First off, a big thank you to Lauren Lang and everyone else on the marketing side of things over in Timberwolf land for some very nice seats to tonight's game, plus a pass to the post-game press conference with Rambis. Ms. Lang was persistent in trying to get me through the doors despite a series of schedule conflicts (definitely my loss, as two of the games I had to pass on were the best two of the season - the win over the Hornets and the near miss v. the Thunder) and I truly appreciate her patience. I figure the proper trade off for a lurker / rare-poster like me is a full fanpost recounting the night.
I don't have the photoshop skills, but picture, if you will, as the lead graphic, Rambis riding a warhead with the Wolves' logo on the side. And........JUMP!
Two early disclaimers: One, though I'm a loyal fan, I'd also categorize myself as a casual fan. My eyes gloss over when I start reading about win shares and adjusted plus-minus and true shooting percentage and so on and so forth. I like to think I understand the game on a basic level, and rely on CH to help me with the nuances. Two, I attended the game with my two-year-old daughter, so my ability to really parse the action was a little handicapped. So I considered not bothering with a recap at all if I couldn't do a proper one--but then decided that a half-assed recap is about twice what the Wolves' no-assed effort deserves. (See? Math isn't really my bag.)
So this is my daughter's third game, and she really, really digs it. All week she's answered the question of "What's happening on Wednesday?" with "Basketball game!!! With Grampa!! Timbawolves!!! AAAHHHOOOOOOOOOO!!!" My greatest fear as a parent is that the Timberwolves will still suck in five or ten years or whenever it is that she starts paying attention to the court and won't want to waste her time anymore. But for now, she's all in.
We were a mere ten rows from the floor tonight, which is a big change from our normal haunts in the rafters. When we stepped out into the arena via the floor entrance, her eyes got pretty big. I pointed out Beasley taking jumpers a couple feet away and said, "Look! Timberwolves!" But she was already more interested in Crunch.
My dad arrived shortly after. He admitted to being out of touch with the current roster, and said he read an article earlier that day about "Ken Love" so he wouldn't be completely clueless. Unfortunately for all of us, there was no slip of the tongue, and Kevin really did let his stoner twin brother take the floor for him tonight.
We made it just in time for the lineups, so we got to howl at the moon. "AAAHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" And that was the loudest the arena got until Ken Love notched a double-double at the end of the 4th to extend his brother's streak. I like to think the applause was sarcastic, but I'm not sure even the diehards / leftovers from our Wednesday night crowds are quite that sophisticated.
We discovered during lineups that Flynn was starting for Ridnour. "He's really, really bad," I told my dad. "Just so you're prepared." On the first offensive possession, Flynn proceeds to drive right to the hoop for an easy layup. He follows that with a rebound or two, some nice passes, and a three-pointer. I'm pretty stunned. Of course, Flynn is invisible for the rest of the game (which is, admittedly, a step up from really, really bad).
At the end of the first quarter, we try to distract my daughter from her hot dog long enough to look up and see herself on the jumbotron. She looks up, waves halfheartedly, and goes back to the hot dog.
Somewhere during the second quarter, it becomes clear that nobody has a lick of energy. Even my dad is complaining about it. He also picks up--even before I do--just how few shots Love is taking. Apparently the article he read includes concerns from Rambis about Love's workload, having to do to much. My dad says, "Maybe the coach doesn't want to make him expend energy on offense, so they're letting someone else worry about the scoring." And really that's about what it looked like: everyone (Love included) waiting for someone else to make something happen. A typical Wolves' possession: Flynn dribbles upcourt; Love jogs over to a Memphis big and starts wrestling (posting up?); Flynn dribbles a bit; passes to a wing out on the perimeter who seems surprised and bobbles the ball for a second; an entry pass to Pek, who ignores the cutter (a poor word choice for tonight. I'll go with loafer) and passes back out to the perimeter; one wing or another takes a deep two; Love swipes lazily at the rebound, then jogs back on D.
