Game Notes: Heat at T-Wolves
Three more fouls were called while you were reading this.
by Myles Brown
An athlete’s confidence has always been given a revisionist’s look to suit the accompanying results.
With success, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. With failure, it’s a delusional chutzpah.
There has been pressure on Randy Foye’s shoulders since he entered the League. Wolves fans expected him to grow into a worthy understudy to Kevin Garnett and now they expect him to complement their new cornerstone, Al Jefferson. Foye’s play has had its peaks and valleys during this regime change, and the question was often raised whether he had the natural instincts of a point guard. He frequently struggled to maintain the offense, leading broken plays, taking rushed shots and failing to establish any tempo or rhythm. These stretches of maddening inconsistency were often followed with reminders of hot shooting, effortless slashing and open court brilliance. Through it all, Randy Foye assured us that he was a point guard.
Turns out he wasn’t.
It was certainly understandable where Foye has been coming from. No player gets to this level by saying, “I can’t”—certainly not one of Randy’s hardscrabble background. So as he bravely stood before fans and media, ignoring the disappointed comparisons to Brandon Roy, even his worst detractors couldn’t help but hope the guy was right. Foye has always been prone to mistakes, but his insistence that he could handle the workload has always come from a positive, “Can do” attitude and not selfish ambition. So it has been in good spirits that the naysayers have been exclaiming, “I told you so!” to each other.
Randy Foye is not a point guard. But as of late, he’s been a damn good shooting guard.
In the past, a matchup with Dwyane Wade would elicit comparisons from Foye and his supporters between the two only to be met with skeptical frowns. But this particular meeting has been eagerly anticipated considering both guards recent play and they didn’t disappoint.
Wade attacked the basket from the opening tip, using his size and quickness to skip through a porous Wolves’ defense. While it can still be said that he travels fairly often, it is still nothing less than amazing to watch him exploit an opponent with such calculated abandon. Many of his drives end in collisions, but only after he’s successfully outmaneuvered three other defenders with split second decision making and changes of direction. Such feet are dangerous under the hands of such an unselfish player, and Wade proved so early with 12 points and 3 assists in the 1st. The offensive continued throughout the first half and with 21 and 4 on only 11 shots, a 50 and 10 game seemed well within his reach. But he would settle for a modest 31 and 8, drawing the more of the defense and setting up easy opportunities for teammates including a number of no look alleys. And while I don’t necessarily agree with the “Look what his team does without him!” portion of most MVP arguments, it has to be said that the Miami Heat are an absolute mess of spare parts without Dwyane Wade. I’m sure the Wolves aren’t the first team to go on a 15-5 run as soon as he leaves the court.
Foye was the only thing keeping his team together on this night as Al Jefferson struggled in limited minutes. He banked in runners, stroked twenty footers then drove and kicked early, clearly more comfortable follwing his instincts to attack as an off guard. He bullied Chris Quinn and effectively led the second team from the point. He scored 14 of the teams 20 points late. On this night, he (12-21 fg, 5-10 3pt, 29 points, 8 assists) every bit Wade’s equal (9-15 fg, 13-16 ft, 31 points, 8 assists), save the ability to get a call or tw-…elve.
Problem was, Al Jefferson struggled in limited minutes. It should be noted that Jefferson logged an inexplicable 2:40 in the 4th quarter, contributing to his underwhelming numbers (9 points, 10 rebounds), but his time on court was disappointingly unproductive (4-14 fg, 1-2 ft, 0 assists) considering that he was the biggest mismatch for a small Heat frontcourt. He was certainly aware of this and established position on numerous occasions only to pivot in to a series of hookshots that all missed long. Of course, Al is nothing if not resilient and showed determination to correct his mistakes, but that only led to ball stopping that stalled the offense and made things easy for the Heat. Jefferson is obviously capable of confounding defenders with his sleight of hand, but if the setup for his tricks waste the shot clock and leave teammates motionless, then they best end with two points. As keener passing instincts become a part of his offensive intuition not only will Jefferson become more of a force, the entire team will. It was of no coincidence that a marvelous display of ball movement, eight reflexive whips of the ball from corner to corner with the sole intention of finding the best possible shot, occurred with Big Al on the bench.
Both Foye and Jefferson have played impressively during the Wolves’ recent upswing, but it seems as though there was only a small overlap against weak competition. They have a generally respectful and appreciative relationship, but they still don’t consistently exhibit the requisite sense of intuition to be a great duo. If they are to be the building blocks for this team, they have to develop the rapport that great players have with each other. Knowing where each other likes their shots, feeding them when they’re hot, getting them easy opportunities when they’re cold. Improvising. Trusting.
I’m confident they can do so.
So while an opportunity to beat a wining franchise evaded the Wolves again, it was an(other) encouraging loss.
As an aside, I have to say that now having witnessed the galactic imperial parade and protection that surrounds LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, I found the unassuming ease of Dwyane Wade quite refreshing.
SLAM: Do you feel like you were spoiled by early success in your career and how are you applying what you’ve learned as you guys try to climb back up that ladder?
