I had hoped that my first post of this season would be about a more positive subject, but last nights developments suggest a very negative turn.
The Twolves came into Orlando looking confident and strong after an impressive final six minutes against Brooklyn. In Brooklyn we saw a Wolves team that rose to the occasion, got out to a big league, weathered the storm and came a way with a victory. Everything looked great. Whenever he was on the court, Nikola Pekovic was a force to be reckoned with. Ricky Rubio scored the ball in crunch time. Kevin Martin hit big shots and the youngsters, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, played really well against the veteran Nets.
One thing that had been mentioned in the Twolves fan chatter on twitter and facebook, was how different the team looked with Mo Williams on the floor instead of Ricky Rubio. Unfortunately now Wolves fans appear as though they would have to wait a few, or more, weeks to see the more effective floor general run the team.
Mo and Ricky are such vastly different types of PGs that the team looks completely different when Mo comes on the court. Ricky’s pace, speed and knack for getting out on the break fits the profile of the Timberwolves roster. The youth, the “Chaos” Brewer, Thad Young and the mobility of our Centers, and Martin as a floor spacer, just fit so well with the way that Rubio runs the point. (Mobility and floor running is really one of Nikola Pekovic’s greatest most unexpected strengths as a player.) But when Mo comes in with the second unit, everything slows down. Sometimes, this can be very effective. If Mo comes in and makes his shots and the big guys are finishing plays in he post, the second unit can be pretty effective.
I was very “Pro Mo” when he first arrived in Minnesota. I figured that he couldn’t be any worse that J.J. Barea was last year. Along side Ricky, I still think that Williams can make a positive impact on the team. Having Mo come off the bench for Rubio as a scorer at the PG position demands that the defense make the adjustment. In the pre-season, Mo was on fire. He was draining threes and scoring very efficiently. He looked like the solid veteran scorer that the Timberwolves front office billed him to be when he was signed. What I saw last night was another story.
While everybody can have a off game or two, Mo just didn’t look like that veteran PG off the bench who can come in, score and make the right decisions. I’m starting to feel like he is either pretty good or … yuck.
A few months ago, I had a conversation on twitter with a few Portland Trailblazers bloggers who were talking about how much Timberwolves’ fans will learn to despise Mo Williams. I tried to find the conversation, but I can’t seem to find it. To summarize, I said that he can’t shoot the ball any worse than he likes of Barea and Alexey Shved.
While I still think he is good veteran presence on the Wolves bench, and an upgrade on Barea as the first PG off the bench … but now he’s being thrust into a starting role.
This is pretty much my worst case scenario I could have imagined two days ago. It’s the moment when, if it happens while your playing NBA 2k on franchise mode you usually quit out of that game and restart. It just feels unfair.
But in all reality it is completely fair. At any moment any player can go down. That’s the brutal reality. But that doesn’t stop it from totally sucking.
It sucks to say that, right now, the Twolves are actually missing J.J. Barea. That’s a tough thing for anyone here at tw0lvesblog to say without cringing. However, the reason for keeping J.J. around would have for PG insurance. If J.J was on this roster now, we’d have another veteran guard to put out on the court. Of course there is the dim silver lining that this will open up minutes for rookie Zach LaVine. It even looked like Mo came up a little gimpy at the end of the game.
Anyway, these next upcoming weeks will really test Flip Saunders coaching ability. He’s a PGs coach, and right now he doesn’t have one true PG on his roster. Somehow, some of the other players will have to be more active as distributors or I fear this offense will completely stagnate.
It’s a brutal reality that Rubio is not injured again. The injury is such a bummer for so many reasons. Hopefully, Ricky can come back in similar form to how he started this season, as soon as possible, because this team needs him running the show.
I really hope that Mo William’s can prove me wrong. I hope he can step it up and lead this young team as their starting PG until Rubio can come back. If in a few games, the offense continues to stagnate with Mo starting at the point, maybe Zach LaVine should be thrown into the fire. It’s unlikely that Flip would ever start Zach over Mo, but why not. Mo’s role from day one was to be a veteran backup. While Zach does not play PG the same way that Rubio does, he does play at a similar pace. This could help the team keep their running fast paced identity, and give young Mr. LaVine some valuable NBA experience.
I also have to call out Kevin Martin. There were about five or six times against Orlando that K-mart made some very peculiar choices. Two times, it looked like he took forever lining up an open three. Other times he threw up shots without looking like he was at all set to shoot. But at least he’s being aggressive in his role as a scorer, right?
But last night he also made some bone headed plays not passing the ball to the open man. Once he drove inside to take a wild jump shot over two defenders when Zach LaVine was spotted up for a wide open three. Another time he got out on the break with Brewer and didn’t dish it to him for an easy dunk. Instead he drew a touchy foul on an out of control layup attempt.
Then, in accordance to the title of this post, the wolves’ overtime production was ABSOLUTLY brutal. No body could make anything. There was no offensive flow and a lot of Twolves players trying to score one on one.
It was also very odd to see Anthony Bennett held out of the game except for two free throws and Andrew Wiggins being benched for all of overtime.
It’s simply a brutal reality, that in one step, the next couple of weeks of Twolves basketball went from totally fun and exciting, to probably really painful to watch. I hope Flip can keep it together, and somebody like Thad, Wiggins or Pek could step it up on he scoring end. Because if the Wolves rely on Mo and K-mart, I’m afraid we’ll be looking at … once again a very hot and cold wolves team.