mumbo, jumbo…mutombo

this is tyler munro's basketball blog. he writes it at his own pace, on his own time, with his own words. some of those words will be swear words. some of them won't. all of them will probably be opinion, and most of them won't be followed by references to himself in the third person, but these ones will: he hopes you like what you're about to read. if you don't, he hopes you keep it to yourself. he's trying something new here, after all

The resurgence nobody asked for: Karl Malone’s hand on the neck dunk

In the 90s, Karl Malone was a physical force of a basketball player. With a body cut from granite and an attitude to match, Malone went beyond these unintentionally homoerotic descriptions to be known as one of the era’s most dominant bigs. He was someone the opponent feared… until he did that stupid dunk of his.

It was a bit of an odd era for the league, with many of its star players having their trademarks of sorts. Like Kareem’s skyhook, the Jordan era came with Tim Hardaway’s crossover, Grant Hill’s turnaround J and Patrick Ewing’s six-step layups. Not one to be left out, Malone came up with his own signature dunk.

It was really stupid looking. Kind of effeminate, too. Actually, it just kind of came off like he had something itchy on his scalp. Lice are intimidating, I guess, but they’re not likely the look he was going for. When Malone got older and eventually retired, the dunk went with him. That was it, I thought.

Then, three years ago, Lebron did it. And I think he’s done it since, though I can’t find any video right now.

And then last night, Deandre Jordan did it.

I know there’s not much evidence of a trend forming here… and let’s keep it that way. Keep the Hammer Dunk where it belongs: in the past.

The unexpected upside of a hockey-less basketball season

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Technically speaking, I don’t have cable. I cancelled all of my Rogers services months ago, switching over to TekSavvy, and my cable went with it. The catch? I didn’t lose any channels. The caveat? I barely got any to start with.

The only sports channel I get is Sportsnet, the regular one, which as a basketball fan is absolutely useless. Even without hockey, and with baseball finished, Sportsnet still goes out of its way to show anything but the NBA. Last night, with games relegated to Sportsnet One (and TSN 2), it was showing—fittingly—an interview with Kobe Bryant. It figures that the only basketball related programming I’d get on my box revolved around the player I hate the most. I streamed the Cleveland/Washington game instead. I am a masochist.

But all of this got me thinking about something—about basketball in this city. Specifically, I thought of the one benefit to a hockey-less basketball season: being able to go to sports bars again.

As someone who hates hockey and loves the NBA, going to sports bars has always been a chore. I’ve been told by servers that they have a “no sound for basketball games” policy even after accidentally leaving the news on CBC for an hour after the hockey game finished. This, I should say, was in last year’s playoffs.

I’ve been told by managers that the TV only my booth could see was on an inconsequential Maple Leaves game because someone was watching it. But not anymore. Sports bars don’t have a choice. I know the feeling, and I’m happier than ever that the tables have finally turned.

I’ve yet to test out this theory, but realistically, what else is there? Other than tomorrow’s NFL game, there’s nothing else but basketball until Sunday, when the NFL perhaps rightfully retakes dominion over everyone’s local watering holes.

Last year’s lockout killed my momentum as a basketball fan, but I’m not about to let that happen again. Tonight, I hope to catch the Toronto Raptors season opener. Regardless of where I do it, I’ll have a beer in hand. But a bar would be better: my monitor’s pretty small by comparison.

Mad at the Lakers future successes? Blame the Bulls

My interest in basketball waned for a few years after Vince Carter left Toronto. When Shaq left the Lakers, it faded even more. Neither move had any real part of it, but those are the shifts in landscape I associate with that brief four or five year period where basketball was, to me, but a distant memory. Players like Allen Iverson were dominating. The Indiana Pacers were punching fans and racking up gun charges. The Grizzlies were in Memphis. And, honestly, I couldn’t have cared less.

But that changed, and I can distinctly remember when I got back into the sport. It would turn out to be one of the most important NBA seasons in recent memory, one that shifted the sport’s landscape back towards winners and away from scandals. And, as it turned out, it would be the first time I took notice of a team effectively “buying” themselves a championship.

