If you’re a professional basketball player who used to cash checks from Glen Taylor, there’s a great chance Monday night was one you’ll never forget.
To get things started, there was this whirling finish by former Wolf Derrick Rose, past recipient of the “Point Guard Wolves Fans Hate The Most” championship belt:
Literally seconds after Rose connected on that game winner, another former Minnesota resident connected on his own big shot:
And then there were the two former alums who squared off against Minnesota Monday night. Ricky Rubio and Dario Saric were beloved during their time in Minnesota but were ultimately shipped out (essentially) for draft picks (Rubio for Josh Okogie and Saric for Jarrett Culver). While the merits of each trade are still up for discussion, there’s no debate as to whether or not the Wolves gave up good players for the *hope* of acquiring great players.
In terms of Monday night specifically, the two former Wolves vastly out-dueled the two current Wolves, led by the Spanish Unicorn himself. Facing possibly his biggest nemesis in Jeff Teague (the heir to Derrick Rose’s aforementioned throne), Rubio dished out 14 assists and poured in 16 points, including a perfect 2-for-2 from beyond the arc (remember when Korn Ferry’s own Tom Thibodeau basically swapped Rubio For Teague because he liked Teague’s outside shooting? Whoops!) As for Saric, he paced the Suns front court with an efficient 20 points and 9 rebounds, showing flashes of the floor-spacing PF many of us thought the Wolves had acquired back in the Jimmy Butler trade.
Simply put, if you missed Monday night’s performance, God bless you. The Wolves concluded their 4-game road trip by limping to the finish line, allowing a pesky Phoenix team to get whatever shots they wanted, resulting in a THIRTY point differential from beyond the arc (Wolves were 6-of-22 while the Suns were 16-of-40). Overall, Minnesota looked flat, disorganized, lethargic, and downright terrible.
Is the team still reeling from the #JerseyGate fiasco a few days ago in Oklahoma City? Maybe. Are the injured players (Wiggins, Towns, etc.) more banged up then they’re leading on? Probably. But none of that can explain (nor defend) the real issues that are starting to haunt this team game in and game out — the rotations make very little sense, the offense looks broken, and the defense is going to cause David Vanterpool to pick up smoking.
During their recent road trip, the Wolves gave up an average of 132 points (American), were dominated on the glass in three of their four contests, and displayed an offensive “system” that mirrored that of a lottery team in mid-April, not a fringe playoff team in early December. The franchise’s best player (Towns) continues to get ghosted in the second half, the prized rookie (who I still really like) is shooting 43.8% from the charity stripe, and the team’s best story (Wiggins) is getting repeatedly stifled because the team’s oldest player can’t decide what shoes he wants to pump fake in.
And with ALL that... it’s only December 9th. As I tweeted earlier in the day, the narrative surrounding this team just two months ago was “hey it’s a rebuilding season with young players and a new system... let’s trust the Rosas!” and has quickly monsooned into “Gersson needs to acquire D’Angelo Russell at any cost to somehow salvage this season.” While I am far from the latter, I will admit that it’s frustrating watching a young team that came screaming out of the gates early on only to falter and (dare I say) regress as the season goes on.
If you’re looking for any hope whatsoever, look no further than the Wolves upcoming schedule. Minnesota now returns home for three straight games, with the final game of the home stand igniting a stretch of very winnable games (starting with New Orleans next Wednesday, 10 of the Wolves’ upcoming 13 games are against teams with losing records). In other words, by the time you pack away your Christmas tree in early January, we should have a MUCH clearer picture of how this season will shape up for the New Wolves Order.