Miller, McHale smiling for the cameras
Photo from Timberwolves.com
Mike Miller said all the right things in his press conference Tuesday:
It's great to play for a team he grew up watching.
He wants to spend the rest of his career here.
Al Jefferson is a "shooter's dream".
Bravo for the young man, because whatever you may think about the trade, he hit us right in our parochial little hearts. It's not often that players say they want to be here, so if they do, let's hope Miller does well. It wouldn't be good, after all, to tick our South Dakota neighbors off. There's no telling how full the lower section of the Target Center will look with an extra 400 or so folks in the seats, given the dwindling attendance. Mr. Taylor needs all the fans he can get.
Since Miller was the key to the trade being made (hopefully not like Marcus Banks was the key to the first Boston deal), I think we need to talk about expectations. Almost immediately at end of the season, the Iron Ranger upped the ante by saying that the Wolves should improve by 20 games in the upcoming season. I heard a promo clip from KFAN's Paul Allen essentially saying that he doesn't care if they can't stop anyone this year, as along as they win more in an entertaining way. The Wolves can't do it all in one year seems to be the core piece of his logic, the defense will come along with more time and acquisitions.
Here at Canis, there's been a good exchange about the need for a point guard, and how a Love/Jefferson combo will play bigger than a Gomes/Jefferson front line. And, S&P got in his notion about how McCants could play the point, or at least be as good of a combo guard as Randy Foye. I agree on the Jefferson/Love vs. Big Al/Gomes upgrade, but truth be told, I'd rather have my toenails pulled out with a pliers than watch Shaddy try to play the point. There would have to be some serious desperation on the part of the Wolves to try that move, especially when they didn't do it last year when Telfair was logging all those minutes while Foye was hurt.
Here are my expectations, and a bit of roadmap. First off, having gotten rid of folks like Jaric and Walker, I think it's reasonable to assume that a true team identity can start to be built. Given the current roster, it will begin on the offensive end, with passing out of double teams, outlets, and hopefully a decent amount of ball movement. If Telfair doesn't re-sign, they should be able to find a serviceable PG for this year, and try to reload again next year at the point. Miller will help them spread the court; if he can hit the fourth quarter clutch shots, so much the better. If they were to win 10-15 games more while developing some chemistry, that would give fans hope. The West is tough, but if players stay healthy, I think it's possible.
Defense can't be forgotten, however. Why is Mike D'Antoni now coaching the Knicks, after a stint coaching the most entertaining team in basketball the last few years? Too much offense, no defense, and no championship. Boston changed their defensive acumen in one year because of KG and Tom Thibodeau, but that's the exception, not the rule. As the team is built, they must have an eye for those who can defend, at least at a team level.
Coaching will also be another decision to be made down the line, if not sooner. Can Randy Wittman actually lead a successful team? I think this year could be make or break for the chap. With McHale generally getting kudos from the NBA press about these moves, it will be important for Wittman to also prove he can grow with this team. Changing the starting rotation as much as he did last year, for example, will be a bad sign, unless significant injuries occur. McHale's starting to lock in the folks he thinks are the core of the team (Al, Love, Foye, Gomes, Miller); if Randy can't stick with a consistent rotation, he may be in trouble.
If the club could make one more acquisition, the Wolves could legitimately start selling their product, no matter what Mayo does. Miller crossed into the bruised hearts of Wolves fans today, but there's still work to be done this offseason. Showing a lot of Love at the Summer League wouldn't hurt either.