Before he shouted ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE and before he started crawling and barking inexplicably at smaller and weaker opponents, Kevin Garnett was my favourite player. Built like a bean-pole with muscles and an intensity that endeared itself beyond any barrage of n-bombs, Garnett was a favourite of mine because of how uniquely skilled he was. Here was a player who did it all for Minnesota. He brought the ball up the court and initiated the offence. He blocked shot at an incredible clip. He hit unblockable fadeaways, inhaled rebounds and left everything on the floor. It was all for naught, but finally he’d get his opportunity with Boston. Ditto that for Ray Allen, another favourite of mine. Boston’s rise came quickly and I’d argue by dishonest means, but it was one I could absolutely get behind. While the previous season ended in a furious tank war, with ironman Paul Pierce regularly sitting out with a nagging injury—in spite of the fact that he played not long after being stabbed nearly to death—Boston’s efforts briefly came back to bite them in the ass. They didn’t get the first pick, which meant Oden. They didn’t get the second pick, which meant Durant. Instead they got the fifth pick, which meant Jeff Green. Curious how he ultimately ended up in Beantown anyway, isn’t it?

But Danny Ainge was restless. He’d thrown away a season for nothing, at least until his old teammate came calling. Kevin Garnett seemed like he wanted out. Seattle was about to start rebuilding. Sure, Rajon Rondo sucked, but put him next to a facilitating big man and you’d have the best pick and roll two-punch in the league and a compliment of two players whose deficiencies cancelled each other out. And so what if Jeff Green was listed at the same swing position as Durant? That was PJ Carlisemo’s problem—and as it would turn out, one he couldn’t solve. Remember Kevin Durant as a shooting guard? Yikes.

ANYWAYS. Jeff Green went to Seattle. So did Kevin Durant. Al Jefferson went to Minnesota. Danny Ainge was happy, Kevin McHale was confused and Seattle? Seattle had no idea what was coming.

Here’s why I bring this up: that same season almost saw Mitch Kupchak fired.

I remember one of the first games I’d watched that year was a Chicago Bulls home game. One of the others was a Lakers home game. Both had a lot to do with Kobe, and both had a lot to do with Pau Gasol, who was at the time miserable, defeated and regularly clanking 16 footers in Memphis. The reason I remember all of this so vividly is because something happened in LA that caught me completely off guard. Lakers fans, as vapid and passionless as they’re often considered, went heel on their superstar. For the first and only time, Kobe was public enemy number one, and the fans knew it. They were booing him. I loved every minute of it.

And back in Chicago, though this was hours earlier, the fans were tingling with a different sensation. They wanted Kobe. Word was he wanted them. After executives in the Lakers front office called his horrible bluff of going to the then burgeoning, later failing and then burgeoning again Clippers team, Kobe set his sights on the Windy City. What better place to champion himself as the league’s greatest Jordan imitator?

We know now that this didn’t happen, but it was absolutely a real possibility. Though Jerry West insisted that “the franchise would never give him away,” which he later did in the much maligned Kwame Brown trade, there was a very real possibility that Pau Gasol would have worn the Bulls red in the 2008 season. The Bulls were offering legitimate players for a prospective deal, with a combination of deals involving Tyrus Thomas, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and a draft pick on the table. And these aren’t the players they are now. This is the Ben Gordon who’d go onto single-handledly shoot Chicago into a legendary series with the Celtics, not the overpaid Pistons sixth man who grew too scared to shoot. This was the Tyrus Thomas who bounced out of the gym with breakout performances on the glass and on defence, and who in spite of his inability to hit a jump shot and his well documented big mouth was seen as a player with almost unlimited potential. Luol Deng? Yeah. I guess he was pretty much the same.

