That was over at the Xcel, right?
I know, I know. It's pre season and it was against a team without four regulars and who only played its disinterested best player a total of 20 minutes and 30 seconds, but still...it was kind of fun.
Let's give the game the Bob Dylan rundown:
- Blood on the Tracks: Mike Beasley is coming off of his own personal basketball version of a motorcycle accident and a divorce. He's back on track and he's playing like he has a thing or two to prove to (about?) his ex. Last night saw a player give a ton of effort at both ends of the court while putting up a scoring line that, while still filled with a few too many bad shots, was good enough: 21 points, 4 rebounds, an even ast/to ratio, 2 block shots,10 trips to the line, and a team-leading +21 in 21 minutes. The bad-enough: a .411 eFG. The Wolves haven't had this type of potential scorer in forever. Seriously.
- The Freewhellin' Bob Dylan: Someone needs to photoshop Wes Johnson walking with a girl down a snowy New York street. Who is this kid? It's probably time to give ourselves another pre-season pinch (again, this is really fun to watch...but) because the guy isn't going to shoot .600 from beyond the arc and he still has shown very little ability to create off the dribble or set up teammates, but the guy a) has a quick and pretty jumper and b) is going to get a boatload of corner/wing attempts this year and if he can make anywhere near .400 of them, he's going to look awfully good for a rookie if he can be disruptive on defense and stay healthy. In other words, he's exactly the reason why Corey Brewer is this team's Live at Budokan: deserving of only 10 minutes on both your ipod and on the court.
- New Morning: Believe it or not, this was as close to a dance album as Mr. Dylan got. The most famous song on the album was The Man in Me, which was featured prominently in The Big Lebowski. In terms of Our Beloved Puppies, this is as close to loosey-goosey we have seen in a long, long time. Not exactly a 7SOL or 80s-era Nugget dance extravaganza, but it's still a happy little ditty where the sign on the window outside of First Avenue clearly says "These Dogs Run Free".
- Shot of Love: Too obvious? At first glance, it looks like the most talented kid on the block had a bad game. "You missed another what?!" is this year's "You're putting out another born-again Christian album?" Yeah, well the guy still more than doubled down on any of his teammates on the boards (he grabbed 15 in just under 26 minutes) while shooting .400 from beyond the arc and...ok, he occasionally got beat back on defense when the tempo got a little too crazy and he really needs to start hitting more of his shots in the paint, but still--it's Bob Freaking Dylan people. At this point we know who and what he is and you live with it. Remember, just like Bob is, as Pitchfork put it, more a "glorious weirdo" than a true poet, Mr. Love is, was, and always will be an upper-level role player. He's uber glue. BTW: This is the album that set Bono off.
- Together Through Life: Bob's Mexican album. This was, I guess, supposed to be something of a break after his trio of late-life masterpieces (Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times) but it ended up sounding a little too much like what we already knew we were going to expect, if that makes any sense. Sebastian Telfair cannot shoot. This much we have established. You would like to think that he could change at this point in his career, but just like Bob's creaky pipes can no longer carry anything really approaching a non bar band melody, Bassy's J just ain't going to hit that shot when you need it to. He will be absolutely gangbusters in getting the ball up and down the court, and he's going to have the opportunity to put up tons and tons and tons of assists simply by being a quick dude with some basketball smarts, but...well, we weren't really expecting something else anyway, were we?
- Love and Theft: Speaking of the best album of the greatest late-life trio in the history of popular music, last night Martell Webster played a down-and-dirty game with a wink in his eye. If there was a soundtrack to the action, it wasn't the typical pop or hip-hop you'd usually hear in an NBA arena. Nope, that s%$t was Mississippi blues. Harmonicas, horns, and fuzzed out guitars. I don't get the sense that he's ever going to be a pretty player. He jumps real high on his shot and he's capable of some highlight reel moments, but at heart he's a scrapper and his most beautiful creations will come out of the dump. They'll come in transition, defense, or on a busted play. Last night, he was a little bit of everywhere. Yeah, he ended up with a -6 and we'd need to see the Popcorn Machine Game Flow to really suss out how this happened, but he's reason number 1, 1a, 1b, the Alpha and Omega why Corey Brewer may want to invest in a tush cushion this season.
Random non-Bob thoughts:
As promised, I won't delve into the realm of front office workings, but it still sticks in my craw that last year played out in such a way that even now J-Pete and Hanny are openly talking about how this is really Rambis' "first year" because he wasn't around last year at the draft and how he really didn't get the guys he wanted around him during last season's "action". I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that take, but that's what is being openly talked about (in a a positive manner, no less) on the team's official broadcast.
One of the biggest worries I have about this team (and which will be part of a post about new personnel later this week) is that there is quite a difference between last year's Luke Ridnour and career numbers' Luke Ridnour. Career Luke is not something to get excited about. Last Year Luke is. So far this pre-season, we have seen Last Year Luke.
I have a sneaky feeling that Wayne Ellington could push for more minutes than Corey Brewer by the end of the season. Wayne is showing he can handle the rock, play decent defense, and hit open jump shots. Corey Brewer has now gone 1-9, 0-4, and 1-4 in 3 games. His newbie wing mates are both every bit as long (if not longer), athletic (if not more athletic), and can shoot better than the former Gator. They both seem to have great defensive potential and can handle the ball. Corey is going to have to play some mind-bending defense and start hitting his shots if he wants minutes on this team. I'm really rooting for Brewer to make it this year, but he has a lonnnnngggg uphill battle with Webster and Johnson on the squad. Both guys are, as previously mentioned on numerous occasions, souped up versions of Brew.
Wrapping this thing up (and getting back to the coaching thing for a minute), I'm really, really hoping that Kurt Rambis (and his entire staff) is the real deal. I cannot tell you how much I was disappointed by last season's play. As evidenced by the Hanny/J-Pete back-and-forth, there are a very limited number of ways in which the nonsense can be written off. Either Rambis or the POBO is in over his head. I'm really hopeful that Rambis can very quickly show that he knows what he is doing as a coach. Fans of this team have suffered through a long stretch of coaching nonsense every bit as horrific as the front office workings over the past few years. What other fans had to watch its favorite team's head coach (Wittman at the time) be flummoxed by a 2-3 zone (thanks Nelly!)? What other fans had to sit through a stretch of ball where the main motivational and tactical ploy was "Well, the 86 Celtics did this."? I like where the on-court play is headed with this team. I'm becoming more and more of the opinion that this is 100% driven by the bench (which is just sad). I just need to see more in terms of how this squad reacts to changing conditions in games that matter before I get too excited about it.
BTW: Don't forget to check out our sister blog, The Denver Stiffs.
BTBTW: How nice was it to see George Karl back on the end of the bench after his cancer scare?