A happy marriage in Minnesota

It’s always fun to watch a really good player operate a system that perfectly fits his game.

Over in Minnesota, it appears Kevin Love and Rick Adelman’s corner offense are the path to achieving such a relationship. Adelman’s system positions Love in a spot where he can do a ton of damage, and Love has demonstrated an acute understanding of where his shots come from, and how to get the most out of his role.

Start with location; that is, where Love’s getting his looks. A full 75 percent of his shots in this young season have come from the beyond the arc or right at the rim, and he’s second in the league in free throw attempts. This is no surprise given where he handles the ball. On most possessions, Adelman’s offense, which is characterized by clever screen-the-screener action and plenty of hard curls that start at the wing and rip around a screen near the elbow, places Love about one long step inside the 3-point line.

This is such a sneaky and subtle way to get Love open beyond the arc. If Love stood right at the 3-point line, like most spot up shooters, defenses would know exactly how far to roam when helping off him. Instead, Love’s defender often thinks he is close enough to close out after lending help, only to discover that Love has taken one giant step backwards and is now wide open with his toes on the 3-point line.

The other thing Love does on most every possession is set screens. Lots and lots of screens. Huge shooters like Love, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant Ryan Anderson are just miserable to defend when they set hard screens. On almost every possession, Love either 1) sets a down screen for a curling

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HoopSpeak Network

The Book on Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko loves to read.

After an early season loss to the Denver Nuggets, the press drifted away from his locker to wait eagerly for the appearance of Kevin Love, fresh off his miraculous—and first—return from a hand injury. Kirilenko busied himself with preparations for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first extended road trip out west, packing a stack of paperback books with Cyrillic type on their black covers into his bag. “What are you reading?” I asked.

“Russian,” he said with a smile.

Kirilenko’s dry sense of humor might be completely unexpected if you’ve only watched him on the court. After their recent and unexpected win over the Houston Rockets—a win that saw Kirilenko work more as a distributor from the elbow—a reporter pressed him about exactly how that strategy opened up the floor.

“You’re trying to get all the secrets,” he said. “We got a win and we have to be quiet right now and save it for the next game.” When he’s enjoying a win like this, his deep-set blue eyes don’t seem as unreadable, nor his high, prominent cheekbones as sharp as they can look under the bright lights of the arena.

The day before the victory over the Rockets, which snapped a five-game losing streak for the Wolves, he sat in the tunnel outside the locker room. He appeared neither down about the streak nor amped up about what the next game might bring. Aside from his warm-ups and the way all 6’9” of him seems an ill fit for a tiny black folding chair, you wouldn’t have guessed he was a professional basketball player as he talked about his reading habits.

“I always read three, four books that are fantasy, that I like, and one has to be a classic,” he said. “You don’t

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The Next Thunder: Rankings

Oklahoma City handed the NBA a blueprint, should GMs choose to copy it: Strip your team down to nothing, reap high lottery picks, play those youngsters.

Simple enough, right? Luck is needed for this to be replicable, but providence isn’t to blame for why we so rarely see an OKC plan executed. The problem is that losing in the short term goes against instinct. Winning is a tonic, it’s addictive, you need it. And like any addiction, the compulsion to win now makes a man lose perspective. Coaches bench rookies in pursuit of short term ends, sacrificing youth development to the altar of a “10th seed” season. Sacrificing youth development is bad enough, but a higher win total usually means a lower draft choice–so now the coach is sabotaging the future on two fronts. Those bastards.

But perhaps OKC’s success will usher in a new era of strategic tanking. The NBA certainly heralded as much with their Hornets house cleaning. Organic, restrained, League Pass friendly growth might just be in these days.

So with a bulging eye towards the future, I rank my Thunder Potential teams for 2012. These are currently bad squads, primed to grow splendidly if they can ward off a coach’s short term compulsion.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (Cumulonimbus) There was much garments-rending over how LeBron left Cleveland in rancid shambles, but few noted the bizarre NBA paradox: Rancid shambles = where you want to be in this league. Rank failure is rewarded, and handsomely so. The upstart Cavs now sport the first and fourth picks from 2011. With Baron Davis amnestied, and Antawn Jamison expiring, Cleveland will have ample financial room going forward.

Despite widespread assertions to the contrary, I believe that Kyrie Irving has superstar potential. Tristan Thompson looks like he could become a valuable

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Zach Attacks: Shiny objects


From December 12th to opening night, I’ll be releasing a random essay on each team in the league. This post is about the Minnesota Timberwolves. You can follow the series with the “2011-12 Team Previews” and “Zach Attacks” tags at the bottom of the page.

We’ve become a group of collective Veruca Salts.

We can be a bit of an impatient society.

If a page on the internet doesn’t load within eight seconds, we begin to wonder if our internet service provider is part of a huge conspiracy to steal our hard-earned money from us. If we’re in the drive thru of a McDonalds and it takes longer than two minutes from placing our order to driving away with our food as we shovel fries in our face like it’s an antidote to some kind of poison we’ve ingested, we swear we’ll never go back to such an establishment because of their poor service… you know… unless they bring the McRib back.