But this deal didn’t happen, and a few months into the following season, with Gasol’s foot fully healed and Kobe Bryant publicly trash talking his teammates, Mitch Kupchak pulled off the great swindle that saw a then-unknown and overweight Marc Gasol headed to Memphis as an add-on to a trade with Kwame Brown and Javaris Crittendon at its core. At this point, Kobe wasn’t going anywhere. Suddenly his mouth closed. He stopped whining. He stopped pouting. And before long, Lakers fans across the country were bouncing on his jock harder than ever. The Chicago Bulls were in a position to pre-emptively stop a run that would see the Lakers in three consecutive NBA Finals (they won two), and one that after the all but guaranteed Dwight Howard trade will likely see them head to a few more. Fittingly, in their hesitations to deal, the Bulls have effectively put Kobe Bryant in a position to win his 6th ring. It stings, doesn’t it?

Dunk contests are boring. Jeremy Evans dunks, on the other hand, are not.

The dunk contest is stupid. We don’t need to see people dunking against nobody when there’s things like Court Cuts out there. Dunk on people, not props. And to prove this theory, here’s last year’s winner Jeremy Evans keeping it real at Impact Basketball in Vegas.

How Shawn Kemp’s fleeing fatness rekindled my love of basketball

It’s never a natural process to decide to start watching old NBA games again. Where’s the logic? There’s a sense of the outcome already, even if the individual accomplishments are a blur, and of the 24 players suited up, how many of them really made an impact? It’s that second part that interests me. We know that Michael Jordan put up 55 points against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the 1993 NBA Finals because it was one hell of an accomplishment. What we forget is that the game started off quick for Phoenix, with Richard Dumas starting things off going 5 for his first 6 and capping off his first quarter outburst with a gorgeous behind the back lay-up in transition. But as my favourite overused idiom goes, I’ve already said too much.

What I want to touch on first is why I’ve decided to take a look back into the past. After all, I was 5 when Sir Charles and the Suns traded blows with His Airness’s reigning champion Bulls. If you’ve read my writing in the past, this is where you’ll start to notice a pattern—that’s the point. I remember these games, but not often for their box scores. My recollections are a blur of Kevin Johnson crossovers and John Tesh’s NBA on NBC theme. Coupled with my reborn obsession for the sport and admitted penchant for trivia, going into the vault felt natural. And like so much of what I’ve already talked about, what really started this was a memory. I was in the second grade, so this was 1996. I loved basketball then almost as much as I do now, and my memories blur together a bunch of moments likely from different days into my dad taking me to the North York Sheridan Mall. I remember walking by Bata, which was once a store more than a simple museum, and seeing a cut-out of Michael Jordan. True to size, my dad was exactly one head shorter than the GOAT. Then we took the escalator down to the bottom level, where I remember getting a hot dog, briefly stepping into the arcade (where I dominated Street Fighter 2) before hitting Red Nails, my favourite comic shop. That’s where I got my first basketball jersey: Shawn Kemp, the Reignman. Number 40 for the Seattle Supersonics and a prototype for future players like Kenyon Martin (what he could have been in New Jersey) or Blake Griffin (that breakout season he’ll no doubt have if his knee holds). Speaking of Blake, see below why Shawn Kemp says what Griffin is famous for isn’t actually dunking. You can tell he’s only half serious, but hell if he doesn’t have a point.

Where I’m going is this: I have a rule; I won’t wear the jersey of any athlete still in the league. For a while, I had only one that fit, and barely at that—Scottie Pippen. Pippen sure was great, eh? But then I started to think about Shawn Kemp. About how the lockout transformed him, shaping him from a genetic freak into a bloated, Oliver Miller doppelgänger. I thought about all of those illegitimate kids, about all of the weird controversies that killed his career as he ate himself out of Cleveland, then Orlando and finally the league. Then, out of nowhere (or off of reddit…same thing really) I found this article written by L. Jon Wertheim’s which painted Kemp as I remembered him: charismatic, personable and most importantly, not a giant fat guy. That’s what opened the door for me. The past year has been miserable as far as the NBA goes because I haven’t had access to many games. Living on a writer’s wages meant making sacrifices, which meant barebones cable which meant waiting for the NBA Finals to see anything substansive. There were exceptions, but they’d hardly interest you. There was what felt like an endless list of games between the Raptors and the Bucks. There were a few Sunday ABC games which usually featured the Derrick Rose-less Bulls getting pounded, with the one exception being that day when Lebron wrote his bike to the arena. He torched the Bulls.

