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Most recent 18 results returned for keyword: Thibs (Search this on MAP)

https://plus.google.com/100251084251532079951 Breaking Kansas City News :

Wolves roll short-handed Bulls to help Thibs to season sweep
Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added 22 to help the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the severely short-handed Chicago Bulls 117-89 on Sunday.
9 days ago - Via - View -
https://plus.google.com/110971273292338478992 Downtown OKC News :

Wolves roll short-handed Bulls to help Thibs to season sweep
FEB 12, 2017 - MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tom Thibodeau insisted this was just another game, that there were no hard feelings lingering or extra incentive added when facing the Chicago Bulls after such an acrimonious split in 2015.The players on his new team and the players on his old team seem to think otherwise.Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added 22 to help the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the severely short-handed Bulls 117-89 ...
9 days ago - Via - View -
https://plus.google.com/111429276509442296910 Breaking Duluth News : Britt Robson It has been a week now since Zach LaVine invoked his patented super-glide motion driving...
Britt Robson It has been a week now since Zach LaVine invoked his patented super-glide motion driving the lane for a successful layup against the Pistons in Detroit. The 21-year-old shooting guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves contorted his body sideways in mid-air yet still drew the foul, receiving just enough contact from 280-pound center Andre Drummond to land inelegantly as the ball went through the hoop. The play didn’t look gruesome. LaVine stayed fallen for a few moments beneath the basket, wincing and writhing while clutching the thigh area above his left knee. But the collision had been slight by the standards of pro basketball and LaVine scoffed at a teammate’s offer to support his weight as he limped gingerly to the sidelines. After the timeout, he stayed on the court not only to shoot the free throw, but to play another five and a half minutes, grabbing a defensive rebound and dishing an assist off the dribble to teammate Gorgui Dieng. But when LaVine came back into the game to begin the fourth quarter after a brief rest, he lasted 37 seconds, hobbling around the court before signaling for a substitution. The next day, an MRI revealed that he had torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee, requiring surgery that, without complications, would sideline him for the next six to nine months. That is a damaging delay and disruption as the Wolves continue the vital tasks of developing their young core of players while gauging the upside of their collective talent against the financial parameters of their future. Hope, hype, and dedicated losing One of the many beautiful things about the National Basketball Association is that it gives struggling franchises a fighting chance to improve if competently managed. There is a salary cap that impedes teams from harboring too much talent without player sacrifice or financial penalty, including a “luxury tax” imposed when teams finesse the rules to surge past the cap. And there is a four-year period of time during which franchises can hold on to their young talent at dramatically low cost — and even after that get the right to match the bids of other teams during a player’s first year of free agency. For the past three seasons, the Wolves have stoked hope and hype under those protections. It has almost become a cliché to proclaim that they possess the most exciting collection of young talent in the NBA. Invariably, the names on the honor roll invoked to justify the boast consist of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine. Towns and Wiggins have won the past two Rookie of the Year awards. LaVine is a two-time slam-dunk champion and arguably has demonstrated more improvement than his higher-pedigreed colleagues this season. It is not uncommon for all three players to do something memorably spectacular during the course of a single game. The rub is, much more often than not, the Wolves still lose the game. Up until LaVine’s injury on February 3, the Wolves had a record of 64-150 in the nearly three years Wiggins and LaVine have been on the Wolves roster. With Towns added to that pair for nearly two years of that time, the record was 48-84. Yes, there have been all sorts of contingencies that mitigate the terrible results. The Wolves were obviously tanking for a high draft pick — which turned out to be Towns — while going 16-66 during LaVine’s and Wiggins’ rookie season in 2014-15. The shocking death of franchise architect Flip Saunders right before Towns’ rookie season in 2015-16 undoubtedly was a drag on the team’s 29-53 record. And the decision by new architect Tom Thibodeau to hasten the maturity of his three budding stars via a trial-by-fire immersion together with minimal veteran support is a factor in the Wolves 20-33 mark this season (19-31 before LaVine’s injury). Throughout this incubation period, there was always the comfort of knowing that the Wolves were in an evaluation phase, a time when they could literally afford to throw the kids into the deep end of the pool — LaVine as point guard, Wiggins as wing stopper even when defending much larger opponents — and see what happened. Whether they succeeded or not, it was all grist for development, for testing out the features beyond the bells and whistles in their respective sets of skills. The LaVine injury is the first really significant intrusion on this theoretically risk-free process. More than that, it might be the dreadful buzzer announcing the end of “the kids will lead us to glory” joyride. Announcing that, too soon, it will be time to pay the fare. Dollars and sense Next October, both LaVine and Wiggins will enter their fourth and final season under exclusive control of the Wolves. If they don’t agree to new contract terms by the end of that month of October 2017, they will become restricted free agents. For all intents and purposes, then, LaVine’s injury closes the books on his NBA performance before Thibodeau and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor make a decision about how much they want to commit to avoid putting him on the market. Even before LaVine got hurt, viable projections of his future value could run the gamut from perennial All Star to capable role player. Begin with the fact that he is a ton of fun to watch. His athleticism defies gravity while coated in silk. The form of his jump shot is a thing of beauty. His love of the game is palpable and guileless. His teammates love him. Ditto the vast majority of fans and media. On the flipside, LaVine doesn’t do all the little things that help win games. His defensive recognition and reactions remain woefully inadequate. His intuitive decision-making at both ends of the court betray his talent to an alarming degree. And too much of his skill-set is redundant with Wiggins, providing less bang for the stupendous buck required to keep them both on the roster. LaVine defenders have a cogent rebuttal. His defense and decision-making are demonstrably improving and the dude is still a month shy of his 22nd birthday. Besides, Towns and Wiggins have been nearly as wretched — and bigger disappointments, relative to projections — on defense. And as for unique skills, who on the roster spaces the floor with their outside shooting better than Zach? At this juncture in his arc of development, it is fair to say that LaVine is very valuable. But paying him what he, his agent, and perhaps a rival general manager in the NBA think he is worth would be a huge, potentially devastating gamble for Wolves. Let’s get down to figures. A maximum contract for someone is LaVine’s position next October will reportedly be $25.8 million per season. Obviously the same applies to Wiggins. That’s nearly $52 million a year for two incredibly talented but physically undersized (especially if they play together) wingmen. And don’t forget that Towns will be in the exact same situation a year after that — or perhaps owed more of a max, if he racks up some league-wide awards and honors in the interim. That’s at least $78 million for three players, beginning in the 2019-20 season. While there are no reliable salary cap projections for then, the big cap increase as a result of the television contract is behind us. The 2018-19 cap is currently estimated to be $103 million, with the luxury tax being imposed at $125 million. This would be a tiny uptick from the 2017-18 cap projection of $102 million, with a $122 million luxury tax threshold. Let’s say the 2019-20 cap is $104 million with a luxury tax level of $128 million. If you sign Towns, Wiggins and LaVine to the max deals each expects to receive, you have $26 million in cap room for the remaining 12 players on the roster and $55 million for that dozen before you start forking over millions more in tax penalties to the league. If you believe the young trio pretty much by themselves can lead you to a ring, it is a sound investment. But wouldn’t it be nice if their teams could take a baby step and win more games than they lose before committing three-quarters of your salary cap space to the cause? Musical chairs It is quite possible, if not probable, that the Wolves will hedge their bets and retain only two of the three young kids. In that scenario, it is likely that LaVine would be the odd man out. The sober fact of the matter is that throughout his NBA career, the Wolves have performed better when LaVine is off the court than when he is playing. We won’t cite the huge discrepancy that occurred in his first two seasons because LaVine was played out of position at point guard for much of that time. Suffice to say that in his rookie season, no player has ever been less prepared to log so much time in the NBA — playing LaVine at the point was Saunders’ secret tanking strategy. And in his second season, LaVine rarely got to play with Kevin Garnett, or, until the second half, with Ricky Rubio, and those two were the largest factors in improved team performance. This season the Wolves are -117 in the 1,749 minutes LaVine has played and +49 in the 810 minutes he has been out. Those who prefer analytics beyond that most basic statistic can point out that Wiggins fares worse on measures such as “box plus/minus,” which accounts for what teammates are on the court, win shares, and VORP (Value Over Replacement Players). But eyes were opened when the Wolves rattled off impressive wins over Houston and Oklahoma City when LaVine was out with a previous injury in January. It added credence to the idea that, at the very least, LaVine and Wiggins were not synergistic. There are some among the Wolves fan base who, forced to choose, would take LaVine over Wiggins. Thibodeau is not likely to join them. Despite the fact that LaVine arguably has a better handle on the dribble, it is Wiggins who Thibs has designated as his crunchtime players and chronic, if sporadic, “point forward” in the half-court offense. And in both eye test and statistical measure, Wiggins is a superior defender, despite frequently having to guard burly small forwards instead of shooting guards who are more easily contained by his strengths as a defender. Clash at the top? This does not necessarily mean that Thibs won’t push for all three of the kids to get max deals. After all, at the end of the day, it is not his money. It might also be telling that the places he has coached over the past 20 years — New York, Houston, Boston and Chicago — are major-market franchises with either large budgets and/or storied histories that create large expectations. By contrast, Taylor presides over the least successful franchise in modern NBA history. Even amid the current renovations, Target Center is and will remain an outdated building. The fan base, burned by a steady succession of bait-and-switches about the future of this team, is variously cynical and apathetic. Do the Wolves currently have an exciting product? By all means, which is why they rank 8th in average road attendance in the NBA. But average home attendance? Next-to-last at 29th. Taylor has proven he will pony up for a legitimate chance to win. His signing of Garnett to a 6-year, $126-million contract stunned his fellow owners into a new collective bargaining agreement that introduced the salary cap in 1990s. His willingness to pay the luxury tax to add Latrell Sprewell as well as Sam Cassell cost him double Spree’s salary — from $14 million to $28 million — to underwrite the run to the conference finals in 2004. But then Taylor was burned by Sprewell, who never received a penny after turning down the owner’s $21 million, three-year extension offer the following season. He vowed to look ahead beyond a single season in future negotiations. Now he is looking at an incredibly expensive situation where deafening hype has not been matched by any semblance of even competent play. For years, the hype machine made the analogy between the Wolves core and what Oklahoma City put together seven or eight years ago. But by the time Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were the ages of Wiggins, LaVine and Towns, the team had won 51 games and gone to the playoffs — and even then, ownership pulled the plug on Harden due to the looming expense. Can Thibodeau, just one season into a 5-year deal that gives him control over the roster, convince Taylor to stay the course despite all the losing? Does he even want to go in that direction? These are the things that will begin to be determined in just eight months. Meanwhile, since LaVine went down, Thibs has begun to turn up the heat on his two young stars, demanding better effort on the defensive end. It is the only path to winning games consistently enough to justify a splurge. Barring a blockbuster deal, the Wolves’ three precocious kids will once again take the court for the 2017-18 season. But there will be distractions, be it from the failure of the team to negotiate new extensions for Wiggins and LaVine, the status of LaVine’s recovery, or the sudden pressure to deliver, at long last, on the promise of winning basketball in Minnesota.  | @MinnPost
The tenuous Timberwolves future of Zach LaVine
If Thibs and Taylor don’t have the stomach to make a big bet on three young players, Zach LaVine could be Zach leavin’.
