Posts Tagged ‘J.J. Barea’

Mavs double-down: Sign a forward and fall for 5-foot-7 Japanese PG Togashi

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: The diminutive Yuki Tagashi has become a fan favorite with the Mavs in Summer League

LAS VEGAS —  The Dallas Mavericks may have double-downed in Summer League, potentially finding a depth forward for the big club and possibly an international sensation to play point guard for their nearby D-League team.

It’s rare for any team out here to offer an off-the-street free agent a contract, but the Mavs signed athletic, 6-foot-8 forward Eric Griffin on Friday just hours before the Dallas squad played its final game. Griffin closed out his strong summer with 20 points, three rebounds and three blocks in the 88-62 win over the Suns.

“It’s been a long time coming, but it’s a blessing at the same time,” Griffin said of signing the contract. “I’m just real happy to be part of a team that wants me.”

Griffin, cut from the Miami Heat last year after they signed Michael Beasley, played two seasons at San Jose State and finished his collegiate career with two years at Campbell in North Carolina. He played in Italy and then Venezuela last season. The contract doesn’t mean Griffin’s made it to the big leagues just yet, but it does reserve him a spot at training camp where he can fight for a spot on the 15-man roster.

Mavs assistant coach Kaleb Canales, who coached the summer team to a 3-3 record, texted Griffin the news Friday morning.

“It brought a big smile to my face,” Griffin said. “But more than anything, my mom was happy. She knows where I came from and how I started. It’s a big day for me.”

The other half of this dreams-can-come-true Mavs summer is 5-foot-7 Japanese point guard Yuki Togashi. The 20-year-old’s combo of stature, speed, instincts and fearlessness instantly made him a fan favorite over the past week, although not quite to the level of another Mavs Summer League point guard sensation a few years ago, a guy named Jeremy Lin.

Of course Togashi’s size, quick-twitch style and terrific ability to run the pick-and-roll is more similar to yet another great Dallas Summer League find, the diminutive J.J. Barea. Now with Minnesota, the 5-foot-9 Barea developed into a steady, change-of-pace backup point guard for the Mavs and even started in the 2011 NBA Finals.

Togashi’s dream is to play in the NBA and said Friday that he will follow that dream and enter the D-League draft in the fall. His other option is to return to Japan’s pro league and take home a much bigger paycheck.

“I played professionally for a year-and-a-half in Japan. I think I did a good job in Japan,” said Togashi, who took the BJ-league by storm last season and led it in assists. “To improve my skills I think I have to go overseas and play in the D-League.”

The D-League draft has 10 rounds. The early rounds are dominated by players on the edge of being good enough to make an NBA roster. Togashi is projected as a late-round pick so it’s quite possible the Mavs’ D-League team, the Texas Legends, co-owned by Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, will be able to select him.

Togashi idolized Allen Iverson as a kid and says he now watches a lot of Chris Paul. Interestingly, Togashi came to the United States for high school and attended Montrose Christian in Maryland, where a number of NBA players went, including Kevin Durant. When no Division I scholarships came, Togashi took his talents back home and began his professional career.

His agent steered him to Charlie Parker, a longtime assistant coach with the Mavs, who now works for the Legends. Parker has been training Togashi in Dallas for the last six weeks. Parker called his friends with the Mavs and told them they should consider putting the point guard on their summer team.

Obviously a part of his instant popularity here was initially due to his against-all-odds size. When he takes the court, he looks like one of the smaller kids on a youth team at the YMCA swimming in his oversized uniform. Then he gets the ball in his hands and the oohs and ahhs suggest he’s much more than a sideshow attraction.

“It is tough,” Togashi said of his height and 143-pound frame. “But I use my speed to be able to make plays.”

Togashi will return to Japan on Saturday morning and join the national team for practices in preparation for a tournament in Taiwan. If all works out, U.S. basketball fans will get their next look at the little man in the D-League.

Griffin’s pursuit of his NBA dream begins now. The high-flyer averaged 11.4 ppg and 2.8 rpg in Vegas. A Mavs scout described Griffin as raw offensively and depending on his athleticism. But he runs the floor with energy, finishes above the rim and Dallas coaches believe he can develop a perimeter jumper essential to making it as player who can switch between the two forward positions.

“His activity on both ends just makes things happen,” Canales said.

Griffin heads home with a list of improvements to work on — starting with “my dribbling and keep shooting” — before heading to Dallas in a few months as training camp approaches.

“It’s definitely not over,” Griffin said. “I’ve got to prove myself now to the team and organization.”


VIDEO: Eric Griffin executes perhaps the dunk of the summer

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Raptors interested in Rondo | Reports: Nets pursuing Jack, Hill | Report: Wolves, Grizz talking trade | Report: Knicks interested in Hawks’ Teague | Kidd went against D-Will in recent practice

No. 1: Report: Raptors showing interest in Rondo — Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, in the midst of a career-best season, has helped Toronto climb to the top of the Atlantic Division standings and has the team poised to end its lengthy playoff drought. But Lowry is also an unrestricted free agent this summer and whether or not he’ll be with Toronto in 2014-15 is very much an unknown (our David Aldridge spelled out some details on his future there a few weeks ago). Lowry remains a target of the New York Knicks (see below) and his current team appears to have eyes on another star point guard. According to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, the Raptors are in multiple point guard-related trade talks, the foremost being a discussion to bring Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo to Toronto:

UPDATE, 11:43 a.m. ET: Now, it seems, the Knicks are getting in on the Rondo action, too, per this tweet from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

UPDATE, 11:08 a.m. ET: While Rondo continues to have his name tossed about in trade rumors, Sean Devaney of The Sporting News reports that it is unlikely that the All-Star guard will be dealt before Thursday’s deadline:

As has become the custom, any period of NBA trade activity features Celtics guard Rajon Rondo prominently. Also customary, though, is this: Sources told Sporting News this week that there is very little chance the Celtics find a deal involving Rondo this year.