(By the way, Lebron James is head and shoulders without contest the best basketball player on the planet. I will argue this until your head explodes)

I did it again, though. I’ve lost my train of thought.

The point is Shawn Kemp was Shawn Kemp again. Even without the Sonics, he was on top of Seattle once more. Wertheim wrote about Kemp walking down the street, smiling, high-fiving people on the way. He wrote about him playing football and softball, about him connecting with his kids (which reminded me of this scene from Walk Hard). Shawn Kemp made the effort to get back to himself. I owed myself the same luxury. So how did I get there? I spent $50 on a Shawn Kemp jersey and haven’t looked back since.

In the weeks since re-brandishing the green and white, Champion branded tank, I’ve dug my toes into the ground and clung onto any reference I could find. Reddit’s NBA page has been a big help, with random photos from dunk contests and debates boiling, but I needed more. That’s when I found RetroNBAHD on YouTube, a curated collection of games ranging from 1982 to 2006 with everyone from Olajuwon and Bird to Barkley and Vince Carter just waiting to be picked apart.

While I’m not going to get into specifics any more for this post, since it’s intended as a reintroduction to this oft-discontinued blog, I figured I’d toss a little taste of the things I’ll be looking at in the days (maybe weeks, because schedules be damned I’m disorganized) to come.

- That little grey patch at the front of Dell Curry’s hairline that couldn’t be hidden by even the purplest of headbands.
– Tyrone Hill, Clifford Robinson, Kevin Willis and other old-man looking athletes that still got shit done
– How fast Allen Iverson was, how quickly he bounced of screens and how inexplicably awful he was to watch.
– KEON CLARK!
– Chicago’s struggles against leak-outs (and how the 93 Suns were like the 2012 Heat)
– AND MORE STUFF PROBABLY TOO

Anyways, that’s it for now. But before I go, I’ve got one question…

Y’ALL READY FOR THIS?

DeAndre Jordan isn’t JaVale McGee, but JaVale’s what D was supposed to be

Here’s a scary thought to think: DeAndre Jordan could have been JaVale McGee. For a while there, he should have been.

Yeah, this one probably needs some clarification.

First there’s McGee, an athletic freak with a seemingly dwindling sense who’s currently frustrating and irritating Wizards fans all the same. A workout warrior turned borderline breakout, McGee’s gone the way of Blatche, his equally numb-skulled teammate (and someone he reportedly got into a fist fight with in 2010). You might remember  when Andray Blatche nearly secured himself an All Star level talent with his late, Boris Diaw-inspired surge to close the 2009-2010 season. Oh, but the contract year phenomenon reared its head with Blatche as he regressed the following year, choosing again to attack from all angles at random, skewing his diverse range of talents into game logs chocked full of terrible choices. Chucked shots, missed assignments…for a while there, Blatche did the unthinkable—he made me consider the possibility that Bargnani might not be the worst help defender in the league. Bargnani has since improved (astronomically some would say) to a point where, at least thus far in this premature but shortened season, his team defence isn’t worth talking about. Dwane Casey’s gone so far as to call Il Mago’s rotations perfect. Textbook, I think he said. How’s that for magic?

But Blatche…that’s a dummy if I’ve ever seen one. Worse, it’s rubbed off on McGee. Like I said earlier, McGee’s an athletic freak. Armed with arms as long as his legs with a wide frame and more bounce than a fat pair of tits, he’s already a venerable force to be reckoned with as a shotblocker. Unfortunately that’s where the problem starts. He blocks shots with a theatrical edge. He’s not a stopper so much as he’s a showman. His blocks don’t say “you can’t score in the paint,” they yell “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE” followed by what we can only assume is a rotating list of swears. That’s the problem. I’d rather eat paint than sound like Leo Rautins, but he’s got a point when he harps on defenders aggressively blocking shots into the stands. It makes highlights, sure, but more often than not it results in nothing but a fresh chance to reset the offence. It’s an option, but not the only one. An athlete as gifted as McGee should be able to block the ball with some intent. If you can’t guide it to your teammates, why not swat it to the other end of the court? Better yet, just grab the fucking thing.

