Author: Kent Youngblood
Wolves offense grinds to a halt Wolves coach Sam Mitchell didn’t mince many words after this loss. Thursday’s 96-84 loss to the Heat (the final score doesn’t indicate how one-sided this one was) was a big step back for youngsters like Karl-Anthony Towns (3-for-13), Andrew Wiggins (5-for-18) and Zach LaVine (1-for-5).
Mitchell lamented that his team responded to a difficult shooting night by abandoning the game plan, not making the extra pass and trying to do everything one-on-one.
“The young guys, the have to learn how to play,” Mitchell said. “They have to figure it out. We have to give ‘em a chance. They have to learn from these times. It’s not that we have a game like this. So we had it. My biggest hope is we learn from it.’’
Here are some reactions to the game:
--It might have been because of the off-night so many of the Wolves players were having, but Mitchell’s rotations tonight were a little difficult to figure out. He went with the second unit for too long at times, in my opinion. By the time the game was over Ricky Rubio had played less than 24 minutes and the bench had played the lion’s share of the minutes and scored most of the points.
--Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined to shoot 8-for-31 tonight. Towns was a minus-21 in just over 22 minutes of playing time. Wiggins was a minus-17.
--Bright spots? Well, Shabazz Muhammad scored 14 points with six rebounds off the bench. He showed a lot of energy. Kevin Martin, the team’s leading scorer, had another 14 off the bench tonight. Gorgui Dieng had 10 points and six rebounds with two steals in 26 minutes.
That’s about it, folks.
--Adreian Payne scored his first points of the season tonight, and Andre Miller saw his first minutes of the season.
--Dwyane Wade showed that, when healthy, he still can bring it. He’s scored 20 or more in all five Miami games this year, and he was on tonight, with 25 points.
That’s about it for tonight. Have a good weekend.
Wolves Press Clippings
Outlet: Star Tribune
Author: Kent Youngblood
Wolves' Bjelica learning what is, isn't a foul in NBA Not surprisingly, forward Nemanja Bjelica’s transition from European basketball to the NBA has included a nightly course on what constitutes a foul. It is a traditional rite of passage for players coming from overseas, time spent picking up foul after frustrating foul while learning the ropes.
The key word here is frustrating. “Especially because of some of the cheap fouls that I get every single game,” Bjelica said.
Bjelica picked up 13 fouls in the Timberwolves’ first three games. Generally speaking, players are allowed to do a little more clutching, grabbing and banging in Europe than they are in the NBA.
“That’s to be expected,” Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said. “It’s a different game in Europe. They let you bang and do things a little different. In the NBA, they call things a little bit tighter. He’s getting used to it.”
Nikola Pekovic went through the same thing a few years back. During his NBA rookie season in 2010-11, he was constantly battling foul trouble, averaging 7.3 fouls per 36 minutes played. A year later that number dropped to 2.8.
“I’m trying to help him with everything I can,” the center said of Bjelica. Given that Pekovic is currently rehabbing from Achilles’ heel surgery, most of that help is coming via advice rather than example. “But he’s a hard worker. He’s doing a good job. Hopefully everything will go OK.”Bjelica has shown an ability to effectively move the ball, and he has been a willing rebounder (7.3 per game) and defender as the primary backup to starter Kevin Garnett. But Mitchell said he needs to see more of Bjelica’s offensive game.
“Bjelica is going to be a much better scorer once he gets comfortable,” Mitchell said. “We need him to make shots, but he’s not really looking for his shot right now. We’re on him about shooting the ball more. It will take time. He’s used to pass first, screening, cutting, things of that nature. … But there are times, as good a shooter as he is, when he’s open he’s just going to have to shoot the ball.”
He will, Bjelica said.
“He’s giving me a lot of minutes,” he said. “The good thing is he trusts me.”
One of Mitchell’s favorite memories of his time coaching the Raptors was working with Heat star Chris Bosh. The two were together for three-plus seasons in Toronto.
“You hear so many times about superstars and how difficult it is to coach them,” Mitchell said. “He was the total opposite. A true professional, came to work on time every day, practiced hard every day. An unbelievable, unselfish teammate.”
Bosh had his 2014-15 season cut short by a blood clot in his lung. Ruled out for the rest of the season in February, Bosh made his return to the court this season.
“You hate to see bad things happen to good people,” Mitchell said. “We were all praying for him. … I’m just happy to see him back.”
• Kevin Martin returned to the Wolves after missing two days of practice because of a loss in the family. He played against Miami but said he might have to take another short absence in the near future.
• Miami’s Gerald Green is safe and healthy, Erik Spoelstra said, but the Heat coach did not offer any specifics as to why the former Wolves guard was hospitalized Wednesday. Green sat out Tuesday’s game vs. Atlanta because of what was called an illness.
Wolves Press Clippings
Outlet: Star Tribune
Author: Michael Rand
Rand: Value of veteran leaders hard to measure The notion of “veteran leadership” is unpopular with a certain subset of sports fans, who will make themselves dizzy with a violent eye roll at the mere mention of that term.
But it’s clear that at least two influential decision-makers in this market have believed in its power: Flip Saunders, who before his untimely passing assembled a Timberwolves roster three-deep with hardened veterans — led by the return of franchise icon Kevin Garnett; and Twins GM Terry Ryan, who signed Torii Hunter a season ago as much for his bat and glove as for his wisdom.
Other teams in this market certainly have veteran leaders, but those two are the most striking examples because they were both very specifically brought back to Minnesota to fill that role.
Trying to quantify the impact of leadership is a zero-sum game. Basketball and baseball lend themselves to advanced stats better than perhaps any other two sports, but there is no Value Over Replacement Leader or Leadership Win Shares metric. You can’t say the Twins won four extra games this season because Hunter’s dance parties kept the clubhouse loose. But you also can’t say they didn’t. All you can do is listen to those who are in the midst of it, while trying not to get caught up in dismissing a narrative you might not choose to like.
At a Thursday news conference to officially put a bow on Hunter’s career, Twins manager Paul Molitor said Hunter’s presence was a very real factor in the team’s success. Afterward, Joe Mauer echoed that sentiment.
“[Molitor] probably said it perfectly: It’s hard to measure things like leadership,” Mauer said. “We know in the clubhouse he was a huge addition for us, along with a lot of new members of the team this season. He’s a guy that’s tough to replace. I don’t know if you can use ‘replace.’ You just try to have guys pick up where we left off.”
Similarly, Garnett won’t play forever. Nor will fellow Wolves veterans Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince. Garnett and Co. are here to play some defense and impart decades of wisdom. All three seem to have individual projects to go along with broader team goals: Garnett with Karl-Anthony Towns, Prince with Andrew Wiggins and Miller with Tyus Jones (and even Ricky Rubio).
And again, it will be impossible to measure their influence with numbers. It’s barely even achievable with actions and words. Veteran leadership might be the kind of thing easier to see when it’s gone.
The future Twins and future Wolves will find out soon enough.