GH And Petey's Timberwolves Blog

Thursday, November 25, 2004


This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that the NBA season has 82 games.

The Wolves just looked awful for the first 3 quarters of the game. We looked alright for stretches in the fourth, but just couldn't get it done against a depleted Indiana squad.

I saw Indiana shoot 52% from 3-point range. I saw Mark Madsen get two layups handed to him, only to fumble the ball out of bounds. I saw KG shoot a Tim Duncan-esqe 61% from the free throw line. I saw the T-wolves all break down the court on a loose ball, only to not come up with it to give the Pacers uncontested dunks (twice). What I didn't see happened last night, when Kandi went to jail.

KG's weak free throw shooting is likely due to his shoulder, which according to Flip Saunders, is still bothering him, so I'm not too worried about it yet.

I'm not sure what to make of the 52% 3 Point shooting yet. It's the second game in a row where a team has shot over 50% from there. Clearly, neither the Sonics nor the Pacers would be able to maintain that high percentage over a large number of games, but our perimeter defense has been lacking over the past few games.

It seems like a good deal of the threes shot against us come when we're playing a zone D. Tonight, I think Flip opted to go with a zone a lot, due to the fact that nobody seemed able to be able to guard Tinsley in the first half. In general though, playing zone against a jump shooting team is not a good idea, and good jump shooting is exactly how Indiana and Seattle were both able to handle us.

For those of you who don't know, the reason zones don't work against jump shooters is that when you run one, there are gaps all over the place for people get open shots. Also, if you pass the ball effectively against a zone, you can force people to rotate and will eventually get them out of position. With a man defense, however, you can tightly contest open jump shots, but are more vulnerable to people driving to the hoop, since you might not have anybody to back you up if your man gets past you.

The problem the Wolves have had with their zone this season is that people like Sam and Wally don't rotate quickly enough. As a result, opposing teams have been shooting 37.1% against the Wolves so far this season, vs. 33.4% from last year.

A lot of people have been hard on Wally so far this year, but in all honesty, he's been fine. His field goal percentage is down a bit this season, and he's been turning the ball over too much. I think I've finally figured out something about him. I think his basic problem is that is court vision is very limited. It's obvious when he's trying to drive that he's not looking to pass until he sort of runs out of options. On defense, you can tell he's playing really hard when he's defending his man one-on-one, but often times, he'll end up about 15 feet off his man and won't realize the ball is going there until the last minute. Both of these things would indicate that he just doesn't have good peripheral vision. Unfortunately for Wally, this is always going to be a limitation of his game. The best thing he can do is just to accept it and stick to making quick short moves and taking open jumpers. No more driving from the top of the key. I know Wally really wants to be a superstar, and is always trying to diversify his game, but it's just never going to happen.

Sam's condition is far more concerning. Tonight, he only played 21 minutes, which would have been a season low if it weren't for the fact he played 18 on Tuesday. Here is a look at some of his stats compared to all of last season:


As you can see, he's way down in all areas. I'm not sure what the problem is. It could be that his hip isn't 100%, or it could just be that he's getting older. Most likely, it's some combination of the two. We can all now see why he wanted a contract extension at the beginning of the season despite the fact that he still had two years left. The truth is that at the end of next season, he'll be a solid backup at best.

During tonight's game, he wasn't even removed because of his lackluster offense (He had a respectable 10 points and 4 assists in his 21 minutes), but because he couldn't play D on Tinsley at all.

On the plus side of all of this, the Wolves started out 9-8 last year, before turning it on and finishing with the league's best record at 58-24. Hopefully, I'm just overreacting right now, and Wolves will pull something like that again before cruising through the playoffs to an NBA championship.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

An Experience To Remember

As I dropped Petey off at the bus stop this morning on his way to California, the last thing he said to me was:

"Please Greek House, if there's one thing I beg you to do, it is to never ever post a 2,100 word blog again."

Ok Petey, I won't. After last nights game, I have probably enough material to do it again, but I'll cut it into several blogs to be posted over the coming week. I had planned to do an analysis of the Wolves struggles thus far, and to talk about the Sonics and how they're better than we thought they'd be at the beginning of the season, but not as good as you think. Instead, I'll focus on atmosphere from the game from last night. It was certainly an incredible and unique experience to be that close to the court.

