Yeah, sure there's a World Series Game 1. One whose attention to I advocated for vociferously. But how often do you get to watch two NBA teams play that combined for forty wins the previous year?
I don't care much about the Kings, except to mention it should be mentioned that they were without Tyreke Evans for this game (serving a one-game suspension for driving 120-130 mph in the off-season). The Timberwolves were (and will continue to be) without the services of Martell Webster, thanks to his stupid back. Oh, and hey, let's all congratulate the Kings for winning their first game in October in seven years. OK, Kings, congrats, now go away.
Quick take on the Wolves overall--considering all the new parts, they looked pretty good. Losing to the likes of the Kings still hurts, but there's a lot of promise here. Still a little spazzy on defense, often overrunning their run outs, or biting too hard on fakes. Also led to some scrums on rebounds that didn't need to happen. Generally pushed the ball well, but again--sometimes just a bit out of control, or taking jump shots way too early in the shot clock, when a great shot was maybe only a pass away. Almost all the big men missed some gimmies down near the basket, including (uncharacteristically, Kevin Love, or KLOVE, who is apparently now blogging, and giving Bill Simmons the tinest bit of flack.)
Real quick--Hey GQ? How about you make each individual post linkable? You know, LIKE A BLOG DOES.
Let's talk about some of these new Wolves a bit.
Luke Ridnour--started hot, continued shooting when he wasn't particularly hot and then got hot again at the end, and maybe played a little spazzy at times when I was expecting him to slow the game down a bit. I'm a little suspicious of his official 3 turnovers, because it seemed like he had more than that. But on the whole, you can't complain too much about one of your veteran acquisitions when he steps up in the first game of the season, and pumps in 20 efficient (8-13 FG, 2-2 FT) points, dishes six assists, and collects five boards. That's solid, to say the least.
Michael Beasley--wasn't anywhere near as efficient (6-16) as Ridnour, but my goodness is that one athletic cat. 17 points, 7 boards--I do expect Beasley to continue to grow into his role on this team, and while his numbers may only improve marginally from that baseline stat, I have a hard time imagining that he'll shoot so low a percentage in future games. He wasn't particularly wild shooting, as his rep suggests (1-1 3-PT) but he had some bad luck down near the basket. A lot of those shots go in on other nights. But as Wes Johnson matures (quickly! see below!) and Martel Webster comes back, there will be fewer occasions for Beasley to necessarily be the lead dog in minutes (over 34 in this game). That said, I think all of the maturity talk with Beasley was way overdone. He was the Heat's second best player last year behind Dwayne Wade, which is exactly where you'd expect him to be. He smoked some dope, he had some emotional health issues that he went and took care of--so basically, he's like every other 21 year old sudden millionaire in the world. That's right--maybe you forgot--Beasley is 21 years old, still.
Nikola Pekovic didn't play even twelve minutes, but he was big and intimidating and went 3-3. He showed some decent feet in the paint, and I still think he'll be one of those guys Wolves fans are talking about by the end of the year. He'll take some time adjusting to what is and isn't a foul in the NBA (which, hell, is often a mystery to those of us who were born in this country) but he'll get there. And when he does, he'll probably start stealing minutes from...
Darko Milicic. He's a bit of conundrum. There are times his hook shot looks like it couldn't possibly miss, and there are times it looks like he couldn't hit the broad side of the barn. He's below 60% free throw shooting for his career, but he hit both of his tonight, but they weren't pretty, and on and on. He's quick down the floor (no really, he is now), and throws the occasional dime to the wide open guy in the paint, but in the paint on defense, he sometimes looks slow, but then again, he blocked four shots tonight, and on and on. There's very little doubt in my mind though, that he'll be the most consistent center (or part of a consistent center tandem) since the Wolves made Rasho Nesterovic famous and rich. That's not saying much, but it says more about the Wolves history of starting centers than it does about Darko or Pekovic.
Anthony Tolliver. Milicic wasn't the only Wolf with four blocked shots. Creighton product Tolliver did as well. I was surprised when he made the roster, despite the fact that he'd played well all pre-season. He's just got an odd skill-set. He's long (freakishly long arms, even), tall, and plays decent-to- very good help defense, but also likes to can 3's (2-3 from there tonight). I was about to say he may earn himself more playing time, but that seems kind of unlikely, as he was on the floor for 29 minutes (though he did generate a +6 while he was out there, so maybe?)
Wes Johnson--now here's a dude that is already pushing for more time. He only played 18 minutes. The Timberwolves went +14 with him on the court (team high). He scored 13 points pretty efficiently, going 5-10 from all over the field (though he did miss his two attempted 3-pointers), and hitting 3-4 from the stripe. He played some aggressive defense (which, combined with his rookie status, earned four fouls, and may have held down his time a bit). But when you've got a guy who can do this (link in case the embed below is taken down) you go ahead and play him until he fouls out. That's what I say, at least.