The San Antonio Spurs (12-7) will face the Minnesota Timberwolves (8-10) tonight at the Target Center as the Spurs hope to pick up their second road win in a row.
However, this isn't your Timberwolves team from the past. This Minnesota team has talent, youth, and are a scrappy bunch.
In their first meeting this season, Minnesota snapped its 16-game losing streak against San Antonio with a 106-96 win. In that game, Kevin Love totaled 24 points, and 15 rebounds. Also in that game, Manu Ginobili fractured his hand.
To discuss tonight's contest, I turned to Mike Reynolds of Bloguin's own TWolves Blog. In this Q&A, Mike talks about the Love contract extension fiasco, dazzling rookie Ricky Rubio, the key matchup for tonight and much more.
Jeff: Got to ask about the whole Kevin Love, extension fiasco. Is David Kahn really that foolish to not lock up Love for as long as he can?
Mike: It is a "Kahn-fusing" move. Whenever you have a player of Love's caliber on your team, it makes far and away the most sense to lock him up for as long as possible. We have seen this pattern of mismanagement in the NBA several times over the past 3+ seasons, and it usually doesn't end well. However, this seems like more of an ownership directive. Glen Taylor has been a very frugal owner ever since Garnett was traded. It seems somewhat possible that the Wolves could become another Cleveland or Orlando, with a terrible GM who won't be able to surround Love with the talent he needs to succeed, resulting in him bolting for greener (or, according to 4-letter, purple and gold) pastures in three years. This is, of course, my slowly waning Twolves-fan cynicism shining through. With the addition of Adelman and star-in-the-making with Rubio, Wolves seem poised to make a leap here and are perhaps just one major move away. But, then again, so is 3/4 of the NBA. The net, net is, regardless of the years involved, Love signing an extension was a great thing for the franchise.
So what's going to happen with Mike Beasley and his future in Minnesota?
Beasley signing an extension would have been a surprise. He will enter into restricted free agency, at which point his fate will be decided (no kidding!). Mike is at times a talented scorer, but he has suffered chronic ankle injuries for two seasons now. He struggled immensely on the offensive end to start this season before missing the last 11 games due to injury. If he doesn't improve his shot selection and percentage, he might be expendable. I think the only real notable value behind the guy is his former draft status and college success, a value perception mostly created by fans and Kahn-like GM's. Mike has been a below average NBA player so far and it will take a dramatic change for him to turn things around. The one thing that gives me hope is a very notable improvement in effort on the defensive end in the games he did play this season. If it were up to me, I would do my best to package him with some of the other young talent (Randolph, Johnson, even Williams)on the roster for an upgrade at SG or C.
Ricky Rubio has been playing quite well in his rookie season. What has been your impressions so far and which areas does he still need to work on and what is up with Derrick Williams?
Rubio- Vastly exceeding expectations. He has revised a destitute sports market filled with embarrassments across all major sports. At my "real job"people are actually talking about the Wolves, and they wouldn't be without Rubio. As for his on-court play, he is a true maestro on the court. He finds ridiculous seams and holes in opposing defenses, and just makes %#&# happen. Rubio is truly a top notch impact player on both ends of the court. However, he sometimes tries too hard to make the tough pass and gets himself into trouble turning the ball over. He averages nearly four turnovers per game, including 7 in the victory against Dallas on Wednesday. His shooting and shot selection can at times be in the lower percentile of all NBA players. He really takes some crazy shots when driving to the lane, and operates best shooting off the dribble in rhythm. His set shot needs serious work. Overall, he has been an outstanding addition and there isn't a fan in Minnesota not filled with irrational Knicks-fan-thinking-Iman-Shumpert-is-the-next-Earl-Monroe-like enthusiasm
D-Will - Nothing is up with him. He has a first step normally reserved for athletic shooting guards, and most continue to have very high hopes for him. He just happens to play the same position as the best Power Forward in the world: Kevin Love. This is truly unfortunate. Unless he can magically transform into a 3, he will have a pretty tough time finding minutes here even long term. I would consider him the Wolves' most valuable trade asset and he could be used in trade to net a player of similar value who can play twice as many minutes. Some options we have discussed in our forums include a trade of D-Will alone or in a package for players like Evan Turner, Monta Ellis, Nic Batum and Marcin Gortat or even Brooke Lopez. The Wolves need that 3rd wheel to make the leap, and there are a lot of options out there. And no we have no interest in Gary Neal and a 1st round pick for him.
The last time these two team met, it wasn't pretty for San Antonio. Manu got hurt, and the Spurs lost. What will Minnesota do tonight to get another win over the Spurs?
The Wolves have to stay aggressive and shoot the ball well. They have a tendency to get off to dreadful starts and don't really start clicking until the 2nd half. This has happened in just about every game this season. Now, it's great to play well in the second half of games, but Instead of assuming control of the game immediately, the Wolves always seem to be fighting for the win vs. maintaining momentum through four quarters. Adelman will also have to do a good jobmanaging minutes. Love and Rubio are logging crazy time lately, which is great for the fans, but in a shortened schedule it might be too much. The Wolves currently have 8-9 healthy players. They have had SIX players sitting on the bench in suits for a small stretch here. Unless Ridnour's knee is better, Rubio is literally the only healthy PG on the team. Getting Martell Webster, expected to make his season debut, some time on Friday would be a good decision to help rest the starters for when the Spurs try to mount a double-digit comeback late in the 4th (see what I did there?). In general, they need an "unsung hero."Recent wins have been due to a man 8-9 deep on the depth chart, or Darko, having an above average game. If the Wolves' role players stink it up, the Spurs will win this one with ease.
What is the key matchup tonight? Has to be the "epic" battle between Tiago Splitter and Nikola Pekovic? Right?
Honestly, that might be it. There really isn't a fun marquee matchup between these two teams. Pek is always fun to watch. I encourage Spurs fans to keep a close eye on him and note the skull tattoos on his arms and be wary of him eating small animals and children during timeouts for much needed nourishment. However, Rubio vs. Parker should be interesting. Rubio, known for his passes, is actually an incredible ball thief so far (league leader in TTL steals and 3rd per game, likely sliding to 1st very soon).
Wait, I've got it! Love vs. Blair on the glass! Who starts at Center for the Spurs: Duncan or Blair? With all due respect I haven't been paying attention to San Antonio. These teams match up well in that no positional battle really will cancel each other out. There is a wide variety of positional strengths and weaknesses on both teams that will put both sides out of their comfort zones, and working hard for the win. Given the Wolves' ability to stay in games and overall loss margin, this one could really go either way once again.