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Finding half-filled glasses

So your favorite team just lost a game for many of the same reasons that made them the league's worst franchise last season. They shot poorly, made stupid turnovers, got too cute with simple plays, and didn't defend.

What to do?

Thoughts below the fold.

First of all, hats off to 10 minute Timberwolf Norris Cole.

* The Houston Rockets traded Brad Miller, Nikola Mirotic, Chandler
Parsons and a future 1st round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves
for Jonny Flynn, Donatas Motiejunas and a future 2nd round draft pick.

* The Chicago Bulls traded Norris Cole, cash and Malcolm Lee to the
Minnesota Timberwolves for Nikola Mirotic.

* The Miami Heat traded Bojan Bogdanovic to the Minnesota Timberwolves
for Norris Cole, cash and a future 2nd round draft pick.

* The Minnesota Timberwolves traded Bojan Bogdanovic to the New Jersey
Nets for cash and a future 2nd round draft pick.

* The Minnesota Timberwolves traded Chandler Parsons to the Houston
Rockets for cash.

While you certainly could have been used in the Minny backcourt, your contribution to the Timberwolf franchise is strong and secure thanks to the money you helped raise to buyout the Zen Apprentice's contract. We thank you for the cash.

Kevin Love had an amazingly weird amazing game. He ended up with 31 points and 20 rebounds. His first quarter was nothing short of astounding: 17 points on 3 shots with 5 rebounds and no turnovers. However, he followed that up with a suspicious 1-7 effort from the field in the 2nd quarter, and 8 FGA + 7 FTAs the rest of the way. His effort kept the Wolves afloat in the early goings, couldn't keep them up to speed in the awful end of the 2nd quarter, and leveled out in the 2nd half. It also mirrored the horrific officiating of this particular tilt. I stepped on the treadmill for an hour run at 7:40 and was about 3/4 the way done with my run after the 1st quarter, which was filled to the brim with 20 personal fouls and no-stop stoppage.

All of that being said, Love finished the game with less than a point created (0.98) per possession used. Only 1 Wolf finished the game with a 1+ pc/pu: Luke Ridnour (1.18). Even everybody's favorite magical unicorn couldn't muster a 1+ number (his 4th quarter maintained his magical unicorn status).

Luke Ridnour also finished the game with his ankles completely in tact. That is an improvement over the first contest.

As for other positives....hummmmmm...let's see.

Everybody knows that Kevin Love's first word was "mine". That's something of a positive.

OK, whatever. It's only 2 games but last night's tilt was a horrifying reminder of just how thin this damn team is. The formula of Kevin Love + Rick Adelman + 2 players worth of average-to-above-average production = competent pro ball isn't going to change. Last night Love got 35-40 minutes of average to above average production from 1 of the guard spots and about 8 minutes of average to above average production from Michael Beasley. It was almost enough to win them the game against a physical and hard-to-watch Bucks squad.

The thing that really worries me about this team is that they won't have enough practice time to work through the sorts of bumps in the road we saw last night. During the Heat's opening game on Christmas, Jeff Van Gundy made the point that this year's condensed schedule will really put a premium on teams knowing what they are doing. The Heat have 11 scheduled practices between now and the end of the season. That's crazy, even for a talented and veteran team like Miami. It would be really interesting to know just how many scheduled practices the Wolves have going forward. I doubt they will have enough to ease any worries about...ugh, the lockout really, really sucked.

Last night's tilt should be known as the ugly game where players passed up open looks for 1-2 dribble drives into 3 defenders. I counted 4 plays in the 1st half where someone like Michael Beasley or Wes Johnson or Derrick Williams had an open 3, pump faked, and then dribbled into a contested shot or charge. One of these moves even got a loud "for f$*ks sake" from a fellow Y-goer. This is a positive. Last year nobody but me was watching at the gym.

Another theme that will be with us all year long is the spectre of awful wing play. How can a team with as many draft picks and as much cap space as the Blueprints have talked about not have any competent wing players? Wes Johnson is an awful, awful basketball player who has no business being on an NBA court. Michael Beasley is Michael Beasley. They have no one else at the 3. They have a ton of 4/5s, but nobody should be kidding themselves that they have anything approaching a workable 3/4. Worst of all, they are out of compelling assets to move for help on the wing. Love and Rubio are cornerstones and shouldn't be touched. Williams has had a rough go of it so far (he was dreadful last night) but you can see the talent. He's pretty much it. Nobody is going to give up a working part for Beasley or Johnson. Neither guy could probably fetch the Rashad McCants Memorial Toaster at this point.

Speaking of Derrick Williams, he played the 4/5 last night alongside Love and Anthony Tolliver. Any hopes of him being a 3 should be about a mile behind the bus at this point. He's a gigantic 4 who switched off on Andrew Bogut, John Leuer, and Nick Collison on successive nights.

The elephant in last night's room was the turnovers. The Wolves had a better eFG, were better on the glass, and destroyed the Bucks on the line--the only Four Factor loss was a huge one in the turnover battle. The Bucks had a 10.5 TO% to the Wolves' 21.8%. Despite all of the Wolves trips to the line, and all of their rebounds, they handed the Bucks a net 13 possession gain simply by way of turnovers. The Wolves simply cannot overcome something like that, even against a terrible shooting team like the Bucks. Darko had 5 turnovers in under 25 minutes. D-Will had 4 in under 20. These are horrific numbers that cannot be climbed over on the way to winning basketball.

Well folks, that about does it. So far this year we have the formula (L + RA + 2(avgp*48 mpg) = CPB), the practice issue, the talent issue, and a replay/flashback of the horrifyingly terrible wing play of McFrewer. With JJ Barea's dinged up hammy, some of these issues will be even further tested. Our Beloved Puppies could be looking at a 7 man rotation in the very near future, which will be the exact opposite of what people like Bill Simmons thought they'd see with this team (i.e. a deep bench with a 2nd unit that could help them during a shortened season). This roster is still mostly garbage and it shouldn't take the new competent coaching staff to make this fact clear in the box score.

Until later.

1 2 3 4 T
MIN 30 18 20 27 95
MIL 32 28 19 19 98
Four Factors
MIN 97.0 .443 21.8 35.6 .471 98.0
MIL 97.0 .436 10.5 29.6 .170 101.1