The blocks are just the start, unfortunately. Remember a few years back when the Hawks were facing the Heat in the playoffs and Josh Smith tried a through-the-legs dunk in game? That’s JaVale McGee’s calling card. Not that specific dunk, because even he’s not that idiotic, but the sentiment. By now you’ve surely seen his self-lob against the 76ers. The argument is there that he was at home, trying to get the crowd into it and bla-bla-bla, but we know that’s not the case. McGee pulls things like this at an alarming rate. Given the chance, he’d probably have 360’d, too. Remember last year when he tried to take off from the free-throw line? In a game? And missed horribly? He’s one knee injury away from pulling a Tony Allen, and while he’d probably deserve it after the embarrassment he constantly creates…actually, nobody deserves it. What he does deserve is a slap on the head. With both hands. You know, so he’ll understand.

DeAndre Jordan isn’t JaVale McGee. Not just because they’re different people, but because of how he’s separated himself. Both came up on similarly bad teams, and while one’s taken a leap back and the other a jump forward, they’re from the same mould. Some would even say McGee had the head start. While Jordan was plagued coming out of high school and in college with lofty comparisons and expectations and hype and hyperbole, McGee was groomed at a smaller school–at least when basketball is concerned–with a professional background (his mom, Pam, played in the WNBA). McGee’s hype grew in the workout circuit, his one-on-none gym sessions catapulting the lanky, well-intentioned Nevada prospect to lottery levels. Conversely, Jordan’s buzz dwindled. He couldn’t shoot, couldn’t hit free throws and was a bit of a jokester. He hit an all time low when he slipped to the second round.

Three years later and it looks like they’ve switched back to where they started. A second round pick, Jordan’s already on his second contract. It’s a big one, too. Following a busy off-season where he was courted across the board with big promises and bigger offers, Jordan returned to an improved Clippers team with heightened expectations. While he’s still shooting free throws at an embarrassing clip, he’s slowly living up to the standards set by his big pay-day. What’s most important about Jordan is his role definition, especially in an argument that pits him against McGee. Jordan knows he’s there to block shots, rebound and dunk and that’s all he does. That’s all McGee does, too, but with a caveat: he does it when he shouldn’t. They both catch lobs, but Jordan knows the difference between slamming it hard and cocking it back. It’s a highlight either way, the catch is whether you want it to be the reason your ass gets glued to the bench.

Jordan doesn’t take bad shots, at least not as often as a player plagued for his supposed lack of basketball IQ or instincts is supposed to. He doesn’t give up on plays, at least not as much as his collegiate self, a lumbering big man often accused of giving less than his all on the floor. That’s why you can’t put all of your faith into scouting reports. We’ve seen how workout warriors and perma-potentials have crushed the emphasis on in-the-gym, drill-dominators, but why toss all your eggs at a projector looping footage from one scenario? Some players thrive in college because of their roles. Others falter. And remember, JaVale McGee was once thought to have NBA range. If you thought his dunks were stupid, imagine the guy chucking 24 footers.

DeAndre Jordan had the unfortunate distinction of being a borderline green room invitee that dropped to the second round, sitting awkwardly while lesser-hyped prospects shook David Stern’s greasy, money stained hands. It was an unfortunate fall from grace for Jordan, who for a time was considered a lock for the top 12 and, as vague as the rumblings were, a possible top 10 pick. But coming off the latest bricks built in his game—an unfortunate allusion given his paltry 46% from the free throw line—and it’s clear that he’s firmly on the road to redemption.

At a time when McGee’s antics, cluelessness and immaturity are dividing an already tumultuous Wizards locker room, Jordan’s ability to separate personality from professionalism is making him an asset to the organization. The jokester that was once considered too immature to immediately succeed is a building block. He’s bonding with best friend Blake Griffin off the court and complimenting Chris Paul on it. He’s helping the marketing team, too. “Lob city!” as you’ve no doubt heard. That’s half his fault.

