Lynx Fall to Mystics
Whether due to a hangover from their emotional loss on Friday night at home to the Sparks, or for some other reason or no reason at all, the Lynx came out shockingly flat against the Washington Mystics on the road--getting run out in the first quarter to the tune of 33-13, and they never came remotely close to recovering in what wound up a 87-63 loss that moves them to 13-2 and drops them behind the Sparks in the league standings.
There's not really anything good to say about this one: They got beaten in all facets. I could point out particular players and/or team statistics, but it would be unfair to mention how ineffective or poor one was without mentioning everyone and everything else, so suffice it to say it was an entire team failure. They couldn't defend Emma Meesseman, who finished 9-12 for 20 points, while the Mystics also made 11 threes as a team.
How worried should we be? Well, I'm a worrier. They are still 13-2, so I'm not ready to pull out whatever hair I have left. But...there are cracks. It's some of the stuff we talked about before the season: some of their veterans are on the precipice. They no longer have it every night, and while overall the bench has performed admirably, and better than I expected, this season, it's hard to overcome when your starting back court simply doesn't bring any production. Teams seem to be learning that they can successfully defend them with ball-pressure on the perimeter. Because they are not a volume three point shooting team, they can't bail themselves out with the three.
They are still very, very good. I thought before the two games with the Sparks that they were the 2nd best team, and I still think that. But they are at a point where they have to figure some things out.
I hope this doesn't become our dominant topic every day, but I thought I should weigh in on the Rubio stuff. So here are things I know, things, I think, and some guesses, along with how I feel about it.
The Wolves have been shopping Ricky Rubio. This is something I know.
What does "shopping" mean? Here's what I think it means: In calling around to other teams about players the Wolves are interested in, they have offered/made clear that Rubio is available in the right trade. I don't think it means they've put out an ad in the NBA classifieds asking for "must move/best offers" but they have actively offered him around in deals for players they like.
Something else I think I know:
This has little or nothing to do with the drafting of Kris Dunn. They were exploring Rubio trades before the draft. I don't know what the plan is at point guard if they move Rubio, but I don't think it involves 30+ minutes a night of Kris Dunn from day one.
Sidebar on Dunn: A fine draft pick. As I said beforehand, I had a hard time figuring out who I thought the best guy to draft was, and I still feel that way. There are arguments for Dunn. Several guys had things going for them, and they all had (and have) some question marks. With Dunn, I'm a little concerned about the shoulder issues, and a little more concerned that it's not clear he was any better in his junior year than he was as a sophomore, which is not a great look for a 21 year old. But he has things going for him too. The Wolves took him because a) They liked him, and b) It was obvious that there was a ton of interest in him and there were strong trade opportunities. I'm sure their phone started ringing off the hook the second the Celtics took Jaylen Brown.
Sidebar to the sidebar: I actually think Dunn could play off the ball in an Avery Bradley type way (a player he resembles in some ways), but I doubt we're going to see it.
Back to Rubio: Why are they shopping him? Now we're entering into the realm of speculation.
He's not Thibs' "type of point guard?" I'm not sure. If this is the driving reason, it shows a disappointing lack of flexibility and imagination on Thibodeau's part. Rubio's facilitation skills and defensive abilities should not be impossible to work into any system, especially given that the two current starting wings only clear NBA ability is scoring, and are also at the moment awful defensive players.
There has been a lot of speculation that Thibs wants a "Derrick Rose" type of point guard. I actually don't think this is true. To the extent that he wants a different point guard than the one he has, I think it's because he thinks he can win with more of a placeholder type player--a 3 & (maybe) D type, like a Patrick Beverly, and wants to invest elsewhere. The problem with that is teams that work that way tend to have a ball dominant AND facilitating wing player (Jimmy Butler, James Harden). The Wolves do not currently have that player.
How much of this is agent driven? Again, we're speculating here. Dan Fegan has never wanted Rubio in Minnesota, and there has been weird tension between them about it--Fegan didn't want the Wolves to draft him, and didn't want Rubio to sign the extension he agreed to. It might be that Fegan has always been pushing teams to trade for Rubio, only restrained by Rubio himself, and we've reached a point where Rubio isn't restraining him anymore.
It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall when Thibs was out visiting Rubio while he was working out (in California I believe). Again, speculation here, but what was discussed? Did Fegan, with Rubio's approval, ask Thibs to look at trades? Did Thibs inform them that he was seeking trades? Who is the major driving force here? Ultimately, given Rubio's contract situation, it's Thibs' decision, but I absolutely wouldn't be surprised if Fegan has been making some calls.
What do I think of it, you ask?
Well, on the whole, I think it's a mistake. Rubio is really good, and it's hard to get value for really good players. This ignores the emotional connection I have with Rubio, which I know is shared by others. But given his particular set of skills, it's hard for me to see a trade that I think is a good one basketball wise. As I said above, not seeing how Rubio is the best option seems to me a failure of imagination, and does call into question his evaluation abilities.
That said, he hasn't been traded yet, which suggests that they have a real asking price, one that teams have not been willing to meet. Whether either side of that--the Wolves' asking price or teams' willingness to pay it--changes at some point this summer remains to be seen. Plans could change if Rubio gets to training camp still in a Wolves uniform.
The frustrating part is that this is going to be a dominant story line as long as Rubio is on the Wolves books--or until he blows up and makes the All-star game while leading the Wolves to 50+ wins next season...
My Trip to Minneapolis/St. Paul
I had a great time in the Cities this weekend. The Lynx game was awesome despite the result, with a terrific crowd and great atmosphere.
But of course it was meeting and hanging out with people from the site that was the best. I won't try to name everyone for fear of forgetting somebody, but I want you all to know that I appreciate it beyond words. The fact that people appreciate what we do here and that it's meaningful in their lives is something that I never lose sight of and that inspires and humbles me every day. Getting a chance to hang out and have beers is a wonderful experience for me and something I'm incredibly thankful for.
I do want to thank one person in particular--well, three people and a dog. Average Jer and family...Jer picked a fantastic user name that invites some teasing, which I do regularly because I know he takes it in the right spirit.
That said, there is nothing average about him or his wife and daughter (and Belle, the dog). Their generosity, compassion, empathy, and concern for others is so far above average that you can't even see average from there. The fact that he continues to be a member of our community tells me we must be doing something right.
Both times I've visited them, I have left feeling better about myself and about Canis Hoopus, and at least a little, about humanity.
No history or music today, it's already late.