12 days ago - Via - View -
https://plus.google.com/114877160174441382780 ThiBs :

Watch the video: avis??
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/BF_tYJEnTJlW1PVRpTq_RnYCO_jWEk259Tv5jeECD8R4MVOdTBm5BPy5OGIO0I4FcT23Y-_qjslpNDkVBekv3Q=w506-h284-n

17 days ago - Via - View -
https://plus.google.com/112854428205017285020 dan t : Thibs runs another young player into the ground
Thibs runs another young player into the ground
17 days ago - Via Community - View -
https://plus.google.com/114877160174441382780 ThiBs :

Watch the video: htm ?
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/D__HwCyu6WOJRXVDmK_g8gwcFcv18UpI-Q9SdUXfFMHnQosxIq8MrMICA1NkTdQYKMBSZCzsB2vUPvCRAfjChQ=w506-h284-n

17 days ago - Via - View -
https://plus.google.com/111429276509442296910 Breaking Duluth News : Britt Robson On Wednesday, MinnPost ran the first chunk of my 78-minute interview with Minnesota Timberwolves...
Britt Robson On Wednesday, MinnPost ran the first chunk of my 78-minute interview with Minnesota Timberwolves head coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau. Here is the rest of it, very lightly edited for flow and concision. MinnPost: I know you hate to single out people, and I’m not trying to scapegoat him, but throughout his career, the on/off net ratings for Zach [LaVine] have been terrible. The eye test obviously shows he has a ton of talent. What is it about him — is he less advanced in the kind of reads we were talking about before that you need to have to function well as a team? Or is it positioning? Why does somebody who looks like he is playing as well as Zach not producing the kind of results on the bottom line of performance? Tom Thibodeau: I think for all three of those guys, our young guys [LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins], that is the challenge. The challenge is that we’ve got to be better defensively. And they are showing signs and it is moving in the right direction. But when it is consistent, that is when things are going to change. Our scoring margin as a team, we are pretty much even in points. MP: And yet you are 17-28. TT: Right. The numbers are telling you there has been a dramatic improvement. And we’ve got to push it further. Like for those three guys, the winning is going to be more consistent when they understand how important defense is. They can’t take plays off and we have got to be able to win games defensively when they are not shooting well. There will always be some games over the course of the season where we don’t shoot the ball great. As our defense has improved, I think it gives us a chance to win on the road more, because defense travels well. That’s what we have to get to and that’s our challenge. MP: Defensively it seems like you have begun to tilt more in the direction of having Karl as the defender in the low post, and if there is a 4/5 coverage to be had, having Gorgui [Dieng] more toward the perimeter. It seemed like Karl had that coverage of the 4 [power forward position] more in the beginning and now it is tilting the other way. Was that a product of trial and error? TT: Yeah. But the way I have always worked, I want those guys to be partners. Because they are going to be on both [the power forward and the center]. Maybe one picks up a foul early, and so then you flip them, and you want them to have that flexibility. And then because of the way the pick-and-roll game is, depending on who is in it and what we are trying to take away, one of them might be on somebody because of the advantage I think we can get. But I do want to get [Towns] closer to the basket, just because of the shot-blocking. Particularly at the end of the game. He goes after it, and he impacts shots around the rim. And G [Dieng] does as well but I think that is where Towns is going to be great. MP: It seems like Dieng does the right thing on the pick-and-roll in space, but then — is it just a lack of quickness? Because his pick-and-roll fundamentals seem maybe to be the best on the team. But … TT: Yeah, he’s very good. And the thing is, how do you measure that? In a normal game, you could be looking at 50 or 60 pick-and-rolls. So sometimes after a game we’ll just put the numbers up on the board. Okay, side pick-and-roll, they were 6-for-18 for 12 points. Well if it was 33 percent [spreads hands as if to say, what more could you want?] And then you go to the high pick-and-roll, then the angle pick-and-roll. Now you are not going to be great on everyone. But you obviously want the numbers to be low because it is such a big part of the league.  And also, we were talking about the math of the game, what shot are you trying to get them to take? Obviously, you want the long contested two, so how do you put them in that position? And then where do you influence them to [go], so that when the ball is brought back, are you going to be on his shooting arm? Those are the things you are factoring in, and also, like, are you backing up properly? Are you getting into the [player with the] ball before the screen hits you? And then in situations where maybe you got hit, and the guy goes [by you], when does it become a veer back situation, where the big commits to stopping the ball in the paint and the small reacts out [toward the perimeter]? We had a lot of indecision with that; we are a lot better now than at the beginning of the season but it is still a work in progress. MP: When Ricky picked up his third foul the other night [against Brooklyn], it looked to me like he was icing [shading coverage to invite his man to go away from the middle of the floor] for a pick and roll, or at least a dribble-drive, expecting the guy behind him to pick up. And nobody picked up — I think it was Gorgui behind him. So then Ricky reached in as the man was going by him and made a really stupid foul — it was his third foul, taking him out of the game. What happened there? TT: [smiles sheepishly] I regret it now, but what happened was [earlier in the game] when Karl went down [he was shaken up beneath the other team’s basket], we used a foul. So that was Ricky’s first one. MP: So he was supposed to foul even then if the guy is going to go by him [on his third foul]? TT: Well, no. To your point, it was actually one of the things we [the coaches] were talking about this morning. Ricky was anticipating the pick-and-roll, so he was on the high side. And what we were talking about is the weak side has to have an awareness and also the communication to be telling Ricky to be square [in his angle to the ball-handler] because there is no one screening on the strong side, and there is no one coming [to screen]. MP: So it was a lack of communication. TT: If you are the low man in the corner and you are reading the ball, you see Ricky thinks something and so it is going to be a problem. We have to take care of this problem. So now you pull over until you know Ricky is good [protected]. Or if you are communicating, [you say] Square Ricky, square! But if it is too late and you see that the guy [with the ball] could be going, you’ve got to go [ward off the path]. So there was no communication to let Ricky know there was no pick-and-roll and so he can just be square. MP: When you say square, it strikes me that that seems to be Zach’s biggest problem. His body language and stance is like he is almost always taking himself out of the play for a pick-and-roll. TT: Yeah. Well, you are hitting on something. We don’t want the ball in the paint, and so you try and influence to the sideline [the “ice” strategy that Thibs is famous for]. And then if the strong side block [low post] is not occupied, you don’t want to be opened up as much [in your stance], because you know there is not a guy there and you don’t want to allow a direct-line drive. So you have got to close your stance. And that’s where the communication, again, is important. See, Zach doesn’t know what’s behind him. He knows he’s guarding the ball, but the communication to him has to be for him to get square, because there is no pick-and-roll and no one on the outside block. That’s the stuff we are still figuring out. But then sometimes we are too level [or square], and the screen comes and we can’t control the [player with the] ball. And you have to control the ball. If you don’t control the ball, you’re dead. MP: Does Gorgui still communicate a lot more than any of the other starters?  Or is Karl picking it up? TT: Karl has improved. Gorgui is further along — again, that’s experience. MP: Is it a confidence thing, where you are reluctant to read it wrong and say the wrong thing? TT: Right. And that’s the thing we are trying to drill into everyone’s head, which is you are never wrong. [Our read] is going to be what you think it is. The big is never wrong. You are only wrong if you don’t communicate. MP: Or don’t follow through on what you have set in motion with your communication. TT: Yes. So we always say, trust the talk, trust the coverage. So if we make the call and you are not sure if it is a side pick-and-roll or a high pick-and-roll, whatever you called, that’s what it is [for the purpose of defending it]. If it is wrong, we’ll get it straightened out. But where you get in trouble is where there is indecision. The guard starts turning his head around [worrying about getting picked from behind], and when he turns his head his man is gone. You can’t do that. The communication tells you whether the guy knows or not. I mean you know what you want to get done. Whatever your call is, you are going to be making it early so you get the plan: We’re going to ice this, or we’re going to force it over here. MP: And that level of experience, instinct, and communication is why KG and [Tayshaun] Prince had such ridiculously good defensive stats for this team last season. TT: Oh yeah, yeah. I mean Kevin; Kevin is different. MP: Not only are his calls great but his positioning … TT: Everything! A to Z. A to Z. It’s funny because, I obviously coached him in Boston, and it was unreal. And then even when I was in Chicago, coaching against him, and even when I coached against him when he was here in Minnesota the first time. You would always tell your team, ‘Don’t try to throw over Kevin.’ [Laughs] And then you’d tell them, ‘Don’t try to enter [a pass] into the elbow [area of the court]. Try to take him as far away as possible from the play.’ That’s how much impact he had on the game defensively. See, the best thing about Kevin was, well, just the way he practiced. What people saw in games was exactly the way Kevin practiced, every day. And so, to me, that is the best type of leadership that you can have. Offensively, he was the same: Everything he did was about the team. Like in Boston sometimes he’d pass up a wide open shot and Ray Allen would be the next guy. And Kevin would say, ‘I’m open, Ray’s open, he’s getting the ball.’ That’s Kevin. Or Kevin would be yelling, ‘I’m swinging it, the ball has got to go side to side.’ MP: So what happened as you were coming in and KG was here? Could that have worked this season if KG had stayed? TT: Yeah. Or are you talking about as a player? MP: Yes. TT: [pause] Yeah [less convincingly]. For me, last year was a hard year [for KG]. I watched a ton of games last year and so… MP: He was dragging himself to be able to play. TT: I’m telling you. I was in Philadelphia when Kobe was a senior in high school and he used to come to all our practices and I would work him out. I love Kobe and I obviously love Kevin. And those two guys were killers. They were so passionate. When you combine their talent with their passion and intelligence … And I hated watching last year. Could we have done it? Yeah, we could have made it work. But I didn’t want to see Kevin like that. My image of Kevin was in Boston. There was nothing like it. MP: Kobe had a rough year too. TT: Yeah and I hated seeing it. You never want to see the end for any great player. And those two guys, I loved watching them play. I hated coaching against them, but I loved watching them play. To me, Kevin had such great value in Boston. We won it the first year. And the challenge that first year was to get everyone onto the same page. He sacrificed the most. We were better the second year than we were the first year. I think we would have won it that year, but Kevin went down right after the All-Star break. But we were a better team the second year. And the third year, Perkins went down [early in game 6 of the Finals] or I think we could have won it that year. But what KG did in practice for our team and then the way he played. He was great in practice but he was so unselfish offensively and defensively in the games. And so it made our team unselfish. MP: Do you worry that you might not have a guy who sacrifices like that among your three young guys? TT: The thing is, I want them to be connected. I want them to be able to play off each other and that is where they are growing right now. This is what I like about where Karl is going. There are teams that are coming right at him now. And without hesitation, he has moved the ball. He hasn’t fought the double-team, he is kicking it out and we are getting great shots from it. Wig is starting to do the same thing. Zach hasn’t been double-teamed as much recently, but he’s willing to give it up. Zach is moving a lot better without the ball. I feel like when he is coming off [a screen] on the catch-and-shoot he is wide open. The same thing in that if he doesn’t have a shot he is playing off the pass more. It’s really good. But they have to be connected. And I think G is one of those guys that does sacrifice a lot. MP: He is a sacrificer. TT: And Ricky is too. He’ll play off the pass. And that is also one of the things I like about Kris. He’ll throw the ball ahead too. He’s looking for his shooters in transition. MP: Do you mind those passes? It can be aggravating, but the success rate is pretty high on those three-quarter court-length passes that Rubio throws. TT: No. MP: I ask because it used to bother Rick Adelman. And it does drive a coach crazy when it screws up. TT: But it also gets everyone running. I think that our guys know that if you run and you cut and you’re open, Ricky will hit you. I think Ricky has done a good job with, like, the weak side plays in transition — those are great rhythm shots. I always think when he is searching Zach out on that weak side three in transition, that that is a high percentage play. Ricky has great vision. He has great instincts. You may get a turnover but you are going to get a lot more good than bad from those plays. Usually, when he is throwing, he is in the backcourt throwing to a big running to the rim and he is on the angle [to prevent an easy steal], and you know it is going to be a good play. MP: Do