The Three-Pointer: The Freefall Continues
1. Mark Blount is not the answer.
It is a brutal exercise being a Timberwolves fan nowadays. The personnel guy goes out and gets a big man whose best season by a country mile happened to occur in a contract year. Already 30 years old, the big man is signed through the 2009-10 season at an average of $7 million per year. The personnel guy trades a number-one pick and his second-best player in the deal.
The book on the big man is that he can shoot, but he can't rebound or defend. Yet, the coach, the guy who preached a defensive identity at the beginning of the year, plays this big man 15 seconds shy of 44 minutes tonight, at the expense of a 23-year old guy who ranks among the top ten in the NBA in blocked shots, but didn't get off the bench. And, true to form, the big man hit five of his first seven shots, and racked up a dozen points in the first quarter.
The big man always seems to be scoring points in the first half and the Wolves always seem to be building a big lead. In fact, the Wolves have created double-digit leads for themselves in 11 of the past 16 games. Yet they have won only 4 of their past 16 games.
Perhaps the coach--Dwane Casey--should remember saying at the beginning of the year that you win in the NBA by playing defense. The big man--Mark Blount--can't do that, and neither can (or neither will) Ricky Davis, the "plum" that the personnel guy--Kevin McHale--was most willing to sacrifice his second-best player--Wally Szczerbiak--and a number one pick for. Ricky Davis also had a fantastic first half, shooting 8-11 from the field and getting 18 points. In the second half he shot 1-4 and finished with 20 points.
The man Mark Blount was guarding, Chris Kamen, scored 24 points, had a career-high 23 rebounds, blocked 3 shots and picked up 4 steals. According to the popcornmachine.net website, during the 43:45 seconds that Mark Blount played, the Wolves were outscored by 18 points. If you do the math on this 8-point loss, that means that during the 4:15 that Blount was on the bench, the Wolves outscored the Clips by 10 points. (The other big-man matchup, between respective team MVPs KG and Elton Brand, was pretty much a wash.)
We've had the "snakebit" theory, whereby the Wolves just seemed to be unlucky they were suffering all these tough losses. Then we had the "disruption" theory, where the Boston trade was blamed for messing up the learning curve and the coach began referring to the practices as extended training camp. Well, it has been eight weeks since the trade and there are less than 20 games left in this miserable season. Maybe it is time to trot out the "incompetence" theory.
2. Bad night for Marko.
Returing to LA to face his old team was probably an emotional experience for Marko Jaric, which should have clued everybody that Jaric was not going to be very effective. Sure enough, even the things Marko usually does well, like stay with his man if he's not a super-quick point guard, box out on the boards, and dish the rock rather than hog it, went out the window tonight. Players he was guarding took turns creating points off the dribble against him, be it Cuttino Mobley, Corey Maggette, or Shaun Livingston. Mobley in particular was able to get offensive rebounds and put-backs with Jaric on him. And in the 4th quarter, Jaric was uncharacteristically selfish looking for his own shot, hitting a couple but also ignoring the club's two most prolific scorers, Garnett and Davis. Then he capped it out by throwing the ball right to an opponent on an out-of-bounds play out of a timeout that essentially sealed the win for the Clips.
3. Nice guys finish...
I imagine that Casey continues to believe that intentionally drawing a technical or otherwise getting in the face of officials is not a successful strategy. "You draw more flies with honey than you do with vinegar," is what he told me a few weeks back. Resisting the temptation to invoke a manure joke with respect to flies and the performance of his team, let me just suggest that the honey ain't workin'. The Wolves got tagged for a timeout they didn't call in the closing minute of the game, then, after Casey and Garnett futilely argued and questioned the time out ruling, the refs called a "send him a message" bullshit offensive foul on Garnett. It is about the fifth time this year I can remember KG being disrespected in a manner that simply doesn't happen to other superstars.
As the camera was fading out to commercial after the game was over, I saw Casey out in the middle of the floor, face to face with the official. It wasn't hard to lip-read the official telling Casey that the timeout call was "my fault" and then see Casey nodding with apparent satisfaction.
Lots of honey, no flies. After five straight losses, and a series of second-half collapses, somebody but Kevin Garnett should start to get angry about the performance of this ballclub, which is becoming pathetic from top to bottom.