It’s early in both of their careers, but there’s reason to worry on one end and to be excited on the other. If McGee’s lucky, he’ll snip the thread before it snaps. Otherwise, expect this storyline to grow.

On Antawn Jamison…

If you’re reading this I’ll wager that you’re likely from Toronto, and if that’s true then you’ve no doubt read enough about Vince Carter over the years. You’ve no doubt read about his endless shortcomings as a competitor and heard lengthy complaints ad nauseum about his exit from Hogtown. At this point, who cares? Uh…lots of people. But that’s not why I’m writing this. As far as I’m concerned, Carter’s been out of the league since his days in New Jersey. Instead I want to talk about a player whose career’s been tied to Carter’s, and a player who, at 36, has more left in the tank in spite of murmurs about him possibly being waived.

I want to talk about the first collegiate player I ever followed, Antawn Jamison, who some of you might remember was initially drafted by Toronto, the draft day trade which helped pay for the outstanding practice court in the Air Canada Centre. It would seem that that slight change in draft order makes for a bit of a discount in contracts. Hmph.

So. Jamison. He’s had quite the career, am I right? The early years are what’s interesting. Fans often act as though Jamison got his start in Washington, and while his time with the Wizard’s solidified him as a key cog in the NBA machine, his stay in the U.S. capital was his third jersey. Fourth if you count Toronto. Which you absolutely shouldn’t.

It’s easy to forget that Jamison first started with the Warriors, mostly because the Warriors team he started with was aggressively forgettable. More interesting is that Jamison was the sixth man on the team, one which started big names like Bimbo Coles, Chris Mills and 33 year old John Starks. That was a team whose best player very well might’ve been Donyell Marshall.

But not everyone forgets his tenure with the Warriors, especially since so many people remember the draft day trade that sent him there for Carter. It’s his time as the Mavericks 6th man that escapes people mind. It’s easy to forget that Jamison was the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2003-2004, starting just two games for the Mavericks (who ended the season finishing 52-30).

These years will mostly stay forgotten. Hopefully his twilight years will follow suit.

Talk of Cleveland waiving or amnestying Jamison is obviously unfounded. He’s in the last year of his contract, and it’s not like cutting him’s going to affect any big signings or trades. They’re not going to cut—and still pay—the guy when he can play a role. Unfortunately, it’s his most meaningless role of the year. As someone who remembers Jamison from his college days, the way his career has ended is certainly disappointing. He’s the first collegiate player I can remember watching. I was living in an apartment building, on the tenth floor (this was before I moved onto the sixth). I had bunkbeds. There was a TV on my dresser and a mini-hoop on the wall. My door had a 2/3 scale Karl Malone on it. I remember watching North Carolina and thinking, “man, I hope Toronto drafts this Jamison guy.”

And then they did.

And then they traded him.

I guess what irks me is the bad luck he’s had. Compare his transaction history to that of former teammate Caron Butler. Antawn Jamison was traded to Cleveland in an attempt to help keep Lebron James. Lebron James didn’t stay, and when he left, so did the Cavaliers chances of winning. They’d built a team around a 6’8 ball handler, and when he left, so did their offence. They’d been built around isolations, their guards were shooters, not facilitators. Antawn Jamison was traded to the best team in the NBA to watch them dissolve into the league’s worst. Caron Butler? He went in the other direction. He was traded to Dallas as much to clear space in Washington as he was to help the future NBA champions. He was a piece, not the x-factor. And now? Now Caron Butler is on the burgeoning Los Angeles Clippers while Jamison rots in Cleveland. His game has faded, surely, but as tonight’s match-up in Toronto proved, he’s still got it when he’s got it. His little flip shots are still unblockable and his streaks are still a very real threat.

Vince Carter? He’s fat and in Dallas. He’ll never win a championship, at least as a useful piece. Antawn Jamison still has a chance, though, so let’s make it happen, teams. Please. For ten year-old Tyler’s sake.

