After sitting out the last six games due to that sprained ankle, Shved actually looked a bit revitalized since the last time we saw him. I think the rest did him well, because he seemed to have more energy. He was a little slow to get his shot going, and even though his shooting percentage was poor(especially from distance), he hit some nice shots in the second half. His game overall was so-so, as he was shaking some rust off, but on the bright side, he was named to the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge(formerly known as the rookie/sophomore game) over All-Star weekend. That gives the Wolves ONE representative. Will they get any others? Chances are probably slim, but I'll be on the lookout. I mentioned it last week -- I'd love to see Ricky in the Skills challenge. But you know, wish in one hand...
Andrei Kirilenko: A-
Despite being the Wolves second leading scorer(I'm not counting Kevin Love since he's not slated to return anytime soon), AK has attempted at least 10 shots in only 2 of the past 5 games. He has been in a bit of a shooting slump, but I'd like to see him taking a bit more initiative in the offense. Unfortunately, he can't seem to draw a foul to save his life sometimes. That, of course, include the opening play against Washington in which he was wacked across the eye to the point where he appeared to be crying blood...
Kirilenko showing his true form as a vampire?
So much for "no blood, no foul."
Wolves Highlight of the Week:
There wasn't a ton of highlights this week, but there were a few solid nominees. Ricky Rubio passing the ball between his own legs to AK47 on the fastbreak came in at number 2, but I enjoyed this 1st quarter buzzer-beater from JJ Barea. Enjoy:
Wolves Twitter/Instagram Photo of the Week:
If you have dogs, and they're anything like mine is, you know those bums will lay around the house anywhere if they're feeling lazy enough. That said, Derrick Williams(on Instagram as dwillvii) has a dog that found a completely new place to rest. Right on top of Derrick's pool table:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.