GH And Petey's Timberwolves Blog

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Come on Pete, Give Preseason Some Respect

While it's true that win/loss record in preseason doesn't really mean much, I do feel that you can learn something about a team from watching their games, especially the latter ones.

Tonight's game between the T'wolves and the Pistons had all the excitement of a regular season game (except the finish). The Wolves were up by 15 with about 8 minutes left, when KG left and all the scrubs went in. At this point, I couldn't care whether or not they won, although I did want to see some of the players like Wally and Kandi do well.

The game started out about as horribly as I could have imagined. The Pistons looked like a team that deserved to be world champions while the Wolves couldn't seem to get a bucket or even a board. I started thinking about last years slow start, and thinking that we might not quite have the chemistry we need yet, and how I needed to start bracing myself for a similar start this year. Then slowly, the T'wolves kept their poise (the sign of an experienced and well coached team) and quietly began the slaughter.

Ok, so it is only preseason and I might be getting ahead of myself a little, but what I saw tonight was a very good sign of what was to come. Both teams played their starters all the way into the 4th and the Pistons played them until Zoidberg hit the dagger. For your convenience, I've composed several lists of my impressions.

The Good

KG - Yes, you knew he would be on the list. He was the only thing holding the game together for the wolves in the first quarter. Every year I watch him play and think "Damn, he couldn't possibly be any better". Then every year, he goes and proves me wrong.

THud - Yes, we knew he could score and he showed us that again in the third quarter when he almost single handedly out scored the Pistons, but did you know he could also pass? He made some fantastic dishes during the second quarter tonight and although people didn't always finish for him, he got them some nice looks. The Wolves really missed him last year and if both he and Cassell can stay healthy, they will have a fantastic duo at the one spot.

Eddie Griffin - The boy has always been able to play, but has had some troubles in the past. Tonight, he did it all. He hit threes, grabbed boards, and played hardcore D. He seems like the exact kind of player that would really flourish under Flip and working next to the Ticket.

The Bad

Wally - It's a pretty good sign when the worst thing you can find to say about a team is Wally's 12 point performance. And to be fair to him, he seemed to pick it up as the game went on. Still, his weak defense showed again and he still doesn't seem to be able to do anything while moving. Watching him, I get the impression that he wants to be better than he's physically capable of being. In order for him to succeed in this league, he needs to accept the fact that he's a pure jump shooter and go with it. That's what he did several years ago in his all-star season, and as soon as he gets back to it, he'll become a solid (but not great) player again.

Kandi - I don't even know what to think of him any more. As Pete mentioned, preseason can be a showcase of talent for the hopefuls. Try telling this to Kandi! He was wandering around out there lookin' all sleepy like he always does, picking up 5 fouls in 17 minutes. He redeemed himself at the end a bit by making a clutch hook shot and one. He is just baffling to watch sometimes. Most NBA players would be stars or even superstars with his level of talent, but he just mopes about. Please Kandi, start caring.

The Questions

Sam and Spree - Neither of them played tonight, and they're both complaining about contracts. I really do hope we sign them, but I know Glen Taylor and company won't make the mistake of giving them way more than they deserve. This is especially true with Sprewell. He's getting up there in years and wants a big contract before the season even starts. It makes sense that he'd want it now, since if he gets injured, it might be impossible for him to get a contract from anyone. As for Cassell, he's still got two years to go on his, so I don't know what his deal is.

Trading Wally - Trade rumors have been circulating about Wally for years now, so any time somebody says something, I basically ignore it. The announcers made a big deal about it tonight though, so I would expect that his time it holds a bit more water. I would think it would be a good move for the Wolves to trade him. We just resigned Hassell to a multi-year deal and they play the same position. Hassell is clearly the better defensive player, but Wally offers a bit more on offense. However, Hassell already does a pretty good job on offense of what I said Wally should do above, and I'm not convinced he's that much of a downgrade.

KG's Knee - It's hurt, apparently. Couldn't tell from watching though. However, I'm always nervous about knee injuries, since I've suffered through a rather major one. A sore knee could be a strained ligament or torn cartilage, either of which could present serious issues. I'm not too worried yet, but there's a whole lot riding on that knee.

Happy Basketball New Year!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Western Conference - Pacific Division

As you probably know, with the addition of the Bobcats the NBA is changing from a 4 division league to a 6 division league. I'm not really sure how qualifying and seeding for the playoffs works. I'd assume that it's each division leaders plus 5 next best records with division leaders getting home court over non-division leaders. I am going to go through each division before the beginning of the season (we'll see if this actually happens) and will give my own thoughts on how each one looks. First up is the Pacific division (because I do things left to right and the Pacific division appears furthest 'left' (west) on my maps. This division consists of the Suns, Lakers, Warriors, Clippers, and Kings.

