In honor of this week's Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C., I thought Canis Hoopus could use its own return to sanity after our unfortunate loss to the Sacramento Kings in our home opener. If depression is your thing, CH certainly has options for you - check out Chad Bird's dissenting voice as one example - but I prefer to stay on the brighter side of things.
For instance, Kurt Rambis' rotations may be bad, but I'm pretty sure he's not intentionally trying to drive the Minnesota Timberwolves out of existence. Sebastian Telfair should probably not take as many shots, but I'm fairly certain that's not intentionally trying to cause season ticket holders to have brain aneurysms.
Let's take a look at some positives:
1. Wesley Johnson is not going to be a bust
Sure, DeMarcus Cousins had a game high +18 in 27 minutes, but Wesley Johnson had a Wolves' best +14 in 18 minutes. Both shot 5-10 from the floor. Both got to the line. Both played with energy and focus.
Since much of the talk this season will inevitably revolve around the 4th and 5th picks in the draft, it is important to keep in mind that both the Kings and the Wolves can turn out to be winners. Cousins doesn't have to fail in order for Wesley Johnson to succeed and vice versa. If both turn into solid NBA starters, I'll be very happy with our selection, regardless of how the other guy does.
From what I saw tonight, Wes is on his way towards that goal. He's already a better version of Corey Brewer on offense with the potential to be a better version of Corey Brewer on defense. And tonight was his first game. I'm optimistic that Wesley Johnson will be the best wing player on this team since Latrell Sprewell left to feed his family by selling rims.
2. We have guys who can shoot the basketball
Tonight, the Wolves went 8-of-18 (44.4%) from 3-point range. That is with, arguably, our two best three point shooters (Ellington and Johnson) going a combined 0-6. Last year, our team shot 34% from downtown. Granted, in order to be effective, we have to start getting our points within the offense. However, Wayne is not going to miss three wide-open threes every game (his 4th attempt was a tough contested shot at the end of the game) and Wesley Johnson will get his shot under control.
And our shooting doesn't just come from the wings. Luke Ridnour was 2-2. Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Anthony Tolliver went 5-7 combined. It is a great feeling as a fan to not have to cringe whenever you see a shot come off from behind the 3-point line (Sebastian Telfair notwithstanding).
3. United We Run isn't just a slogan anymore
The Wolves outscored the Kings 35-19 in fast break points in this game. We have guys who can run and we have guys who will actually distribute the ball on the break. I still hold out hope for Jonny Flynn, but I lost track last season of how many times Flynn would run the break and not give it up to Brewer, Love, Gomes or another player who was trailing the play.
In this game, Ridnour and Telfair both did that very well. While each of our point guards made some bonehead plays with the ball, I thought it was a substantial improvement over last year's point guard play.
We also have the athletes to stay with our points. Wes, in particular, was great at finishing plays and getting out on the break. His ball handling needs work but, like I said above, he's already an improvement over Brewer in this area.
4. Corey Brewer will get to spend more time with his pet goat
If there was any doubt as to whether Corey Brewer was going to be a long term option for the Timberwolves at the wing, I think tonight was a large clue. Yes, it's game one, and a lot can change. But tonight, we saw the difference between what good wings can do and what Corey Brewer can do. Sure, Brewer is a capable defender, but let's not pretend that he's Ron Artest. Brewer let Casspi score off of a backdoor cut in the game's most important play.
Brewer also brought next to nothing on the offensive end. 2 points, 3 boards, 1 steal. I don't see how Corey Brewer has a spot in this rotation if Wes keeps improving, if Webster comes back healthy and if they decide to give Lazar Hayward any minutes at all.
I love Corey Brewer as a person. I think he'd be a blast to hang out with on the golf course or at the local gym. I just don't think he's an NBA-level player.
5. We won't have to worry about showing off by going 82-0
Let's face it, there's a reason Kevin Love didn't play in the 4th quarter. It's not a grudge with Rambis. It's not an injury. It's not Kevin Love's swearing in GQ. David Kahn is just too nice of a guy to let our team go 82-0, which would embarrass the league and his friends in the media. So, we threw it. We committed cheap foul after cheap foul to give them easy chances at free throws. We left Francisco Garcia wide open at the 3-point line. We decided to stop defending Carl Landry.
Against the Bucks on Friday night, we'll start the winning. 81-1 is still a pretty good record, folks.