Timberwolves crushed by Blazers and Warriors



          Photo by Dunechaser

In this Timberwolves' season of deep education and painful inexperience, it was only a matter of time before they got utterly stomped. And now its happened twice in two days--a 116-93 loss in Portland and a monumental 146-105 beatdown at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. In both games, the expected offensive growing pains have been in evidence: they've been careless with the ball; they've spaced the floor poorly; their ball movement has been awkward. But its the defensive end where they've seemed heavily over-matched, first by the methodical Blazers (who nevertheless were able to score 21 fast-break points), then by the frenetic Warriors.

Although the Blazers did some painful things to the Wolves on Sunday (and you can read some typically salient observations on this game by Henry Abbott here), the Warriors game was the real mind-melter. The Warriors are an utter mess of a team at the moment, but its worth noting that its not for lack of talent. Kelenna Azubuike is one of the league's better shot-makers (31 points against the Wolves, on 13-19 shooting); Stephen Jackson can still run a gorgeous pick and roll; Anthony Randolph is alarmingly athletic, and he's starting to develop some serious skills; and Monta Ellis--wow guys, this dude is a straight baller. I'm still thinking hard about this double-crossover, bouncing and shaking left-handed finger roll (I don't even know what these words mean, thats how ill this move was) that he dropped in the second quarter.

The Warriors managed to draw the Wolves into their web of chaos and self-destruction, forcing the them to play much faster and looser than they were comfortable. The T-Wolves took terrible shots and turned the ball over constantly; as a result were on their heals the entire night. The Warriors took advantage of this by frantically attacking the basket and swinging the ball to wide open three point shooters. So many dunks, so many threes. It was a mess.

Suits of Gold

But there are other interesting things to think about, besides how badly the Wolves got lit up. First: In case you missed it, despite making upwards of  $120 million in his career, genteel former three-point gunning T-Wolf Antoine Walker is broke. This piece, by Shira Springer of the Boston Globe nicely catalogs the excesses: the endless cars, the bloated entourage, the million and a half dollars in gambling debt. A few things about this caught my eye. First, much of Antoine's conspicuous consumption took the form of outsized generosity: limos and dinners for teammates; a ridiculous house for his mom; supporting at least 70 friends and family members. Second, was the suits. Springer explains:

Then, there were the custom-tailored suits - closets full of them, including the set he ordered for his first playoff run in 2002, enough so he wouldn't wear a suit more than once during the postseason run. When the Celtics officially hired Jim O'Brien as head coach in 2001, Walker had his tailor make three suits and presented them to O'Brien.

Friends, that's a whole lot of suits. If you recall this fine City Pages cover story by Jonathan Kaminsky, Al Jefferson considered Walker something of a mentor; at the time of Jefferson's and Kaminsky's interview, Walker was waiting to take Big Al, yup, suit shopping. There's probably only one thing more tragi-comic than the fact that Walker, with his ruinous spending habits, considered himself to be a suitable model of NBA manhood. And that is the fact that he actually is.

King Me

Then there's this, from ESPN's John Hollinger, writing on Lebron James's impending free agency (thank you TWolvesblog):

Let me throw out an even crazier proposition--Minnesota. The Wolves will have the cap space to make a run at LeBron, depending on a few variables--or at the very least can get there fairly easily if they know there's a chance for a player of this caliber. (Declining an option on Ryan Gomes, for instance, is done much more easily if it allows you to replace him with the best player in the league.)

Minnesota is generally thought of as one of the NBA's least-desirable relocation options, but let's consider it from a winning perspective. Who would you rather play with for the next five years: Al Jefferson or Anderson Varejao? Kevin Love or Ilgauskas? Ricky Rubio or Mo Williams? Jonny Flynn or West? Ramon Sessions or Daniel Gibson? Next year's fourth pick or next year's 24th? It's obvious, isn't it?

Um, I'm not sure "obvious" is the word I'm looking for. I realize that this is almost to weird to think about, and I have no interest in attempting to travel into the future and read Lebron James's mind. But its actually pretty hard to argue with Hollinger's central points. It builds on something I find really fascinating about the league: how, in certain contexts, certain players barely seem NBA caliber while in others they can find their niche and be really effective--just think about how many people were talking about Mo Williams as an All-Star during his Bucks days (that's exactly nobody) or how Channing Frye was pretty deep on the Blazers bench before he started gunning for the Suns. Without a dynamic and creative wing scorer, the Wolves lineup doesn't seem to make much sense. But with one--the most dynamic, creative player in the league, for instance--couldn't you actually see that team doing something cool? I'm gonna have weird dreams tonight.

Correction: A previous version of this post inaccurately attributed the source of the Antoine Walker story to Greg Michaels of Dealbreaker. This has been corrected. Note that the information is un-attributed on the Dealbreaker post.