you worry about the level of redundancy between G and Karl among the bigs and Wig and Zach among the wings? There seem to be a lot of similarities in their games. In some ways that can be a strength but in other ways it seems like it might hurt your depth. Can Wigs and Zach be part of a five-man team or is one of them going to have to lead a second unit? TT: You can get to different lineups. Like right now, Zach plays with both units. I like the look of that. And it allows us to really keep all three guys in rhythm too. And I think Ricky and Kris have done a great job making sure everyone is getting the ball. When we move the ball and have high assists, 27, 30 assists, everyone is going to feel good. To answer your question, if you have good players, that is a good problem to have. To make everyone understand, okay, here are your strengths and here are your weaknesses. Your strengths cover up his weaknesses and you know what he likes to do. You’ve got to bring the best out of everyone. MP: But this team could really use a stretch 4 defender. Bjelly, Karl and G all don’t close out well to the corner or the wing on bigs. And in the modern NBA game that can hurt. TT: Right. MP: On the other hand, I can see why it is attractive sometimes. As you said, you can tell one or the other big man to take the first big down the floor and have that flexibility and defensive unity. I guess what I am asking about is a depth problem for later. TT: Yeah, and we’ve got to improve. You think about where you are and you work for internal improvement; that daily work so we can grow and get better. We’re young enough where it should get better. When you have an older team, you are hoping they can maintain and they are not losing too much year after year. One of the benefits of being young is you can improve. The other thing is, we have the flexibility. We’ve got [salary cap] room. We didn’t spend our money. So I think we’re in a great spot. MP: Do you worry about your intensity with the young players? You are obviously a pretty intense coach. TT: No. My style is not the only style. Some guys are more laid back, some guys are more outgoing. But to me, a big part of coaching is you’ve got to be true to yourself. I think the players respect if you are honest. I am not trying to be something I’m not; this is who I am, for better or worse. I am going to work hard and give you the best plan that I can and be truthful with you. MP: You seem a little less excitable on the sidelines recently. Is that purposeful? TT: [pause] I didn’t notice that. MP: You were always intense on the sidelines in Chicago and part of it is probably that you are coaching a younger team that is more prone to mistakes. But you have upped it a notch this year, wouldn’t you say? TT: No. [laughs] People read you and they know. So our players, I am just coming in and saying here are my expectations for us as a group. And then, for me, this is who I am. Just be honest, straightforward; I think that is how you build trust, through the truth. And that has worked for me. MP: How would you say this season has gone, commensurate with your expectations coming in? TT: Like I said, I didn’t fool myself. The thing that I loved about it is the challenge. I knew I wasn’t coming in on third base. This is like building from the ground up. I had all the numbers and I studied the numbers before I took the job. And I studied the job. I had a lot of time last year. So I knew exactly where it was. And I thought a lot about how you would build a foundation if you took a job like this. MP: You have referenced your sabbatical [after leaving the Bulls with a year left on his contract] a little bit before, but can you say how you are a different coach now than in your last year in Chicago? How did it change you? TT: Well I think you learn from all your experiences. I loved the year that I had. Everyone thought, ‘Oh, you’re going to go crazy.’ I didn’t go crazy. It ended up being a lot more enjoyable than I thought it was going to be. Not only the basketball part but just to take a step back and recharge. To go on vacations and spend time with my family on the holidays, do all of that stuff. And then, of course, the basketball part was like, it was where I could say, 'Okay, who do I want to spend time with?' And I tried to get with a lot of different people. It gave me a much broader view because you weren’t wrapped up in your own, I don’t want to say dilemma, but your own thing: ‘Okay, who are we playing next? Who are we looking at in the draft? Who are we looking at in free agency?’ It wasn’t just a narrow view, it was, ‘Okay let’s open this up and see what new ideas are there.’ Which is sort of what I had done at the end of every year as a coach: Go through the past season and analyze everything that was done well or was not done as well as I would have liked. And then you try to gather new ideas for the upcoming season. Things you might want to try. Then you might try them in the summer league and you might try them in the fall when you bring your team back and you usually add 10 to 15 percent of new stuff. This was a much bigger thing. It was, okay, you have a blank canvas, make it what you want. So when you start going to different organizations you see a lot of things. Organizationally, you realize how much everything had grown. The size of everyone’s staff, analytics, sport science, player development, interns. It has just become — and it is good. Every team has become like a law firm now [chuckles] and you have all these great ideas and thoughts and it’s good. It’s been great for the game. And you also get to be around these coaches. Being around Pop [Gregg Popovich], Rick Carlisle, Doc [Rivers], Stan Van Gundy, Steve Clifford, all the guys. Kevin McHale. When you get into that setting and you are just sharing ideas, and you are seeing a lot of good things too. There were just so many situations. It was really a remarkable experience. You might look at something and it might give you confirmation of something you were doing. But you might also see, ‘Hey, that’s really good.’ If I added that on to this, it would make that even better. And then you would also see things where you say, ‘That’s a much better way to do it.’ So you are taking in all these things. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. And so I just took it all in and thought about the jobs you could get and the strengths and weaknesses of the teams. MP: Can you give me any specific examples of things you took away and kept? Like, at least two different coaches have said to me that they have taken your close-out drill and used it themselves. Is there you have noticed from a coach in this last year and said, I am going to use that? TT: To me, it was more of a broader view. I was looking more at leadership. MP: Attitude? TT: How you pull everything together. Like with Pop, it wasn’t any one thing that he said. Obviously, he is a great coach, but it was everything he did. How the building felt. The synergy of everything. To me, when you have strong leadership, you have order. And when you have order, the environment allows you to bring the best out of everyone. Golden State was really good. Ron Adams is there. Steve Kerr, Bob Myers and Joe Lacob. Joe was one of the owners in Boston prior to going there. But they have great order and a really well-run organization. And Doc, of course, I worked with him in Boston and spending time with him, he is always great. The challenge is: Pop obviously has a lot of say in the decisions that are made, Doc does, Stan Van Gundy does. My experience is Boston was great too, with [Celtics general manager] Danny Ainge and their ownership [he lists all four of their names]; those guys were very inclusive. Doc had a lot of say in all the decisions. That’s really what you want, you want the voice. And Danny was phenomenal with me. He’d talk to me every day, he’d come in, ‘What do you think about this?’ Danny has great communication skills. I watched the interaction with him and Doc and I learned a lot from that. But it was more like how you run everything. Their communications skills were clear and concise. And everything mattered. That’s what stood out from these guys [even] when you look at the different styles of coaching. When I talked to [former baseball manager] Tony LaRussa about this and I had a chance to go a [New England] Patriots breakfast because Tony and Bill [Belichick] are very close friends and I went along with them. It wasn’t any one thing — it was how they did everything. Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski of Duke] when I was around him with Team USA [at the Olympics] it was the same thing; it is not any one particular thing, it is how they do everything. MP: You have an expanded staff — you just added some analytics people. How do you organize responsibilities among your staff? I would assume [Andy] Greer is your defensive guy, your Ron Adams. TT: Most of the guys that I worked with, you were involved in every aspect, and that’s what I want to do with all my assistants. Because hopefully every one of them will have an opportunity to be a head coach. So I want them to be prepared. Because I felt like as an assistant, knowing how to do a game plan, knowing how to run an offense, knowing how to run a defense, knowing how to do player development, knowing how to manage staff, that’s all part of it, and I want everyone to get experience doing it. To me, the offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, that’s more of a football thing. In football, it is two different teams [on offense and defense] and there are 30 seconds in-between plays. In basketball, your defense impacts your offense and your offense impacts your defense. So you have got to be able to coach both. MP: But does it follow that Greer would have more in-depth opinions about the defense? TT: Well, you’re hitting on this, it is the challenge of bringing a group together. Okay, how do you get everyone on the same page as quickly as possible? So the guys who have been with me in the past they have a better understanding. And then the other guys are terrific. And all the guys are basketball junkies and they are workers. There is great chemistry and everyone wants to lift this group up. MP: So do you rotate responsibilities? TT: Yeah. Everyone has a game to put together a certain game plan. So we go through all this preparation. We have an advance scout and he’ll be following a team for a few games. They’ll send their report in. Then if it is your game, you have got to write a suggested game plan. There is a personnel report, there is statistical analysis, a compilation of things that go into this. [He gestures at an open spiral book of material in front of him on his desk.] So when one game ends, this has to be on my desk that night. So the next day when I come in, I read all this and I work with it. So they are a game ahead. Like today, I come in, and I get into this. I’ll watch the opponents’ two previous games and our last game against them. But before I do that, I study this. So that is basically how we divide that up. In practice, everyone is pretty much, I want them coaching. I like to keep practice moving, knowing that you can never get to the intensity of a game in practice, but I want to try and get as close as you can. I like to keep it moving, to get it to the pace that is similar to a game. So everyone has an area that they are in control of and I like that when we sub out you are coaching on the fly as it is going. Everyone is involved. And then everyone does individual development to your assigned players. MP: Are they working with the same players usually? TT: Yeah pretty much. But the one thing is you also flip. It is pretty much steady. You might have this guy, but today you are working with this other guy. I like that because it is a different voice, a long season, and also it allows you to build a relationship. MP: And you get better more comprehensive feedback. TT: Right. So it is good. Usually, it is pretty organized — this is your time slot, this is when you have the weight room, you know you have your corrective exercises at this time. And then you also have film and group film. And then you also have the early group, which is 20 minutes before everyone is out there, going through things that we need to work on. MP: Is it hard to think about changing this team via trade or shaking up the roster in another month when the deadline comes? TT: No. To me, every day you think about getting better. So the only thing you concentrate on right now is, how are we getting our team better today? This time of the year, everyone talks about all the stuff that is going on; the trades and all of that. Look: Honestly, there are 30 teams in the league and they are all talking to each other, okay? And for every 100 trades that get talked about, one gets done. That’s part of this, but I don’t get wrapped up in all that stuff. If there is something good, Scott [Layden, the general manager] will sort through it and if he thinks something makes sense he’ll bring it to me and we’ll talk about it. But everyone is talking to everyone right now. MP: But continuity is part of your mission in this season. You are less apt to make a trade this year, aren’t you? TT: Yeah. To me, I like building for the future. And so unless something is coming to us that we think is going to make us better, I like where we’re going. And I like the guys that we have. You were there when I said this at the beginning — what I see every day in practice, you guys [in the media] don’t see. And so if that wasn’t right, then I would think, ‘Okay, I’ve got to change this.’ But I like what I see. I like the guys that we have and how they play for each other. I like the way they work. I like the direction that we’re moving in. But we’ll see how it unfolds. MP: You have been remarkably patient this year to some extent. TT: You’ve got to pick a lane. [laughs] MP: Have you stayed in your lane all year? TT: When you are in this position, you think about it before you do it. Do you want to do it? What are the advantages, what are the disadvantages? And so I think that every decision that you make, you also have to ask yourself: Okay, this is the short-term view of this, this is the long-term view of this. Does this make sense? I am a lot more disciplined than people realize. MP: Oh I think you have a pretty strong reputation for being disciplined. And demanding. That’s also your reputation. TT: That’s not the worst thing in the world. | @MinnPost
‘I like what I see’: the Tom Thibodeau Q&A, part II
The second half of a 78-minute interview with Minnesota Timberwolves head coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau.