The funny thing is that each team in this division has all sorts of problems and none are likely to really come out of the Western Conference as a contender for the 'ship (that's championship for people who never saw the inspiring Keanu Reeves flick Hardball). On paper they look to rank: Kings, Lakers, Suns, Warriors, Clippers.

Kings - They will really miss Valde's leadership, crafty veteran moves and acting ability. More importantly, Peja may be lost without him and Webber has never been known to be the 'glue' that can hold a talented team together. They've gone being from a team full of chemistry to one where apparently no one is cracking a smile or having any fun (as reported, in different words, by Marc Stein on Remember when every other article on basketball was about how the Kings played the right way, were exciting and deserved to be champions? Well, after a few years of a championship swagger but no actual championship I think they have all soured that this group of guys have what it takes. Webber doesn't think he can win with Peja on his team, Peja doesn't think he can win with Webber and Bibby most likely just wants a couple of mediocre players who aren't chokers. All of this being said, it's the Kings' division to lose.

Lakers - The great Lake show is opening for another season of theatrics but the cast has completely changed. It's Kobe's team now and he will have young, athletic running mates in order to maximize his formidable suite of talents. Unfortunately this does not include a running big man and I think this will ultimately prevent them from taking the division. Vlade can barely crawl up the court and will be of little use on offense when the Lakers are out and running with Butler, Walton, Kobe and Odom (btw, who doesn't want to run a fast break with those guys?). On the other hand, if Odom stays away from the hooka pipe and can find a way to complement Kobe, this team can be *very* dangerous. They also have the league's best kept secret: Luke Walton. The late, great Ralph Wiley was calling him the 'White Jesus' during last years playoffs. Frankly, all of it was warranted. He spend a good quarter at least carrying the entire Lakers' offense on his shoulders (an offense with 4 HOFers) and is the main reason that there was no sweep in the Finals. Can he do more of that this year with Kobe and Odom getting all of the touches? I think he can and will.

Suns - So Steve Nash helps but he doesn't know how to play D. He barely gets in his opponent's way on defense. He'll help them a ton on offense and Amare may very well have a breakout season where he starts to become a dominant force in the West but none of this will really matter when other teams are just shredding them for basket after basket. It didn't matter on the Mavs that Nash couldn't play D because they just tried to outscore their opponent anyway. The Suns will need their D to help win games and I just don't see it being there. Of course, I still wouldn't want to be on the opposing end of their Nash, Amare, Q-Rich, Matrix fast break -- that is just going to be all kinds of sick.

Warriors - Ok, so I'm originally from the Bay Area but didn't start following basketball until I moved to Minnesota. And if there is one thing I clearly remember from reading the sports section of the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle every day is this: The Warriors suck. So, I have plenty of faith that this year will be no exception despite how much I like Chris Mullin. Of course, they spent upwards of $80 million on Derek Fisher and Adonal Foyle so I could be wrong. Of course, Jason Richardson may very well start beating up his girlfriend again when they *still* continue to lose. They have some things going for them. Troy Murphy is a beast and is a joy to watch (a big white guy who is actually talented, what a thought!). Since the have plenty of young talent, little cap room, and are still owned by Chris Cohan, I'm sure they'll be in the playoffs in no time.

Clippers - Ugh, I don't even want to have to look at their roster and come up with anything for them. I mean c'mon, they're just hideous! Good thing they have tons of experience drafting in the lottery.

Only 5 more divisions to go!

Welcome poster(s)!

I would also like to give props to toey for the post on this unkown blog. If this keeps up, we may actually post for the whole season!

I apparently have to actually finish my previews on the divisions now that The House has gotten everyone's hopes up. This could happen this weekend while it's still technically preseason -- stay tuned.

Speaking of the preseason -- I give no weight to preseason play ... period. It's sorta cool to see players try to start gelling, the coaches tinkering, and players talking smack in a game of absolutely no significance (a la Paul Pierce spitting at the Cavs bench -- very classy move btw).

However, because it is basically warmups for the starters and a desperate showcase of talent (or lack thereof) by the hopefuls, it is *very* difficult to use that as basis of how the team will operate in the future. It is good for one thing though -- showing which players are healthy (Grant Hill apparently is drinking Sprite again and has sent a big case to Zo) and resting the ones who aren't (basically everyone else).

We have our first reader!

Thanks to toey for being our first commenter! Toey, I promise you more good NBA postings in the future. Right now, Pete is working on preview of the different divisions.

Tommorrow, the Wolves play the Pistons on ESPN, so I'll get to take a look at them for the first time this season! I'm looking forward to it. Unfortunately, in the Wolves last preseason game, we didn't even play KG or several other of our regulars, so the game might not be quite the thrill I'd hope it to be. Still, it'll be great to see them for the first time this year, and I'll put some comments here sometime this weekend.