“It really is the same thing, teams call about him but the Celtics want him and he wants to be the leader of that team,” one source said. “It has always been his intention to establish himself in that role, to be part of the rebuilding and to stay in Boston for a long time. Nothing has changed.”

The Toronto Sun reported that the Raptors also inquired about Rondo, but a source told Sporting News that, unless there is a multi-team deal, Toronto does not have the assets to land Rondo. Which has been typical of the conversations involving Rondo for the last two years — teams call and ask, the Celtics give an idea of what it will take to make a deal happen, and the conversation ends there.

Rondo can be a free agent in the summer of 2015, and while preliminary discussions on a contract extension were held, the sides were never close to agreeing to a deal. Boston’s long-term plan is to focus on the summer of ’15, when they might be able to pair Rondo with some member of that year’s free-agent class, which could include Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez and DeAndre Jordan — some of the league’s best big men.

Add the Celtics’ two picks in the stocked upcoming draft to that mix, and Boston will be ready to be a playoff team again after just a short retooling.

Of course, if the right deal comes up before that, the Celtics would make it. But it is unlikely that such a deal would include Rondo.

Here’s Wolstat’s earlier report on Rondo:

Ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, the Raptors have been involved in talks with multiple teams that would change the team’s point guard situation significantly.

With the New York Knicks continuing to aggressively pursue Kyle Lowry, who has turned in a career season, Toronto has explored complicated deals that would bring back a replacement for the soon-to-be free agent.

It’s no secret Boston has dangled four-time all-star Rajon Rondo league-wide and while the asking price is steep, he has piqued the interest of Toronto’s front office, according to multiple sources. Toronto is eager to up its “star” quotient and is also enamoured with Rondo’s resume, particularly his four all-defensive team selections (two all-NBA first team). He has many backers in the organization.

Rondo would not come cheaply. Bulls.com’s Sam Smith said the price is believed to be “two unprotected first rounders” while one source told the Sun the ask is a combination of at least one lottery pick and talented young player.

Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly nixed a deal earlier in the season and Lowry responded by playing the best basketball of his career. He’s sixth in the league in three-pointers made, eighth in assists per game and sixth in win shares. With the future of star forward Carmelo Anthony uncertain, Dolan apparently has reconsidered as New York looks to improve its roster.

Sources confirmed that Atlanta is also aggressively shopping young point guard Jeff Teague, despite matching Milwaukee’s four-year, $32-million offer sheet to Teague last summer. Teague, who had a tremendous start to the season, has struggled mightily since the Hawks lost all-star big man Al Horford to injury. Teague could be a cheaper, fallback option in either Toronto or New York, should those team’s preferred choices fall through.

On the Boston side of things, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is still mulling what to do with Rondo and the team’s many other assets:

“The public probably views us more as sellers than as buyers,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe recently. “But I do think that people around the league know that we have some good players — good veteran players, good young players — and lots of draft picks. I’ve had calls for both.

“I’ve had teams contact me with the idea of trying to acquire young players and draft picks, and I’ve had teams that have called that are looking to get some of those. And I’ve had teams that have called looking for some of our veteran players as well. I think it just depends on who you talk to, but I think everybody knows that we have a lot of young assets.”

Assets, yes. The Celtics potentially have as many as 17 draft picks over the next five years, 10 in the first round.

“Again, I think that we’ll be opportunistic. We’re just waiting for an opportunity to do something good. And I think it’s important, again — you can’t force these opportunities. You can’t just be so hungry for a deal that you try to do a deal. You’ve got to be patient. At the same time, you’ve got to be aggressive.”

In previous years, the Celtics were looking to add a piece or two that could help with a postseason push, but that isn’t the case now with the team 19-35, the sixth-worst record in the NBA.

“I think the difference between other years and this year is that there’s a lot of different directions we could go,” Ainge said. “In past years, we’re focusing on just getting better for the playoff run. And now, we’re looking for possibilities of flexibility, young assets, things of that nature, but, at the same time, [we’re] opportunistic for any deals that could come along and speed up our rebuilding process.”

Said Ainge: “If our record were reversed, I think there would clearly be a different role at this point. But we are what we are. I think that I’m more concerned with how we’re playing, how individuals approach their job, who’s developing as a player and fitting in with our new coach and our system and how that will work. There’s a lot of things to consider.”


