Is it just me or does it seem like it’s been six months since the Minnesota Timberwolves fired Ryan Saunders and hired Chris Finch as their head coach?
What’s happened since then: The NBA Coach’s Association blasted them. Malik Beasley was suspended for 12 games. And Ricky Rubio kind of fired some shots at the Wolves.
Let’s break down where the Timberwolves and a few other topics in this week’s column:
So, Like, Who Else Is Going To Score?
Who would have guessed that the Wolves would miss Beasley’s this much? With D’Angelo Russell also out, this team has no real scoring threat beyond Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards.
We’re past the point of winning meaning anything for this team. If you’re watching the Wolves every night, it’s because you live a sad life (me too!) or you want to see the development of guys like Edwards and Jaden McDaniels.
In the two games without Beasley, the starters outside of Towns and Edwards have scored 29 and 10 points, respectively.
We knew players like Rubio, Josh Okogie, and Jarred Vanderbilt weren’t going to be huge offensive threats, but this roster looks completely distraught right now. I understand injuries to two of your top-three players would be rough for any team, but it’s hard not to look at the Wolves’ reserves find flaws. When you have more than three or four players in your rotation who you don’t feel comfortable at all shooting, well, that’s a problem.
Rubio Firing Shots?
If you’ve been watching the Timberwolves, you can’t help but think maybe they aren’t trying to win. If the Wolves finish in the top three of the lottery, they will keep their pick. If not, they’ll lose it to the Golden State Warriors as part of the DLo trade.
Tanking in the NBA isn’t new. But it rarely works for a team’s long-term future, and Rubio hasn’t been a fan.
“It’s easy to get lost in that transition,” Rubio said earlier this week. “There is evidence it may work. It happened with Philadelphia, I guess. ‘Trust the Process’ when they went two or three years really bad but then started winning. But I kinda don’t believe in that kind of season. You have to build good habits from Day 1. I don’t think we are in the right way, to be honest.”
The problem with the Wolves tanking is that the other teams who’ve done it didn’t have a player like Towns. They were trying to get someone like Towns. What does it say about a team that can’t win with KAT on it?
I guess the argument could be made that that’s even more incentive for the Wolves to land a top-three pick. And while I do think there’s importance to keeping that pick for Gersson Rosas (if they lose it, that Russell trade suddenly becomes a “Maybe see ya later, Gersson?” trade), I also think there’s a negative psychological impact on these players and the franchise as a whole. It’s not like this team has a blueprint to winning. Towns has only made the playoffs once, and Jimmy Butler was the main reason for that. Russell made the playoffs once in the East and was quickly dismissed.
“I can be here and try to be positive, but we have the worst record in the league. We’ve lost too many games by 20-plus,” Rubio said. “I don’t feel like this is building something. It’s hard. You always have to take positive things. Of course, we’ll watch film and get better. At some point, we gotta start wanting to change something and it’s not happening.”
When the players on the court don’t feel like they’re building something, that’s troublesome. I’m not sure if that’s on the players, front office, or coaching staff, but it’s making everyone look bad at this point.
Pierce Out In Atlanta
The Atlanta Hawks dismissed Lloyd Pierce on Monday after two-plus seasons on the job. Pierce was 63-120 during his time in Atlanta and became the second coach to be fired this year, after Saunders.
The kicker for Pierce was that after signing Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Hawks thought they were going to make a push to be one of the better teams in the East — or at least in the middle of the pack. Through 34 games, the team is just 14-20 overall and 11th in the East.
It’s certainly disappointing for Pierce, who by all accounts seemed like he was doing great work in the Atlanta community.
Pierce will be replaced with Nate McMillan, who probably should have never been fired by the Indiana Pacers in the first place.
That’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you cats next week.