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https://plus.google.com/111429276509442296910 Breaking Duluth News : Britt Robson On Sunday, Jan. 29, Minnesota Timberwolves head coach and President of Basketball Operations...
Britt Robson On Sunday, Jan. 29, Minnesota Timberwolves head coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau graciously sat down for a one-on-one interview with MinnPost that lasted an hour and 18 minutes. This is the fourth straight season where I have been able to engage either the coach and/or the person in charge of personnel for an extensive “midseason report” on the Wolves sometime between the first of the new calendar year and the February break for the NBA All-Star Game. When I first requested time with Thibs, it was early December and the Wolves were approaching the 6-18 won-lost record that now appears to be the nadir of their season. Since that time, they are 12-10, including wins in 8 of their past 11 games. Thibs’ vow and mantra of “daily improvement” seems to be taking root. In terms of information divulged, Thibs had a high bar to follow. The late Flip Saunders, who did the first two interviews, was a marvelously compulsive talker with few secrets. Last year, then-coach Sam Mitchell was intent on both softening his testy relationship with the media and proving the depth of his basketball knowledge — and the challenges facing him on the Wolves — to his many doubters. By contrast, Thibs is masterful at eliding or ignoring the uncomfortable aspects or implications of a question, preferring to reframe it around his priorities. The information he provides is useful but rarely intimate. In terms of his opinions or emotions, a smile or a chuckle is often more revealing than what he says. Nevertheless, Thibs didn’t have to grant the interview, let alone allow 78 minutes of on-the-record conversation. I have distilled it into two chunks. What follows is part one. Part two will appear on Friday. Portions of both parts get into the technical aspects of the game that die-hard hoops fans will appreciate, and which Thibs is uniquely qualified to dispense. If readers have any questions or need clarifications, please hit me up in the comments section and I will try to answer them. MinnPost: When you first came here, the rap was that you were too much of a “win now” guy who would sacrifice the future for the present. If anything, your performance has been the opposite. Did you always plan from the start to take such a deliberate step-by-step approach? Tom Thibodeau: I have always approached things that way. When you look at coaching in the pros 25-plus years, I have been with rebuilding teams and I have been with championship teams, and so I know all the steps in-between. I didn’t fool myself when I took this job. I knew what the process would be. I also liked the way it was positioned, with the young players, the [salary] cap space. Cap space, you have to be smart with it. If we could have gotten a couple of guys that we liked, we would have done that. We didn’t, but the important thing was not to misstep; to keep the flexibility going forward. I knew we had to develop the guys we had here too and that there was a big gap from a numbers standpoint [in their performance]. That was a big thing was to lock into the improvement, each and every day. MP: So it sounds like you did know this was going to be a year of evaluation and immersion, especially with your young core. TT: You can have observations from the outside looking in, and I did that last year. But until you actually get in and do it yourself, you really don’t know everything about them. You don’t know how it fits. You don’t know who they are. The challenge when you have young players is: How do you speed up the process? Just understanding what goes into learning — you have to give them the chance to learn. And part of learning is the explanation and then the repetition and then the correction, and then to actually go out in the games and do it. And it is constant. So trial and error is a big part of it. I think we have gotten better. To me it is all about: Are we doing the right things each and every day? Are we preparing the right way? Are we putting everything we have into each day? Are we building the concentration that is necessary to be successful? And that is our challenge. Every game reveals exactly where you are. We should have a good understanding after every game why we either won or lost that game. And then make the corrections to improve. And it never stops; it never gets easy. It is just the constant: build the habits, study, prepare, play, learn. MP: And part of trial and error is knowing sometimes you are not going to be perfectly prepared and things are not going to go right. That things you assumed were taken care of are suddenly not taken care of. TT: You set standards so things can be measured and done at a championship level. Everything you do is important. How you prepare, how you practice, how you study in a meeting, how you study the scouting report, how you study in your walk-through, how you conduct yourself in a shoot-around. What you are doing before the game. Everything matters. If you are trying to build championship habits, it takes that commitment from everybody. The challenge is to bring the best out of the group. It is not only doing well yourself, it is bringing the best out of everybody. MP: Coming in, did you expect that the three kids who everybody talks about [Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine] would play together as much as possible? TT: Yeah. I wanted to make sure — I knew that was the core. And to do what they are doing at their age — the challenge is for them to do it on both sides of the ball. That is still a work in progress. I think they have grown in that area. We have very high-character players and a great work ethic, which I think is critical. And young players, sometimes it is misguided, they want to do well and they want to lift the group and they just go off to try and lift by themselves. You can’t do that. We need to stay connected. To stay disciplined. That is our challenge. Sometimes with a young guy, he is trying to get established himself. But we have to do this together. MP: An egregious example of that was Karl in November I would think. It seems as if in last six weeks or so, he has really made strides. TT: [big smile and a small chuckle] He’s been terrific. He wants to be great and he really works at it. But he wants to get it in a second and it doesn’t work that way. But he has grown in so many different areas: How he practices, how he leads. Really the challenge for all three of those guys, and the best leadership you could have, is doing the right thing each and every day and putting the team first. If you look at him [Towns] statistically from the beginning of the season to where he is now, I think the rebounding has really taken off. I think the play-making out of the post and the handling of the double-teams has improved. That was something he and Wig, and even Zach, teams are much more aggressive in trying to get the ball out of their hands. So, trusting the pass. Not to hang on to it but move it quickly, let the next guy make the play. If we can get to the second pass out of the double-team we are going to get a great shot. I think at the start of the season we took a hit with Ricky [Rubio] when he got hurt. And I think now Ricky feels like he is in a really good place, physically right now. He’s played really well the last month. MP: There has been a lot of talk about the fact that you and Rubio haven’t been comfortable with each other from the beginning. Is there any truth to that? TT: No. My job — and I have told him this from the beginning — is to lay out the plan and tell him the truth as I see it each and every day. And then we are all working together. When you look at what a coach does, it is leadership, it is communication, it is teaching, it is motivation. It really comes down to those four things. The big thing is, in this league, there are so many things that can get you distracted. And if you get your focus off what is important and what goes into winning, you are going to get lost. I want our players to be disciplined. I try to be as disciplined as I can. I am going to work to try and give us the best plan possible and then we execute it as a group. The challenge when you are new and laying out a plan is, how quickly can you get everyone on to the same page? Then you add in that our core, our youngest players are our best players. So you don’t have the veteran experience that can move the group along. You go step-by-step. You start at a zero base and build through your fundamentals. We’ll add layers as we go along. Right now, the young guys are maybe a half-step behind. So how do you speed that up, get it to the point where they are a step ahead, where they know what’s coming and how to deal with it? MP: In your 25 years, have you had a situation like this? You are not bereft of veteran leadership, but your core leadership is not veteran. TT: It is pretty unusual. But it is also the thing that made it so appealing to me. You look at Karl and Andrew and Zach. And even Ricky’s young, you know? And then we added Kris, and Gorgui’s young, Bazz is young, Bjelly’s young. As a team if we are doing the right things we can grow. From the beginning I wanted that to be the focus — we’ve got to improve every day. So prepare yourself when you come in: alert, awake, ready to work, ready to concentrate, ready to improve. MP: At the beginning of the season, you said you had to work on individual concepts first and then integrate it into a team concept. After some stumbles early, you talked about that maybe you had to go back to some individual stuff and re-hone it. Where do you think you are now in that process? TT: You never, you’re striving for perfection, knowing you can’t get there. But how close can you get? When something is not being executed well, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is it being taught properly? Am I asking them to do something they maybe are not capable of doing?’ Maybe it doesn’t fit this group. So you are always weighing that. But the first thing I ask is, ‘Are we doing it hard enough?’ And then, ‘Are we executing it properly?’ And if the answer is yes to those two things and it is not working, then it is time to change it. But if the answer is no we are not doing it hard enough or we are not executing it properly, then I want to stay with it so I can get the answer. That’s the way I usually approach things. The repetition is a big part of learning. So we try to study film after every game. We go through it so there is an understanding that, when we are executing it properly, this is what it looks like, and when we’re not, this is why it broke down. I want them to know. I think the more that they do it the more they can make corrections right there during a game. I hear the communication now and it is a lot better. I also think they have a better idea of how it all works together. MP: My sense watching is that there have been a handful of games where the effort isn’t up to your standards. But that a lot more of the time the execution is shoddy. How often or in what instances have you found that you had to change your strategy as a result? TT: Well I am not disappointed in the group because of how hard they work. And there is improvement. The thing I like about the group is that we had a lot of leads, and late in games. The one thing we haven’t done very often is fallen way behind and then at the end you close it to ten and it is, yeah we lost by ten. It hasn’t been that. It has been where we have had leads against good teams late and we didn’t close out the game. Part of that is understanding what you have got to do in the fourth quarter to close out a game. To understand the difference between the first three quarters and the fourth quarter. Say, Here are the positives and here are the negatives. How do we improve and correct ourselves? And oftentimes it has been the reckless gamble. There is a reckless foul. It is not setting a screen. It is not moving the ball. Maybe you’re trying to do the right thing, trying to win the game, but the second defender comes and you’re not getting rid of the ball quickly enough. Oftentimes the difference between winning and losing might be one possession. It could be an over-help on a [defensive] play where you are up three and you give up a three. Those are the things you have to eliminate. MP: That doesn’t sound like schematic flaws. TT: No. A big part of it is having the experience of going through it. Understanding the importance of being strong on both sides of the ball; that is the big thing. I think when we are consistent with that, the winning will be consistent. Our rebounding and transition defense are improving. Offensively, I have been pleased all year. I think we are very unselfish — we are high assists. We have to still continue to get the turnovers down. But I like the way we play inside-out; the ball moves and that’s what we want to do. I think playing fast and pushing the ball up the floor is important to us. MP: On transition defense, I’ve seen Zach and Bazzy [Shabazz Muhammad] in particular the last two or three weeks really resist the urge to follow their own shot, which is problematical for them obviously. TT: [big grin] Yeah. MP: But the point I want to go back to is, you said that some things you may discover that this group of players just can’t do and you have to change it a little. Can you tell me what those things are? TT: Well, like defensive transition. A lot of it is decision-making. The ball moves, the shot is taken, and then you have a decision to make: Are you going forward or are you going back? And if you are in the corner [on offense], you have got to make sure you are protecting the basket if you are a perimeter player. Oftentimes it is a lack of communication. Or it is back-pedaling instead of sprinting back and turning. To be honest, we have probably worked on defensive transition here more than I have with any other team. But we have improved and the concentration has gotten better. Now [the players]  know that the day after a game you are going to come in, you are going to get your individual work and we have an early group and then we have film and then we have practice. So they know it is step by step. We have to understand what our jobs are and then be able to count on each other. Everything we do is basically five man offense and five man defense. So if Karl gets the ball in the post, our spacing is critical. He has to know where everyone is and everyone has got to do it at the proper time, so he can take advantage of that. MP: That’s why [Brandon] Rush was so impactful during the brief time he played. TT: Yeah. Brandon has been terrific. He and Jordan Hill have been a huge plus for us. They are always ready to go. Brandon has been in so many games that he understands spacing, he understands defense. MP: When you talk about spacing and timing, that seems to be where Andrew and Zach have more work to do. Whereas Karl is more the fulcrum, drawing people to him. TT: Yeah, but both of those guys are getting trapped in the pivot, too. It is different; they are more pick-and-rolls [instead of post-ups]. But it is the same principle—if they are being trapped in the pick and roll they have to understand where their outlets are. And we have got to get the ball to the outlet. You can’t be stuck with the ball in a trap. We need to take advantage and make is easy offense. MP: As time goes on, how much of [the mistakes] are from their inability to see what is there and how much is it that their teammates aren’t reacting properly? TT: Well all that is part of the preparation. So when you go into a game, you say, ‘Okay, how are they going to defend the low post? How are they going to defend Andrew’s post-up? How are they going to defend his pick and roll?’ And Zach with catch-and-shoot, how are they going to defend it? Or Zach’s pick and roll? How are they going to defend Bazz? Then they need to know, OK, this is how we should attack this. When they double from the baseline, this is how we are going to attack it. If they double-team from the top, this is how we are going to attack it. If they come off the point guards, this is what we are going to do. If they are trapping Wig in the middle of the floor, this is what we want to do. Then you follow your reads. Any time there is a trap, there has got to be three outlets. And you’ve got to know, here are my looks in order: Bing bing bing. Right? And then that guy [who gets the pass] has got to know, okay, when he hits me, this is my look. But you’ve got to know what the looks are in order. You can’t just randomly do it. And I think it is slowing down for guys now. The more they go through it, the better they get at it. MP: What if somebody sees a look that is open, but it is the second look? Can they jump ahead to that? TT: Oh yeah, if they are open then it is your shot. I never want them to hesitate. MP: But say somebody is making a cut. Maybe they just saw that the cut was there to make. I guess what I mean is, what happens if the play isn’t run right but the decision turns out to be successful? TT: The game tells you what you should do. So, say you are running something and the opponent overplays it. OK? So you should cut. Say the ball goes into Karl and there is an over-help. So you are on top, you are on the weak side and you see the back of your man’s head [because] he is over-helping, violating the line of the ball. You know if you cut to the basket, you are open. That’s basketball, that’s reading the play. The game is telling you to do something. [Another example.] Say we are going to execute a play and you’re pressuring me, and I know that you are exerting too much pressure and I can blow by you. Well then the play is off; it is drive and kick. Drive the ball to the basket. MP: In other words, you can always blow up the play and the progression of reads if the opponent’s actions enable a better play or action to be run. TT: Yes, and oftentimes that is what you see [happen]. The alignment gives you a format to play out of, and now you are playing off of that. Most plays have three options and then it becomes drive-and-kick, spacing, the ball is put on the floor, you drive it to the rim and the defense collapses; oftentimes those are your best plays. MP: So the structure is there to face high-caliber defenses that rarely provide those opportunities. If the defense defends well, you stay in your reads. TT: Yeah. I think you have to be balanced. Even from a transition standpoint. Like, we want to run long [length of court], and we want to run wide [sideline to sideline]. The first big runs to the front of the rim. And if everyone is doing [what they should be doing] it creates seams. We want as many 3-on-2’s and 2-on-1’s, or 1-on-zeros as we can get. But when the third defender is back, now we have to get to the secondary action, OK? Now the ball has to be swung. We want to play fast but we want ball movement, player movement and then you use your instincts. If you have a seam, you go. MP: I would imagine defense involves the same principles of read and react. TT: Right. MP: What is hard for me as an observer, not knowing what you are doing, is how you identify when there are misreads, or reactions based on misreads. For example, Gorgui Dieng strikes me as someone who is likely to stick to the game plan and the reads, who adheres to your principles whenever possible. If his teammate doesn’t do the assignment or breaks from the principle and Gorgui stays with the principle, and the defense blows up, are you able to know that? In other words, are you able to identify most all of the time why something hasn’t worked on defense? TT: Well you think you have a pretty good idea. That’s where your preparation comes in. You have an idea of all the things [the opponent] is doing, because you are studying them. And you are not only watching their most recent games, you are watching their last game against you, so you have a pretty good idea what is going to happen. But to answer your question: You may have situations in which there is a breakdown. So how do you react to it? Say the ball is in the paint, OK? So somebody got beat. That’s gonna happen — we don’t want it to happen, but it happens. And when it does, we have to react to the problem and correct the problem. So if you are the nearest man and the ball is there, you take care of the problem and we react out from there, we cover for each other. But you start with your base defense, with everyone understanding this is where you should be. And then you are also positioned to react to a problem. That’s why the reading of the ball is so important. How we play the ball, the technique on that, our stance and vision on the weak side, moving on the flight of the ball. But everyone has to read the ball. It is telling you something: Does this guy need help? How much help does he need? And it is very difficult; the players in this league, they are great players and it is very hard to guard guys one-on-one. So if the appropriate help is not there, and we are not acting accordingly, it is going to be tough. The good teams in this league have that figured out. Their defensive transition is connected. Their low-post defense is connected. Their pick-and-roll defense is connected. Catch and shoot, isolation; the challenge is that you can’t rest on the weak side. You have to be engaged, you have to be thinking: Help, how am I helping? Defensive transition, you have got to stop the ball, you have got to protect the basket, the weak side has got to be pulled all the way over, and everyone has got to be working together. Otherwise there are going to be too many seams and you are not going to be able to cover it. I think that is the biggest thing, and I think right now [chuckles a little] we are a work in progress. But it is significantly better than it was at the beginning of the season. MP: Even I can see that it has been a chronic problem. Wigs and Zach in particular seem, relaxed is too strong a word, but their intensity is not … TT: Well the thing is to sustain it. We talk about spacing. Right now the emphasis is on finishing the spacing in our offense and finishing spacing in our defense. And there is a big difference when you don’t. If you look at the offense, if we sustain our spacing through the second and third option, we are going to get a good shot. If there is penetration and a collapse and you kick out, if you just stand there, the next guy is not going to be able to go. So you have got to relocate after you’ve passed back out, so the next guy can go. To look at our defense in totality. We were 30th in points allowed two years ago and we are down to 13th. That’s a big