Photo courtesy of the Timbertrolls
The Wolves return home from a 2-game road trip, going 1-1 and losing two men in battle, to face the not-AS-lowly-as usual Charlotte Bobcats at home tonight. The problem with analyzing the Bobcats (a team that has a better record than the Los Angeles Lakers), is that the team is still "in development" and inconsistent. I mean, among the team's best players is something called Byron Mullens. As an east coast team, games generally start earlier, and the team isn't exactly featured on national TV too often. However, aside from the Wolves, there really isn't a team that is off to a more surprising start, so we can at least get a gauge on who matters and who doesn't by looking at box scores. Some keys:
-Injuries. The Wolves will be without Brandon Roy, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger, JJ Barea, and Nikola Pekovic tonight. This is almost humorous. I hate to stir up controversy and totally understand that injuries are fluke, but what on earth is going on with the training staff? Are they taking every precaution to identify muscle weakness/areas of risk and doing their diligence? This is too unusual for comfort. SIX injuries, all starters or big role players. Not ok. I refuse to believe the training staff is doing everything they can. Refuse. Evidence I have of this: none.
-Malcolm Lee vs. Kemba Walker. This is officially your hot matchup of the night. I am eagerly anticipating some quality Malcolm Lee minutes guarding Kemba. Malcolm did a fantastic job against OJ Mayo in Dallas the other night. Tonight Lee will have his chance to prove himself against another volume scorer, and should he be successful, may be well on his way to a regular role in the rotation.
-Will the Wolves sign someone? Pietrus and Josh Howard are the hot names. Thoughts on either? Worth an add? I think so. If for no other reason than to prevent AK47 from overdoing it and getting hurt himself. He should not be playing 44 minutes on a nighty basis. Conroy adds nothing to this team basketball-wise, while the aforementioned two players would. An easy decision.
-The Rise of Shved. You know things are dire/weak when Alexey is going to have to single handedly command the bench offense tonight. Expect big minutes from Alexsey. He is probably the barometer for the game. Should the starters flop at the start, Alexey's production is going to be the key to victory tonight. He had a terrific outing in Dallas on both ends of the court and is gaining confidence by the game. The one thing we have to get excited about in this juncture of the season (aside from an inexplicable record) is Shved generally playing far above expectations as someone who is still a relative unknown. Root for him.
-Upcoming Schvedule. The Wolves play Golden State on Friday and then receive a very welcome 5-days off until Denver at home next Wednesday. Hopefully after this 2-game stretch, some of the hurt Wolves will get enough rest to return.
-Love time-table update. It has officially been over 4 weeks since Love broke his hand. All signs point to him being ready before we know it. The injury timetable was 4-6 weeks, so hopefully he plays on the upcoming west coast road trip at the end of the month. His welcome back party can't come soon enough.
And yet through all of this nonsense, the wins keep coming! A victory tonight would be huge.
-Prediction: I just can't see the Wolves losing this game unless the shooting percentages are completely out of whack. Wolves move to 6-2. That being said, it is NOT going to be an easy win. When you have to rely on Will Conroy and Lou Amundson as more than spot-duty guys, the game will be a difficult out. The Bobcats could easily win this game. They are not the Bobcats of last year and have a generally healthy roster (aside from Henderson and Ben Gordon potentially our for personal reasons), whereas the Wolves obviously do not.