Timberwolves finally have an identity. Just not the one they planned on.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Odds and ends of how Flip Saunders, inefficient as the method has been, has successfully assembled a roster that should be genuinely effective at this basketball thing. Even if the individual parts don't quite fit together perfectly.

Get out your shot glasses people. Brewsists are back.

brewsist (br-sst)

n. brewsist

  1. A pass that would otherwise be an assist were it not for the inability of the recipient to make the resulting shot.
  2. A tasty dime unfulfilled by Corey Brewer

v. brewsisted

  1. To make a pass to a person who will surely miss the shot

For those of you who are newerish-like, yes, this is an actual defined term in the Hoopus lexicon of Things-that-we-turned-into-drinking-games-to-survive-2009. All one word.

And it really only worked with Corey, because Corey is Corey. Wes Johnson made plenty of Brewsists in his day, but he wasn't Corey. The Brewsist necessitates Brewer's weird, fascinating, want-to-look-away-but-can't train wreck style of basketball to work, because without it, you're just left dead drunk with nothing illogically silly to giggle about. Wes didn't have moments of absurdity. He was just bad. Corey would give you all sorts of good-to-bad to drink over. In between all the gawkiness and clanked free throws and terrible turnovers, he could still give you stuff like this.


It's been said many times in the threads here that the problem isn't really with Corey Brewer, but just in what the team is paying Corey Brewer. I'd agree with that. Even as a die-hard Brewer fan, I have trouble figuring out where all these deals for him keep coming from. He got the best waiver-wire deal ever from Dallas (who won a championship that year, no less) Then he got $3.2 mil/year from the Nuggets. Now he's getting $5 mil/year from us. As EiM said: full freight.

Not to mention we generated a trade exception for the Thunder that Sam Presti will no doubt turn into like, Dwyane Wade or some $&@%.

And that's not to say Brewer won't have value for the team. For one, Corey can get you easy dunks, which I'm convinced carry more worth than just 2 points. Last year the Wolves struggled like all get out to find easy buckets....every basket for every player (except CJ) was a jungle red tooth-and-nail fight for survival, and that wears on you physically and mentally after a while. Brewer also fills a gap on the wings defensively, or at least in the need to have someone being active on the defensive end. I think there will be an ongoing debate centered on this about which CB should start at the 3, and for my part, I'll endorse Corey.

  1. KMart + Bud is just asking to get scored on
  2. Chase starting means Barea has to carry almost the entire scoring load for the bench (not good)
  3. Chase starting also means you have two good/bad version guys off the bench, and if both are bad on the same night....
  4. Rubio needs someone to run the floor with him

And let's take a look at that last point, because it brings up an interesting discussion. Kahn's idea was not wrong. It wasn't. The plan to put Rubio out on there with 8-9 guys who could race up and down the floor, ally-oop, and kill it from 3pt range was not a bad idea. In fact, it was a very good idea. And obviously he had phenomenally laughable problems actually putting that team together, but hey. If he had successfully gotten a starting 5 that was something like (and this is entirely hypothetical) Rubio, Kevin Martin, Nic Batum, Josh Smith and Pau Gasol, the man would have been a state hero.

That was what they were going for. That's what they wanted this team to be known for. Identity. Together we run.

I get the lost opportunity cost here. The Wolves, even with Flip now in charge, continue to overpay and burn out assets rather than grab the best deals. No arguments from me there. The easy, obvious path of Kirilenko + Chase + CJ McCollum and resigning Pek was right there. Instead the Wolves decided to play Hollywood Director. They took a 2 minute interlude and made it into a Bob Fosse musical.


Further, let's take a moment to note that we will have essentially maxed out everything by the end of the summer, which means if this doesn't work, we're stuck. We'll have no cap space and no assets to change course with outside of parting ways with Love or Rubio. This is kind of the core of the philosophical difference between myself and EiM in terms of team building. I am very much against spending big until a playoff berth has been secured. Because if you cap out and you just get a long run of first round exits....or don't even make the first round...yeah. You're stuck.

So this better damn work.

That said, what the Wolves have ultimately ended up with ain't bad. In fact, it's pretty good. Those of you who are olderish-like know that I also have a pretty big philosophical difference with Nate-n-Pop over BPA versus fit. And that's not to say that I don't care about whether a player is awesome versus not-awesome. But rather that I much more support getting an awesome player at the position of most need, rather than just the most awesome player period.

Some would argue that Al Jefferson and Kevin Martin give the team essentially the same thing because they produce about the same amount. I would argue that they give the team drastically different things because they produce in drastically different ways. Al Jefferson is an awesome player at positions we already have two awesome players at who scores from the same place on the floor as both those awesome players. Kevin Martin gives us an awesome player at a position we had no awesome players at, who scores from a place on the floor the team was historically bad at scoring from.

That's a big difference. Floor balance matters. When you can't shoot from the outside, you get beat by defenses crowding your paint players (ex Spurs over Grizz) When you can't score from the inside, you get beat by someone who can, or simply when your shooting goes cold (Spurs over Nash-era Suns) There's a reason the Spurs set up their team the way they do. They have Duncan, they have Parker, and they've proven that the way to build with that isn't to chase awesome bigs or point guards who score in the paint. They win 50+ games a year because they find ways to get lots of guys who shoot threes for not much money. Floor balance matters.

