By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Casey is already giving Justin Reed Ronnie Dupree's minutes, those hopefully brief moments when you need some jacked-up athleticism as a finger in the dike while your stars get a blow. An added bonus is that Reed is an enforcer, willing to punish penetrators in the paint with hard fouls, taking to the role better than anyone on the Wolves since Tom Hammonds decided to fold his 6-9 built-like-a-brick-outhouse frame behind the wheel of a racing car. And unlike Dupree, he can hit a jump shot once every three or four tries.
We've already gushed about Banks. That leaves Mark Blount, the seven-footer whose best trait is nailing 16-foot jumpers. When your teammate is Kevin Garnett, that's not such a bad thing. Not since way back at the beginning of last season when Eddie Griffin was sinking three-pointers, has a big man compelled opponents to think twice about double-teaming Garnett in the low block. "We'll see how the different defensive schemes change up," KG said in the locker room Monday night, in reference to how teams adjust to Blount and him in the high-low post sets. "Because if they don't [change], he's going to get 18 every night."
The old Szczerbiak Rule should apply to Blount--don't, under any circumstances, dribble the ball!--and his copious blocks against his old squad Monday didn't impress me nearly as much as Stromile Swift making him look slow and confused down in Houston. But then again, I'm prejudiced against Blount, because I fear he'll take precious developmental minutes away from Eddie Griffin, a player to whom Casey doles out less love per valuable services rendered than anyone on the team.
Perhaps Casey would call it tough love. How else to describe making Blount the first man off the bench Monday, despite the fact that Griffin, in the wake of a 1-for-14 brick-tossing in the previous two games, had gone 5-for-6 from the field, and was leading the Wolves in points, rebounds, and blocks at the time en route to the team's 23-19 advantage. For that he earned a whopping 7:47 seconds of play. Yes, Blount came in a racked up 10 points, four rebounds, and three blocks his own damn self in the first half, and perhaps there are enough minutes to go around. It bears repeating, however, that in less than two years Griffin will have the option of whether to leave or stay, much as Chauncey Billups did a few years back. As much as we can bemoan his lack of consistency, consider that he is younger than Marcus Banks, younger than Justin Reed, less than 18 months older than Rashad McCants, and more than six years younger than Mark Blount.
Before we stray too far from the point: All four of the players McHale acquired from Boston have demonstrated their value, and complementary value at that, to the composition of this team. Monday night's blow-out gave everyone permission to get giddy for a minute. But now for the perspective: Before the trade, the Wolves figured to have to scrap to earn a playoff berth. Even if the trade continues to pay such high dividends, that will still be the situation between now and the end of April. Davis, Blount, Banks, and Reed is not going to propel this squad into the first echelon of the Western Conference. But they do seem to enhance the chance to bag a seventh or eighth seed (thereby forfeiting our first round pick to the Clippers as a contingency of the Jaric trade), and almost inevitably suffer a first-round loss in the playoffs. Depending upon your perspective, it's a no-win or a no-lose situation.