Team Jonny: The traditional pecking-order based, pick-and-roll dominated, bang the ball down low and get it to your studs type of offense with we'll-get-around-to-it-sometime defense and very little else. Team Jonny consists of Flynn, Al Jefferson, Ryan Hollins, and, occasionally, Ryan Gomes.
Team Darko: An up-tempo, two-way squad dominated by nothing more than what works with smarts and positioning on both sides of the ball. Team Darko's leading scorers and rebounders will change from night to night. Team Darko consists of Ramon Sessions, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, Darko, Wayne Ellington, and, occasionally, Ryan Gomes.
UPDATE: We've received a few emails telling us that the comments section of this post have started to crash some browsers. I've closed the comments so that we don't do any additional damage and have opened up an overflow thread here.
I know the company line from the Wolves is that fans are going to have to sit through long stretches of questionable play from Flynn, and that these stretches are to be referred to as "growing pains", but at some point these pains become nothing more than constant reminders that Flynn doesn't look anything like a point guard (can someone please explain the "potential" thing?) and that if this team is really serious about winning, both now and down the road, the coaching staff and front office will need to have a more realistic view of his talents, especially in comparison to Ramon Sessions.
Last night Kurt Rambis bucked a recent trend of leaning on Ramon Sessions in the 4th by playing Jonny Flynn down the stretch and it nearly cost him the game. Flynn treated viewers to a non-stop display of over-dribbling, horrible use of the pick (which, it should be noted, was often a fantastic Darko pick), terrible angles on passes, and all-around suckitude. Yeah, he was able to make a key jumper down the stretch but this was after jacking up a 3 way too early in the shot clock and fouling a Heat player on a 3-point attempt (I think he did this twice last night) among many other FUBARs.
Last night's game was the second game in a row where the Wolves' bench was the most outstanding unit. Team Darko ended the contest with all 5 players in positive plus/minus territory. Team Jonny ended it all in the negative. Why? Two way play. Defense. Unselfish offense that doesn't stop in the hands of Jonny or Al Jefferson.
Just two games into the Darko tenure on this team, and there cannot be a larger gap between the two different personalities/directions/whatever on this squad. This difference becomes more apparent with each passing minute of game action. It's noticeable when Big Al doesn't hedge on a screen or when he is too late to close out on a pass. It is noticeable when the two teams mix into a single lineup and Team Darko guys suddenly sit around and watch the Alpha members of Team Jonny hold and hold and hold and hold the ball. It is noticeable when Darko and Love are able to run out there and pass as a functional two way front court while the addition of a single Team Jonny player sends us all back to 110+ defensive rating nightmares.
The Wolves beat the Heat because of their bench (and Wade missing the game). The Wolves beat the Heat in spite of their coaching staff trying to pretend that Flynn belonged out there when the game was on the line. The Wolves beat the Heat because they sent their "best" and highest paid player to the bench for long stretches of the 4th quarter because his defense is simply too atrocious to give his team a chance. The Wolves beat the Heat because Ramon Sessions, Wayne Ellington, Kevin Love, and Darko got just enough court time with their fellow Team Darko members for a lead to be built and maintained.
The elephant in the Team Darko/Team Jonny room is that Kurt Rambis could be viewed as running some awful, no-good, piss-poor rotations out on the court and that he isn't giving his team the best chance to win. It's nice to see a willingness to send the completely ineffective Hollins and the mostly-ineffective Jefferson to the bench in favor of front court players that work, but he doesn't do it nearly enough. Love needs more minutes and...well, Darko's winded. In the backcourt and on the wing, Sessions is getting jobbed. Wayne Ellington should be getting 20 mpg and Corey Brewer needs to show the team if he has anything at the 3 to accommodate for any increase in Wayne's minutes. The rotations and minutes have been way off in recent weeks and it is very frustrating, as a fan, to sit and watch rotations that you know don't work continue to be run out there on the court.
Wrapping this little ditty up, it really has been amazing to see what an honest-to-Pete two way 7 footer can do for this team, especially Kevin Love. Darko didn't do much in the way of the stat sheet last night, but he altered shots, opened up room for Love to crash the boards, hedged on screens, closed out on shooters, and protected the rim. In other words, he's doing things in the defensive frontcourt that we haven't seen since Kevin Garnett. He has also been able to fit in as well as he can on the offense. He's clearly out of shape and he has a lot to learn about the Triangle, but already he has been able to grasp a few basic ideas that have allowed him to be more effective than the team's "best" player. He is able to pass out of the pinch-post. He is able to make the correct pass out to the perimeter so it can be kicked around for an open 3. He doesn't screw up the spacing. He is the anti Al Jefferson. Right now, I'm pretty geeked about the Darko development but I have a bad feeling that it's not going to end well. He'll go back to Europe after proving once and for all that a) Jefferson is a worthless two way player, b) Love needs to be surrounded by a legit-sized defensive big, and c) Jefferson is overpaid and useless on defense. I want to make-believe that other teams aren't watching this. I want to make believe that a bum knee is partly responsible for some of the crap we are seeing. But it's not. Darko has highlighted the two directions this team could take. He has highlighted the two teams within a team. Whether he stays or goes, he's raised some very uncomfortable questions about the team's highest paid player and, to a lesser extent, its shiny new point guard.