Spurs at Timberwolves Give and Go Preview

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The Rodeo Road Trip begins tonight, which means fewer trips to the AT&T Center and more time on my couch watching the Fox Southwest broadcast. As much as I enjoy watching basketball on TV, it’s no substitute for watching the game live.

San Antonio opens the trip with the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team missing its best player (Kevin Love) and boasting a lot of flaws. That said, the Wolves can be a dangerous and fun to watch team.  In our preview, Steve McPherson joins us to discuss the Spurs and Timberwolves. Steve is a writer for ESPN TrueHoop Network T-Wolves blog A Wolf Among Wolves and Hardwood Paroxysm.

Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: Well let’s talk Spurs-Wolves

Steve McPherson, A Wolf Among Wolves: Let’s do it!

AM: Manu Ginobili won’t play on Wednesday night, so who is Minnesota going to hurt instead?

SM: Ha! Tim Duncan is out, too, right? I’m in favor of knocking Kawhi Leonard out and keeping him in a locker in the Target Center until the Spurs leave. I think the CBA says then he’d be on the Wolves, and they could really use him.

AM: Yeah I was surprised during a recent ESPN 5-on-5 about redoing the 2011 draft that Kawhi’s name was brought up as someone who the Wolves maybe should’ve drafted. Don’t think anyone could really justify making him the second pick at the time, though.

Actually, that was you.

SM: Yes, it certainly was. But …

I agree that there wasn’t much of a case at the time to draft him second. I always find the retroactive drafting idea to be difficult to wrap one’s head around. But the bottom line for the Wolves is that they need help on the wings. I mean, it seems like they always need help on the wings.

Kirilenko has been terrific for them, but still, they’re running a four-guard rotation with three point guards. They’re almost always at a size and defense disadvantage. I would welcome Leonard and his cornrows.

AM: I both love and hate his cornrows. On the one hand, it’s a terrible hairstyle and I think we’re all going to look back at the early 2000s and shudder. On the other hand, it’s kind of adorable that he’s the only guy in the NBA still wearing them. Like he doesn’t know any better, and probably doesn’t care either way.

SM: I was wondering about that. Is he firmly the last man standing with cornrows? Hasn’t Beasley been rocking something comparable? Which is maybe its own kind of indictment.

AM: Beasley’s hair is a monster all its own. Kawhi is the lone guy rocking the classic cornrows.

SM: It puts him squarely in NBA 2K13 created player territory.

AM: Right. I watched some of Minnesota’s oh-so-close comeback attempt on Monday night. How long has Dante Cunningham been that entertaining?

SM: Cunningham has actually been very solid for the Wolves almost all year. That little midrange shot (which he didn’t hit, admittedly) has been money for him. He was even 9-for-9 against the Hornets the other night! The big problem, as I think Zach Lowe pointed out, is that it’s great in spots, but it’s not something to base your team around. And that’s what the Wolves are left with right now for shooting without Love or Budinger.

AM: He really caught me by surprise. Has Cunningham taken the minutes that should be going to Derrick Williams?

SM: Hm. That’s a fraught question. Williams has been starting, but the problem with him since he’s stepped into more minutes in Love’s absence is that he hasn’t shown more production. You know how you look at a guy’s per-36 numbers as a way to put everyone on an even playing field? The problem with Williams is that more time on the floor is leading to less efficient play. But Cunningham isn’t exactly taking Williams’ minutes because Adelman really likes Cunningham off the bench for his energy on the boards and for that same midrange jumper with the bench unit.

I mean, DC is a great bench guy for those reasons. When he’s started, he hasn’t been as consistently energetic. So Williams will keep starting, but I don’t know if he fills the role.

AM: Maybe it just seems like Cunningham plays more because whenever I watch the Wolves, Williams is practically anonymous.

SM: He’s had his moments, but he still hasn’t figured out where to assert himself on the floor. His offense started looking better (and he’s actually been the Wolves’ best 3-pt shooter), but his defense has really sagged lately. With his athleticism, it’s troubling to see him so floaty so often.

I should say: I think if he can get into a system where he’s played consistently as a small ball 4 that I think he could improve dramatically along the lines of Thaddeus Young in Philly.

AM: How do the Wolves play the Spurs’ pick-and-roll? Will they try and take away Tiago Splitter on the roll or stay at home on the shooters?

SM: What will they want to do, or what will actually happen? One of the Wolves’ big problems has been energy on defense, and they’ve tended to collapse on the roll man. This led to a lot of kick outs and shots against the Lakers, in particular. None of the guards on the Wolves are great PNR defenders, and Pek is still somewhat troubled by his groin injury, so his rotations have been a step slow. Basically, I think they may give up everything? That sounds terrible. But it might be true.

AM: Considering the roll Tony Parker is on lately, that’s probably not a good thing.

SM: He’s looked great. That Rob Mahoney post on him was terrific. And I say that as a guy who didn’t like the Spurs for years. Now, of course, they’re one of my favorite non-Wolves teams.

AM: Parker’s playing as good as I’ve ever seen him play, which is saying a lot considering he’s won a Finals MVP and was fifth in regular season MVP voting last season.

SM: Do you know if he and Mickael Gelabale are buddies?

AM: I don’t. I would imagine they’re at the very least on speaking terms.

SM: I haven’t gotten to talk with Gelabale yet, but I’ve already navigated the difficulties of communicating with Shved, who’s fairly shaky with his English right now. Rubio as well. I guess it’s a comparably international locker room to the Spurs.

AM: Most of the Spurs are much more confident with their English now, luckily. Nando De Colo is the only one who’s really gun shy about chatting. I forget how international the Wolves are sometimes.

So before I let you go, I need one random prediction for the game. Something that has nothing to do with the final score.

SM: Hm. I’m pretty terrible at predictions. Since David Stern is going to be at the game, I predict he will simply walk onto the court and hand J.J. Barea a bill after Barea inevitably flops at some point during the third quarter.

AM: That would be a sight to behold. Nothing would curb flopping faster than something like that.

SM: Maybe he makes it his personal crusade for the rest of his tenure.

AM: There’s only like 10-12 guys that he really needs to pay attention to.

SM: Well, there’s no question that Barea is one of them. He’s been one of the most compelling/frustrating players to follow on this team. Amazingly, he’s been one of their best players on both offense and defense, somehow. And yet….

  • GFoyle33

    Entertaining and informative, guys, – thanks!