The game itself was terrible. The Sonics came out and pretty much made every shot they took for the first three quarters. Radmonovic hit his first six shots and only missed one in the first half. Seattle seemingly couldn't miss a 3-point shot for the entire game. They ended up shooting 10-15 from 3 point range through the first three quarters and brought their 3 point percentage for the game down to 52%, going 0-4 in the fourth quarter. However, by the time they decided to start missing, the game was pretty much over. I spent most of the 4th quarter trying to figure out who that goofy looking red-headed guy was, and whether Nate McMillan was going to put him in.

We showed up at the game about 45-minutes before tip-off. Our seats weren't actually in the second row, but in row "B". We we in the second row of stadium seating, and there were four rows of folding chair in front of us, plus the scorers table. We were fairly close to center court, with our seats at about the top of the three-point arc behind the Sonics bench.

One of the things that struck me about being that close was the intimacy of the experience. I saw Wolves announcers Tom Hanneman and Jim Peterson doing their pregame stuff and felt like I could go right up to them and say "what's up?" if I wanted to. One of the things that people have talked about after the whole Pistons/Pacers brawl, is possibly getting rid of court side seats. Although I don't think they'll actually do it, it would be a huge mistake by the league to do it. One of the great and novel things about the NBA is the ability to get that close to the players, and I would hate to see them give that up.

About 25 or so before the game started, the Sonics came out and started shoot around, with the Timberwolves coming on shortly thereafter. Getting a chance to see these guys up close and personal was really amazing. I mean, these guys are HUGE! I was especially impressed with Kandi's physique. Then he started playing, and I ceased to be impressed.

When the game started up, watching it was a completely different experience that I was used to. Being up close like that, you can really tell that the court is just too small for these guys, and the speed of the game is incredible. Watching the games on TV or from the rafters just doesn't do it justice. Again, being so close really provided a sense of intimacy. You could hear all the sounds of the game. When somebody started yelling on the court, we could hear them. I was able to look over the shoulder of the Sonics and try and figure out what kind of play McMillan was drawing up.

Through most of the game, the Timberwolves dance team would come out and entertain us during the breaks. Being as close as we were, it was really easy to see just how little they were wearing. On multiple occasions, I had to slap Pete to get him to stop staring. At some point during the third quarter, they started throwing Taco Bell t-shirts into the crowd. I was trying as hard as I could to try and get them to throw me one. Eventually, they did, but it was a little bit to the left and the guy next to me got it. I was so distraught about not getting it, it took me a second to notice that there was another one that had just landed at my feet. I bent over and tried to pick it up, but missed, then tried again and got it. Anybody who knows about my affinity for Taco Bell knows how much having a Taco Bell/Timberwolves t-shirt means to me.

After a while, the game (mercifully) ended. It's always disappointing when they lose, but I was still glad to have had the experience. It will probably be years before I get a chance at seats that good again. Last night, I went to the twolves website to see what the best seats available were to several upcoming games. I did see a couple of courtside seats to the upcoming Raptors game for the low price of $590 each. However, other than this, I couldn't find a single game which had seats closer than row U.

Then, I woke up early this morning and started playing poker and watching sports center. Eventually, they got to the highlights from the game and at the end, they showed a couple of Sonics in slo-mo (like they often do at the end of highlights). However, as I was watching something in the background caught my eye. There was Petey! He was all out of focus, but it was definitely him. I didn't quite make the cut, as I was just to Petey's left and was barely cut out of the picture. Oh well, at least one of us made it!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Everybody's Guilty!

