It seems like ancient history now, but old Wolves heads remember . . .
Adding four expansion teams at the end of the 1980s, and two more in the mid 90s seriously watered down the league’s talent pool, leading to some pretty questionable players playing large roles.
Remember Mike Brown, old-school Canis Hoopers?
He played every game for the 1993-94 Minnesota Timberwolves, starting nearly half of them. In a substantial 23.4 minutes per game, Brown averaged 3.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. Averaging 3.6 points in over 23 minutes means you are being judicious with your shot selection, and Mike only took 2 3s all season, likely end-of-quarter chucks. But despite that judicious selection, Mr. Brown only shot .427 from the field and .653 from the free throw line.
Some of my contemporaries, such as Wilt Chamberlain and myself, would be able to play and excel in today’s NBA, as modern training and nutrition knowledge would have helped us become even better players. But Mike Brown? He’d be on the next flight outta town. Perhaps he could catch on in another country, but it’s hard to even imagine him in the G-League these days.
Things got so bad that there was serious talk of contracting and subtracting the Timberwolves. Whenever you feel tempted to dump on Glen Taylor, remember that he is Minnesota’s NBA savior.
So, where am I going with all of this? Well, to me, seeing the current depth of the NBA’s talent pool is bliss. It is tempting to give some NBA games a pass these days, with many stars in health and safety protocols. But for true basketball lovers, it is really fun to watch “the others” get their shot.
Though ol’ Clyde is recovering from a bout with the COVID-19, I curled up under the covers in my Manhattan penthouse with a cup of hot tea and honey, and tuned in tonight, excited to watch my new favorite personification of hustle and muscle, Nate “The Great” Knight, lead the Wolf Pack attack. Though he is a bit small, Knight plays fearless ball. He is so aggressive, it is truly impressive! You never worry he won’t play with fire and desire.
But alas, Knight and the Wolves ran out of gas. Beating the Celtics and Knicks with bench players and minor leaguers on back-to-back nights was too much to ask. And, in the end, the Knicks were able to prevail mainly on sheer talent, despite a lackluster performance my colleague and friend Mike Breen called, “the sloppiest (Knicks) game of their year, by both sides.”. A final score of 96-88 is yet another reason Clyde took a trip down memory lane to the 90s.
Too long, too strong, the Knicks bullied the Wolves and hoarded 9 more boards, including 15-10 on the offensive glass. With 18, Mitchell Robinson led the Knicks to victory with astounding rebounding, and also slamming and jamming home many of his 6 offensive rebounds, leading the Knicks with 14 points in a balanced scoring attack. Skying and flying above the crowd, Robinson snatched many a ball with his Mr. Fantastic elastic appendages and, in one motion, slamming the ball down with the power of a titanic tower, jamming like Shaq as he attacked the rack, Jack!
And that is pretty much the story, as Nowell and Knight could not sustain last night’s glory. Knight still played rough and tough, but so much so that he had to go, fouling out just past the 6 minute mark in the fourth quarter.
More concerningly, on the Knicks broadcast, Mike Breen and Wally Szczerbiak began to laugh out loud at Malik Beasley’s measly chuckin’ & suckin’. Wally said something to the effect of, “Back in my day, those were called bad shots. Nowadays, I guess . . .” They had no doubt noticed Malik’s 6 for 18 shooting performance the night before, and tonight he was 8 for 23, including 4 of 16 from 3 point range. Look, I know he can get hot and knock down shots, but hey, and maybe this is just the “old-school” in me, but what if you settled down and hit a couple of open catch-and-shoots before you get back to drop step fadeaways from deep. Is that an ask too steep? It is good karma to share the ball. Then, your shot may start to fall. One assist in 40-plus minutes is positively Shabazzian.
Other Wolves, such as Patrick Beverly and Naz Reid also underwhelmed, but one might hope they are just knocking off the rust from their covidacations.
Not all news is dire though, sire. The Randle/McDaniels matchup (wink, wink, Vikings fans) was quite a delight for Wolves fans. Big Mac, Jayden McDaniels, smacked and whacked away many of Julius Randle’s shots, blocking a total of 6 in the game! Julius only made 5 of 20 for 13, quite the shame. He did batter Jayden’s wiry frame, however, outrebounding him 15 to 6. Then again, Big Mac made 7 of 11, scoring 18, and his handles were better than Randle’s, as he only turned it over once to Julius’ 4. The Wolves won at the four when Big Mac was on the floor.
Well, Canis Hoopers, though this one was a pooper, but I have a feeling it won’t be long until the Wolves are super. Remember when Anthony Edwards hit 10 of 14 3s just before he left for his Christmas covidacation? Mark Clyde’s words: more NBA teams will face the wrath of the Fire Ant this season!