jump. If we can get to the top 10, I think I would be pleased with that. It’s coming; we’re not there yet. But the rebounding is much better. There are five things you look at that go into winning: your defense; your rebounding; low turnovers; playing inside-out, whether it is off the dribble or the post-up; and then sharing the ball. Those are the things that I look at every day. I want them to understand how important that is; to know that if we do these things, it will put us into position to win every game. It doesn’t matter where we play. MP: You mentioned points allowed as a benchmark, but that is determined by pace too. Your teams in Chicago were typically good defensively in terms of efficiency, but generally you were below league average in pace of play. TT: I think your team tells you what pace you are going to play at. My first two years it was a much faster pace because we had [Derrick] Rose. Then we patched it together after that at the point guards. I had a number of point guards come in and do a great job, but they were different than Derrick. You have got to find the best way to play for your team. San Antonio was 26th in pace last year. But they take good shots. They play smart. They play to their strengths and cover up their weaknesses. The one team that has played real fast is obviously Golden State and that is the strength of their club. But to answer your question, I think the strength of our club is we want as many fast breaks as we can get because of our athleticism. But we also don’t want to miss out on what Karl can give us. When you look at the teams that have success in the playoffs they are strong on both sides of the ball. So efficiency to me is more important. We all want to play fast. For us, that is usually when we are at our best. But we have also got to execute. I know that when you get into the playoffs, and you are playing someone seven times, you better be strong in transition, and you better be strong in your half-court execution also. MP: In the modern game can you afford to have bad shooters on the floor? TT: That’s a great question. You recall in the 90s it was so physical and everyone was built like — power forwards were playing small forward. You had a huge front line and the pick-and-roll game was totally different. But now with the rule changes [preventing so much contact on defense] you are seeing all different alignments, including four shooters on the floor with one big and he is rolling. So it is a lot different. They wanted to open up the game, which it has done. But so everyone now has gone the other way. You have small forwards playing power forward and just one big and the evolution of the bigs is those guys are shooting threes now. It’s been great for the game. The game is in a great place. There are so many fascinating things going on. The style of play, what analytics has done, the value of the three, the value of the layup, the value of the free throw. So you are challenged to try and get as many of those shots as you can and try to prevent as many of those shots as you can. You can look at the rule changes also in terms of the advantages you can get in how you take some things away. So to utilize those rules to your advantage as best you can. MP: But right now, your top two point guards are not good shooters. In a playoff series, they would be tested. Is that something that as you look at the team … TT: Yeah, but everybody is different. I want our guys to play to their strengths. Ricky has really shot the midrange well in the last month and he is making layups and shooting free throws great. Kris has given us great defense and has made plays you rarely see rookies make defensively. The two of them in tandem have played at a really high level, so I am very pleased with that. Just play to your strengths. Go back to the Spurs, their first championship, Avery Johnson played great for them. So whatever your strengths are you play to them and go from there. MP: As you look at this team you have had a shorter bench. I mean, you have never been an eleven or twelve player rotation guy …  TT: Ah, that’s where you’re wrong! The first two years in Chicago, we had the Bench Mob. MP: But this year you pretty much like sticking with eight guys. Is that because you want to immerse the core in a learning curve or— TT: Obviously the growth of the young guys is important. I’d like to play nine. But I think Karl being out there is important. I think G [Gorgui Dieng] too; he’s got to get his minutes. And then a lot of it too is what is going on in the league. Cole [Aldrich] has done a good job for us, but with teams down-sizing the way they are, you are oftentimes finding the power forwards going to center. So a lot of that is matchup-driven. And the other one is when teams are playing two point guards, so that changes the matchups that way. But for the most part I’d like to play nine. MP: But is it a situation where, at the end of preseason, you had a second unit that collectively made a lot of sense together. Bjelly as kind of a point forward who would help Kris with the ball handling; you had a big with Cole and spacing with Brandon. And that obviously hasn’t panned out as a unit. Part of that is because you seem to be developing Bazzy better by putting him with the starters more often. If you put a star on success stories, Bazzy’s improvement in the last 6-8 weeks has been pretty significant and that seems to have stemmed from the confidence he gets from being a sixth man. TT: That is part of it. And to me that is why the nine guys works better than ten. I like the guys that we have and Brandon deserves more time and Tyus deserves more time and they are ready and I know it and I feel really good about that. But the other part of that is Zach getting his minutes, Wig getting his minutes. And then you could divide that spot [swingman off the bench] up two ways or one way, but [if it is two ways] you are probably not going to get the same production out of either guy. And so you have got to make a tough decision. Now the one thing is we haven’t really had many injuries. So the big thing is to get Bazz 20 minutes and [so] that basically is what you have to do. MP: He has been notoriously low focus throughout his career, at least in terms of defensive concentration. Suddenly that is not the case. Maybe that’s the contract … TT: Yeah. MP: Defensively he was a sieve — I’m sure you’ve watched the tapes, it was ridiculous. And he was also a black hole on offense — and less so now. So why has his game expanded so much so suddenly? TT: He has worked hard. He got off to a slow start. He was nicked up, he missed days in camp. I think when he is in a good routine and he’s working — I always know, because when he is practicing well, he is playing well. The thing I really like about him is that he doesn’t need five minutes to warm up. You put him in and he goes. He’s got a great motor and it gives us a spark, gives us a lift and he’s an attack guy. And he fits well with Zach. And Bjelly, I like the way Bjelly plays. It opens up the floor for us. I know he’s not shooting well right now but I think it will come around. MP: How do you get toughness into Bjelly? He can be pushed around. TT:  To me it is also he does have good anticipation, he’s got good quickness. He is not going to out-muscle somebody. But he can out-quick people. So I think that’s what he has to utilize. And I still think he is adjusting. It takes some time. When he is on — he is actually practicing a lot better than he is playing right now and he can play well without shooting well. He is a better driver than most people realize and I think defensively his length is helpful — he is probably a better rebounder than people think. I also think that [second unit] group works well together. I like the flexibility we have now with Bazz, his ability to go to the 4. MP: You’ve done that more recently. TT: I think we have gotten more comfortable with it. You’re small, and part of it is that Wig and Zach have to rebound better, and they done that, and Bazz, and of course Karl has just been dominant.  | @MinnPost
‘Everything matters’: A Q&A with T-Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau

21 days ago - Via - View -
https://plus.google.com/112988689662198318748 SYED SHAZEB : bulls threatened to cut butler minute in 2014 if he aint had resigned and thibs knew aobut it but refused...
bulls threatened to cut butler minute in 2014 if he aint had resigned and thibs knew aobut it but refused to do that so he got fired and now wade knows it

**DRAMA TIME IN CHICAGO 
21 days ago - Via Community - View -
https://plus.google.com/108518621636617178647 Jimmy B : Bulls conspiracy theory from Reddit I found this very interesting. Note: Long Holy shit. Please tell...
Bulls conspiracy theory from Reddit I found this very interesting. Note: Long


Holy shit. Please tell me someone is watching Mike and Mike on ESPN. Ryen Russillo* basically came on the show and said that Jimmy Butler and the Bulls FO are at odds and thats why there are so many Jimmy to Celtics rumors. Russillo* said basically that before Jimmy was a restricted free agent after his 3rd year he was averaging 13 ppg and the bulls FO offered him a 4 yr/44 mil extension to which Jimmy declined. The Bulls FO then told him that'd they'd start TONY SNELL over him and give SNELL jimmy's minutes and give Jimmy the minutes Snell got off the bench to hurt his numbers and crash his value in the upcoming free agency. Thibs caught wind of this and basically said "fuck that, I'm starting Jimmy" and Jimmy averaged 20ppg and got cashed out. This is why Jimmy and Thibs are so close, because Thibs had his back and this is also supposedly one of the reasons why Thibs and the FO had issues. So now Jimmy has this distrust for the Bulls FO and also distrusts Fred Hoiberg* because Jimmy sees Fred as an extension of the FO. And then Wade came over and Jimmy basically told Wade everything that happened and wade sympathized with him because of all the fuck shit he dealt with in MIA which adds to why Jimmy and Wade are so close

Also Russillo* said he trusts this source that told him all that very much




21 days ago - Via Community - View -
https://plus.google.com/107160422533227749258 FanRag Sports : When it comes to the 16-28 Minnesota Timberwolves, everybody wants to talk about Tom Thibodeau. “How...
When it comes to the 16-28 Minnesota Timberwolves, everybody wants to talk about Tom Thibodeau. “How is Thibs not winning with this roster?” bellows one faction of…..
#minnesotatimberwolves   #zachlavine   #nba   #basketball  
Zach LaVine's Shooting Evolution Driving His Impressive Growth
When it comes to the 16-28 Minnesota Timberwolves, everybody wants to talk about Tom Thibodeau. “How is Thibs not winning with this roster?” bellows one faction of fans and critics. “His best players are three 21-year-olds. Three 21-year-olds. Three 21…” chants another. Everybody wants to heap praise on Karl-Anthony Towns, who is more than deserving. […]
29 days ago - Via Google+ - View -
https://plus.google.com/102096005760195167745 Mr Thibs : Bonjour
Bonjour 
Clash of Clans Hack - Clash Of Clans For Gems
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29 days ago - Via Google+ - View -
https://plus.google.com/111429276509442296910 Breaking Duluth News : Britt Robson When people on the Minnesota Timberwolves have gotten injured during this curiously dysfunctional...
