Due to various obstacles in life that have made it difficult to contribute and write original articles the last week, the content on the site has been somewhat dry. I apologize to everyone and appreciate all of you that continue to stop by and check in. I promise I will get back on track very soon.
For now, let’s prepare for the next game. As the Lakers start their six game road trip tonight in Minnesota, I contacted Canis Hoopus and got a few questions answered about the suddenly winning Wolves.
LABallTalk: How has Kevin McHale changed the way the Wolves play ball? Did the changes come on the defensive end or the offensive end? How are they suddenly winning?
Canis Hoopus: The changes have come from all over the place. They are most noticeable on offense; a higher OE, increased pace, superior eFG%, more points scored, and more offensive rebounds. However, they have also done some things at the defensive end of the court; committed fewer fouls, grabbed more of their opponents’ misses, and played some surprising situational defense in key situations. Perhaps the biggest compliment one can give McHale is that if this is the way we all expected the Wolves to play from the get-go (and for many, it is), then perhaps his recent personnel decisions deserve a second look. They aren’t a finished product by any stretch of the imagination but he has them playing with confidence and to their strengths. His main motto is “games are for players and practice is for coaches.” This approach is a 180 degree turn from the days of Randy Wittman where players would get yanked for being out of position on a single play. No one is looking over their shoulder at the bench anymore. The Wolves are a more confident and free flowing team under McHale’s direction.
LABallTalk: These wins have to be inspirational for this team in it’s future. What are your thoughts on where this season is headed and what the 3 years outlook is like.
Canis Hoopus: In our season preview I noted that a successful season would include 4 key indicators: a neutral OE/DE rating, 20+ 3 pointers/game, free throw neutrality, and making it through injury free. When Randy Wittman was released the team had nearly a 7 point OE/DE differential. It is now back down to -3.4. They are as close to free throw neutral as they have been in years. Mike Miller and Rashad McCants have had career worst campaigns and this has really hurt the team’s ability to play in-and-out with the 3-ball. The only injuries are that Corey Brewer went down with a torn knee ligament early in the season and Kevin Ollie dislocated his elbow. Considering where this season was headed at the 20 game mark, and considering how their 3 point shooters haven’t exactly worked out as planned, if the Wolves can maintain their current OE numbers while keeping their DE below 110, and if they can keep as close to free throw neutral as possible while maintaining their rebounding rates, and if Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, and Randy Foye continue on their paths of improvement, this year will be a success.
Considering where this team was 18 months ago with a roster of KG, Ricky Davis, Marc Blount, Trenton Hassell, and albatross contracts like Marko Jaric and Troy Hudson, their 3 year outlook couldn’t be better. They have two decent sized 2010 expiring contracts (Miller and Cardinal), 4 possible 1st rounders in this year’s draft, reasonable short term deals on all their young role players, and a stashed away Euro center who many believe was the best foreign player in last year’s draft (Nikola Pekovic). In other words, this team really has the resources to surround its core of Jefferson, Foye, and Love with some quality talent in the next 2-3 years.
LABallTalk: Kevin Love didn’t get into the rookie vs sophmore game (unjustly) and it isn’t certain whether Al Jefferson will make the All Star game yet. Thoughts?
Canis Hoopus: Yes, it’s horse crap. Both players deserve to be there. Jefferson should have beat out the Big DNP while Love should have made it in front of any number of players. Love is the best offensive rebounder in the league. He, more than any other rookie outside of Westbrook (how about that UCLA program?), has adjusted his game to fit the pace and talent of the NBA. You can see him develop on an almost game-by-game basis and it is impossible to look at the Wolves’ recent stretch of good play without noticing a correlation to the increased contributions of Kevin Love. The guy is exactly as advertised and it’s a shame that the Blazers, Griz, and Clippers have 2 players in that game while Love will be sitting at home. At least we learned one thing about the rookie/sophomore game: Assistant coaches don’t watch or pay attention to the NBA. Good to know.