Kurt Rambis: "We were awful." Timberwolves flounder on the road


                   Photo by svennevenn

Here's how Wolves' coach Kurt Rambis described his team's 108-85 loss to Detroit on Tuesday: "We were awful. Our defense was awful. Our energy level was awful. Our ball movement was awful and our execution was awful." In other words, they were awful. The early stages of Wednesday's game against the Washington Wizards, who are in the process of trading all of their good players (all the ones that aren't accused of felonies anyway), looked like a genuine improvement. The Pups played exuberant defense and ran the floor with energy and purpose; the decimated Wiz looked beaten. But the aimless, sluggish defense and the careless, turnover prone offense--those old familiar friends of ours--returned.    

Some notes on the proceedings:

  • Despite the random bursts of defensive energy they showed against the Wizards--they put together runs of 13-4 and 16-1 with ball-hawking D and transition offense--the Wolves have been unable to protect their own basket. The Pistons exploited the Wolves' perpetually, painfully slow weakside rotations by running side pick-and-roll after side pick-and-roll. Many dunks ensued. On Wednesday, neither Kevin Love nor Al Jefferson were long or quick enough to guard the Wizards' Andray Blatche (how weird is this guy's name, by the way?), who dropped a pretty easy-looking 33 points on 22 shots. Rambis, recognizing the athletic disadvantage incurred when Love and Jefferson play together, has begun platooning them. Unfortunately, that means that Ryan Hollins (or worse, Oleksiy Pecherov) and his clueless defense get their time to shine. No good options here.

  • Mr. Love looks to have gotten his mind right after his strange pre-All-Star swoon. Despite his defensive shortcomings, Love was the only Wolf who showed dependable energy in both games. He nabbed 28 rebounds in the two games combined and hit 14 of his 24 shots; his willful energy on the glass and sharp outlet passes catalyzed the Wolves best periods of play.

  • In some ways its kind of hard to stay mad at Mike Miller; he was, after all, the player that allowed the Wolves to land Ricky Rubio.  But seriously, in Miller's time with the Wolves, did he ever shoot five threes with the kind of cold inevitability that he showed on Wednesday night? Did he even ever shoot five threes in one game? How is this fair?
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Finally, the Wolves have announced that they have traded the lovely Brian Cardinal to the Knicks for none other than Darko Milicic. The Knicks will most likely waive Cardinal immediately; Wolves GM David Kahn has indicated that he would be open to re-signing Cardinal after the requisite 30 days. If however, this is the last we see of BC as a T-Wolf, an appreciation is in order. It's pretty easy to forgive Cardinal for the fact that he was being paid  $6.7 million basically to go to practice and goof off on the bench because you could tell that he's in on the absurd joke. That knowing smirk that went along with his outrageous effort, his savvy passing and his willingness to foul anybody told you that he was aware of his own ridiculous good fortune. Brian Cardinal is a lucky guy and I'm sad to see him go.

As for Darko, he's a supremely talented seven-footer with the passing skills and shooting ability to fit perfectly into Rambis's offense. So how were the Wolves able to land him in exchange for nothing more than a middle-aged looking benchwarmer? And why is this the strongest praise Kahn could muster after the deal: "there's enthusiasm to see what we've got...Darko has been something of an enigma"? Because despite that size and those ample gifts, somehow Darko's professional accomplishments have been limited to: being drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade; a majestic dye job; a fabulously profane rant at the European Championships; inspiring the finest, most culturally literate, most expressionistic basketball blog there is. And that's about it. So the Wolves will say goodbye to a righteous dude, a pro's pro, and say hello to one of the most mysteriously ineffectual players in recent memory.  Here's to keeping things interesting.