Game Notes: TWolves at Bulls
Ain’t no Love in the Windy City.
If it wasn’t for bad luck, the Minnesota Timberwolves would have no luck at all.
First there was the infamous Ricky Rubio debacle this summer following the NBA Draft that made GM David Kahn the laughing stock of the sports and media world and had everybody asking, “What is this guy doing?”
Now, second year PF Kevin Love will be out anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks with a broken hand that he suffered in Friday night’s 90-94 loss to the Chicago Bulls in the United Center. To add insult to injury, the break occurred at the “hand” of his own teammate so to speak. It was an unfortunate incident and not just in terms of the immediate impact his injury will have on the TWolves, but in the sense that Love was in the midst of having a great game.
After going for a rebound off a Brad Miller missed free throw in the 3rd quarter, Love’s left hand collided with teammate Oleksiy Pecherov’s elbow breaking the fourth metacarpal bone. His line when he left the game: 3-4 from the field, 3-3 from the free throw line, 9 points and 6 rebounds. It was a double-double waiting to happen.
After the game, Love was surprisingly positive and upbeat and he managed to maintain a sense of humor at his misfortune.
“[Last year] I had a running joke with the trainers where I had a couple of things happen with my fingers and I’d joke around and say, ‘It’s broken, it’s broken.’ So when Gregg (athletic trainer Gregg Farnam) asked me at half court if it was broken I said, ‘Yeah, very funny.’ But we ended up going for the X-ray and I saw that it was.” He went on to say “I’m just happy that it didn’t happen in the middle of the season or towards the end and hopefully I’ll be able to come back as early as late November, early December and I’ll be able to pick up right where I left off.”
On a more positive note, both Al Jefferson and Jonny Flynn had good games and I have to say that I was really impressed with Flynn. His ability to penetrate and get in the lane and either make something happen for himself or his teammates was amazing.
All night it seemed as if he was beating his man off the dribble, penetrating down the middle of the lane for layups or kicking it out to the corners for open three point shots and deep two’s. Said head coach Kurt Rambis after the game: “I think it [Flynn’s ability to penetrate and dish] is going to be huge part of his game… He’s going to be terrific.” After watching Brandon Jennings play a few nights earlier, it was very easy to see who’s going to make an impact as a rookie this season and who isn’t. Jonny Flynn is an NBA ready, rookie PG.
And Al Jefferson is a beast. I’ll say that again for emphasis… AL JEFFERSON IS A BEAST! He struggled from the field shooting 3-10, but he played great defense, pretty much shutting Joakim Noah down who was coming off a big game offensively against Milwaukee, and he was also an absolute monster on the boards grabbing 16 rebounds, 14 of them on the defensive glass. He also had 4 blocked shots and took a few charges in 34 minutes of playing time.
After reportedly losing 30 pounds on Jared’s Subway diet, Big Al looks leaner, meaner, and he might be ready to finally have that breakout, All-Star caliber season that he was on his way to having last year until he went down with a knee injury. Said Rambis, “We know that he can be an impactful player offensively on the post, but we need him to stretch his game for the benefit of the team in terms of playing good individual defense, team defense, and his rebounding,” He added, “Those are the areas that are going to help us out and we’re going to continue to rely on his post game.”
Said Al Jefferson after the game: “Tonight makes me realize why I love preseason so much. You’ve got to get all those bad things out. If I got to go through a slump, better now than later. Good thing coach let me get my minutes and get it out of me,” He went on to say, “By the 28th, I’ll be ready.”
And before I wrap this up, I want to go back to Oleksiy Pecherov for a minute. I know it’s only preseason but after watching him play it looks like the Washington Wizards trash will turn out to be the TWolves treasure. During the pre-game shootaround I watched him warm up and I have to say that I was less than impressed. He missed just about every shot he took, even the ones from close range down on the blocks. But when the game got going, Oleksiy was on fire. He was hitting shots from everywhere. He was even nailing three pointers. Needless to say, he was feeling it Friday night. After being buried on the Wizards bench last season, I had no idea that perimeter shooting was even a part of his game.
But, when the game got close down the stretch and in two very critical and clutch moments that could’ve given the Timberwolves the lead, to the shock and surprise of everyone in the United Center, Pecherov took two very big three-point shots. He airballed both.
He finished the game with 16 points on 7-13 shooting from the field including two three pointers. He also grabbed 5 rebounds. Still, I had to ask Kurt Rambis about those three pointers late in the game.
SLAM: Coach, those three point shots that Pecherov took late in the game, were those plays drawn up or were they broken and he just took the shots?
KR: They were designed for him as part of an option. He was one of the options that we could use. The first one he shot where he was wide open, he didn’t shoot with confidence and I got on him about that. That was an open shot for him that he has the capability of drilling, but he didn’t shoot it with belief. The next one he did. But he’s that kind of shooter. He’s somebody that we can use with long distance shots.
It was strange, but as he was speaking you could just feel the Zen emanating from him. It seems that being Phil Jackson’s Padawan all those years has made him somewhat of a Zen master too. I walked away feeling if Kurt Rambis thought those were good shots for Oleksiy Pecherov to take in such critical moments, then so did I.
It felt like I’d just had the Jedi Mind Trick done on me or something.