Game Notes: Pistons at Wolves
Allen Richard Detroit?
by Myles Brown
Two months ago the Wolves shocked the Palace with a 106-80 drubbing of the Pistons. A lot has changed since then, as evidenced by Minnesotas 10-2 record this month, but a lot has remained the same. Despite a three game winning streak the Wolves were still out for respect, with questionable victories against the hapless Bulls and hobbled teams in New Orleans and Milawuakee. Detroit was looking for some positive reinforcement themselves, socked in 7 of their last 9 contests. So Wednesday nights rematch had both sqauds full attention and though the Wolves would go on to lose, they continue to show improvement. And even though Detroit won, questions are still abound.
The opportunity to complete their third season series sweep (Chicago, Milwaukee) of a Central opponent slipped through Minnesotas paws, but the fact that they were so determined to get it speaks volumes. This team is now motivated by expectations that were once a burden.
Kevin Love has improved by leaps and bounds in the past two months and is….I can’t bring myself to make a quip about love and patience. Let’s just move on.
Last week Kevin McHale addressed the rookies slow start and burst of improvement. “When you start to understand the terminology and I can’t tell you how difficult it is…I know it was in the dark ages when I played, but when they go ‘UCLA cut to a back screen to a flare’ I just wen’t, ‘What?’ I’d never heard that. At Minnesota we had Gold, we had Diagonal, we had like three calls. It was like Chinese. I was lost the entire time. They were running flare screens, I’d never seen people run flare screens. ‘It’s gonna be a pick and roll, we’re gonna show on this guy, we’re gonna go under on this guy. This guy’s a shooter, this guy’s a non-shooter…’ There were times when I was out there and I couldn’t think straight. Luckily I had a bunch of vetrans around me and that’s why I thought Brian Cardinal did a good job helping Kevin on all the coverages. But there’s a comfort level that comes in that’s hard to explain, but once you understand ‘They’re gonna go from UCLA to flare screen and we’re gonna black it’ you end up playing better.”
Love has always been praised for his intelligence and was never going to impress anyone with his physicality. So an unfamiliarity with offensive principles is more limiting than with an athlete like Derrick Rose. (Yes, I’m fully aware of the racial implications embedded in that statement, but it’s still true.) Now that things are slowing down, he’s making more instinctual plays and is having more plays run for him. In their last meeting Love scored a meager two points in 17:39 of game time. He was an unsure player who could only score off of putbacks and free throws. On Wednesday (17PTS, 6/11 FGA, 4AST, 10REB) he was possibly the second best player on the court, looking quite comfortable matched up against Atonio McDyess. Both played the entire second quarter and Love got the best of the veteran, snatching five boards (1OR) and accounting for more than half (11PTS, 3AST) of his teams 28 points. He jab stepped and drove past Maxiell into a reverse, backed McDyess down into a jump hook on the block, drew the defense in assisting Bassy’s jumpshot, and tipped in a miss by Al Jefferson for a three point play. All in two minutes. And just as promised on Draft night, Kevin Love is finding opportunities to exploit poor transition defenses with his excellent outlet passing. His confidence is expanding against the leagues second teams and at this rate if he isn’t a starter soon, he certainly will be one of the leagues best sixth men.
The sweetener of that Draft night deal, Mike Miller, continues to perplex. Sebastian Telfair, who recently played excellent d against wunderkind Derrick Rose, was hampered by a thigh contusion and quickly fell into foul trouble guarding Allen Iverson. But in limited minutes Bassy maintained the new found confidence in his j, making the defense respect his ability to catch and shoot and pull up off the bounce. The same things that Miller is capable of, who in 35:31 of game time drove a lot, scored a little (5PTS), shot less (2/5 FGA), and his passing did almost as much harm (3TO) as it did good (5AST). When acquired he was expected to stretch the opposition with his shooting, but has done the exact opposite. Miller catches and consistently drives, not to pull up from closer or for a lay in, but almost exclusively to pass. There were several instances on this night where his reluctance to shoot forced a teammate into an awkward attempt as the offense couldn’t reset, particularly during a four minute span to end the third quarter in which an eleven point lead was blown. In that fateful third quarter, Miller (8:20) played more than twice as many minutes as Telfair (3:40), yet took the same amount of shots (1). A nagging ankle injury may have affected his rhythm this season, but if a shooter is to have anything it must be the confidence to keep shooting. Miller is certainly aware of this which is the source of fans growing frustration and shrinking patience with his eagerness to share. They’re literally yelling at him to shoot the ball and he’s not listening. (Which probably isn’t lost on Rashad McDNPCD.)
Al Jefferson is enjoying a hot streak of his own, highlighted by a 39 point effort against the Bulls last weekend. But his defense hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Big Al didn’t box out, gave up open jumpers and position to Sean Marks, Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas , and Charlie Villanueva this weekend, so Rasheed Wallace was almost certain to have his way with him. Jefferson played magnificently, (24 PTS, 11/23) pirouetting his way to the hoop for a series of jump hooks highlighted by a midair adjustment from his hip after being trapped on the baseline. But Sheed dominated the fourth (10 PTS, 3/5 FGA, 1 AST, 3REB) taking Al (2PTS, 1/6FGA, 1REB) out of his comfort zone with long jumpers and physical defense. Now on this night one would be more inclined to give Jefferson a pass, considering that he’s playing out of position against a team of talented post men and penetrators. But if Al could defend it would compensate more for off nights and completely overwhelm outmatched opponents like Marks or Noah. But since he doesn’t it keeps the opposition in games they shouldn’t be and emboldens those who shouldn’t even think of it. And it meant playing a complete player like Wallace to a draw if not getting the short end of the stick. Nonetheless, I still think Al Jefferson should be an All Star this year. But I still think he’ll get shafted. And while defense shouldn’t be what keeps him out of the Winter Classic, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt his chances.
