Before tonight, the wolves looked like they were slipping. Fans, we must remember how far this team has come. The makeup of the roster looks good and it will only get better as it gets healthier. The mentality of the team looks good. Recent tweets and practice reports show the causes of the defensive lapses are being worked and that the team will weather the storm and we saw some improvement already against Dallas. Truth is there is a culture to losing. A culture that Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic have been infused with, even though it so greatly clashes with their past experience, and nature as people and players. Pre-Wolves, all of these guys were winners. J.J. Barea is a winner. Ronnie Turiaf has been a winner. Kevin Martin has been a winner. Even Alexey Shevd has played on successful Olympic and Euroleague teams. It seems though, that at times the wolves exude, like their fans, a "here we go again" attitude.
Unfortunately, until the wolves regain their appetite for victory, they may still despair in stretches of hunger. Fortunately they have veteran players and coaches to right them, as well as reinforcements on the way.
The look of the wolves when healthy:
One of the Timberwolves greatest struggles this year, has been getting any consistency out of their bench. Coming into camp, the depth of this team almost appeared to be a strength. Reports by Rick Adelman about the second unit manhandling the starters in scrimmages suggested that the bench may be a force to be reckoned with. So far, the wolves have not shown this. Apart from some solid spurts from J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham, along with the stellar spot start by Robbie Hummel, the bench has been mediocre at very best. Thankfully Ronnie Turiaf and Chase Budinger should be back by Christmas (which is absurdly less than a month away). Add Mba a Moute and the wolves will find their bench reinforced with three more quality NBA role players.
The Healthy Roster:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Corey Brewer
PF: Kevin Love
C: Nikola Pekovic
6: Chase Budinger
7: J.J. Barea
8: Ronnie Turiaf
9: Dante Cunningham
10: Luc Richard Mba a Moute
11: Robbie Hummel
12: Gorgui Dieng
13x: Shabazz Mohammed
14x: Alexey Shevd
15x: A.J. Price
The significance. The return of Chase and Ronnie and the addition of Luc mean many positive things for the Timberwolves.
Chase comes in to fill the role of a shooter/scorer off the bench, lightening the load on J.J. Barea's tiny little (but vastly capable) back.
Ronnie comes in to solidify the backup center position. At the beginning of the season he played inspiringly well, scrapping for boards, blocking shots, finishing gift rapped layups and dunks from Ricky and moving the ball. Ronnie is a brilliant role playing big. He knows his spots.
Luc comes in and gives us a defensive hound dog to lighten the load on Corey. In all honesty Luc's defensive ability is more in the "shutdown" category of vintage Ron Artest (hopefully not nearly as drunk).
Look at what this brings! There is a prevalence of quality role players on this wolves bench. Along with the reinforcements listed above, J.J. brings scoring, heart, tenacious effort, occasional burst of plus level offensive facilitating. Dante brings fiery defense, versitiliy, and bursts of sweet midrange shooting. Robbie brings shooting (he will break out of his current slump), and baskteball IQ, he's always in the right spot. This leaves Shved, A.J., and the rookies to contribute as needed (hopefully not needed much).
This healthy wolves roster is balanced with players in position to play their roles. The full bench will also bring different line up possibilities. Chase can spell K-mart and play with Corey. Luc and Corey can guard the opponents best wing. A few buckets, make or deny, here and there are all that were the difference in many wolves losses this year.
We saw a bit of what the wolves new options will be as the season continues tonight. The Wolves starters played quite a bit but much of it was with a healthy mix of bench play in along side them. The combos of players that can be successful are quite high with this team. This suggests a turn around, and a continued quest for relevance for the Minnesota Timberwolves!