Waiting for the Sun? (Report Card of Pups v. Suns, 3/23/14)

Well, I assume the game recap for this one should be easy for EiM and the rest of the writers on CH. "Microcosm of the season!" (seriously how many games this season could fit this description?). "Put a fork in their playoff hopes!" (Those of us who have followed this team for 25 years need to realize that unless "KG is walking through that door," there ain't no playoffs to be had). "Hey, maybe Rookie X isn't quite the disaster we feared? Maybe he should play more!" (not sure that has happened that often, actually).

Anyway, since this one was apparently a white towel moment for this season, let's start from the top down:

Rick Adelman: F (C?). This one stunk a bit of tanking / FU mode for Adelman. I don't play Ricky enough? Let's play him the whole 2nd half! Don't like hockey subs? Fine, let' me play Ricky with three subs and Brewer see how that works out! Want to see the rookies? Fine, I'll play Dieng long stretches and then sit him for long stretches. Suns go small? Fine, I'll go small, even if that means I abandon what was working! Yeah, I'm going to ride HAM and JJ because they are my guys, but I'm going to bury Bud even though we need to get him going as much as anyone on the squad. It seemed very strange to me, and this one seemed to be predicated on ensuring that the Wolves finish behind (ahead?) of the Suns in the standings. Could they even be trying to fall behind Den or NO to really ensure they don't make it? I don't know, but this one seemed a bit fishy to me. If we were thinking ahead to the draft, maybe this was a "good" coaching job

A note on grading: when you allow the other team to shoot 58% from the floor and 44% from 3, you are going to get dinged for defense across the board.

Kevin Love: C+. Look, he's the superstar, the "leader" of the team, and he had a chance to prove it at the end. His sequence of missed J, turnover to layup at the other end, missed 3 really was the ballgame. Of course he stuffed the stat sheet and showed general brilliance to the tune of +3 in his 38 minutes. This team just falls apart when he isn't on the floor, and when he can't do everything that is asked of him. I thought he wasn't a weak spot on defense, but he also didn't get the toughest assignments.

Ricky Rubio: B. Brilliant in the 1st half, only very good in the 2nd. Don't know if that was his fatigue, or his teammates' lack of movement in the 2nd. He had the highest FG% and tied for the highest 3pt FG%, and was his usual pesky self (getting 2 early fouls on Bledsoe). Don't look now, but he's shooting 47% for March. Took a few really confident 3s, and has all but eliminated the terrible pull-ups. My only hope is that Love realizes how RR makes his life much easier, and playing somebody more selfish is going to be less fun (but perhaps more successful).

Kevin Martin: C-. Look, put up 25 reasonably efficient points but missed some big shots. Didn't play D and didn't do anything else in the box score. Doesn't seem confident in his spot-up shot, which is a problem, since RR is going to get you a lot of open spot-ups.

Corey Brewer: D. Crazy Corey was on full display today. It worked in the 1st half, in the 2nd, not so much. It's been said so many times, but he is just a gambler on D and on leak-outs, and teams know it. I like the fact that he is attacking, but the results are usually disastrous. Stupidly fouled Cupcake going for an offensive rebound late.

Gorgui Dieng: B+. I admit it, I'm intrigued. He seems to have hands, confidence, passing ability, and hopefully can make his free throws. Not too many backup (or starting) centers for the Wolves can say that. Had a great give-and-go with Love that just isn't in Pek's arsenal. Seems to be gaining confidence. Still, his defense tonight and against the Rockets was not good. He can get off balance and out of position, and seems maybe too afraid of fouling right now. Guards can attack him. The guy was +10 in his 25 minutes and Adelman should have gone back to him for at least part of the 2nd and 4th quarters, no matter how small Phoenix went.

JJ: F. The less said the better. He's been figured out. If he's running the point, bilitz the pick-n-roll and watch him turn it over. He can't guard anyone, and if his 3 isn't falling, he doesn't have anything to offer.

HAM: F. Adelman's loyalty to him is confounding. Teams want him to shoot the 17-foot J, and he gets plenty of those a game. Even if he hits a few, it allows teams to take away what the Wolves really want to do. Hasn't developed anything else in his years here, other than catching alley-oops. Was -19 in 26 minutes. Could Hummel have done worse in this game at the 4?

Shabazz: C+. I admit it, I'm not sure how to grade him. He had some manly offensive rebounds, but didn't have a defensive rebound. His game on the left block is solid and he's a load for 2s and 3s there. Of course he can't guard them on the other end. He doesn't seem to turn it over, but he doesn't pass either. Perhaps he is the second coming of Big Al at the 3.

So those were the 8 guys that played. No Bud when we needed scoring in the 2nd unit. No Hummel when we needed someone else at the 4 against a small lineup. No Shved to spell RR a few minutes in the 2nd half. No Dieng at the end of the 2nd or the 4th. Seems to me this was Adelman and the rest of the organization waving the white flag. Of course, the players could have pulled a Major League and taken it as an FU, but they frittered away a 22 point lead and allowed an opponent to shoot nearly 60%. They faded at the end because their best players couldn't / didn't make plays. Their 2nd unit (supposedly improved this year) couldn't do anything, despite solid contributions from their two rookies.

Referring back to the title of this post (besides a sort-of Jayhawks reference): are we as Wolves fans hoping for what the Suns have? They are 1/2 game out of 8th after tonight. They have a young core with one near superstar (Dragic) and some nice pieces. They are getting career years from Cupcake and perhaps Morris twins. They are going to have a lot of late 1st round draft picks this year, and perhaps for years to come. They MAY have the ability to lure a free agent or perhaps work a sign and trade, but I'm not sure this is an A+ market and I'm not sure Dragic is really going to draw other superstars.

What they do have is a great young coach and the ability to close the deal. The organization has taught winning and convinced these guys they are winners and it has worked. At this point, even if they miss the playoffs (and I think they will), they will be playing meaningful games in April instead of jockeying for draft positioning and trying out rookies. That will help in coming years, even if they are never in the championship hunt, while the Wolves face 10 consecutive seasons without a playoff birth and haven't given their best players a strong winning culture.

Hard to give the Wolves anything other than an "F" as an organization.

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