Alright, I've got to give you a warning right off the bat. If you need to take a crap, you should do it now. I haven't blogged in a while, and I've got a lot to say. I'll try to be rather brief, but I'm warning you now that this might be a few pages short of a PhD dissertation. I've been busy lately and haven't had a chance to blog. This is part of what happens when you're a grad student. Also, since Petey blogs so infrequently these days(as I was in the course of writing this, he did post again, so be sure to check it out), I wanted to leave it at the top so that everyone else got a chance to read it. For those of you who don't want to read the whole thing, here are the topics I plan to cover:

  1. The Twolves vs. Sonics game on Tuesday that Petey and I will be attending
  2. KG's injury
  3. The Pacers/Pistons brawl
Twolves vs. Sonics

Tuesday night, the Twolves will be playing the Sonics and Petey and I will be in the second row. Petey got these tickets a couple months ago at a cheap price at a silent auction. At the time, it looked like it would just be a chance to see the Wolves up close and personal against a team that just wasn't very good. However, with the Sonics 9-2 start, the games promises to be more interesting. Normally, when I go to a Wolves game (or any sporting event), I'm one of those people who buys the cheapest ticket possible and then tries to sneak up to better territory. Usually, I'll spend the first quarter of the game sitting at (or very near) to my assigned seat. I'll pay attention to the game, but during breaks and whistles, I'll spend my time scouting the good seats and planning to move up later. It's a plan that rarely fails, although on occasion I'm forced to get up and move to a different seat several times during the game due to the people who actually belong in those seats showing up.

Although I'm looking forward to the game quite a bit, it will be a little bittersweet for me as it will be one of the last things I get to do with Pete before he leaves me for California forever. If you live in the Twin cities (or Seattle) area, look for us. I'll be the fairly big guy with cool long sideburns, a goatee and dark curly hair wearing a Timberwolves sweatshirt. Pete will be right along side me. You wouldn't say we look exactly alike, but a lot of people confuse us for brothers. He's also got very dark hair (straighter though) and will be clean shaven and slightly smaller that I am.

KG's Injury

Watching the riot at the Palace of Auburn Hills the other night, I thought I couldn't imagine seeing anything worse. Then, the next night, KG goes up for a dunk, gets fouled, and comes down hard. After he hits the ground, you can hear him let out a loud scream. I've seen KG get injured quite a few times, but never like this. Normally, he'll slightly twist his ankle (or something) and go down, be slow to get up, but then walk around for a while and be fine. When I saw this happen, however, I knew it was different. You could just tell by looking at him that he was in tremendous pain. I feared that it would be a fairly long injury--possibly even season-ending.

Garnett walked around for a while, but then eventually got to the free throw line and took his shots. He stayed in for a little while, and even made another basket before it was obvious he was in too much pain to continue. He went back into the locker room a few minutes before half-time and I though that would be last we'd see of him that night.

Then, he came back at the beginning of the third quarter, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He played the rest of the game (and played it quite well) although it was obvious he was bothered by his shoulder. Every once in a while, you'd see him grimace after taking a shot, and during dead balls, his right arm would always be hanging at his side, while he gestured with his left.

The word came through that it was just a contusion. I had my doubts about this at first, but then found out that they took x-rays and that was all the x-rays showed. Although I was relieved to see him come back and play well, I had my concerns about whether or not he should actually be playing. I understand that whole mentality of playing through injury. I once tore my ACL the second game of our IM basketball season and then played the rest of the season on it. Eventually of course, I injured it even worse and ended up having to have two surgeries to get it fixed. I've also had to listen to John Madden's vomit about how great it is that Brett Favre plays through injuries that he just shouldn't be playing through.

There's a certain amount of pride that you need to swallow at some point. Even though you think you can play through the pain, you shouldn't. You could injure yourself much worse and if you're not playing at 100%, you might actually be hurting the team. Of course, in KG's case, he could play at about 60% and still be contributing.

Pistons/Pacers brawl

This whole situation is so complex, and there's so much to analyze, it's difficult to even know where to start.

I guess I'll just start by saying that while I was watching the whole thing unfold live, I have to admit that I sort of enjoyed it. I'm not sure why I enjoyed it, probably because I'm at least a little bit sadistic. At the same time though, I felt kind of bad about enjoying it, and I seemed to enjoy it every time I saw a replay.