VIDEO: The TNT crew discusses Rajon Rondo working himself back into game shape

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No. 2: Report: Nets interested in Cavs’ Jack, Lakers’ Hill — Neither the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Brooklyn Nets are where they’d thought they’d be in the Eastern Conference playoff race when the season began. As such, both teams are reportedly interested in making trades and may end up doing business with each other — with the Los Angeles Lakers also thrown into the mix — as the trade deadline draws closer. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports has news on a potential Lakers-Nets swap while ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmisuk has info on a Cavs-Nets trade being bandied about

Here’s Wojnarowski on a potential trade that could bring Jordan Hill to Brooklyn:

The Los Angeles Lakers have had discussions on a deal to send forward Jordan Hill to the Brooklyn Nets, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Nets have a $5.25 million disabled player exception that they can use in a trade or free-agent transaction until March 10, and could use a portion to absorb the remaining $3.5 million on Hill’s expiring contract.

Nevertheless, the luxury tax penalty on absorbing Hill’s contract would be extraordinary for Brooklyn: Nearly $17 million. Hill could give the Nets a capable power forward and center replacement for a run at the postseason, but ultimately ownership would have to be willing to sign off on expanding its record $190 million-plus combined payroll and luxury tax.

And here’s Stein and Youngmisuk on a trade between Cleveland and Brooklyn that would land Jarrett Jack in Brooklyn and Jason Terry in Cleveland:

The Brooklyn Nets are interested in acquiring Cavaliers point guard Jarrett Jack and have had discussions about a potential trade with Cleveland involving Jason Terry, according to sources briefed on the talks.

The Nets (24-27) emerged from the All-Star break sitting 3½ games behind the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors and want to upgrade their bench and backcourt.

Jack, 30, is averaging just 8.5 points on 39.7 percent shooting in 25 minutes a game in his first season with the Cavs after a strong 2012-13 season with Golden State.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets, eager to add a proven ballhandler and backcourt scorer to their bench rotation, are willing to take on the two remaining guaranteed seasons worth in excess of $12 million left on Jack’s contract despite the luxury-tax implications.

But it’s believed that the Cavs, if they decided to go ahead with such a move, would try to find a third team to absorb Terry’s contract. Terry, 36, has one season left on his deal after this one at $5.85 million and is averaging just 4.5 points on 36.2 percent shooting in 16 minutes per game.

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No. 3: Report: Wolves, Grizz talking trade –The Memphis Grizzlies bolstered their team a few weeks ago with the additions of NBA D-League standout James Johnson and by pulling a trade for Celtics guard Courtney Lee. Both players have infused energy and 3-point shooting, respectively, to Memphis’ season and have helped get the Grizzlies back into the playoff mix out West. But despite that turnaround, Memphis is exploring a trade with the Minnesota that would send veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince and fan favorite Tony Allen to the Wolves for small forward Chase Budinger and guard J.J. Barea. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports has more:

The Memphis Grizzlies are discussing a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves centered on forward Chase Budinger and guard J.J. Barea, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Memphis wants to include forward Tayshaun Prince into the package and the deal could be expanded to include guard Tony Allen, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Components of a proposed deal are still fluid.

Memphis has been furiously trying to unload Prince and the remaining $7.2 million (2013-’14) and $7.7 million (2014-’15) on his contract, league sources said.

Minnesota general manager Flip Saunders is believed to want to add defensive toughness to his roster, and that would make Allen a natural to fill the Wolves’ void.

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No. 4: Report: Knicks eye Hawks’ Teague, remain interested in Lowry– Back in mid-December, the Knicks nearly pulled off a trade for Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, but that deal fell apart when New York’s brass balked at Toronto’s request for a future first-round pick. Despite that, the Knicks remain interested in trying to work a trade for the near-All-Star guard and have also shown interest in Hawks point guard Jeff Teague as well.

Marc Stein of ESPN.com has the scoop on the Teague talks:

Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague has emerged as an appealing trade target for the New York Knicks, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Knicks, leading into Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, are calling all over the league in an attempt to upgrade at point guard.

Teague’s name has surfaced as a prime target given the Knicks’ increasing fears that their longstanding top choice — Toronto’s Kyle Lowry — will not be made available before the deadline, according to sources.

The Knicks have been chasing Lowry all season, as ESPN.com first reported in November. But sources indicate that Lowry and his advisers expect to finish the season in Toronto with the playoff-bound Raptors before he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Teague’s name has thus surfaced as a prime alternative, provided that the Hawks are willing to part with him.

The Hawks would have to be interested in Iman Shumpert – and eager to shed Teague’s long-term contract — to give New York any hope of assembling a package to land the point guard.

And Ian Bagley of ESPNNewYork.com has more on the Knicks’ continued interest in Lowry:

With the NBA trade deadline three days away, the Knicks continue to try to engage the Raptors in an attempt to acquire point guard Kyle Lowry, according to league sources.

The Knicks are offering packages including Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Beno Udrih, sources say. They have been reluctant to include sharpshooting rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. or a future first-round draft pick in any deal. One of those two pieces is believed to be a prerequisite for Toronto to consider giving up Lowry.

“It comes down to, can they talk themselves into getting rid of a first-rounder or Hardaway Jr. for Lowry?” one league source said.

Recent reports have stated the Raptors are no longer willing to deal Lowry, content to see how the rest of the season plays out. Lowry has been one of Toronto’s best players, and dealing him would send a bad message to the fan base.

One scenario to keep an eye on, though, is the possibility of a three-team deal involving the Hawks and point guard Jeff Teague. Atlanta has all of its first-round picks in the next four drafts and could conceivably send one to Toronto to satisfy the Raptors’ demand for a draft pick.