Halftime. We're down single digits, which seems miraculous, all things considered. Nothing from Love or Wes (or Ridnour, obviously), and no random output from an unexpected source (a Darko or Brewer or whatever), and we aren't getting run out of the building. Time for a diaper change.
Turns out the aisle on the floor isn't as roomy as the aisles by the concourses. It takes a while to get out to the bathrooms, and then we discover there's no changing table. But my daughter is a trooper and I manage to change her in the handicapped stall standing up. Minus a point for family friendliness.
On our way back to the arena floor, we're walking alongside Love for the last few yards. I try to get my daughter to say hi, but she gets shy. Just ahead, a bunch of kids have lined up to get high-fives as the players re-enter. Ken Love turns his palms out, sort of, as he walks by. So I guess they could have given *him* five if they wanted. I'm sure that, had Kevin been there, he would have aggressively swatted each hand, then sprinted over to the scorer's table to make sure they hadn't screwed up the tally.
Third quarter starts. We haven't been in our seats for five minutes, and my daughter shouts, "Stinky! I'm stinky! Stinky diaper!" The whole row in front of us turns, smirking. This time I take her up to the first level concourse and try a bigger bathroom. What do you know--changing table. "We found it!" she says. "Found the change table!" Turns out the diaper is only very slightly wet. Oh well. Back to our seats. Ten minutes later she wants to be changed again. I tell her she can wait for the end of the game. Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, won't get fooled again.
The second half was bad. Very bad. Not much to see on-court, and the stat-glancing got so frustrating I almost started rooting for Love's streak to end. (And the double-double is now dead to me as a meaningful statistic, buried next to quarterback wins and RBIs.)
Afterward, we found Lauren, who apologized for the product, which is more than can be said for Rambis in his presser (my dad waited outside with my daughter - they didn't say she couldn't come in, but I didn't ask). He started by praising Memphis for being a scrappy, opportunistic team on the fringes of a playoff berth and fighting hard to stay there. Then he predictably name-dropped Phil ("When I was a *long*time assistant with the Lakers" (his emphasis)), and even invoked his own playing days, said how when a team doesn't bring it there's nothing you as a coach can do. Promised us that Phil agrees with that sentiment (apparently a bored, listless performance is just as excusable coming from a three-peating squad versus, well, what we have here). This was touched on here last week, but I just really want to get the Office Space consultants to ask Kurt, "Just what would you say it is you do here?" Or, you know, any one of the media types present could ask it.
Instead someone mentioned the time back in the 4th Q when Love took a shot fighting for a rebound and waited for a ball stoppage to stop cringing and rejoin the game. Why, the journalist asked, didn't Rambis call timeout? Rambis's answer? Because Love didn't ask him to. I know, I know. It was late in the 4th by then, and they were getting trounced. The question didn't really deserve much more time than Rambis gave it, but I thought it was telling that Rambis admitted for the second time that his coaching tonight was at least as passive as his players' performance. Oh, but in both cases, he was totally justified--the whole time he had just been looking at his WWPD? bracelet and wishing he was still in LA. Us, too, Kurt. Us, too.
Other tidbits: He thought Jonny and Bassy did some good things. He didn't elaborate. When asked if he thought Flynn was prepared for the start / extended minutes, he said we'd have to ask Jonny, but that he should have been - that all bench players should be ready and eager for any chance to establish themselves as a legitimate player in the league. As far as the stagnant offense went, he said it came down to the players refusing to pass to the open man, that everything would have opened up had they just done that much.
Well, thanks again to Lauren and whoever else makes this promotion happen. Despite the game itself, we had a lot of fun. Hopefully we can make it out again later this year once we've added Mayo and AR so I can try to find evidence that those two could be *almost* as good as what we could have had in Curry and Noah if everything plays out *just* right...in which case we could essentially have Curry and Noah, PLUS Flynn and Brewer...plus Beasley who could be *almost* as good as Gay and Rubio who could be *almost* as good as Kidd and Darko who could be *almost* as good as an average center and so on and so forth... (the sad thing is that I'm kinda nodding along thoughtfully as I reread what was supposed to be a sarcastic sentence...)