First of all, the Daily Rambis. Today we begin with yet another critique of the Zen Master's late-game antics from NBA Playbook:
My problem here is this, what are the Timberwolves running? It isn’t a straight isolation because Anthony Randolph is standing at the top of the key. Was the ball supposed to go to Randolph? Was there supposed to be a drive and kick? We don’t know, and I think it is safe to say that the players don’t know either, and that is a problem.
What it comes down to is coach Kurt Rambis and his inability to draw up a play in late game situations. To me, it almost seems like he lacks a plan late in games. Sure he doesn’t have the best players in the world (that decision to make the pass by Jonny Flynn was terrible), but I still put this on Rambis. As the coach, it is his job to put his players in the best position to succeed, and time after time it just seems that Rambis just has his guys go out there and play. If you get a shot and a miss, I am ok with that, but to come away with nothing (mainly because of the poor play design – if there was one – combined with poor decision making by Flynn), that just can’t happen.
I hate to keep writing about Rambis and his poor coaching decisions because it sounds like bashing, but over the course of this season we have seen this become a trend. From running the same play twice in a row late despite it not working the first time to poor clock management late in games, Rambis simply struggles with his decision making late in games. It is as if he doesn’t know what he wants to do. I know that Rambis is a young coach (still just his second season as a head coach), but his experience with Phil Jackson should have taught him one thing, you develop a plan and stick with it. Right or wrong, your players are going to know what is going to happen late if you have a plan that you are executing over and over. Right now, Rambis just seems to be making each decision independently when he is faced with it, and that is hurting his players’ performance. This play against Dallas is just the latest example.
There are countless other examples of late-game Zen Apprentice blunders. What really matters is that the Wolves are a league-worst 4-18 in games decided by 6 points or less. The only other team with fewer than 10 wins in this scenario are the Toronto Raptors (7 wins). Even the Kings have pulled out 11 close victories.
If David Kahn ever had a good argument to make to Papa Glen about why he, and not his coach, should walk the plank, it is the way in which the Wolves have been incapable of winning close games. Of course, the Zen Apprentice's obvious response will be to remind Papa Glen about a position called "point guard" and...well, we'll leave that one for another day.
Last night against the Thunder the Wolves put up yet another kind of spirited effort against a vastly superior squad. As was the case against the Mavs the night before, it was kind of hard to tell if the opposition was sleepwalking their way through the first 3 quarters before stepping on the gas or if they were really trying or not. Whatever the case, for those of you still looking for little things to root for at this point in the season like "perceived effort" or "they kind of took our guys seriously", the road trip down I35 was the two game stretch for you.
I have to be honest with you. Even though I hate the NCAA and college ball makes me want to stab my eyes out with a spork, I found myself tuning in and out of the Wolves game to watch UNC v. yet-another-Wisconsin-team-that-can't-play-offense. I also drifted off into the vast unendingness of the intertronz. Here is a massive printable tree of life graphic. Did you know that gut bacteria may influence thoughts and behavior? What impact will spacial sorting have on natural selection? Can you believe that this earthquake ravaged road in Japan was repaired in just 6 days? Fulton Brewery will open near Target Field this September. Harriet Brewing sells growlers on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Did you know that GE made over $14 billion in 2010 yet paid no taxes (it actually got a benefit of $3.2 billion)? Life is now copyrighted. Who will pay for future drug development? Why is Angry Birds so damn addictive?
OK, now that you know that, here are the few things that caught my eye while flashing back and forth between the tubes of the internet and college ball:
- I know it's not exactly a stat, but this game had to have contained some sort of record for offensive rebounds given up in mind-numbing fashion. From Mike Beasley getting a ball yanked out of his hands by Serge Ibaka (who proceeded to complete an and-1) to multiple instances where a single Thunder player went up in the midst of 3 passive puppies, the rebounding effort was on and off last night and while the Wolves eventually ended up with the higher Oreb% (just barely), OKC also had an eFG of .548.
- OKC couldn't make a free throw to save their life. .679 may get it done against the Wolves, but not in the playoffs.
- What will get it done for the Thunder in the playoffs is their defense. It is definitely there and time after time in the second half they were able to force the Wolves into long fruitless possessions. They also forced the Wolves into short fruitless possessions, but that is pretty much par for the course with the rest of the NBA. The Thunder are a young team that can really put the lock down on defense. Just imagine. This team was a peer of the Wolves only 2 short years ago along with the Clippers, Sacramento, and Memphis. At least they still have Sacramento to kick....never mind.
- What happens when the Zen Apprentice gives Anthony Randolph 20 minutes? Good things so far. Think about all of the quotes you have heard from this club about the time needed to get the players to "play the right way" and about how complex of an offense the team runs. Now look at what an honestly talented player like Randolph is able to do in very little time and practice under the Zen Apprentice. Triangle! Anywho, is Anthony Randolph something to get excited over or is he a bunch of smoke and mirrors? First, the guy clearly has some knucklehead to him. Whether that is blowing off his point guard to set up the 1/2 court or blowing a fast break in Flynn-esque fashion, there are moments where he simply gets carried away with what he thinks he can do. Second, if you want to get excited over the guy, get excited over the fact that he has yet to take a 3 pointer as a Timberwolf and that he is attacking the paint. The words "15 foot jumper" shouldn't even be in this guy's vocabulary and he's done a very good job of doing most of his work very close to the rim. Does he look good? Yes. Does he look like he needs a ton of work? Yes. Will he have a different ending with the Wolves than he did with Golden State and New York? I have a really hard time believing that the Zen Apprentice is going to get anything more out of the guy than Nelly or D'Antoni.
- At one point during the 2nd half, the Zen Apprentice rolled out a C-PF-PF-PF-PG lineup. Had Kevin Love been available, the ZA could have put out a PF-PF-PF-PF-PG lineup and it would probably be his best available rotation. Going back to the cooking v. shopping arguments to be made in front of Papa Glen...yeah, this is definitely going to be one that the ZA makes. When you can make a straight-faced argument that the best 4 players on the team are all power forwards and that the team is void of anything approaching competent wing play, then the shopping is definitely in question.
- Has Michael Beasley checked out on the season? After getting
felony assaultedfouled by Andrew Bynum only to have the Zen Apprentice stick up for the assaulterfouler, something has clearly been amiss with B-Easy. From re-tweeting a fan tweet that was critical of the way the Zen Apprentice was handling Beasley's minutes to shutting his twitter account down to giving questionable efforts in the few games after the assaultfoul, Mr. Beas is not on the path to ending the season on a solid note...even by lowly Timberwolf standards. Last night he had 7 turnovers and several half-hearted plays. Do you think he's checked out? Do you think the assaultfoul and its aftermath had anything to do with his recent play? Is his recent play really any different than the rest of the season?