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Timberwolves Host Thunder, Sam Mitchell Speaks

The Wolves tough schedule continues tonight with the Oklahoma City Thunder in town.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There is no let up for the Wolves in this tough stretch of the schedule, as the Oklahoma City Thunder visit Target Center tonight, followed by a road game in Houston tomorrow and then a return visit to OKC after that. Finding a desperately needed win is going to be difficult as the Wolves try to emerge from what is becoming more than a tough stretch and instead looking like what they are: a callow team that remains far away from anything resembling a contender.

The Thunder, with their two huge stars--Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook--under new head coach Billy Donovan, appear much the same as they have been for most of the last half decade: a 55 win team that is perhaps a rung below the very best teams in the league. They currently sit at 26-12, 3rd in the West, and feature an offense that is second best in the league, but struggle a bit defensively (14th).

On offense it's the Durant and Westbrook show, with both averaging over 25 a night. Durant is on the verge of a 50-40-90 season while Westbrook is a walking triple double. They don't take a ton of threes as a team, but they make the ones they do take, get to the line as well as anyone, have the 3rd best eFG% in the NBA, and are the best offensive rebounding team in the league so far. In other words, they are hard to stop, and it's difficult to see how the Wolves will have the wherewithal to slow them down. They absolutely MUST gang rebound tonight--the Thunder are too good to give them 2nd chance opportunities, something that has hurt the Wolves in recent games.

The Wolves also must win the turnover battle, an area where the Thunder are relatively weak. Forcing some live ball turnovers that can turn into transition opportunities will be especially important. Mostly though, you have to play as well as you can and hope for an off-shooting night from the Thunder. I wouldn't count on it.

I feel as if I should have an opinion on part one of the Britt Robson interview with Sam Mitchell in the MinnPost, though I know it was discussed at length in comments yesterday.  In truth, after reading it...meh.

Kudos to Britt for getting him to sit down and discuss things in such a detailed way, but it more or less shows the pros and cons of Mitchell as I already thought of them. He's pretty clearly focused on development, but it's not clear that he's making any actual progress in that area.  He seems intent on having everything documented, though he makes it sound more about validating his own hard work than achieving results.

He obviously sees the flaws in the players and roster the Wolves have now, but his ability to hide those flaws seems rather limited.

Ultimately the way I see it is this: I'm not a big fan of Sam Mitchell: head coach, but I think it's a mistake to focus too much on his shortcomings, when the real questions that matter for the Wolves going forward surround the roster. There needs to be a clear-eyed and accurate analysis of not only the level of talent but also the fit of the current roster, and an aggressive response to that analysis to make it better.

Many fans have argued that it's impossible to evaluate the players under Mitchell and his "antiquated" system--we've seen that discussion both here and elsewhere. I don't think it's impossible. There might be aspects that make it more difficult, but the Wolves have to do it and get it right, whether that's Milt Newton or someone new brought in as GM. That is the central task of this season, and my one hope is that the perceived holding pattern the Wolves are in with interim tags on both Mitchell and Newton doesn't stop this analysis and resulting action from happening.

Today in History

1493: Last day for all Jews to leave Sicily. Haven't posted a "Jews expelled" for a while
1528: Gustav I crowned King of Sweden
1755: First Russian University founded by Tsarina Elizabeth
1820: Royal Astronomical Society founded in London
1906: Football rules committee approves the forward pass
1913: Josef Dzhugashvili adopts the surname "Stalin" for the first time. 
1915: U.S. House votes down a women's suffrage bill
1921: Kennesaw Landis becomes first baseball commissioner
1952: U of TN admits first black student
1960: Dolph Schayes first NBA player to reach 15,000 points
1966: Red Auerbach wins 1,000th game as coach
1967: Draft board refuses to issue exemption for Muhammad Ali
1970: Biafra surrenders to Nigeria ending Civil War
1970: Boeing 747 makes first flight
1991: Congress gives Bush authority to wage war against Iraq
2010: Devastating earthquake hits Haiti, killing over 200K.

No musical birthday today, instead this, from David Bowie. RIP. (h/t to Nate in St. Paul, aka @raftsandmonkeys).