From Britt Robson/On The Ball:
The bad news is that this squad is still full of holes. Love should have been starting over Smith two months ago, but that begs the question of what you do off the bench. As a fervant opponent of smallball, it bugs me to see Jason Collins, Mark Madsen and Calvin Booth all in uniform and ready to go and all DNP-CD. Then again, banging the drum for Collins, Madsen and Booth is like panhandling in the skyway–decent folks scurry by casting looks of fear and disapproval and pretty soon a security guard appears and leads you back out into the cold. If a tall rendition of the Three Stooges is your most viable strategic solution, well, what’s the harm in playing the kids, Love and Smith. Such common sense retorts leave me muttering to my inner phantoms as I head down the street. In other words, as I’ve said before, the Wolves need a legit big, preferably a hulking center, to get in a three-man rotation with Jefferson and Love. They don’t have one. So that’s a hole.
Rashad McCants, a first-round draft choice of the Timberwolves in 2005, seems to be patient even though he has seen very little action recently until Wednesday. He played more than 15 minutes against Atlanta and scored 10 points. It was his first action since playing seven minutes against Oklahoma City on Jan. 7. He had played less than 14 minutes since the New Year.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the team,” he said.
Naturally, he isn’t happy about his lack of playing time.
“But that’s not the way things are going right now,” he said. “So, I’ve just got to wait my turn. They told me that I had to wait my turn, pretty much. There’s not really anything I did, but my time is coming and be patient.
“I doubt that, but it’s just right now the team has a rotation that fits, and I’m not in it. So, that’s pretty much how it goes.”
In a strange and damaging coincidence, the two most prominent basketball teams in Minnesota have watched their most accomplished shooters slump.
Hoffarber, a sophomore for the Gophers, and Mike Miller, a veteran acquired in a trade by the Timberwolves, have not only missed more than their share of three-point shots, they’ve missed badly at times, as if betrayed by their own personal windstorms, or an unannounced change in the geometry of the game.
The resurgence at Target Center can’t be pinpointed on just one thing. Sure, the coaching change from Randy Wittman to Kevin McHale may have given the team a needed shot in the arm. Naturally, Randy Foye’s elevated game has given the team a boost it lacked. And, yes, admittedly, the Wolves haven’t been facing the league’s laundry list of elite teams recently. But Minnesota is taking care of its business on a nightly basis — against good teams and bad — because of the aforementioned factors and improved games from players like Gomes.
“You’ve seen Ryan Gomes and his aggressiveness level has been taken up a notch,” teammate Mark Madsen said. “All the extra repetitions, all the small things that Ryan’s been doing as it relates to his diet, the extra weight-lifting sessions to probably all the extra mental repetitions behind closed doors has become crucial to him really becoming a defensive stopper as well as taking his scoring to another level.”
Love said McHale’s style of coaching is different from that of Wittman. McHale, a Hall of Fame forward who was the team’s president of basketball operations before coming downstairs to coach, prefers a more hands-on approach than his predecessor. Learning from an idol and one of the greatest forwards ever to play in the league has been energizing for Love.
“He’s just out there on the court with us a lot more,” Love said. “When he wasn’t the head coach, he wasn’t at practice too much. Occasionally. he would drop in, but now he’s really hands-on and he has the assistant coaches working with us extra time.”
A healthy sense of optimism is a requisite when it comes to being a Wolves fan.
With eight playoff appearances and just one trip beyond the first round, the Wolves’ 20-year history has provided far more spills than thrills. At times, even their most loyal supporters have been close to abandoning ship.
But they keep coming back…