Thursday, January 24, 2008
A Night With the Wolves
Hey ya'll, a little something different today. I will have some links down below, but I am going to write about a team that I used to write about all the time when this started. How many of you have been reading this site since its inception back in May or June of 2004. Back then my goal was to have a website that I would enjoy and I would want to read. That included talking about the Twins and baseball in general, but also about the Timberwolves and the Vikings and the TV shows I watched and movie reviews. It has turned into a very baseball-centric site... and that is OK. There is definitely enough work just trying to keep up with the Twins!
However, last night, I had the opportunity to go to a Timberwolves game. My good friend Nathan P was given someone's season tickets for free and he asked me to come with. Of course I said sure. The only other regular season Timberwolves game I have gone to was the first NBA matchup between Christian Laettner and Shaquille O'Neal during their rookie seasons. SO, that was quite a while ago! I had not been in the Target Center since then, and believe me, that is not a great arena. It is drab in the hallways and just does not exude any type of excitement. As the team came into the game with just six wins on the season, it was clear before the game started that there just wasn't much excitement in the team. That's fair. I mean, you lose the best all-around player in basketball and your team isn't going to be as good. But at the same time, I'm not just a fan of baseball prospects, I am a big fan of young NBA players with great potential. And really, I believe that is exactly what this Minnesota Timberwolves team is.
The opponent last night was the Phoenix Suns, one of basketball's best teams with the likes of Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Grant Hill. Somehow, earlier in the season, the Wolves managed to beat them at home. Could they do it again? Well, I'm guessing you've seen the score already, but the Wolves picked up their seventh win of the year with a 117-107 win. At one point early, the Suns led something like 16-6 and the Wolves called a timeout. It worked. At the end of the first quarter, the Wolves were up by five points. A run at the beginning of the 2nd quarter gave the Wolves a 15 point lead which they pretty much maintained for the rest of the game. It was a fun game to watch and it was exactly what I would hope for from a young, energetic team that likely just doesn't realize yet how good it can be. Here are some more thoughts on the game and some of the players:
Al Jefferson is a monster on the inside. He just dominated Amare Stoudemire on the offensive end. He was just 15-29 from the field, but eight of his 15 rebounds were offensive. Granted, Stoudemire did whatever he wanted on the other end of the court with Jefferson "guarding" him. I don't know if they had a gentleman's agreement or what. All I know is that the Wolves got a great player and were fortunate that he signed for less than the maximum allowed! The best news? He just turned 22 years old!
Jefferson is the best player, but Marko Jaric is a pretty valuable do-it-all type. He played almost 46 minutes in the game. He started at the shooting guard, but when Sebastian Telfair would sit, Jaric would take over at the point. In this game, he had 15 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds! Last game, he had 16 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. With playing time, Jaric definitely can help a team win. I actually liked that the Wolves got Jaric in exchange for Sam Cassell. I just thought that giving the Clippers a 1st round pick was a bit much.
Favorite player? Without question... it has to be Ryan Gomes. I know in baseball, I'm not overly impressed by the guys who "do the little things that help a team win." However, that is exactly what Ryan Gomes did last night. He had 15 points and nine rebounds. Five of those rebounds were on the offensive end. He seemed to be the guy that got to every loose ball. He got every big rebound. He made good passes and wasn't afraid to take big shots. I sat up in my top of the upper deck perch pumping my fist every time Gomes did something and shouting "Gomes!" Or when another player, Craig Smith to note one, would make a hustle play, I would refer to it as a "Gomes-like play." Consider me a big Ryan Gomes fan!
Sebastian Telfair. Wow, has he improved over the last couple of seasons and even since the beginning of the season. He had a good game last night. He took just seven shots, but he made a big three pointer in the final minute that really iced the game. He also had eight assists and three steals, but most importantly, he had no turnovers. Telfair is a great passer. Not to sound too Cruel Intentions, but when it comes to passing, Sebastian can put it wherever he wants!
Rashad McCants - He can be frustrating. One game he will score 30 and the next, he'll get 10. Last night he had just seven points. It looked to me like there is something negative between he and Randy Wittman. As for the inconsistent scoring, I think that is pretty easy. When Al Jefferson is in the game, the team gets him the ball and he goes to the basket. He doesn't pass a lot. McCants is likely to score a lot more and take over games when Jefferson is out of the game.
Antoine Walker - Employee #8. Remember when the Wolves acquired him and it appeared that they might just buy out his contract? Well, he certainly has shown an ability to lead young players. And you know what, he can still be an ignitor. That run I mentioned earlier at the start the 2nd quarter... Antoine Walker scored all seven of his points in less than two minutes of game time. He is really slow and plays no defense, but we knew that.
Corey Brewer - The team's #1 pick in 2007, Brewer has certainly experienced the ups and downs of an NBA season. He did well most of the game last night and got minutes because of it. He shot well. He has a good mid-range jump shot. He plays good defense although he picked up two quick fouls at one point and some of that may have been a rookie thing. He's got a chance to be a solid, but I would guess unspectacular player.
Randy Foye - I read that Foye is beginning to practice with the team now. It will be nice to get him back and get him into some games.
DJ Strawberry - He hasn't been as good or had quite the impact as a rookie that his father, Daryl, had back in 1983!
Before the game started, a Wolves staff member came up and asked if I wanted to be part of a survey. I said sure and answered probably ten questions. For doing that, I got a free Wolves yearbook! I was going to buy one since I had a free ticket, but free always works for me! (Unfortunately, Juwon Howard, Mark Blount and Ricky Davis are still in it, but that's ok.)
At one point in the first quarter, the Suns were ahead 20-18. Stoudemire had 14 of the Suns 20 points, and Jefferson had 14 of the Wolves 18 points!
This team is not very good right now, but they are extremely young and extremely talented. I really think that they will show a lot of improvement over the remainder of the season as they simply play together as a unit. If nothing else, I will now start watching them rather than flipping by them!
A sidenote to the Wolves game was that I also had my very first Light Rail Transit experience. It really was a good thing. Heading toward Target Center, it likely would have taken an hour to drive there, find a parking spot and pay for it and walk to the arena. With the Light Rail option, we parked, boarded the train and even with the stops, we were within one block of the Target Center in less than 45 minutes. When the game finished, we walked the block back to the railway, got on board and in less than 40 minutes were back to the car. And round-trip was $3.50. Good price and none of the stress of driving in downtown traffic!
Congratulations to Jason Kubel and his wife on the birth of their child yesterday!
Roger has posted his thoughts on the middle infielders in the Twins organization.
Howard Sinker will be at the Star-Tribune's booth at Twins Fest on Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours. Stop by and say hi to him if you're there. For my two Twins Fest experiences, click here and here. And yes, I hope to be at Twins Fest most of the time it is open.
Josh expresses thoughts on whether the 2008 Twins are better than the 2007 Twins.
Each year, John Sickels pretends to be the Twins draft decision maker. When each Twins pick is up, he decides who he would take in that spot. He keeps track of it and yesterday he posted his Top 20 prospects for his Fake Twins Team.
Sickels is also starting a series on Controversial prospects and starts with the Twins Tyler Robertson.
Finally, today Baseball America will put its Top 10 Twins Prospects on its website. Of course, we have known what that will be for a week and it's crazy. I'd love to read some of the comments that the fans come up with.
That's it for today. Check back tomorrow for another Q&A! If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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