League sources say a scenario in which Teague ends up in Toronto, Shumpert goes to Atlanta and Lowry winds up in New York has been discussed. Another scenario could have Teague ending up in New York. The conversations are believed to be preliminary.


VIDEO: Raptors coach Dwane Casey talks about trade deadline day nearing

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No. 5: Kidd squares off against D-Will at Nets practiceTry as he might, Nets point guard Deron Williams hasn’t been able to consistently recapture in Brooklyn the style of play that made him an All-Star during his days with the Utah Jazz and the Nets’ days in New Jersey. In an effort to try and spark some of those old juices in his star, Nets coach Jason Kidd reportedly took to the court at a recent practice and squared off against D-Will, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Don’t let the tight suit fool you: Jason Kidd can still ball and still has those juices flowing.

During another disappointing and injury-riddled season for Deron Williams, Kidd stepped on the court and went head-to-head with the point guard in a spirited exchange at a recent practice, a source told the Daily News.

That’s one way to get through to the underachieving star: challenge him with Hall of Fame skills.

Exactly three years ago next week, the Nets acquired Williams in the franchise-altering deal with the Jazz, giving up a top prospect and two first-round picks for what GM Billy King called “the best point guard in the NBA.” It led to a debate about who acquired the better player at the 2011 trade deadline — the Nets with Williams, or the Knicks with Anthony.

But Williams has failed to live up to any expectations while battling injuries and confidence issues. Considering the MVP talk last summer, this season is probably the 29-year-old’s most disappointing, as he is averaging 13.3 points and 6.6 assists on 45% shooting. According to ESPN, the Nets turned down an offer to trade Williams to the Rockets, who were trying to package Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.

“(Williams) is never going to get back to where he was in Utah,” Charles Barkley said recently. “His best days are behind him.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Pelicans coach Monty Williams doesn’t think Tyreke Evans or Eric Gordon will be dealt anytime soon … Sixers swingman Evan Turner is watching and waiting out the trade talks surrounding him … The Bulls still aren’t expected to do much at the trade deadline … Former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner Lamar Odom has signed with a team in Spain … The Celtics reportedly talked about trading Rajon Rondo to the Kings, but that discussion fizzled out … Portland is reportedly out of the running for the 2017 All-Star Game

ICYMI of The Night: The LeBron James All-Star Interview aired on NBA TV last night and it’s quite compelling, especially LeBron’s explanation of his early years with the Heat …


VIDEO: LeBron James opens up about his first season in Miami

Timberwolves Still Finding It Tough To Close The Close Ones


VIDEO: Kevin Love talks to the media after the Timberwolves’ loss to the Suns

Burdened by a failure rate in close games that soon might wrap itself constrictor-style around the team’s entire season — 0-10 in games decided by four points or less, 1-18 going back a full calendar year — the Minnesota Timberwolves might want to try something daring the next time they have a comfortable late lead:

If they find themselves up six or seven points and the game clock under, say, five seconds, they use a timeout to lay a red carpet around the 3-point line. Invite the other guys to hoist one final bomb, uncontested from long range, in the hope that they’ll hit it. Ideally, there won’t be enough time for the opposition to turn that last gasp into a serious comeback and the Wolves will let some air out of what’s becoming a burdensome dark cloud over their season.

It’s bad enough that Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and the rest of coach Rick Adelman‘s squad have been spinning their wheels like a Camaro in a Minnesota snownami – they’re 0-8 in their attempts to push over .500 since slipping below on Nov. 27. Now these repeated failures at winning the sort of tight games wannabe playoff teams need come April is threatening to fray more than just some postseason ambitions.

After Kevin Martin‘s veering layup dropped off the front rim Wednesday night at Target Center in the 104-103 loss to Phoenix, a cranky Love called out some teammates for their demeanor:

“We can’t have two guys sitting at the end of the bench that play good minutes just sitting there and not getting up during timeouts,” Love said, referring to the poor body language exhibited by veterans J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham in the fourth quarter. “We all need to be in this together. That kind of [ticks] me off. We’re supposed to be a team.”

The Timberwolves (17-18) are anything but a team right now. They are a collection of individual agendas tripping each other up as the franchise pursues its first playoff bid since 2004.

And:

“It’s two guys that we expect more from them,” Love said. “I think they expect more from themselves. I’m not trying to single anybody out and I don’t want to make it bigger than it is, but it’s just a team that we needed to beat tonight and we needed everybody in there, even guys that didn’t play any minutes. We need to have a team and a bench that’s really in it together.”

The tension is mounting. After the two-point home loss to Dallas on Dec. 30 – the game in which Shawn Marion‘s foul on Love’s game-tying shot wasn’t whistled until the following morning – the All-Star power forward criticized the bench for its five-point, 2-of-12, nine-turnover performance in 58 combined minutes. Five days later, it was Love bricking four free throws at the end of their 115-111 loss to the Thunder (with the bench again chipping in five points).

On Wednesday, the Wolves’ second unit won its matchup 29-27 but Love had a poor game (15 points, 4-of-20, 12 rebounds but just one assist). Minnesota got outscored 7-0 over the final 1:51 to yank that one out of its 17-8 “split” in games decided by five points or more.

So what is behind all the late-game gaggery? It’s dicey to allege that the Wolves are choking because “choke,” like its flip side “clutch,” are oft-challenged concepts these days in the sports world.