Next, I'd like to take a look at the different people involved and how they could have prevented this thing in chronological order:

Ron Artest--The whole thing started when he fouled Ben Wallace under the hoop. After seeing the foul, I have to say, it just wasn't that hard of a foul--especially by Artest standards. Still, you're up by 15 points with 45 seconds to go. If you let him score, you'll get the ball and run out the shot clock, the Pistons get it back and they you get it again and run out the clock. The Pistons weren't even intentionally fouling at that point, so they had already given up. Just let him go by and this whole thing never happens.

Ben Wallace--He WAY overreacted to the foul. It just wasn't that bad.

Some guy who hadn't yet finished his beer--The whole thing looked like it was coming to a close when the guy dumped a beer on Ron Artest. It was a completely unprovoked and immature thing to do.

Ron Artest (again)--It's understandable to be upset if some random guy throws a beer at you. It's hard to imagine how I would react if I were sitting in a bar and somebody came and dumped a beer over my head. I imagine most of us would be pretty pissed off. Still, had he sat back and chilled for a second before running into the stands and attacking random fans (evidence seems to point to the fact that he attacked the wrong guy--more on this later) the whole thing would not have happened.

Stephen Jackson--So what Ron Artest did was bad, but what he did was arguably worse. He went into the stands and just started throwing punches. He didn't go up there to help Artest or try and diffuse the situation, he just started hitting people. Had he not done this, it's possible that they could have pulled Artest out of the stands and it would have ended at that. It would have been bad, but not as bad as it was.

Everybody else--At the point that Jackson started punching people, the situation had escalated out of control. There was no stopping it at that point. However, many people there just started throwing things and punching people with no provocation whatsoever. All of these people added to the chaos and are guilty for at least part of it. It doesn't matter whether they threw a punch or just dumped popcorn over Jermaine O'neal's head as he left. A lot of people just figured they wouldn't be held accountable for their actions and acted inappropriately.

The point I'm trying to make is that everybody's guilty. There was a lot of talk about self-defense, but the truth is that hardly anybody there was acting in self-defense. I saw some people trying to hold back Artest, but then other people started hitting him and throwing beer on him. There's just no justification for that. I blame the fans and the players.

While the league's suspensions are harsh, I find them quite just. If anything, I think Stephen Jackson got off too easily. I've seen Stern's vengeance brought down on the Wolves before for the whole Joe Smith fiasco (for which we're still paying) and I'd say that this is no worse a punishment than that. In doing this, he's set a precedent for players, which will make them at least have to think a little before running into the stands.

But while he's already set a precedent for the players, he needs to set one for the fans as well. When you're sitting there anonymously in the stands, it almost seems like they won't be able to do anything to you. However, Stern needs to dish out punishment to the fans as well so that they don't feel they can get away with anything. If Ron Artest is suspended for the season, I think that Stern should "suspend" any fans involved in violence for the season as well. And by suspend, I mean ban from NBA stadiums/revoke their season tickets (if applicable). It might be difficult to enforce, but he at least needs to make a mandate. This will help keep fans from succumbing to the mob mentality and help hold them accountable for their actions.

Through all this, there's one sort of weird thing that nobody has addressed which is "Why the hell was Ron Artest lying down on the scorer's table?"

My guess would be this. Ben Wallace, one of the biggest and strongest players in the NBA wanted to beat the crap out of Artest. Artest felt no remorse about fouling him, and was probably not even that angry about being smacked in the face. I think he wanted to show everybody how unafraid he was of Big Ben. To do this, he decided to lay down and put himself in a very vulnerable position, so that everybody could see how unafraid he was.

Seeing this act of smug arrogance, some fan got fed up with Artest and decided it would be a good idea to dump beer on him. Now let's face it, this guy had to be dumb. I mean, he's lucky Artest didn't pull a piece out of his shorts a pop a cap in his ass right there. Artest is crazy, and likely to do anything. You can't throw a beer at him and not expect a retaliation.

At the same time, how dumb is Artest to go after him. Yes, he's a world class athlete in prime physical condition, but when he does into the stands, he basically challenging the Detroit fans to a 20,000-on-1 fight. Once a few people grabbed him and held him back, he was completely defenseless. Not even Artest can overcome those odds.