Britt Robson When people on the Minnesota Timberwolves have gotten injured during this curiously dysfunctional 2016-17 season, it complicates the plans and strategies of head coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau. Not because the Wolves get worse and play in disarray, but because, at least for a while, they become strikingly more purposeful and coordinated. Back on January 9 at Target Center, shooting guard Zach LaVine pulled up wincing with a bruised hip and walked off the court toward the locker room just 53 seconds into the fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks. The youngest player on the roster, second-year point guard Tyus Jones, stepped in as the pint-sized replacement versus the Mavs’ small lineup and played well enough over the final 11 minutes to bump a six-point lead into a 9-point victory. In the next two games, with LaVine in street clothes on the sidelines, the Wolves thumped a pair of teams headed to the playoffs this season, the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder, by double-digit margins. In many respects, the catalyst for these wins was veteran shooting guard Brandon Rush. After playing a total of 21 minutes in the previous three and a half weeks, Rush, the senior member of the team at age 31, was suddenly fulfilling every second of LaVine’s workload rotation, logging 36 and 39:53 minutes in the best back-to-back performances the Wolves have logged thus far this season. The most succinct way to describe Rush’s value is that he knows how to play team basketball. But the longer explanation gets to the conundrum of balancing success with development that has vexed the impatient Wolves players and their fans the entire season. After the win over Houston, Thibodeau talked about the style and attitude toward which he has been bum-rushing his youthful roster. “When guys are playing for each other and everyone has the discipline to do their job. When you have a drive-and-kick game [or] you can get into a spacing game off the post, or a spacing game off the trap [or] the pick-and-roll, there are a lot of times when you can share the ball.” Two nights later, following the impressive victory over OKC, he elaborated some more. “Offense is timing and spacing; everyone moving at the appropriate time; everyone doing their job, not making things up; everyone reading the ball and seeing what is going on. Whether it is a double-team [trap], or dribble penetration, or at the point of the screen if there is a flare in the timing of the roll [on the pick-and-roll], whether you are running to the rim or sliding behind, and finishing up your spacing. Oftentimes there is an initial cut [movement off the ball by a player] and if you stop you are going to screw up spacing for the next guy.” The coach’s description of the synergistic collaboration that timing and spacing can have on each other suddenly made me realize why Rush had been such an elixir for the team. It is not just that he flashes out to the corner to position himself for a three-pointer; it is knowing exactly when to do so and the benefits for the offense regardless of whether or not he gets covered, or whether or not the ball is passed to him. That knowledge of timing and spacing also works to Rush’s advantage as a defender. It is not just that he effectively left his man on the wing and hurried to double-team a big man, or rotated over to cover for a teammate on the pick and roll; it is knowing the vision of that big man in the paint relative to the man he was guarding on the wing; the time left on the shot clock; the relative skill sets of those players, and, finally, where his teammates were on the court. I said to Thibs that Rush seemed to be conducting a master class in this timing-spacing calculation and the coach was more than ready to answer. “He is a very smart player, outstanding timing and spacing. I think that comes from being a veteran.” He described how when Rush saw a pick-and-roll play happening between his teammates, if he was in a certain slot in the offensive placement as a teammate was rolling, he needed to “place behind,” meaning move out for a possible three-pointer. This either creates more spacing for the roll man by pulling his man away, or makes himself open for the trey if his man chose to deter the penetration to the basket. We had just witnessed two fantastic games by the Wolves, who played with a spirit and selflessness that was revelatory and rarely witnessed this season. It wasn’t all attributable to the presence of Rush and the absence of LaVine, of course. But it did put in stark relief the difficulties of playing three 21-year old kids — Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins as well as LaVine — whose phenomenal talent has always enabled them to passively ignore or downplay the obsessive details and awareness that synergize timing and spacing. So when Thibs was done raving about Rush, I passive-aggressively asked the coach the abiding question of this Timberwolves season: Do you have to sacrifice wins to get the kind of development you want [from the kids] this season? The question really had two connotations. One was, “are you choosing to do this sacrifice?” The other was, “is there a way to use your rotation to give you better balance between the two?” As I expected, he ducked both connotations with boilerplate clichés. “Every day we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We can’t feel good about ourselves. We have got to get ready for Dallas.” Thibs and the kids, the slam dance continues But Thibodeau doesn’t have to talk to provide an answer that is loud and clear. About 40 hours after his postgame remarks from the win over OKC, LaVine and his recovering hip returned to the starting lineup in an afternoon road game against Dallas. He played 33:39. Rush played 3:21. The Wolves scored a mere 87 points and ceded 98. By now it is obvious to the point of patent truth that Thibodeau has decided that this season will be devoted not only to Towns, Wiggins and LaVine playing together as much as possible, but doing so as the coach points out every mistake and foible in their processing, both on the sideline as they commit them, and in the film room later. It is a bold gambit designed to take the most talented young triumvirate on any one team in the NBA and fast-forward their development into savvy veterans. Furthermore, Thibs wants his star trio to utilize their phenomenal skills in sync with a disciplined system that maximizes everyone’s contribution and fosters teamwork. There are some huge risks, or at least complications, in this strategy. One is that by tutoring his vast knowledge of the game so hard, so fast, and so relentlessly over the course of the season, Thibodeau could muck up the positive, intuitively flowing elements of their spectacular performance and dampen their enthusiasm for the learning process. Each of the three young stars has a distinct personality. LaVine has the carefree affability of a gym rat. Towns has the earnest over-accountability of a teacher’s pet. And Wiggins has the implacable stoicism of a well-fortified enigma. But what they share is a lifelong ability to blow observers away with what they can do on a basketball court. If anything that has only gotten stronger and more ingrained as they find their way through this highest level of hoops competition. Because they play for the least successful franchise in modern NBA history and are logging the heavy minutes that produce gaudy statistics, the core trio are ideal maws in the ongoing hype machine. Whenever the Wolves come to an opponents’ town, or play on national television, visiting media and other folks who don’t keep up with the team’s exploits have the easiest way to simultaneously promote and label the Wolves — a long-terrible team now slowly on the rise due to three incredible talents. And they are incredible. LaVine is a two-time winner of the slam dunk championship who has added a reliable three-point shot to his arsenal, teasing him out to be a potentially un-guardable matchup. Towns is the prototypical modern big man who can score from anywhere on the court and has skills that resemble a guard as much as a center. Wiggins may well be the best athlete of the three, with laser-quickness to his leaps and spins, and a thirst for being the go-to guy in crunch time. But in 43 games under Thibodeau, they have been less than the sum of their individual parts. On offense, they are more baton-passers than synergistic enablers. On defense, they are each wretchedly inconsistent and chronically prone to mental lapses that are often ruinous to team play. Put bluntly, the great danger here is that the heralded coach and the star trio are a bad match. The detailed, demanding Thibs is expecting that his kids want to achieve real greatness, which only comes with team success, and will thus trust and endure this often rocky and discomfiting crash course toward NBA maturation. That’s a lot to ask from a trio of publicity-pampered kids, who have entourages, be it social media or two-bit fame-by-association junkies, whether they want to or not. So alienation is one risk. Another is that, even if the kids buy in, the task Thibs is trying to pull off — the simultaneous maturation and cohesion of three alpha talents in breakneck speed with minimal veteran seasoning — is simply too ambitious to execute, and may cause more harm than good. (Over on the bench, Brandon Rush and Cole Aldrich are nodding their heads.) As if that weren’t enough, there is another ongoing drama on this team that is a crucial complication: The mess at point guard. Missing the point In the realm of things that are not plainly stated but remain palpable reality, the always frayed rapport between Thibodeau and holdover point guard Ricky Rubio has been an ongoing awkward component of this season. Rubio, of course, is a polarizing figure because of his remarkably dilapidated pros and cons as a teammate. Never has a player been better qualified to be a pass-first point guard. The breadth and dimension of his court vision, coupled with the nuance of the spins, angles and touch of his dishes make him a nonpareil ball-distributor. Those skills and his intense competitive desire also make him a frequently superb defender despite his relative lack of quickness. But, as everyone knows, Rubio is a historically inaccurate shooter, a crippling liability that has only grown more onerous in the modern NBA game, with its emphasize on magnetizing defenses out of position through space-and-pace marksmanship. Rubio has done everything he can — better shot selection, cajoling fouls, value-added leadership — but the problem persists and his reputation for clanking is now burnished to the point of embarrassment. From the start last spring of his five-year tenure here, Thibs determined that Rubio was not the point guard of this team’s future. Through his agent and with an occasional statement (during the off-season he said he wanted to play for a winner for a change) Rubio has indicated that he doesn’t appreciate the animus and would sooner be traded than put on the shelf. National reporters with access to anonymous rumors that are frequently specious agenda-setting volleys from their “inside sources” have had a field day doling out the imminent scenarios that have yet to come to pass. Meanwhile, the point guard Thibs clearly favors as soon as he can resemble a competent performer at the position, 22-year old rookie Kris Dunn, has been a magnificent disappointment thus far. And the point guard that Thibs has seemingly discounted out of his master plan for the future, 20-year old Tyus Jones, has outperformed both Dunn and Rubio in his very limited minutes thus far this season. The argument for Rubio, who began playing professionally in Spain at the age of 14, is that he possesses the experience, savvy and willingness to execute Thibs’ tutorial on teamwork to the core trio. Indeed, he has endured the indignity of standing in the corner while Wiggins frequently initiates the half-court offense, robbing the Spaniard of his prime value. It was also telling that when LaVine went down and Rubio had either Tyus or Rush as complements, his game was raised to new heights. From the game where LaVine limped off against Dallas up until last night against the Clippers in Los Angeles, Rubio had racked up double-digit assists, and 70 dimes overall, in five straight games. When players know how to use timing and spacing, Rubio will get them the ball. This brings us to the tilt against the Clippers, who were bereft of their two injured superstars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. In the first half, Rubio was left wide open, as opponents are wont to do, and he badly missed all three shots he attempted. When the second half began, Dunn was the point guard. This time Rubio was the player sidelined with a balky hip. Dunn performed relatively well in the third quarter, and certainly better than his customary effort thus far this year. (More context: The game was nationally televised by TNT, meaning that the yuck-it-up contingent of “Charles, Kenny and Shaq” would take a whack at overlaying their extensive and accomplished personal experience on the court decades ago with the prevailing reputations of Rubio and the three stars and their otherwise woeful ignorance about the Wolves performance thus far this season.) Barkley, whose formerly incisive snap judgments have increasingly taken on the forays of a Ouija board the longer he’s been retired — especially if the team he is analyzing doesn’t play on TNT very often — proclaimed that the Wolves didn’t play with enough pace and that Rubio should be replaced by Dunn (the halftime take) and Dunn and Tyus (the postgame take). In the third quarter, Kevin Garnett was invited in by his friend and color commentator Chris Webber to provide his thoughts. KG, who clearly wanted a veteran mentorship role on the Wolves that was probably denied by Thibs, compelling his (perhaps temporary) retirement, opined that the Wolves needed a “culture.” He then noted that his former teammate and friend and last year’s Wolves coach Sam Mitchell was providing a culture for the 2015-16 edition of the team.   Webber, who is a smart and erudite commentator, took up the cudgel against Thibs on both fronts, agitating for more pace and a culture that sifts in more veteran leadership. All the while, the Wolves were climbing back into the game, mostly on the astounding offense of Towns, KG’s prime mentorship project last season, and Tyus Jones, who entered to start the fourth quarter and promptly provided the compelling spark that has become a staple of his second NBA season. The whole thing amounted to a classically dreadful-hopeful Wolves parfait. When the Clippers went super-small at crunch time, Thibs countered with the duo of Tyus at the point and Dunn using his physicality as a guard-forward beside the core trio. Got that? The 22-year old rookie Kris Dunn was the oldest player on the court for the Wolves, who proceeded to beat the Clippers for their ninth win in the past 19 games even as Webber was somewhat legitimately ripping Thibodeau’s process. The clear star of the game was Towns, who gave big credit and a shout-out to Dunn in the post-game interview. The rumor mills continues to churn out Rubio trade tidbits. Dunn continues to prove that as a point guard, he’s a hell of a defensive shooting guard or small forward. Tyus Jones continues to make his doubters look silly. And the Timberwolves continue to be the most compelling boom-or-bust future play on the NBA tote board.   | @MinnPost
The boom-or-bust risk for the star-studded Timberwolves
Put bluntly, the great danger here is that the heralded coach and the star trio are a bad match.
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https://plus.google.com/111429276509442296910 Breaking Duluth News : Britt Robson Pity the poor souls whose job it is to peddle tickets to games played by the Minnesota ...
