Several Kinds of Ugly
Wolves 107, Nuggets 118
Wolves 78, Mavericks 101
Season Record: 4-29
It is quite possible that there are no answers for this Wolves team, that however you roll the dice, you keep coming up with a pair of dice that smell like shit.
But it doesn’t seem to us that matching up Craig Smith (6’8”) against Dirk Nowitzki (7’), or, when that proves to be a silly idea within three minutes of trying it, to bench him and shift the burden to Ryan Gomes (6’7”) instead, is a particularly good gamble.
With Jefferson manning up on DiSagana Diop, the Wolves spent the first quarter of Sunday’s game conceding a combined seven inches between the C and PF positions. The results were predictable: After six minutes played, the Wolves had not snagged a single defensive rebound, Nowitzki was shooting 3-3 for nine points, and the Mavericks were up 18-7.
Aside from a brief flirtation with a single digit deficit in the second quarter (answered by three straight threes from Dallas), the Wolves never made it any closer.
But let’s not lay the blame entirely at the feet of Randy Wittman, and his odd inability to match his players up against opponents within five inches of their height. There was also the question of effort.
Wittman, in an abbreviated but fiery post-game press conference, touched on this very subject. He likened his team to a dog that has repeatedly been kicked, but that had yet to bite its owner. He said he was waiting for the dog to bite.
And he’s got a point. Jefferson, who finished with 16 points on 15 shots, along with 11 boards, did a lot of settling for mid-range jumpers. Rashad McCants, who got hot late to take the team on his back and turn a 31-point deficit into a 23-point disadvantage, spent much of the first half on the bench after committing one too many stupid fouls before sullenly telling Wittman they were unintentional.
The bottom line is this: The team, both collectively and as individuals, is playing worse basketball than it was at the start of the season. There is less fire, there is less execution, and there is a palpable sense that the game is lost before it has begun. For instance, after the game in the visiting locker room, one of the Wolves’ equipment guys told players on the Mavericks that he hadn’t bothered watching the game, and that “it was over the minute you guys flew into town.” When the team’s support staff is embarrassed enough to crack jokes like that, it’s a problem.
Locker Room Notes
After the game, we had the chance to catch up with Juwan Howard, late of the Timberwovles. We asked Howard if, given how things are going for his former team, he feels a tremendous sense of relief at landing in Dallas. Howard, in a display of why he is a consummate professional, declined to take the bait.
“I wish this organization well,” he said. He added that the Wolves “are having a rough season, but in the future they're going to be a playoff team. It just takes time is all.”
Inspired, we asked him how much time he thinks it might take.
He declined to guess. "I wish them well, man."
Over in the Wolves’ locker room, we found a nude Antoine Walker and a fully dressed Marko Jaric holding down the fort. We opted for Marko. He chided us for always coming in late, and said that he’d already “expressed my feelings.” But he was nice enough to answer our questions anyway.
In yet another indication that Marko is in a bad place, this is what he told us: "There is no answer. I don’t even know. It's one of those days that you try to forget. You wish you didn’t wake up."