On the Timberwolves...
Canis Hoopus / A Wolf Among Wolves / TWolves Blog / Star Tribune
Minnefficient. Minnesota ranked 28th in defensive efficiency last year, which pales in comparison to everything except the fact that they were 29th in offensive efficiency.
Makeover/under. Both teams bring 15-man rosters with more new players than returning players. Milwaukee has seven holdovers (Bogut, Delfino, Ilyasova, Jennings, Mbah a Moute, Redd, Salmons) while Minnesota retains just five (Brewer, Ellington, Flynn, Love, Milicic) from 2009-10.
Yet the general consensus (along with oddsmakers) is that both teams are on the same level they were on last year. A season after the Bucks won 46 and Timberwolves won 15, Vegas set the over/under for wins for Milwaukee at 45.5 and Minnesota at 23.5. In other words, the Bucks are still considered a middle seed in the East and the Timberwolves are still considered the worst team in the West.
119-118-117-116. The Timberwolves finished the preseason by beating the Bucks 119-118 and the opened the regular season by losing 117-116 to the Kings.
Luke Ridnour began his tenure in Minnesota in fine form with 20 points and Sebastian Telfair added 15 points and 5 dimes in 16 minutes off the bench. Also of note was fourth overall draft pick Wesley Johnson, who scored 13 points and led his club with a +14 differential in 18 strong minutes off the bench in his NBA debut.
Point guard Jonny Flynn, who was picked four spots in front of Jennings two drafts ago, is out after undergoing hip surgery this summer.
The top two on night one. Ridnour and Carlos Delfino simultaneously and quite conveniently blossomed last year. Right in the middle of their careers, rightfully unforeseen, just right. Few predicted career years for players that seemed so consistently and obviously average, which led more than a few to figure that they would not repeat their keen 2009-10 campaigns this season.
If a famously small sample size is any indicator, Ridnour and Delfino are on the right track: Both were their team's respective best player on Wednesday night, and each led their club in scoring. Ridnour dropped 20/6/5 and nailed a clutch three with under a minute in regulation while Delfino went for 19/5/1 and three steals along with 5-10 on threes.
Ridnour is also the resident (only) veteran in Minnesota -- at 29, he is four Wolf years older than any other Pup.
"Star player benched for Anthony Tolliver." Oddly, not an Onion headline.
Kevin Love, by every estimation, is the team's best player. So it was story-worthy when Love played just 24 minutes in the opener on Wednesday against the Kings. Love not getting much burn on the best team in the world (Team USA)? Hardly okay. But okay. Love not playing more than half the game in Minnesota (the worst team in the NBA)? Not okay.
There is no good explanation for this. In a bit of truth being stranger than fiction, the story goes as such: Coach Kurt Rambis sat Love for the final eight and half minutes of the game and only played him 24 minutes because he liked how Anthony Tolliver was playing defense.