Britt Robson Pity the poor souls whose job it is to peddle tickets to games played by the Minnesota Timberwolves. It is bad enough that the Wolves own the lowest winning percentage of any NBA franchise in modern history: .390, based on a 28-year record of 859-1,345. And it is apparently not enough that the team has not made the playoffs since the 2003-04 season. No, for at least the past five seasons, the Wolves have underperformed even cynically modest expectations. In that regard, the 2016-17 campaign has been especially excruciating. The Wolves strode into this season with the past two Rookie of the Year winners, a two-time slam dunk champion, another lauded draft pick, and the most coveted coach on the market agreeing to run the team for the next five years. The odds makers in Vegas, who prioritize smart money over partisan emotions, pegged the over/under betting line on the Wolves’ win total at 40.5, which would represent a nifty jump up from the 29 victories lodged in 2015-16. Rounding down, it would compute to a 40-42 mark over the 82-game season, a .488 winning percentage that would equal their best finish in a dozen years. Instead the Wolves are 12-26, a .316 winning percentage that once again places them among the five worst clubs in the 30-team NBA. What makes this particularly galling is the ongoing close proximity of promising potential and pratfall performance. Wolves fans are appropriately burned out on legitimate hype. The fact is that Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns earned their Rookie of the Year awards. And Zach LaVine has progressed from a slam-dunking novelty into multifaceted scoring threat at shooting guard, making him one of the better-value picks in the 2014 draft. Few if any franchises have ever been able to boast of having three extraordinary athletes with such preternaturally advanced offensive skills who have all yet to blow out 22 candles on their birthday cakes. Towns, Wiggins and LaVine are quick, coordinated leapers liable to lift you out of your seat with a thrilling play at any time. The collective presence on the roster makes it no mystery why the Wolves fill 93.4 percent of the available seats when they go on the road, the 11th best draw in the NBA. At Target Center, however, the Wolves put fannies in just 71.4 percent of the seats, a home attendance capacity that ranks ahead of only Denver and Detroit. Part of that apathy is a decade-plus of missing the playoffs, but part of it is the numbing repetition of losing, right now, more than twice as often as the team wins. The “Big 3” merit the hype, but all the glitz in the world won’t obscure the sins of their youth, which include a melodramatic lack of focus and composure and a stubborn refusal to appreciate that they will continue to be mock-worthy underachievers until they learn how to play team defense. As the losses mount at an aggravating rate and volume, it is hard to remember that youth, or lack of experience, really is a viable excuse. Eight of the 30 NBA teams are currently winning at least 60 percent of their games. All of them have at least one starter who has been in the league at least 10 years. All but one of them — eighth-best Memphis — have at least four of their five starters with four or more years of NBA experience, and Memphis would qualify if Chandler Parsons were healthy. By contrast, the Wolves most grizzled veteran starter, Ricky Rubio, has five years’ experience, followed by Gorgui Dieng with three, Wiggins and LaVine with two, and Towns with one. Compounding the carnage wrought by this callow assemblage is the fact that Thibodeau is the Wolves' fourth head coach in the past four years. Core players who are still trying to get accustomed to basketball played at the highest level have had to learn a new system every season along the way. Whether Thibodeau understood the enormity of his challenge coming into the job or not, he has never faced this type of adversity, this broad-based weaning gap between gaudy potential and gruesome reality. His response has been a strategy of total immersion to fast-forward the development. The quintet of Towns, Wiggins, LaVine, Dieng and Rubio have logged a total of 720 minutes together thus far this season, far and away the most frequently deployed five-man lineup in the NBA this season. Second-place goes to the starters in Washington at 604 minutes, then down to 447 minutes for the Clippers’ starters, and 395 minutes in Oklahoma City. But here’s the rub: The Wolves quintet are minus 50 on the court together versus the opposition. Compare that to Washington’s plus 110, the Clippers’ plus 137, or OKC’s plus 33. Among the eight most frequently deployed five-man units in the NBA, the one from the Wolves is the only one that yields more points than it makes. What that means is that Wolves fans see the same group of players collectively fail night after night as Thibs force-feeds trial-and-error again and again. But wait! It gets worse. Pretending to be a good team The failure is not mercifully swift and decisive but tragicomically cruel, at once haphazard and predictable. Because for long and frequent stretches, the Timberwolves pretend to be a good team. Consider that coming into Monday night’s contest at the Target Center, both the Wolves and their opponent, the Dallas Mavericks, possessed records of 11 wins and 26 losses. But while the Mavs clearly deserved that ugly winning percentage, having been outscored by a whopping 202 points in those 37 games, the Wolves were a mere 66 points behind their opponents over the course of the season. After beating the Mavs by 9 Monday night, they are now 12-26, with a net point differential of just minus 57. There are 12 teams with worse point differentials per game than the Wolves, but only four of them have lower winning percentages. There is a statistic devised by the seminal baseball analyst Bill James, known as Pythagorean expectation, that calibrates what the typical record of a team should be based on the amount of runs (points) it scores compared to the amount it allows. This season, the Wolves’ Pythagorean record thus far is 17-21 — good enough to bag the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Pythagorean record is an indicator of the beguiling raw talent on the Wolves roster. The real record is a reminder that this squad is decidedly not ready for prime time. But Thibodeau is hell-bent on getting them there as soon as possible. Hence, the Wolves have three of the five most-deployed three-player combinations in the NBA; a parlay involving Gorgui Dieng and the Big 3. Dieng-Towns-Wiggins is the second-most trio in minutes at 1012; just ahead of the Big 3 at 992 minutes together, with Dieng-LaVine-Towns ranking fifth at 941 minutes. Again, it is revealing to look at plus/minus, which can be a specious stat over the course of a single game or similarly small sample size, but a more reliable barometer when you are in the 700-1,000 minute range. Dieng with Towns and Wiggins is minus 7. Dieng with Towns and LaVine is minus 51. The Big 3 together are minus 71. Let’s connect the dots. The future of the Wolves franchise would seem to be their precociously talented but still very inexperienced trio of Towns, Wiggins and LaVine. In order to hasten their development, Thibs is playing them together an extraordinary amount of time. And in the short run, their collective inexperience — and, one could argue, their redundancy of skills and their need to sort out a proper pecking order — is hurting this team. The Wolves are minus 71 in the 992 minutes they are on the court together. The Wolves are plus 14 in the 842 minutes they don’t play together. But even this plus/minus differential doesn’t lay out the full extent of the pain on this learning curve. Just on the basis of points scored and allowed, the Wolves are a playoff team (albeit a terrible one squeaking in at the tail end of a top-heavy conference). What practically every Wolves fan knows — so we’ll spare you the raft of confirming statistics — is that the team routinely forfeits big leads and is especially lousy in the clutch. Or, put bluntly, they lose their focus and then lose composure. Over and over again. That is what young, inexperienced players do. Thibs has determined that he will trade the losses for the hastened experience up the learning curve. But for fans, especially those laying down good money to patronize this franchise, this process is a recipe for cynicism. Sure, there are die-hards who understand what is going on, who take succor in the dazzling slam dunks and nifty layups in traffic, the sky-walking rebounds and blocks and the sweet, rainbow jumpers. But even those folks can’t help feeling like Charlie Brown and the proverbial football being snatched away when they inevitably get invested in the outcome of the game. Bottom line, because the team is so young and so relatively healthy, loyal fans are treated to the same cast of characters yielding mostly the same result. It gets tedious, like one of those doorstop Russian novels — only poorly written, with precious few plot twists and a predictably disheartening resolution. Bjelly, Bazzy and Tyus, oh my! That’s why Monday’s win over Dallas was such a uniquely satisfying tonic, a break from the monotony not only via the victory but in the variation of players most crucial to securing it. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is usually not prone to boneheaded gambits, but by not double-teaming Towns and starting a dreadfully slow frontcourt of Andrew Bogut and Dirk Nowitzki, he paved the way for Towns to pour in 20 points in the first eight minutes en route to a 33-19 Wolves lead at the end of the first quarter. But it’s become a semi-serious joke that a double-digit advantage amounts to a death wish for these Wolves, and after building the lead back up to 21, they saw it sliced to seven at halftime, largely because Nowitzki buried three treys over Dieng in the final two minutes of the second quarter. The halftime stats revealed notable performances by two players off the bench. Stretch power forward Nemanja Bjelica was the more flexible and thus better defender to combat the scoring frontcourt tandem of Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes; Bjelly was plus 11 in 10:39 despite scoring only three points. The other valuable sub was Bazzy Muhammad, whose offensive aggression overwhelmed first rookie Dorian Finney-Smith and then second-year pro Justin Anderson. Bazzy had 7 points and was plus 12 in 11:42 of the first half while holding his counterparts to two points. In the third quarter, it looked like the Wolves were yet again going to fall apart. Indifferent defense fueled a 17-4 Mavericks run over a 7-minute stretch that reduced the lead to three at 71-68. But Towns, quiet since the first quarter, muscled in a layup, buried a 17-footer and blocked a shot that led to a Bazzy rebound and subsequent Bazzy slam off a feed from Bjelly. Thibs wisely played Bjelica the entire fourth quarter and likewise extended Bazzy’s run halfway into the final frame. But there was a third crucial sub during crunchtime — Tyus Jones, deployed as a shooting guard. In terms of sheer results, Tyus, the youngest player on the Wolves roster, has also been the team’s most positive contributor. His future status in the Wolves rotation is a subject that deserves its own column — others are probably writing it now — but for the moment, he is stuck firmly to the bench as the third-string point guard behind the steadily veteran presence of Ricky Rubio and the remarkable on-ball defense of Thibs’ favorite, rookie Kris Dunn. Before Monday night, Tyus had played exactly four seconds in the Wolves’ previous six games. But 51 seconds into the fourth quarter, LaVine pulled up with a grimace and simply started walking from the court to the Wolves locker room. Later it was reported that he suffered a hip contusion. It was an exceedingly rare circumstance where Thibs couldn’t deploy his Big 3 as another lesson in learning how to play under the heightened strain of the fourth quarter. With Dallas using an unconventional lineup of their top scorers on the front line and three ball-handling guards in the backcourt, the coach opted for Tyus over veteran Brandon Rush to play beside Rubio. And, as he has done all season, Jones delivered. Normally the floor general, he ceded that assignment to Rubio — whose vintage fourth quarter brilliance included 9 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals to go with his 3 turnovers — and admirably filled in as the shooting guard. Jones had zero assists but nailed all three of his shots, including a three-pointer on a feed from Towns that Thibs declared afterward was his favorite play of the fourth quarter. He also had an offensive rebound and a steal, didn’t force anything, and played capable defense. Bjelly, Bazzy (a game-best plus 17) and Tyus were the fresh faces in the crunchtime cauldron. The Wolves won for the 12th time in 38 games despite Wiggins and LaVine combining for just 18 points. Big decisions for growth or bust Will this boomlet signal a change in the rotation? Not likely, assuming that LaVine regains his health quickly. Thibodeau is playing the long game. At the very least, he is gaining all the info he can for some extremely consequential decisions at the end of this decision, if not at the trading deadline in February. He must determine if the Big 3 can indeed function together. If so, he needs to know what kind of players best complement them. If not, which player needs to be moved. Huge stakes are involved. Sooner or later, this franchise has to make good on its potential. Otherwise, the young core will leave, and some fat cat in Seattle or elsewhere will buy out the Target Center lease and take the team elsewhere. That’s a scenario even more dreadful to local hoops fans than the wretched play we’ve watched lo these many years, including this literally star-crossed season. | @MinnPost
Wolves win offers a welcome break from the miserable monotony of the season so far
The Wolves this year are like one of those doorstop Russian novels — only poorly written, with precious few plot twists and a predictably disheartening resolution.
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