Furthermore, it seems unlikely that Artest even knew who threw the beer at him, and that he was probably beating the wrong guy. According to the guy he was beating, he wasn't the one who did it and Artest kept asking him "Did you do it?" while he was trying to hit him. Secondly, the guy he attacked was holding a beverage at the time. This means that if he threw one at Artest, he either had two beverages in his hand with 45 seconds left in the game, or he found one somewhere else. Thus, I'm guessing he got the wrong guy.

So, did I cover everything? Hell no. But it'll have to do for now. There will always be more to analyze, and of course, there will be more to say once the NBA decides to do about the fans.

Stern Lowers the BOOM

Okay, so everyone knows already (and I'm probably even a little late posting this) but NBA Commissioner David Stern passed out the punishments:

73 games for Ron Artest
30 games for Stephen Jackson
25 games for Jermaine O'Neal
6 games for Ben Wallace
5 games for Avery Johnson
1 game each for Reggie Miller, Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell, and Derrick Coleman

Everyone under the sun has an opinion about the severity of punishments for all of the players involved. Here are four of mine:

1). Stephen Jackson probably should get more. Remember that he was the first to throw a punch (Artest was possibly *trying* to wind up and hit the fan that supposedly threw the beer at him but was being restrained, also Ben Wallace did not punch Ron Artest -- it was a fairly nasty shove). Frankly, I was more impressed with how quickly he was able to follow Artest 10 rows up into the stands to start wailing on people. Quickest first step I've ever seen. He not only started the punching but started swinging at anything and everyone.

2). The suspension of Ben Wallace was about right. Yes the 'riot' followed his initial shove to Artest's face (after Artest's hard and uncalled for foul). However, I've seen dozens of worse incidents involving lesser fouls (in more critical situations). Frankly, these sorts of events happen very frequently in every sport. To think that Wallace shoving Artest had much bearing on actually causing the resulting riot is probably an instance of faulty cause and effect thinking. Sure, if it hadn't happened then the riot probably wouldn't have occured.

3). Jermaine O'Neal will get the biggest street cred boost of anyone involved. I mean, who could miss his *sick* punch on the court that just dropped that fat guy like a ton of bricks. Sure Artest is crazy and apparently Stephen Jackson is also out of his mind, but nobody was actually able to land a punch even close to O'Neal's. I will never talk about Jermaine being soft again.

4). Do these punishments give fans the green light to continue to heap abuse (or become even more violent) towards players, knowing that players will be even less likely to retaliate due to such heft suspensions? Ummmm, in a word, no. Security needs to be tightened at games regardless and there should be much more careful monitoring of people who have clearly had quite a bit to drink. However, I really don't think that drunk fans are thinking logically in these situations to begin with. I doubt any deterent to player retaliation even factors in to a decision of whether or not one should throw a beer/cup/chair/garbage at a player on onto the court. Look, in the case at hand there is already a very good reason not to throw *anything* at Ron Artest: the dude's crazy and is liable to find a TV camera and kill you with it. Any fan that picks a fight with him is truly asking for whatever he gets.

5) Yes, Ron Artest really does deserve 73 games and not just for his actions on Friday. The guys has literally been a liability for the NBA the last several years -- he's just not sane. He's not crazy like 'Sheed, he's violent crazy and it is just dangerous to have the guy around. Saying the guy is a thug isn't really even accurate at this point. Most of his actions and subsequent dialogue concerning them demonstrate that he doesn't have even a basic grasp of how his actions fit into the larger scheme of things. Hey, this could even be (as many others have offered up) the thing that helps him turn around his life. Of course, that would require him to sit down and carefully re-evaluate himself (has any basketball player actually done this??).

I think this was a very good showing by Stern. I've always felt that out of the three major US sports, he has retained the most control (for the good of the league). He knows that no matter how much he upsets the player's union, it is the fans that the NBA needs to survive (and Ron Artest ultimately needs to see him play and buy his CDs). He is making the statement that players will be severely punished for going after fans (even those who are out of control and probably deserve it).

The most positive outcome of this whole ordeal is that Artest can focus all of his energies on his R&B and Rap albums. He won't even have to ask his coach again for time off!