Hey! Mark Jackson’s a coach now! No more stupid catch-phrases!!!

Want to know the silver-lining of having this new NBA season? I’ll tell you. It’s not having to hear Mark Jackson uttering his usual onslaught of terrible catch-phrases. Jackson, as you might hopefully remember, was hired on as head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

So what does this mean? For Bay Area beat writers, a headache, in all likelihood. But for fans of the game? It means no more grown man moves. No more momma there goes that mans. No more “knock down shooters” and no more asinine, sweeping claims. Good riddance, Mark Jackson.

Excitement for the Minnesota Timberwolves begins and ends with Rick Adelman.

Is anybody else irrationally excited to watch the Timberwolves this year? I’ve been big on Ricky Rubio since I started eyeing him prior to the 2008 Olympics, and watching how he handled himself against Chris Paul, Jason Kidd and Deron Williams in the gold medal game had me thoroughly impressed. Better yet was the comeback he ignited days earlier against the home-country Chinese team. Unlike his final stint in Spain, the Olympics showcased what makes Rubio special. It’s bigger than potential, and watching him persevere—defending and facilitating players nearly ten years his senior—proved this. Down the road he’ll potentially learn to hit a jumpsuit. Down the road he’ll potentially learn when it’s okay to be a scorer. Down the road, he’ll potentially complete his game. Right now? Right now he needs to be himself, and that’s part of why I’m excited to see him under Rick Adelman.

You could compare Rubio to Jason Williams and you wouldn’t be far off, but the differences are elemental and essential. The flash is there, but Rubio, like White Chocolate, can’t shoot. In fact he’s an even worse shooter than J-Will. Here’s the difference: he knows it. Rubio’s unlikely to run up and shoot contested threes like Williams did, in part because he falls victim to a slow, set shot and partly because he knows his role. It hurts him, like it’s hurt Rondo, and while I’m not comparing the two, Rondo’s turned out alright, hasn’t he?

Rick Adelman is one of the best coaches in the league. I stand by this. He’s up there with the Popovichs and the, uh…the Popovichs. He doesn’t so much preach versatility as he incorporates it. He adapts, and the Wolves has a pretty remarkable, young set of gears to tinker with.

Early reports out of training camp show that Adelman is ready to Wonka his chocolate factory, something that sounds much filthier than I’d intended it to. Rumour has it he’s even experimenting with a sort of bizarro-Don Nelson starting five, one which would potentially pair Rubio with a gaggle of talented, versatile bigs. This line-up, poised to feature Anthony Randolph, Derrick Williams, Wesley Johnson and a slimmed down Kevin Love will in all likelihood fail. On paper it’s an unpalatable monstrosity; flex players for the sake of. But the plausibility of a great coach like Adelman actually incorporating it? That’s exciting. I don’t yearn to see a line-up where the only floor-spacers are 6-8 bigs, but the willingness means the mess in Minnesota could be nearing its end. The Timberwolves won’t be a playoff team this year. You’d be an idiot to think otherwise. Compare them to the Clippers of last year however and the possibilities become pretty apparent. Then substitute Vinny Del Negro’s haircut for the coaching acumen of Adelman and, well…you get the point. That’s worth being excited about.

The Wolves have pieces. Young ones. Young talented ones, and also Darko Milicic. They’re at a crossroads, for sure. They’ve amassed too many lottery picks. Two of their highest potential players are near clones of one another. Luckily for Derrick Williams, the other one is Michael Beasley. Oh, Michael Beasley. By now I should know better, but you know what? I’m still excited.

If you’re still reading (thanks mom!), you’ll see a trend forming. Rick. Fucking. Adelman.

There’s a second part to this, and maybe some day you’ll read it. But for now, as free agency craziness and amnesties count down to what will likely be a 66 season game of ugly, back-to-back-to-back basketball, get excited, if not for the Timberwolves’ impending youth, athleticism and versatility than for their first year under an all time great.

 

 

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