Tag Archives: Pups

Flip’s Preemptive Strike

It was announced in the Twittersphere last night that Wolves GM Flip Saunders has landed his first (and likely last) big get of the off-season: Kevin “Don’t Call Me Kenyon” Martin.

Martin represents a solid signing for Flip and the Wolves. He was someone the Wolves have targeted for years. Marc Stein of ESPN.com is reporting that the deal is for 4 years and $28 million.

Flip's first big move of the off season might be exactly what the Wolves needed.

Flip’s first big move of the off season might be exactly what the Wolves needed.

Flip’s decision to go get Martin is kind of like the back-up quarterback who, in September, decides to ask the gal in his league or the league below him if she will go to the prom with him. By being one the first guys to ask and going after a gal definitely in his league, there is a very good chance he gets his prom date. He also avoided the stress of going around and around with gals out of his league and who have no intentions on going with him.

And no, let me save you the e-mail, I was not the back-up quarterback in high school.

When you think about the best available, free agent choices at the two position, O.J. Helmann’s, Tyreke Evans, J.J. Reddick, Martin, and J.R. Smith, Martin is the gal the Wolves thought would say yes so Flip went and got his prom date.  Flip’s preemptive strike ensured that he avoided the run around that the Wolves may have been subjected to while chasing a J.R. Smith, J.J. Reddick, or O.J. Helmann’s, when none of those guys were coming to Minnesota.

So what does Martin bring to the Wolves:

Pros

Familiarity. Martin knows Rick Adelman’s system. Wait…what…the first thing we are talking about is familiarity with Adelman’s system?? You got that right!! Last year, the Wolves’ two guards looked lost. Both Barrea and Schved did not seem to understand where they were supposed to be. And I get that Schved was in his rookie season, but he seemed to get more lost as the season wore on. Ridnour knew the system, but lacked the ability to effectively play the position. Martin came into the league under Adelman’s tutelage, first in Sacramento and later in Houston. He gets it. Adelman’s system is complex and it takes a heady player to excel in it. Martin is that kind of player. He has a blazing quick release and a sneaky good left hand for finishing in the lane. He will have no problem utilizing those skills in Adelman’s motion offense.

Martin's signing also means Barrea can go back to coming off the bench, where he is most effective. Think a Puerto Rican Ben Gordon.

Martin’s signing also means Barrea can go back to coming off the bench, where he is most effective. Think a Puerto Rican Ben Gordon.

Shooting. Okay…here we go…the important stuff, right? The Wolves have not had a capable two guard since Troy “Never Met A Shot I Did Not Like” Hudson. As a team, the Wolves were the 2nd worst three point shooting team in the last ten years. Martin shoots nearly 39% from deep. To give you some sense of how good that is, the Wolves best shooter from deep last was Juan Jose Barrea, tipping the scales at nearly 35%. After that, it got considerable worse with Ridnour at 31% and Buddinger at 33%. Not great. Martin is a definite upgrade here.

Getting to the stripe. The Wolves were the 5th worst team in the league at getting to the stripe. For a little, waifish dude, Martin is surprisingly adept at earning trips to the line, averaging a tick more than 6 attempts a game throughout his career. And get this, he even converts when he gets there, shooting nearly 88%. Even though his aggressiveness dipped a bit while with OKC, he played a different role in that offense, acting as more of a spot up shooter. He should be a far more integral part of the Wolves offense.

Cons

Defense. Martin does not play defense. At all. Even a little. If this year’s playoffs taught us anything, teams that play defense (San Antonio, Indiana, Miami, and Memphis) are the league’s elite. The Wolves, as currently structured, are not a sound defensive squad. Martin will not help in that regard. Even a little. At all.

Injury history. From 2008 to 2010, Martin missed significant parts of each season. The good news is he did play a full season last year. So, perhaps his injury woes are behind him. Though, considering his build, the injury risks will likely always haunt him.

Overall, Flip did well. Martin is a great fit for the Wolves. The contract terms are not particularly unfriendly, though he is by no means a bargain. Martin can knock down open 3s and, with Rubio running point, he should get plenty of chances. Then, after he knocks a few down, he can pump fake and use he solid left hand to knock down shots in the lane. Flip did well to lock up his date, the mystery is what will happen when they get to the dance.