Wallace on the other hand is a more than capable defender and still shows spurts of commitment to the concept. He’s certainly talented enough to be an All Star this year and should have been, but….fuck, I don’t know. It’s Rasheed Wallace. If anyone can tell me with any sense of certainty why he doesn’t play like this every night I’d love to hear it. However, I am sure that this is his last year as a Piston. He’s expiring cap space for the Pistons and more importantly, who’s to say that he wants to come back? Contrary to popular belief, Rasheed Wallace is a winner. His knowledge and skill set could be seamlessly incorporated into any championship rotation and he would relish a supporting role to Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett. Both teams could use the help and have the personnel in place to take the risk. I’d love to see it happen.
Unfortunately, a player who hasn’t plugged in as easily is Allen Iverson (19 PTS, 5/15FGA, 3AST). Wallace and Hamilton are who they’ve always been, Sheed will keep fading away and bombing from three, while Rip will keep running, and running, and running, and running, and curling off those screens. Iver son still has an uncontainable first step, but he exploded into crowds of defenders for an assortment of forced fade aways that failed to find their mark. They’re quite routine and Iverson’s game is almost purely improvisational. The offense is sputtering, the rotation is questionable and things just aren’t working. Were they ever supposed to?
Given the looming prospects of Bron, Wade and Bosh, I doubt that any of the Pistons ‘big three’ will be re-signed, but in choosing between Hamilton and Wallace or Iverson, I’d have to say…
Have you ever seen Vicki Cristina Barcelona?
“Vicki and Cristina decided to spend the summer in Barcelona. Vicki was completing her Masters in Catalan identity, which she had become interested in through her great affection for the architecture of Goudy. Cristina, who spent the last six months writing, directing and acting in a twelve minute film which she then hated, had just broken up with yet another boyfriend and longed for a change of scenery. Everything fell into place when a distant relative of Vicki’s family who lived in Barcelona, offered to put both girls up for July and August. The two best friends had been close since college and shared the same tastes and opinions on most matters, yet when it came to the subject of love, it would be hard to find two more dissimilar viewpoints. Vicki had no tolerance for pain and no lust for combat. She was grounded and realistic. Her requirements in a man were seriousness and stability. She became engaged to Doug because he was decent and successful and understood the beauty of commitment. Cristina on the other hand, expected something very different out of love. She had reluctantly accepted suffering as an inevitable component of deep passion and was resigned to putting her feelings at risk. If you asked her what it was she was gambling her emotions on to win, she would not have been able to say. She knew what she didn’t want however, and that was exactly what Vicki valued above all else.”
Wallace, for all his emotional combustibility is still an easy fit as a player and Hamilton is the very definition of stability. They’re Vickis.
A.I. is a Cristina if there ever was one.
He’s universally adored for his unshakable sense of self and steadfast resiliency, it’s what helps him get up off the floor time and again after throwing himself into throngs of men twice his size. ( Pause.) But it’s also what critics point to in citing his inability to turn his style of play into winning basketball. But he’s still one of the most potent scorers in the game. But he’s proven to be a difficult fit. But you can’t ask Allen Iverson to just ‘fit in’ any more than you can Shaq or Steve Nash. They don’t fit your style, you fit theirs. But then are they as valuable as advertised? But wouldn’t you want to take that chance? But what if we could get LeBron?
And that’s why Allen Iverson isn’t going to be a Piston next year either. Too many questions with the chance at a sure thing looming on the horizon.
But Iverson’s also nothing if not fiercely loyal and that begs the question of how he’ll handle the rest of this season. Does he feel used? Trapped? It’s one thing for the average player to find themselves being used as an expiring contract, but if a passionate player such as himself isn’t driven by the hunt for a championship or a commitment to a franchise then what keeps him going? What is his focus? I asked him post game.
“I understand that it’s something I can’t control. The best part about the whole thing is that if I do get traded or I don’t sign back here, I won’t be going overseas. Long as they don’t trade me somewhere else out of the league. I want to win a championship so bad over here. I just try to stay positive cause I’m doing what I wanna do, I’m living my childhood dream and I don’t think it can be a bad situation if I’m in an NBA uniform. This summer, there’s no reason for me to be unhappy in my situation cause this is going to be the first time in my career that I’m gonna be able to choose where I wanna play and that’s gonna be the fun part about it. I’m looking forward to doing whatever I can do for this team right here but I understand that it is a business and there won’t be no hard feelings about what happens either way. I’m happy. As long as my family is healthy and happy, I’m cool.”
And you’d want to believe him as much as you’d want to believe that you could remain in a stable, committed relationship with Cristina. But she was diagnosed by one of her lovers as suffering from “chronic dissatisfaction”. Some people don’t know what they want, just what they don’t. Some people are forces of nature, refusing to be fenced in. You either match their passion or are consumed by it, for better or for worse.
“At this point in my career, I’m not going nowhere where they don’t play my style. And I’ve got the opportunity to go where I wanna go. It’s my choice, so why would I go somewhere where they don’t play my style and I’m not gonna be utillized? I feel like I’m still effective in this game and I can be if you put the ball in my hands, so obviously I’m gonna go somewhere where they want me to play like Allen Iverson, cause I can’t play like nobody else. “
Almost forgot. I wore a very hetero blue shirt this time. I don’t think he remembered me, but he did wear the same corduroy outfit. True story.