Left to Right: Anderson Varejao, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bruce Jenner, Todd Day, Sundiata Gaines, Matt Bullard and Kurt Rambis enjoy a Jazz Jam in the offseason
Happy New Year! Why does it feel like the Wolves always have a century in between games? Alas, they resume their regularly scheduled programming tonight in Utah against the declining Jazz. UThe Jazz a clear rival for that 8th seed, have lost 4 in a row and are now a 15-17. With a 9-4 record at home, Utah is a beatable opponent and an important one. These next three games are quietly very important and solid barometers for the rest of the season. Utah, Portland and Denver all are up this week. All division and standings rivals. Some other bullets:
-No Rubio. Rubes is out with back spasms and will miss the two game road trip. It is just becoming ridiculous at this point. Rubio needs to be healthy. I think the fans are really relying on him to provide a boost for the second half of the season for a playoff run. Thus far, as somewhat expected, that magic still hasn't been there and any series of minor injuries stunting the growth of this team is just yet another setback. Beyond frustrating. Everyone in the west is good. It is absurd. These bit injuries are going to come back to bite us when the final west seedings come down to one or two games at the end of the season.
-Lazar "Major Lazer" Hayward. But never fear Wolves fans, Lazar is back. In a confusing move, Lazar will handle 4th guard duties on this upcoming road trip, signed over the weekend to a non-guaranteed deal. It may be too early to criticize this, as the sequence of moves may be more complete following the contract guarantee date of January 9th, but this signing confused me. Why were the Wolves fearing a guaranteed contract when 3 wing players are out for the season (I am counting Roy here), and Budinger is gone for at least two more months? Who is this player who is on the mend that will come back? And while defense and hustle are nice, getting a knockdown 3 point shooter would have been the answer in my humble opinion. What would be more valuable to this team right now? A +40% 3 point shooter or a 10 minutes per game hustle guard who can marginally slow down opposing bench guards for a few minutes per game? Considering the Wolves are last in 3 point shooting in the league and just continue to fire them, I am saying the former. This team needs a shooter in the worst way. It may have been wise to just cut ties with Roy and use the subsequent injury exception to acquire a shooter such as Anthony Morrow from Atlanta. However, the strong possibility remains that Lazar will be waived next week, giving us the option to sign Mickael Gelebale to a few 10-day deals. Gelebale, while not a great shooter, certainly provides more experience and is likely a better option for a hustle swingman.
-The Roy Saga. Speaking of Roy, what is Kahn holding on to here? Why distract yourself? The risk of signing him just hasn't paid off. And in hindsight, Kahn looks desperate pulling for the guy and not doing the due diligence with his medical outlook beforehand. There was a chance the move could have been a masterstroke, but let's be aware that what you have with Roy today is a guy making $5 million to endorse Arby's and AT&T while taking up a roster spot in desperate need of production. Like the guy as much as you want for what he did in Portland, or for being a good dude, but today this is what Brandon Roy is offering the Wolves. Roy, who last week went through his second behind-the-scenes stint of wanting to re-retire in the first third of the season alone, is seeing things in the long term and it just doesn't seem as if he has much of a desire to return. You have to feel for the guy without question — a former superstar who just doesn't have it anymore — but at this point, he isn't adding value to the roster. It begs the revisionist comment that, while a fair risk to take arguably, the Wolves probably shouldn't have even decided to take any sort of risk in the first place. Courtney Lee or OJ Mayo absolutely, positively could have been had (for potentially even less money), and now with the Wolves being over the cap this summer, that $5 million will not be able to be replaced by a productive wing in the offseason. The risk has cascaded. There are many people who thought staying away from Roy was the right move. Those people were definitely right as it stands today. Could he bounce back for the second half of the year? Sure. Will it have been worth him missing half of the season in a position of desperate need? Highly doubtful.
4. Utah - The Jazz are on a bit of a slump lately so the Wolves will be in prime position to win. In order to do so, Kevin Love is going to have to absolutely, positively not dog it on defense. Utah has a very talented front court that can score from anywhere on the court, and given Love just surrendered his night last Saturday to Luis Scola, he is in solid position to be outworked by Paul Millsap. Excuse the negative nature of this post in general, but Love has been a disaster to start this season. He certainly has already lost his all-star spot, and he is going to have to get through whatever funk he is in to help this team win games against critical opponents such as the Jazz.
For the Jazz – Mo Williams is likely out with a thumb injury which is great news for Minnesota. Mo has been a Wolves killer for years and his absence makes things easier on the squad. Tonight also marks another game vs. Randy Foye.
Prediction - The Jazz are good at home. The Wolves are poor on the road. If the Wolves can hit a couple of outside shots and pack the lane on defense to contain Millsap, Favors and Big Al, this game is ours. Unfortunately, magic always seems to happen at Energy Solutions Arena and I don't have a strong outlook for tonight. Wolves lose a heartbreaker. My New Years Resolution of being more positive will begin at a later date.