Review of NBA game: Timberwolves v. Nuggets
Tags: sports

Last night, my brother Paul was generous enough to take me to a game at Minneapolis' Target Centere, where the Minnesota Timberwolves played the Denver Nuggets. Paul won the tickets in a drawing through his employer, Thomson Reuters.

We got to the game well early, and parking and finding our way to the arena was easy, since Paul harped on me to plan that out. We arrived to find that it was "Mike Miller Night," and we were furnished with a white hand towel. Our seats were much better than the two previous games I'd attended -- a clear view of the quickness, strength, and skill of the players.

I was heartened to find that Chris Anderson, known as "Birdman," has returned to the Nuggets after a yearlong suspension due to recreational drug use violations. I knew that he would be entertaining, and indeed he was.

Discussing the roster, I noted to my brother, "There's no way the T-Wolves can compete. The Nuggets have Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Kenyon Martin." Although the T-Wolves played well in the first half, the team, true to form, twaddled in the third quarter, after which they were far too behind to compete. Pathetically, the T-Wolves got within eight points with less than a minute left, but that was after star point guard Chauncy Billups sat with five minutes left in the third quarter, knowing the game was over.

The third-quarter collapse brought such lassitude to the crowd that the mood could only be mended by the large TV screens showing clips from "America's Funniest Videos." That says it all. Some fans came in at the second quarter only to exit before the third quarter ended.

Kevin McHale, the T-Wolves General Manager, has created a roster that is one of the worst in the NBA. Despite it being "Mike Miller Night," the man himself played woefully, scoring four points on 2 of 10 shooting, with 0-6 on three pointers, Miller's specialty.

The statistic of the night was the Wolves' 9 of 10 shooting from the free throw line, compared with the Nuggets' 26-33. I was quite surprised at how bad with the ball both teams are -- each committed 17 turnovers, but the Wolves did so in more embarrassing fashion. "That's a worse turnover than I've seen in noonball!" I said. (These are pickup games Paul and I play in.) Expecting to get a better performance, I was exasperated at the Wolves' efforts. It appeared that their coach, Randy Wittman, was more exasperated.

I'd like to compare the teams' rosters, because the only league I really follow is the NBA.

Nuggets: Coach George Karl will need to find a way to get his team playing more hardnosed defense; this was their liability last year. However, after trading Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups, they gained a point guard and "coach on the floor," although their payroll is probably too high for the result their team is going to get. I doubt they'll make it to the Western Conference finals.

Chauncey Billups: he is not overly quick by NBA standards, but he is one of best point guards in the league, and a perennial All-Star. His shooting (and free-throw shooting) his among the tops in the league, and he knows how to put a team away with a three, which is exactly what he did in the third quarter of last night's game. He has a true feel for the 24-second shot clock, although his team's offense has not fully gelled; he was not traded that long ago.

Carmelo Anthony: he played on the Gold medal Olympic team, and for good reason. He can't be defended one-on-one. He can shoot over anyone if he takes a dribble and jumps. He takes the ball tough to the hole. He needs to not shoot outside of eighteen feet; he's a career 25% three-point shooter.

Kenyon Martin: plays like a linebacker; very strong and quick; can't shoot a jumper.

Chris Anderson: seems out of "game shape" and needs to gain back explosiveness, which would help him move feet better on defense. Excellent charisma for the game.

Anthony Carter and Chucky Atkins: one of the worst statements about the T-Wolves is that these old, slow, undersized guards outplayed the high-salary young guards for the Wolves.

Kleiza, JR Smith, Nene: These are decently high-salary players; Kleiza outplayed Wolves rookie Kevin Love until the game was decided. JR Smith was mad at not getting playing time. Nene is a good defender.

T-Wolves: This is a team, roster, and organization in disarray. GM Kevin McHale needs to be fired and Fred Hoiberg, the "Mayor of Ames" (as he was called when he played at Iowa State) needs to be promoted and given a chance.

McHale has compiled an "on paper" team. He has one player I would describe as a gamer -- a guy who can win you games, and that is Al Jefferson. However, Jefferson is a post player, and easily double-teamed. The rest of the roster is young, inexperienced, and do not have the mental approach necessary to win games in the NBA.

When I was a student at the University of Arizona, guard Mustafa Shakur was an "on paper" player, sometimes mentioned as a possible draft pick. He couldn't pull out games, though, and appropriately went undrafted -- he didn't have the mental approach for success.

Almost the entire roster of the Wolves are "on paper" players:

Sebastian Telfair: he was a bad player to bring in; he has had issues with the law; he cannot shoot; his court vision is limited; he might have the best "handle," or dribbling skill, in the NBA, but the effect of this is that he merely looks good dribbling. Once he dribbled into the corner and turned the ball over -- what kind of point guard does that!?

Mike Miller: at 6'8'', he needs to fake the three, take two dribbles, and shoot a midrange jumper, because NBA scouting means he'll almost never get open looks. Even on his "Night," he moved slowly with heavy feet, and camped at the three-point stripe, ultimately firing up bricks (0-6). This prevents him from getting rebounds; he didn't appear to hustle. "Hey, it's just not your night," Paul joked of Miller. "Oops, it is your night."

Ryan Gomes: was 3/4 on threes, but only got two rebounds -- unacceptable for a 6'7'', 250 lb player in 30+ minutes. Passive player. Lack of feel for the game. Cannot dribble or slash.

Randy Foye: a highly-paid young player with excellent balance on his jumper. He seemed like the only Wolve playing at times. Shot 11/20 and scored 25 points -- impressive against Chauncey Billups. Has been taking Telfair's PT. Also willing to drive. Very limited court vision for a point guard. Not yet ready to be a leader -- something the Wolves almost completely lack.

Craig Smith: overweight, too-short big man with limited offensive skills. Can't run.

Corey Brewer: "Looks like a homeless guy," as Paul said. Rail-thin. Limited shooting skill. Good, quick hustler on defense. Probably overpaid as a high draft pick three years ago.

Rashad McCants: lazy, overpaid young player. 6'5'' and strong and quick, but prefers to hoist three-pointers; very inconsistent with shot; overestimates his skills mentally

Kevin Love: rookie; had a great statistical line last night: 18 points, 12 rebounds, 7-9 shooting; excellent hands and touch; out of shape by NBA standards; still too much body fat; seems to move in slow motion compared to NBA big men; can't jump and looks gawky running down the court. Needs to develop a Bill Laimbeer-style outside game to have a successful NBA career.

The Wolves roster still needs tremendous overhaul. They made a mistake in not keeping high draft pick OJ Mayo (although they unloaded a bloated contract (Marko Jaric) by doing so, and gained Mike Miller, who is nonetheless playing poorly and not hustling); McHale should have kept Mayo, because Kevin Love is more of a role player -- i.e. drafted too high. As Randy Foye plays better, he should become better trade bait, and Telfair, Gomes, and McCants should be unloaded with him. A point guard like Chris Duhon, Earl Watson, or Tyronn Lue should be brought in. Even Mike Miller should be tradeable.

The only players the Wolves should keep are Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Corey Brewer, and to a lesser degree, Randy Foye and Mike Miller. They absolutely need a new General Manager; witness the turnaround by GM Donnie Walsh for the New York Knicks after two of the worst seasons ever under Isiah Thomas.

Overall, I was very disappointed in the efforts of the highly highly paid Wolves NBA players; however, I understand this is an effect of terrible front-office decisions, which will probably take a few years to start addressing. Last night, and almost every night for the Wolves, Al Jefferson was the only position at which coach Randy Wittman had an advantage. No wonder the Wolves are one of the worst teams in the NBA.
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