Another reason to tread lightly on what might be a mostly random occurrence is the belief that, if this were diagnosable, it would be correctable. An operation (like Minnesota or any NBA squad) deep in basketball wisdom and financial resources would find a fix before racking up this 0-10 mark.

What’s left, then, are largely theories, several of which the Wolves probably will poke and prod in search of answers. Such as:

  • Inexperience in such circumstances. Uh, 1-18 over a 12-month period seems like ample opportunity to learn something.
  • No proven go-to guy. Seriously? With Love and Martin on the floor?
  • Predictable play-calling in such situations. This is Adelman we’re talking about, folks, a Hall of Fame-bound coach with 1,019 victories and fat stack of kudos for his offensive wiles.
  • Nervous ballhandling. Minnesota did have four of its 12 turnovers vs. Phoenix in the fourth quarter, two in the final 46 seconds. Rubio threw the ball recklessly while in the air headed out of bounds with 24.9 seconds left. But as the Wolves’ primary ball handler, Rubio is not worse late in games (15.6 of his turnovers and 16.9 percent of his minutes come after the third quarter) or in close ones (51 percent of his turnovers, 50.1 percent of his minutes with margins of five points or less).
  • Lack of referee respect. Well, yeah, that one night. And the Wolves don’t have a glamour rep or, depending on what you think of Love, a marquee name like James, Durant or Anthony. But Martin merely dealt with the usual end-of-game traffic in the lane Wednesday.
  • Leadership. That’s it, the Wolves just need another traffic cop pointing and growling directions when everyone else’s heart is in his throat. Come to think of it, Love might need to seize that role more.

More likely, at this stage, they need something cool, the way Joe Montana lifted pressure off hjis 49ers teammates late in Super Bowl XXIII when they trailed Cincinnati 16-13 with 3:20 left in the game.

Longtime Minnesota sports fans might recall what the MLB Twins went through in the mid-1980s, when alleged closer Ron Davis got into an ugly run of pouring gasoline on ninth-inning leads. A collective mental block seemed to develop, certainly a bad case of group pessimism, and after blowing a 10-run lead to Cleveland in late September 1984 to crater out of a division race, third baseman Gary Gaetti famously said: “It’s hard to throw with both hands around your neck.”

That ball club was a frazzled mess by the end, unable to exhale. This Wolves team is headed that way, with six of its next nine on the road and 29 rivals convinced that, when facing Minnesota, merely staying close is the surest path to victory.


VIDEO: The Suns rally to overtake the Timberwolves in Minnesota

One Team, One Stat: Jump Shots A Problem For Timberwolves

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who dealt with a myriad of injuries last season.

The basics
MIN Rank
W-L 31-51 22
Pace 95.2 11
OffRtg 100.1 25
DefRtg 102.9 14
NetRtg -2.8 21

The stat

42.3 percent - The Wolves’ effective field goal percentage from outside the paint, worst in the league.

Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
League average from outside the paint: 46.0 percent

The context

Basically, the Wolves were the worst jump-shooting team in the league. The Pistons and Nuggets each had a lower raw field goal percentage from outside the paint, but shot better on threes. Minnesota ranked 13th in mid-range shooting percentage, but 27th on corner threes and 30th on above-the-break threes, the only team that shot less than 30 percent on those.

Thanks to Nikola Pekovic (303 buckets in the restricted area) and Andrei Kirilenko (207), the Wolves were strong at the basket. But they just couldn’t space the floor or make defenses pay for double-teaming Big Pek.

Lowest EFG%, outside paint

Team FGM FGA FG% EFG%
Minnesota 1,262 3,513 35.9% 42.3%
Chicago 1,293 3,570 36.2% 42.5%
Orlando 1,303 3,629 35.9% 42.9%
Charlotte 1,240 3,427 36.2% 43.0%
Phoenix 1,403 3,796 37.0% 43.3%

Here are some of the gory details:

  • Alexey Shved led the team with 288 3-point attempts and made just 29.5 percent of them. Among qualified players, he was the second-worst 3-point shooter in the league, ahead of only Monta Ellis.
  • 15 different Wolves attempted 3-pointers last season and not one of them shot them at the league average (35.9 percent) or better. The best of the group was J.J. Barea (34.6 percent).
  • Ricky Rubio ranked last in the league, by far, in EFG% (38.6%) among players with 500-plus FGA. Part of that comes from being a poor finisher at the rim (44.3 percent in the restricted area), but he struggled from the outside as well.

On Feb. 24, the Wolves outscored the Warriors 62-36 in the paint, but lost by a point because they shot a brutal 6-for-35 from outside it. Rubio was 0-for-6 from outside the paint, Kirilenko was 0-for-5, and Luke Ridnour was 4-for-12.

Here’s video of some of the brickage …


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A healthy Kevin Love will make things better. After registering an effective field goal percentage from outside the paint of 47.9 percent over his previous two seasons, he dropped down to 35.7 percent last season, dealing with an injury to his shooting hand.

Kevin Martin will obviously help, too. Of 150 players who attempted at least 300 shots from outside the paint, Martin ranked 12th in effective field goal percentage at 55.4 percent. Not only will he shoot better than anyone on last year’s Wolves, but he’ll take some minutes from the poor-shooting Shved.