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Forget the Billy Goat, the Joe Smith Curse is in Full Effect

 

There are a great many curses in all the major sports. The Cubs have the curse of the Billy Goat. The Red Sox had the Curse of the Great Bambino. Birmingham City Football suffered the 100 year curse. Hell, even individual players and competitors have suffered from curses ala the Madden and Taladega Curses.

Move over Billy Goat, Joe Smith is the newest curse on the block!!

Move over Billy Goat, Joe Smith is the newest curse on the block!!

Well, Minnesota Timberwolves’ fans might be in the middle of a brand new curse: the Joe Smith Curse.

For the unfamiliar — or for those who chose to forget — prior to the start of the 2000 season, Wolves GM Kevin McHale signs free agent big man Joe Smith to a contract that involves payments both above and below the table. This was an unbelievably stupid move. Like asking Todd Kincannon to speak at an NAACP rally stupid. How McHale was allowed to remain GM is, to this day, one of sports’ great mysteries. I would love to see the dirt he must have on Wolves owner Glen Taylor. It is either photos of ole Glen doing his best Marv Albert or he has the name and address of Taylor’s Marino-like love child.

Taylor’s TMZ moment aside, the botched Joe Smith signing had an immediate impact (the league takes the Wolves’ 1st round draft pick for the next 5 years) and, even worse, it has been the beginning of a run of bad luck that would make even the most ardent Cubs fan blush.

Since the Joe Smith signing, Wolves fans have suffered the following mini-tragedies:

  1. McHale is allowed to return as GM. This cannot be said enough. He quite literally paid a player under the table, a direct violation of league policy — heck — a direct violation of the how dumb can you be policy, and he returned to his role with the team only a year later. We are not off to a good start.
  2. The Wolves capitalize on having no first round picks for the next two years and draft the great Loren Woods and Marcus Taylor. I would add more, but those picks are pretty self-explanatory. 
  3. Everything changes in 2003, Hall of Fame player and Hall of Infame GM Kevin McHale drafts Ndudi “DooDoo” Ebi. He is the Wolves first 1st round pick since the Smith debacle. He is currently averaging a double-double for S.S. Felice Scandone in something called Serie A.
  4. In 2004, the Wolves finally put together enough talent to support the Big Ticket and, all of sudden, the NBA championship is a very real possibility. After surviving the Kings in a seven game slugfest, the Lakers/NBA/referees dash any hopes the Wolves have of claiming their first NBA championship. In particular, the phantom foul call on Wally Szcerbiak playing “Wally” defense against Kobe.
  5. The following year, despite retaining the same supporting cast, the Wolves fall apart and miss the playoffs for the first time in the KG era. They have not been back since. That team was then dismantled, in part because of Sprew’s desire to feed his family and in part because the chemistry was so off from the year before.
  6. Roy was outstanding for the Blazers (after the Wolves traded him) -- he has played only minutes this season.

    Roy was outstanding for the Blazers (after the Wolves traded him) — he has played only minutes this season.

    To help replenish the talent level around KG, the Wolves draft Brandon Roy. They then inexplicably trade Roy for the great Randy Foy. Roy goes on to a terrific career with the Portland Trail Blazers, playing the role of closer in the 4th Quarter, the exact role the Wolves needed to fill. Foy does his best Troy Hudson-impression, jacking up inopportune 3s with frightening regularity.

  7. Aside from the Roy trade, management also locks up the services of Corey Brewer and Rashad McCants via the draft. Let me just say that again, Corey Brewer and Rashad McCants.
  8. The lack of playoff performances finally force management’s hand. The Kid gets traded to Boston for $.66 on the $1.00. He promptly wins an NBA Championship. The Wolves struggle to break 20 wins because Big Al fails to defend with the same effectiveness that he scores in the low post. Boston’s defense becomes one of the best in the league — anchored by KG.
  9. The Wolves draft one of the best power forwards in the league, Kevin Love, and all of sudden, things are finally looking up. Love averages 20+ points and 12+ rebounds for the first few years in the league.
  10. There is a huge opportunity to turn the corner but David Kahn does his best Kevin McHale, drafting Jonny Flynn (mind you Steph Curry is staring him in the grill and it is not like the Wolves have always needed a shooter), Ricky Rubio (who promptly signs a deal with FC Barcelona), and then approximately 16 other PGs (including Ty Lawson – who is traded to Denver). More misses in this draft than a Craig Ferguson monologue. Just brutal.
  11. Rubio looked like the Spanish Savior --- then the curse took effect. Now he is still trying to find his form following serious knee surgery.