Yes, you can win simply by having super duper awesome players. You do need that in a big capacity. But I would very much contend that, unless one of those super duper awesome guys is LeBron or Durant, it won't be enough. When the Heat assembled their dream roster, they basically had three awesome guys who all scored on face-up drives to the hoop, and that was a problem. And they got around that problem largely because one of those guys is LeBron, but even then....they nearly lost to Indiana and San Antonio because of the same reason. Even LeBron had trouble with the Spurs...shot under 45% in 5 of the 7 games...and the Heat basically won the title on a miracle from distance performance from Shane Battier in game 7 (6-8 from three....rest of team went 6-24 combined) If LeBron was just a LeBron-like guy who wasn't actually LeBron...someone like Paul George, say...then the Heat are probably fishing while the Spurs are beating the Pacers for another title.

Miami-heat-gone-fishing_medium

I'd also contend that the system matters a lot, and how those players fit into that system. And this is both from an efficiency standpoint (an offense in sync has a much higher chance or actually working than one that isn't, and improves the play of the players who work well in it) and a personnel standpoint (coaches want to be able to call plays and trust their guys will run them)

I should have been clearer about the Kirilenko situation from the start, because it did take me by surprise when there was the uproar about him leaving and eventually signing with the Nyets. AK was never coming back. And this wasn't a decision made when we thought we could get something better or when he wanted to much money or anything like that. This was a decision made before the draft. So the idea that the Wolves could negotiate a new deal with him was fools gold from the very start. Yes, they could have....but they weren't going to. They weren't even going to try. Saunders didn't want him back. Adelman didn't want him back. And we can argue about whether that was a good or bad call, but....it was what it was. The team planned to go in a different direction from the very beginning. They were waiting at Chase's door at 12:01. They didn't even so much as text AK for a week.

The reason I was given for this was injuries:

Jul 6, 2013 | 6:13 PMThis issue is injuries. Neither Saunders or Adelman trust his health on nightly basis. It’s one thing to have a major injury and be solidly out 3-4 months. Whole different thing to have constant little tweaks. AK was basically day-to-day for a good 3 months at the end of last season. Really hard to game plan when key guy could just not be available at any given moment.

I honestly don't know if AK was offered the MLE or not. I hadn't heard that, but it makes sense that he would have been. But even so, it would have been more of a "well, he's there" kind of thing after the market didn't pan out. Again, neither Saunders or Adelman were bent on resigning him. At best, they didn't care.

It's since been said that Kirilenko's freelancing was also a factor here. I had heard that only very briefly in passing as something that sounded like not a big deal. But I can definitely see it being a big deal. Not only has this been an issue in the past with AK (lots of tension between him and Jerry Sloan about this) but Adelman, flexible as he is, still has a very strict system he sticks to.

So perhaps the core disagreement I have on this issue is the idea that the way to build a team is to simply stockpile the best players you can, regardless of position, skillset, personality, etc, and then get a coach who will just roll with it and magically invent a system that accommodates them. Because beyond my belief that floor balance is really really important, I just don't see that actually happening. Obviously some won't bend even a little (Mike D'Antoni) But every coach...except for maybe the one who has LeBron...has a pre-conceived notion of what a basketball team should be, and so has a pre-determined system of some sorts from the very beginning. And while many of them make changes within that system, not many...if any...simply chuck the clipboard out the window when new players come in. In basically every case I can think of, a player either adheres to the system, or someone gets forced to leave.

Gregg Popavich has probably changes his system more than anyone else the last decade. He sifted through his roster, his options and the change in handchecking rules, and came to the right conclusion that big guys and defense were out, little guys and scoring were in. He took the ball from Duncan and gave it to Parker, and in a shockingly short amount of time, the Spurs went from a team that hung their hat on a top 5 defense to banking on a top 5 offense. All the while winning 50+ games a year the whole time (haven't won less than 50 games in any season since 1996)

And still, Pops has his system. He has Timmy and he has Tony and basically everyone else has to defend or shoot threes or they're not even worth looking at. You play the way he wants you to play, or you don't play at all. Period, the end. George Hill, gone. Drew Gooden, gone. Richard Jefferson, gone. Stephen Jackson, gone. Matt Boner? Silver&Black4life. Every draft, every trade, every free agent signing is made, first and foremost, with the question of "can he fit into Pops' system".

This is partly why I think Corey will be better than expected here. Not great, maybe not even slightly above average,but not outright terrible like he was his first 3+ years here. And that's because he's not playing for Rambis. This isn't to say that Corey was bad only because of Rambis. But it is to say that....well, look, even Pekovic was bad under Rambis. At one point, S-n-P called Pek something to the effect of a hopelessly ineffective basketball player. But that obviously wasn't because Pek was actually hopeless or ineffective. It was simply because he's a low post scorer who was asked to be a high post facilitator. The system didn't fit. As soon as Adelman stepped in, Pek became the huggable bear of a murderer we all know and love today.