Of course, the Wolves also added Corey Brewer, who was just barely above Shved on the 3-point shooting list at 29.6 percent. Coach Rick Adelman might want to give Brewer a little less freedom to shoot than George Karl did.

Love and Martin will make the Wolves a better offensive team. The bigger question may be on defense, where they’ve lost Kirilenko and Greg Stiemsma.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Shaqtin’ A Fool: Vol. 2, Episode 21


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This week’s Fools: Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Drummond, Chris Bosh and J.J. Barea. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!

#shaqtin

Rubio’s Rise Will Again Raise Hope

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Nothing can change this lost season for Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves. His first career triple-double Tuesday night reminded what might have been, but more importantly, what’s still to come.

Look no further than Chicago and the ongoing road to full recovery for Derrick Rose to understand the complications and fears associated with a return from reconstructive knee surgery. While Rose still has yet to make his season debut, Rubio is three months into his return from a torn ACL in his left knee that short-circuited the end of his 2011-12 season and the start of this one.

It’s been just the last four to six weeks that the 22-year-old Spaniard, who acknowledged early on the mental strain of coming back, has started to resemble the tantalizing floor magician who awes fans and inspires teammates.

He pulled a rabbit out of his hat and more Tuesday in a blowout win against the San Antonio Spurs, producing season-highs with 21 points and 13 rebounds, plus 12 assists. He was playing with full confidence, dribbling behind his back to beat defenders into the paint, dropping no-look passes, firing baseball passes, lobs and spotting cutters with lightning-quick bounce passes that somehow skip into the hands of his target.

“That’s the first one of many to come in his career,” teammate J.J. Barea said of Rubio’s triple-double.

The first was just a matter of time. Over the last 15 games, Rubio has eight double-doubles. He twice missed a triple-double by two rebounds and once each by three rebounds and one rebound.

“Yeah of course,” Rubio said afterward when asked if it feels good to notch the triple-double. “It’s good to have a triple-double, but especially a win against [the Spurs]. I know they got Tim Duncan, [Kawhi] Leonard and Tony Parker out, so a lot of players, but they are a great team and we played great.”

Before anybody discounts Rubio’s performance and the Wolves’ 107-83 win against the shorthanded Spurs, let’s just remember that this was a Minnesota team playing without Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger as part of an injured list that keeps on going. It’s been a carousel of devastating injuries since the start of the season and the result is a 22-39 record when a return to the playoffs was the predominant offseason forecast.

On Tuesday night, starting along with Rubio was Luke Ridnour, Mickael Gelabale, Derrick Williams and Greg Stiemsma, mostly a decent lineup of backups on any other team, in fact, on this team with a full roster.

That won’t happen until next season when playoff hopes will again rise. Rubio’s gradual improvement and more recently his sudden leaps are the greatest hope of all. In the last 15 games he’s averaging 13.6 ppg and 9.0 apg to lift his season averages to 9.2 and 7.3.

The most gratifying number, however, just might be 34.9. That’s his average minutes in that span, raising his season average to 28.9 mpg. Since Feb. 1, Rubio has logged at least 30 minutes in 14 of 19 games and at least 35 minutes nine times. Prior to Feb. 1, when he was often limited by a minutes restriction, Rubio hit the 30-minute mark twice (30 and 31 minutes) in 17 games while averaging 23.9 mpg, much of it coming off the bench.

“He is playing with such resolve trying to get us over the hump,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. “He has had that effort but we had so many people step up [against the Spurs]. It really made a big difference. I thought he was going to expire in the third quarter when I took him out. He just played so hard in those first six minutes.”

With this disappointing season winding down, nothing can be more meaningful to the Wolves than Rubio’s rise.

Air Check: Showing Their Colors

aircheck-250HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

The national guys aren’t perfect either. And if they’re not careful, they may be featured here, where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

Here are a few moments from the season thus far that made us laugh, made us smarter, or made us shake our heads.

1. Trifecta of bias

Game: Minnesota @ Denver, Jan. 3
Broadcast: Denver


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Denver analyst Scott Hastings really shows his colors here. First, he infers that the official should take a previous J.J. Barea complaint into account when making a call. Then, he disparages Barea’s size. And finally, he infers that the number of fouls that Kenneth Faried had at the time should have affected the call. Oof.

2. Mid-game education

Game: Golden State @ Minnesota, Nov. 16
Broadcast: Minnesota


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One of the biggest problems with some NBA broadcasters is that they’re behind the curve in regard to advanced stats. When a play-by-play guy or analyst references points per game and/or field-goal percentage as a measure of offensive or defensive quality, those of us who know and believe in advanced stats just want to squirm and/or mute your television.

So when one of these guys takes the time to educate their audience about pace and efficiency, it’s worthy of a mention. This clip starts out on the wrong foot with a graphic citing PPG, but Dave Benz and Jim Petersen quickly turn the conversation toward efficiency.

Hopefully, talk of pace and efficiency will be the norm (and not the exception) in the near future.

3. Foul? What foul?

Game: New Orleans @ Portland, Dec. 16
Broadcast: Portland


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There are a lot of times when broadcasters need to hold their tongues until they see a replay before questioning an official’s call. Let’s just say that Mike Barrett and Mike Rice don’t do that very often.