    Rubio looked like the Spanish Savior — then the curse took effect. Now he is still trying to find his form following serious knee surgery.

    La Pistola finally decides he has had enough of Euro hoops and he makes his way across the pond. The Wolves squad is electrified. An annual bottom-feeder is immediately transformed into a contender.

  12. The Black Mamba destroys the Wolves franchise worse than he did the…in…Denv…well, you get the point. Rubio tears an ACL defending Kobe. Wolves fans start to wonder if they should start bathing with the toaster.

All of that brings us to this season.

The Wolves projected starters have played a total of zero games together this season. Butkus. Squat. Nada. So, rather than list all of the injuries — including Love’s freak knuckle push-up calamity — and depress you any further. I will just let that little stat sink in. As soon as you have come to grips with that, it is easy to understand that there is something bigger than all of us going on here. This curse is very real. Here is hoping we exorcise it sooner than later.     

Remember, if you need tickets to watch the Joe Smith Curse in action, skate on over to Ticket King. They have got all your ticket needs covered for local sporting events — especially the Timberwolves.

Playoffs?! Playoffs?! We Talking Playoffs!

Playoffs?! Indeed.

Yes, Mr. Mora, we talking playoffs! At the halfway point of this shortened season, both local squads – the Pups and Bucks – are talking playoffs. Of course, talking playoffs doesn’t mean both or either of the teams will actually make the playoffs. In fact, if either team makes the playoffs, it’d be a bigger surprise than Darko resembling an actual NBA player.

Simply talking playoffs is an accomplishment for the Timberwolves. A franchise  mired in terribleness since gifting an NBA Championship to the Celtics in the infamous KG trade, the Pups have risen from the abyss on the shoulders of both K. Love and Rubio. With the emergence of Pekovic and the promise of D. Will., the Pups have the building blocks in place to be annual playoffs contenders in years to come – assuming Kahn doesn’t screw it up. Here’s hoping the Utah Jazz are not lottery bound and, thus, sending their first-round pick to the Pups. A shooting guard that can actually shoot would go a long ways for this squad.

K. Love is going to need to be as clutch during the second half of the season.

But, as far as this year is concerned, talking playoffs is the only accomplishment members of the Team of 1707 can expect. At 17-17 at the midpoint of the season, the Pups stand in 10th place in the conference, one game back from the 8th spot – Portland Trailblazers. The reason for pessimism is the Wolves schedule coming out of the break does not set up well with a back-to-back-to-back gauntlet against both LA teams and Phoenix, before getting one day off to travel to a critical game at Portland. Following this road stretch, the Wolves experience deja vu (and not the fun kind off Washington Ave.) when they play host to Lob City, Portland, and the Lake Show in a five day stretch. This stretch will test the mettle of the young squad and ultimately decide whether we will still be talking playoffs two weeks from now.

The moment the Bucks playoffs chances limped away.

As for the Bucks, a 13-20 record at midway point doesn’t show much hope for a playoffs spot. But, in the Eastern Conference, they are still only 2.5 games back of the aging Boston Celtics, who currently man the 8th spot. With rumors rampant that the Celtics may be breaking up the Big (read: Old) Three, the eighth spot is up for grabs in the East. Two years removed from a playoffs battle with the Hawks, the Bucks season outlook was promising on the premise Jennings would continue his growth and Bogut was healthy. Unfortunately, when Bogut went down, so too did the Bucks season. The Bucks were 7-7 at the time of the injury, and have since gone 6-13.

To have any shot at claiming that 8th spot, the Bucks need to start quick in the second half. Unfortunately, like the Pups, the schedule does not set up well. An easy home game against the Wizards/Bullets/Mental Midgets only serves as a pre-season warmup game to a gauntlet of playoff teams: Celtics, Hawks, Magic, 76ers, Bulls, and Knicks. Jim Mora might be correct that playoffs is absurd to mention with this squad, but crazier things of happened. I mean, a twice cut, Harvard grad, Asian-American is leading the New York Knickerbockers towards the playoffs. Who knows, maybe Ersan Ilyasova’s 29/25 evening last week is the start to his massive run. Ok, never mind, but when you have Brandon Jennings, every game is winnable if he gets that lefty stroke going like Mick at Pebble (yup, I just compared a kid Straight Outta Compton to a 40 y.o. chubby, perma-smile golfer).

We talking playoffs, just not making the playoffs. The Fear the Deer and Rubionation campaigns will have to wait until 2013.