GH And Petey's Timberwolves Blog

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Post-evaluating Pete's Preseason Predictions

For those of you who have been with us since the beginning (and that makes one of you), you might remember Pete writing preseason reviews of some of the NBA divisions. He had originally intended to write previews for all 6 divisions, but because he's a lazy sack of shit (just kidding Pete) he only actually got around to writing two. One for the Pacific Division, and one for the Northwest division. Since it's now the All-Star break and there's not much going on, I thought it might be interesting to go back and look at his previews in hind sight.

1. Timberwolves
Their best offseason move which actually went unnoticed by me until embarassingly recently is the acquisition of Eddie Griffin who once upon a time not long ago was a treeeemendous prospect with huuuge upside. Since then he's been labeled as a head case who can't control himself. I think this is a great pick-up for the Wolves as KG is the level-headed mentor who can set Griffin straight. The biggest thing for the Wolves is keeping their key players healthy and making sure that if everyone is healthy, role players have a role to play (i.e. Wally 'Never Met a Shot He Didn't Take' Szczerbiak). Oh, and they need to dump Kandi for any big man with a pulse and the willingness to give 10%.
At this point, I don't think anybody could have predicted the disaster that was about to befall the Timberwolves. Griffin has been a solid pickup for the Wolves, though he has slowed down somewhat lately. Still, his problems seem to be largely conditioning based. I would expect him to come out strong after getting a week of rest and have a good second "half" of the season. Kandi has also shown signs of having a pulse lately.

2. Nuggets
One of the true success stories (besides the Pistons) from last year. Not only do they work hard at both ends of the court and play team basketball but they have an exciting group of players and are fun to watch. Kenyon Martin can really make this a team that will be tough to play as he will act as an ultra aggressive defensive leader who also happens to be quite talented on the offesnive end. If Camby can stay healthy (a big if as his career has been plagued by injuries) then they will certainly make the playoffs again and may be able to contend for the 'ship. That is a tall order as their team is quite young and not used to playing against teams who are taking them seriously. Another question is whether 'Melo step his game up to the next level or if he'll become a Glenn Robinson scorer who fills the bucket but can't do much else for his team.
Everyone predicted the Nuggets to be a force as well, but their season has been just terrible. Had it not been for the downfall of the Wolves, there would have been a lot more national attention focused on what a disappointment this team was. Carmelo has not taken that next step toward becoming a superstar. Instead, he has taken a step backwards. His shooting percentage has dropped to .406 and his three-point percentage has dropped to a terrible .269 (why is he even taking this shot anymore). Part of his problem is that he's always being compared to LaBron, but he's also been the subject of off court distractions to his team. The Nuggets are still a talented young team, and I'd expect them (and Carmelo) to bounce back strong next year.

3. Jazz
They play basketball the right way and have to overpay mediocre talent because no one wants to play in Utah. I'd like to say that on paper they can't make the playoffs but if Jerry Sloan has taught me one thing it's that you can't count his teams out. I think the Jazz will sneak into the playoffs and be a huge pest to whichever team has to face them.
They started off strong, but then AK-47 got hurt and they haven't been the same since. The good news for Jerry Sloan is that nobody expected this team to be good, so his job isn't in jeopardy. The team is still young (average age is 25.5), but I don't see any future superstars in there. Eventually, I see them becoming a solid--but not great--team that makes the playoffs every year as a 7- or 8-seed.

4. Sonics
The drop-off from the Jazz to Sonics is pretty big but they do have *some* talent on their roster. Ray Allen has always had game but never found that superstar level -- maybe he'll find it now that he's Kobe's biggest rival. They also have Rashard Lewis who never became the high school draft stud that they were hoping for. He is a nice player but is making max money and he's not good enough to build a team around. I do have to give them a nod for signing Danny 'The Tank' Fortson -- a personal fav.
Ray Allen is finally getting some press, but it has more to do with his team's success rather than him having a career year. Most of his actual numbers are down. I credit Robert Swift for really bringing this team around. All teams need a 7-foot goofy lookin' white guy who doesn't play to turn them into a contender.