On this play, Barrett (play-by-play) first questions the idea of Nicolas Batum‘s foul being a flagrant. Rice takes over from there, seems to ignore an obvious blow to the face of Anthony Davis, makes a silly remark about the official not wanting him to eat dinner on time, and then takes a grade-school-level shot at Davis’ eyebrow(s). Oh yeah, like Hastings in the clip above, he infers that a previous call should somehow influence this one.

One more thing: Broadcasters should know that referees will err on the side of caution when initially determining whether a foul was a flagrant or a common foul, because one can be reviewed and the other can’t. If the refs initially call a flagrant, they can review the play and change it to a common foul. If they don’t call a flagrant initially, they can’t review it or change it. So if there’s any doubt, the best thing to do is call a flagrant foul and check the replay.

4. I take that back

Game: Minnesota @ Brooklyn, Nov. 5
Broadcast: Brooklyn


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Let’s end on a good note, shall we?

Ian Eagle is a Hang Time favorite, because he’s calls games straight, he’s got a quick wit and he certainly isn’t afraid to laugh at himself. Here, he regrets his premature assessment of Greg Stiemsma‘s perimeter game.

5 Fouls, 5 Minutes, Fleeting Fame

Remember Trevor Winter!

OK, as battle cries go, it’s not much. Winter, a 7-footer from Slayton, Minn., was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves back in the lockout-shortened 1999 season. A four-year backup center for the University of Minnesota, the undrafted Winter owed his NBA snapshot to the Gophers roots of Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders, the GM and coach, respectively, at that time.

Winter had been playing for Fargo-Moorhead in the defunct International Basketball Association and spent the first month of 1999 hampered by a sore back. But finally, on March 16, 1999, he was activated for a game at Target Center. The opponents: the Los Angeles Lakers. Winter’s job that night: Try to contain Shaquille O’Neal. “Might as well start with the best,” Saunders said that night. “He can give us six fouls, as a starting point.”

The results: Winters played 5:01 minutes across two separate stints, grabbed three rebounds and committed five fouls, not six, before sitting down for the night. Saunders used him in the first and third quarters in what then was still a controversial strategy — Hack-a-Shaq — although only three of Winters’ fouls were spent on the massive O’Neal. The others came at 9:18 of the third against Travis Knight and then at 7:59 for a Kobe Bryant three-point play.

Saunders subbed out Winters and his NBA career promptly became like one of those rural U.S. small towns, with the “Welcome To” and “You Are Leaving” on the front and back of the same sign. He never played in the league again. He eventually landed a job in medical sales and began a family, and has joked about his NBA cred: “I’m not sure my kids even believe me.”

Winters does hold a couple of distinctions, due to his “Hello, I must be going” career arc. His three rebounds in five minutes left him at 21.6 rpg on a 36-minute basis; that’s more than Hall of Famers Bill Russell (19.1), Wilt Chamberlain (18.0) or Maurice Stokes (16.7). And his five fouls-in-five minutes pace put him atop the list of players whose career foul totals are equal to or greater than their minutes played.

But Winter’s claim on committing the fastest five fouls in Timberwolves history fell Wednesday night, when guard J.J. Barea racked up five personals in 2:44 seconds of the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets.

Barea has an NBA championship ring. He’s in the second year of a contract worth $18 million over four season. He has played more than 400 regular-season and playoff games in his career. He’s been romantically linked to the 2006 Miss Universe, Zuleyka Rivera, for cryin’ out loud.

You’d think he could have left Winter with his little bit of fast-and-furious Minnesota NBA fame.

Kirilenko Invaluable To Wolves, Shved

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DALLAS – Andrei Kirilenko has been a godsend to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Russian rookie Alexey Shved during this strange twist of a season.

It’s a minor miracle that the Wolves are still sniffing playoff contention considering their barrage of injuries. One major reason is Kirilenko, the 11-year NBA veteran who is in his first season with the Wolves after a decade-long run with the Utah Jazz. He spent the 2011-12 season enjoying a one-time homecoming in Russia, playing before family and friends during the NBA’s lockout and shortened season.

The versatile, 6-foot-9 forward was always going to figure in as a major piece to the rotation, but he’s been invaluable in the wake of long-term injuries to forwards Chase Budinger and Kevin Love, among multiple other injuries such as to Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee that have thrust the surprising Shved into a starter’s role at shooting guard.

“We had some seasons when we had a lot of injuries, but this is something crazy,” said Kirilenko, whose scoring (13.4 ppg), rebounds (6.8) and minutes (34.8) are all his best since the 2005-06, and his 50.8 shooting percentage ranks as a career high. “We never played together [with a full roster] for even one game. It’s tough to play that way, but I guess this is the reality of NBA basketball.”

Then there’s been the big brother role Kirilenko’s embraced mentoring Shved, who turned 24 last month. But with a baby face and a mouth full of braces, some might say Shved could could pass for, well, a 12-year-old. Which is exactly how old he was when he first met Kirilenko and asked Russia’s No. 1 basketball player to sign a picture for him.

“He’s a great guy and he has a lot of bright moments in front of him,” said Kirilenko, who turns 32 next month and beams at Shved more like a proud papa than a big brother. “I think he started the season well and he can really be a great contributor to a team.”