Dwyane Wade: Well, I feel like I was lucky to come in the league early on and be with a seasoned team and then win a championship. A lot of people have been in this league and never won a championship, so I was very lucky and very blessed to have been a team like that. But now, it’s about building back to that. It’s about getting the right pieces around myself, Udonis and guys like that have been here to compete for a championship again.
SLAM: What’s the biggest lesson that you took from that championship that you’re trying to instill in your teammates now?
DW: That it’s not easy. It’s hard. If you don’t feel like playing you’ve got to. To be good in this league you can’t take nights off, you have to do it every night on both ends of the floor. That’s what we saw in Dallas when we got down 0-2 and we were down 13 points in Game 3. A lot of people thought it was over, but we kept fighting and the next thing you know, we won the Championship 4-2. You can’t ever quit.
SLAM: You see Bron was on the cover of the new GQ?
DW: Oh, he is? I didn’t see that.
SLAM: I know you pride yourself on your sense of style. What were your influences?
DW: Just our era. And our era was about fashion. You know, when you’re young you always say “When I get money I’ma dress like this.” I always watched my Daddy when I was young and he was a pretty good dresser for the money that we had and now that I have money I can dress the way I want to, I try to bring different styles to it. LeBron as well. He’s one of those guys that will try different things. You have to be comfortable within yourself to be known as a fashionable guy.
SLAM: So who’s better between the two of you?
DW: Me. By far.
*Should’ve asked if he had any advice for Kobe, who’s never had a GQ cover.
Pregame with Michael Beasley:
SLAM: What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve made in the NBA off the court?
Michael Beasley: Off the court? Getting rest. In college, you could not sleep for like three days, but we didn’t play every day. College was like twice, maybe three times a week. Here, you got to get off your feet. It’s a must. It should be in the contract.
SLAM: Is that the biggest thing you feel you’ve struggled with so far?
MB: Not really. I think my biggest thing is the mental part of the game. Off the court, it’s pretty much easy. If you do what you’re supposed to do, not partying every night like some guys do.
SLAM: You had any trouble with that?
MB: Honestly, I don’t bother at all.
SLAM: You’d rather watch Spongebob?
MB: Every day.
SLAM: You still f*ck with that, huh?
MB: That’s my shit.
MB: I don’t know man, it’s funny. It keeps me young.
SLAM: Any other cartoons?
MB: I watch everything on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel.
SLAM: Adult Swim?
MB: I’ll be up late sometimes. Boondocks? I’ve got that on DVD. Season one and two. That’s hot right there. Everything on Boomerang or something like the Jetsons or the Flinstones. I watch everything. Everything I watch is a cartoon or it’s got kids in it. I don’t really watch CNN or Fox and all them lawyer sitcoms. I watch stuff that keeps me young. I don’t feel like I’m old. I don’t feel like I’m getting old. I feel like a kid.
SLAM: Now as far as on the court, you satisfied with your production so far?
MB: Nah, not at all. Playing around the perimeter more than I did before, I’ve kind of strayed away from rebounding and that’s my bread and butter. If I couldn’t score 20 or 30 points, I was still going for 12 or 13 rebounds. Now, maybe I’ll grab 6 or 7. I’m not happy with that at all. I’m not shooting as well as I want. We’re winning so I can’t really complain, but to myself I still feel like I could work on everything, especially the mental side of the game.
SLAM: So what’s your primary focus as we’re nearing the second half of the season?
MB: Just to help out. We’ve got guys that can score….
[Udonis Haslem farts]
…That’s great UD, just wave it over here. But we’ve got guys that can score 20, 30 points. People don’t know, but Udonis is a great shooter. I don’t really have a set role. I’m not the scorer of the team, or the defensive stopper, I’m just helping out wherever I can.
SLAM: You’re a big prankster, you like to mess around. But as a rookie, people are supposed to mess around with you. Has that been a big adjustment for you?
MB: I don’t know…this team ‘aint as bad as I thought. My Godbrother, DJ, he was in the NBA and he told me about his rookie season and Kevin Durant did last year, so I know a couple guys that have had way, way worse than I have.
SLAM: What’s the worst thing you’ve had to do/done to you?
MB: I don’t really have to do much. We’ve got gangs on this team. There’s the young guys, there’s only four of us:Me, Chalmers, Anthony and Cook, against everybody else. So there’s gang wars. I got jumped today, I got beat up today after shootaround. I got caught by myself. But that’s basically all we do. We get towels and stuff. But they don’t really carry bags, they’ve got their little carry ons. So there’s nothing crazy to do, we just get a Gatorade or something. We had to walk to Popeye’s one day.
SLAM: How far was that?
MB: Like four blocks.
SLAM: That ‘aint shit.
MB: It wasn’t. That’s probably the worst thing I’ve had to do.
SLAM: Have you done anything to them?
MB: Not yet.
SLAM: But you’ve got ideas though.
MB: Oh yeah. I’ll be plotting. I’m a prankster, that’s what I do. It’s gonna come, just let me get this rookie year over.