J9asrq_medium_medium

Red wedding people. On the hardwood. Every night. Brought to you exclusively by the Peksecutioner.

At the same time, Adelman has his system and he sticks to it. He has his downscreen corner offense, and while he adjusts that for the guys who do work for him (he loves Pek, but believe me, the guy is about as far from his ideal center as they come) he still runs that system. We're a team that has had to rely on Love and Pekovic for pretty much anything significant, but at no point did Adelman go "Well, don't have any shooters, guess we better be the Grizzlies..." He said our wings are going to shoot like they're Peja, and if they're bad at it, then I'll get new ones. Which he did.

Did we overpay for Chase? Well, on one hand, Mike Dunleavey and Dorell Wright are signed for $3 mil/year. On the other, OJ Mayo and Kyle Korver are signed for $8 mil/year. So I guess it depends. But consider that not all equal production is equal. Again, I strongly believe that where and how you produce is as important as how much. Chase was Adelman's top priority this offseason. He's a guy that plays in Adelman's system the way Adelman wants it to be played, and RA was willing to make an offer based on that. I've watched a lot of Dorell Wright over the years, and he does a lot of things well. But intuitive runs off screens and smart basket cuts are not among them. From a statistical standpoint for us, that probably doesn't matter much. For someone like Rick Adelman, it probably matters a ton.

(I will say I think Wright at $6 mil/2 years is the deal the Wolves definitely should have pursued instead of Brewer at $15 mil/3 years) But hey, Brewer was personally endorsed by Martin, right? Not only that, but he just offers so much potential for dynamic duo nicknames. Team 2D (cuz I mean, if you turn both Corey and KMart sideways...) CBs at the 3. Bazz and Spazz.

And this brings up another thing I should have been clearer on from the start: there is no rift between Adelman and Saunders. And I get why some may think that, because Saunders is doing some things that don't make sense which is what caused an actual rift between Adelman and Kahn. But there's this idea...from that and the fact that Adelman never speaks...that Saunders is off in lala land doing his own things even though Adelman doesn't approve.

Now again, this is not to defend Saunders. I'm not making an argument that he's been spot on every step here. And certainly he and Adelman don't see eye to eye in terms of what their ideal basketball team would look like. But Adelman is not like, sitting at home fuming about our offseason. I haven't seen or heard a single thing to that effect. Really, he doesn't have anything to fume about. He wanted Chase back, he got Chase back. He wanted Kevin Martin, he got Kevin Martin. He wanted Pek back, he's going to get Pek back. He wanted an active defender on the wings, he got Corey Brewer. And no, he wasn't happy about giving up Ridnour necessarily, but

So I think there's this idea that Adelman wanted to keep AK but Saunders ran him out. And then Adelman didn't want Brewer, but Saunders signed him anyway. And that, as far as I know at least, is simply not true.

And yeah, I know, media writes it, passive-aggressive approval stamp etc etc. But that is it. I have no reason whatsoever to believe that Adelman and Saunders are at odds.

Adelman has a team of players he can work with and believe will win games. That's what he wants. That's what he cares about. Honestly, I don't know if he gives a damn at this point what the exact contract details are at this point or not. I kind of think he's just going like, is this guy on my team? Yes? Good.

And again, I know not everyone will agree with me on this stuff, and that's fine. Nate and Eric don't agree with me on this. I'm cool with that. We have our opinions and we express them. This is how I see basketball.

So bottom line: even with some compromises here and there, this team has the identity of Rick Adelman. And Rick Adelman is a winner.

Like I said, opportunity costs. But in terms of just this season...in terms of are we a better team now than we were a year ago...I don't see how the answer can be anything but a wholehearted yes. And that's reason for excitement.

(I do see how new readers can think we're all downers here. We do kind of come across as that obnoxious conspiracy blog, constantly complaining about that obvious government loophole we all know about but everyone knows won't ever get fixed no matter how much we complain.)

Tumblr_mizs3rs5kr1r70xplo1_500_medium

Might not be so bad to try.

ALL OF THAT SAID....

Kahn was right. The ideal team for a guy like Rubio is tall, fast, dunky athletes who kill it from the great beyond. And it's really astounding that the team somehow burned through a massive pile of assets not accomplishing that, only to walk backwards into a winning roster of guys who are kind of the polar opposite of fast and dunky. They at least have some shooting prowess now, but other than the semi-rare occurance of in-control Brewer and the super rare appearance of Christ Johnson, there still isn't anyone to go sprinting down the floor with Ricky. We aren't a team of gazelles. This isn't Nash's Suns. No one will mistake us for a 24/7 highlight reel.

But we are a roster of guys who play mostly good basketball and should mostly win games, even if they don't entirely fit together and were assembled in the most bizarre, inefficient and exasperating way possible. End result is they have a real chance at a 50 win season. Through all the blueprints and open letters and draft fumbles and burned assets and Korean recipes, the team has stumbled into an identity that looks nothing like the one they set out for, but everything like the one Adelman can win with, and well, it's going to be a journey, it's going to be a ride.

So better get those shot glasses out.

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