Two-thirds of Russia’s NBA contingent play for the Wolves. Timofey Mozgov, currently buried on the Denver Nuggets’ bench, is the other. Kirilenko and Shved know each other quite well now after playing last season together for CSKA Moscow, and the two fashioned quite a dynamic duo on the Russian Olympic team that put hoops back on the map in their country by taking bronze in London.

They were gearing up for the Games when Shved, signed as a free agent by Minnesota in July, got word that he would continue on as Kirilenko’s teammate in Minnesota.

“He is the best player in Russia,” said the 6-foot-6 Shved, whose game (10.8 ppg and 4.7 apg) has emerged quicker than his grasp of the English language, which he speaks softly and carefully. “He is smart, he plays hard. Everybody wants to be a player like this.”

Just as Spanish-speaking J.J. Barea (from Puerto Rico) aided the Spain-born phenom Ricky Rubio last season in his arrival stateside, having Kirilenko around to show Shved the ropes of the NBA and American life has been invaluable.

And who knows, perhaps soon Shved will serve a similar role to another wide-eyed countryman that makes his way to the NBA.

Sergey Karasev might be the next [one],” Kirilenko said of the 6-foot-7, 19-year-old shooting guard who averages 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds for Triumph Lyubertsy in the Russian Professional Basketball League. “He might be joining us soon.”

Rubio Staying Positive On Rough Road Back

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DALLAS – For a kid who knows only how to play the game with pure joy, this is pure hell.

The two ugly scars that mar his left knee each measure five inches long, one starting in the middle of his knee cap and jagging down. The other curves around the left side of the knee like a misshapen crescent moon.

As Ricky Rubio pulled up the black, padded knee sleeve that made the permanent markings of reconstructive surgery disappear, he wished the trials that still come with his ongoing recovery, one that wiped out the Olympics and all but 10 games now of this season, could just disappear, too. He softly shook his floppy mane of dark hair and flashed a small, if only brief, smile.

“It’s hard because I still have a little pain and it’s something you have to fight through and get through,” said the 22-year-old Spaniard before the Minnesota Timberwolves lost 113-98 to the Dallas Mavericks, a fourth consecutive defeat for Minnesota and yet another game that Rubio would come off the bench and be limited by a minutes restriction.

“I talk with the guys who had the same injury and they say about a year, a year-and-a-half [after surgery] they started feeling, like, normal,” Rubio continued. “It’s tough when you’re playing with something in your mind; you don’t want to think about it, but it’s in your mind that you’re going slower and you are not who you used to be.

“That’s going to come, but you have to be patient.”

Rubio made his season debut on Dec. 15 against Dallas and played 18 minutes. He dazzled the home crowd with eight points and nine assists, including the highlight of the night, a no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass into the lane to Greg Stiemsma for a layup. It’s about as good as it’s gotten.

Back spasms, likely caused by overcompensation for his knee, took him out of the lineup after just five games. He returned on Jan. 8 and in the four games prior to Monday, Rubio, averaging 3.8 points and 4.6 assists, had made one of 12 shots. His assists dwindled from eight to seven to three to two, all while playing no more than 22 minutes.

“You see flashes, but you can see he is nowhere near like he was last season. He was moving,” teammate J.J. Barea said. “The way he plays he needs to move like he used to move, where he’s faster and he’ll be able to get to pick his spots, get wherever he wants so he can make those passes.”

Flashes came and went Monday night against the Mavs. By the time acting coach Terry Porter subbed Rubio in with 3:20 to go in the first quarter, listless Minnesota trailed 22-11. Rubio and benchmate Barea got the Wolves clicking. Rubio directed an alley-oop pass to Dante Cunningham, drained a jumper and kept a possession alive with a swooping rebound in the lane as the Wolves closed to 39-36 and then 45-41.

But Rubio also couldn’t finish a drive after getting around O.J. Mayo, with little lift leaving his attempt short of the rim. In the final moments of Rubio’s nearly 13 minutes in the first half, Dallas went up 48-41, and then, with Rubio on the bench, 55-45 at the half.

He never got a fair shot to make a dent in the second half. Porter — serving for Rick Adelman while he tends to his wife in the hospital — kept Rubio tethered to the bench for the first 10 1/2 minutes of the third quarter as the Wolves’ first unit mirrored its awful first quarter and allowed the game to slip away. Rubio checked in with Minnesota, reeling from injuries and a rotation in tatters, trailing 87-68.

He finished with six points, six assists and five rebounds, and was a plus-7 — the highest rating among the eight Wolves that played at least 21 minutes.

Rubio’s 2-for-3 shooting night tied his season high for made buckets and figured as his best shooting percentage among the 10 games he’s played, an indication of how brutal it’s been after he averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 assists in a tantalizing rookie campaign before a torn ACL ended it after 41 games.

“It’s hard because you work hard for eight or nine months to get back and it doesn’t stop here,” Rubio said. “You have to work even harder now to get back in shape, to get back to the point you want to be feeling the game again, and that doesn’t come easy.”

Yet, add logging a season-high 27 minutes Monday and a desperate Wolves team slipping down the standings at 16-18, can at least glean some positives as they head back to frigid Minneapolis.

“I tell him to be patient, to keep working on his legs, keep working on his body. It’s going to turn around sooner or later, but he’s got to be patient and stay positive,” Barea said. “And I tell him he’s young. He’s 22, he has nothing to worry about.”

Maybe so. But right now, it’s hell.