5. Blazers
It is more likely that their starting five will be in jail by the end of the season than playing in the NBA playoffs. 'Nuff said.
Good news Blazers! The season is about 2/3 finished and not a single one of your players has gotten arrested!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Grading All-Star Weekend

As I've probably mentioned before, I'm currently a grad student at the U of Minnesota. As part of my financial aid package, I'm a half-time TA. Normally, this leaves me with one class and I do about 20-hours a week. Unfortunately, this term they've assigned me two different classes at 25%.

For one of my classes, I basically do nothing but grade. I hold one office hour a week, and am responsible for answering email questions, as well as a few other tasks which consume very little time. What I've decided is this:
Grading is to people in academia what working at McDonalds is to the general public.
It's boring, tedious, and completely unfulfilling. Actually, working at McDonalds is probably considerably more fulfilling. I don't mean disrespect to people who work fast food, I did it for many years in high school and part of college. I just wanted the chance to publicly bitch about how much I hate grading and I though it would be a good lead in to my grading of All-Star weekend.

The Rookie/Sophomore Game

I didn't actually see most of it, so I can't really give a good assessment. I'll just assume it was mediocre.

Grade: C

Shooting Stars and Skills Challenge

These things are just not that interesting, but offer marginal entertainment value when I only have to see them once a year. However, having seen these things for a few years already, they're already starting to become lame. It would be nice to see the NBA try to come up with different contests that they can do each year, so that at least I wouldn't be watching the same thing every year.

Grade: C-

Three-point Shooting Contest

I think that most Wolves fans believe that Freddy and his amazing 52% 3pt percentage got snubbed by not getting to participate in this contest. Instead, the league said that they decided to go with people who had made a lot of threes rather than going by percentage. But then I ask, what about Damon Jones? With 147 made threes this season, he ranks 3rd in the league, 20 ahead of 4th place Gilbert Arenas. In addition, his .416 three-point percentage was higher than anybody else in the contest.

Thus, we can assume that the NBA did not really choose on either of these categories. Rather, they went with name recognition and choosing players from winning teams (Seattle and Phoenix each had two entrants). What we ended up with was a bunch of volume shooters, who couldn't really make all that many shots. Nobody really got into any sort of groove like we normally see. Maybe the NBA will learn from this and next year actually choose people who deserve to be there, as opposed to Quentin Richardson (who actually managed to win somehow) and Ray Allen.

Grade: D+

Slam Dunk Contest

Sadly, this was the high point of the weekend and it wasn't even all that good. J.R. Smith started the contest out right foot by throwing down a sweet dunk where put the ball behind his back before dunking.

The lowlight of this event had to be Chris Andersen who just kept embarrassing himself by trying to bounce the ball and then catch it, but took way too many tries to get it right. The league used to give you two attempts at each dunk, but they got rid of the rule this year, so contestants could get as many tries as they wanted. I think they decided to change the rule because Jason Richardson lost last year due to the fact that he didn't get his second dunk down, despite having one of the sweetest dunks ever for his first one. Thanks to Chris, I think this rule will be gone forever.

But the real highlight of this event was Josh Smith, who threw down a number of sweet dunks, his best being the one where he had KMart sit on a chair and toss the ball in the air. Smith jumped over him with some style, caught the ball and dunked it.

As for Amare Stoudemire I wish they'd stop putting him in the contests. He's a great power dunker, but lacks the finesse required to do any sort of really spectacular dunking. Also, I found a little bit of ironic humor in the fact that even in the dunk contest, he stands no chance of winning without Steve Nash to make him better.

Grade: B

All-Star Game

The game started out extremely sloppy, and wasn't much fun to watch. I was rooting for the West, and when they started pulling away early in the game, I was hoping the East would at least keep it close, so that we'd get a good finish. Then, the East came back, but they didn't stop. They kept going and going until eventually it was a blow-out for the East. So basically, I got neither of my wishes. Having a close all-star game is fantastic, because near the end of the game, you see all the best players in the league playing with high intensity. If it hadn't been for Vince Carter's amazing dunk, there would have been no reason to watch this game.

Grade: D


Normally, I think that the NBA all-star festivities are the best in all of sports. Unfortunately, this year was pretty bad.

Grade: D+