I honestly believe we don’t mean to be so impatient. We’ve just been conditioned into being a problem solving society and the quicker the problem is solved, the quicker we can go back to spending our free time looking at YouTube videos of kittens performing Lady Gaga songs. Twitter was basically invented because we can’t get our thoughts out quickly enough for the whole world to consume. Message boards and Facebook statuses weren’t quick enough. We needed to be able to enter 140 characters and hit send without having to wait.
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HoopSpeak Previews NBA League Pass: Gems and Guilty Pleasures

The NBA released the 2011-12 schedule, or what Amar’e Stoudemire’s doctor calls “The Great Cartilage Death March.” It’s just one more signal that the NBA is almost upon us, and that means it’s time for fans to pony up for NBA League Pass.

This season will feature more top-flight NBA basketball than you can possibly take in: a full season of Carmelo’s (or are they Amare’s?) Knicks, and return of favorites like Heat Part Deux: This Time It’s MORE Personal, Grumpy Old Men: The Boston Years, The Wire References: An Oklahoma City Story and more. These are League Pass gems, the teams we need to watch.

But it also means it’s time to fall in love with things like Louis Scola’s shotfake and JaVale McGee’s endearing penchant for dribbling in the open court and trying to block his opponents warm up shots. These are the guilty pleasures. You may not admit that you like watching them in Daily Dime Live, but you can’t help screaming “Dagger!” when Jerryd Bayless hits a pull up three with 19 seconds left on the shotclock.

Here to preview the wide range of emotion and competence you’ll find this NBA season, is the HoopSpeak Live crew, with special guest Peepin’ James Herbert.

If you want to tell us how wrong we are, find us on Google+ tonight, we’ll be having a hangout around 9:30pm ET to talk it over! (That means you need to add us) 

James Herbert Gem: Memphis Grizzlies It’s really easy to root for a team with Tony Allen and Zach Randolph in the starting lineup. And you remember how much fun they were in the playoffs last season? Add Rudy Gay.  

Part of the reason Memphis’s run was so enjoyable was the fact it

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Nowhere Fast: The David Kahn Story

Image by Zach Harper

The following is an excerpt from the made for ScyFy movie: Nowhere Fast: The David Kahn Story (Directed by Michael Bay’s big toe).

David Kahn straddles a motorcycle by the side of a dusty highway. His leather jacket is tasseled and bears the insignia of a howling wolf. He moves his sunglasses from his nose to the space where his hair should be.

A desert bird shrieks in the distance.

He checks his watch and chuckles: “Better late then never.”

With a sober gaze to north, he breaths: “The Spaniard has arrived. Let’s Ride!”

Power cords from a classic Nickleback song disturb the eerie silence of the desert wasteland as Kahn puts his motorcycle into high gear, and pops up on his back wheel. A free man making his way on the open road.

Thank god for David Kahn.

It hasn’t been easy for NBA writers these last few weeks. Unless you have access (and few do) to those involved in the CBA proceedings, you’re resigned to essentially writing about others reporting, and maybe springing an original thought or two.

Then came Minnesota President of Basketball Operations David Kahn’s press conference regarding the awkwardly belated firing of head coach Kurt Rambis. Aside from an opportunity to ritualistically tear down a stranger 140 characters at a time, this conference offered an excellent insight into the reasons why the Wolves competitiveness problems won’t be solved by revenue sharing or a hard cap.

Kahn repeatedly expressed a desire to play an uptempo style, a philosophy for which he admits Kurt Rambis was thoroughly unsuited. In Kahn’s mind, the task now is to find a coach with “Uptempo DNA” who can get the most out a Wolves roster Kahn believes is engineered to play

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How Kevin Love is dominating the boards

"Rebounding Ent" By Anthony Bain

As much awe as the athleticism of NBA players inspires, so many facets of the game are won and lost by the basic measure of who gets to a specific spot first. Technique and anticipation are as paramount to NBA success as any of the physical attributes on which fans, coaches, and GMs place a premium. Michael Jordan redefined his game in his first comeback, crafting a deadly offensive repertoire based on savvy and angles. Steve Nash may be the best point guard of his generation despite lacking explosive athleticism, rather generating his production from anticipation, footwork, deceptiveness and court vision. But as much as these intangibles are praised in other facets of the game, rebounding is still viewed as a realm for the bruisers, the superior athletes – the Dennis Rodman’s, the Dwight Howards and the Ben Wallaces. At the age of 22, Kevin Love, an undersized power forward lacking even average athleticism by NBA standards, is illustrating what truly makes an elite rebounder.

Rebounding as it is taught can be broken down into two well-timed actions, both of which involve winning the race to a spot on the floor: the box out and the release. Despite his limitations, Love excels at both of these. He has an unbelievable knack for sensing when a shot is going up, in many instances having already established ideal rebounding position as the shot is being released. He routinely rotates to the weak side of the basket, where the majority of rebounds carom, and puts a body on anyone within range.

Forget about boxing out, Love stonewalls opponents, on many occasion fighting off multiple players while he tips home a missed shot or hauls in a loose ball thanks to his strong, solid base that makes

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“Mama There Goes That Meme!” Ep. 4: The Preseason Analyst Blues

“Mama there goes that Meme!” is a weekly HoopSpeak feature in which Beckley and Ethan, like curious extraterrestrials, probe, abuse, and ultimately learn from a popular media meme.

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Beckley: Ethan, despite the delightful bounty that was the first full week of NBA preseason action, this week in NBA news has been slower than George Muresan hedging on a high pick and roll. Writers and fans everywhere are wrestling, often within a single sentence, over whether the NBA Preseason matters. How many preseason-related articles have you seen that don’t caution “keep in mind this is just the preseason” before going on to say “but this piece of analysis matters for the regular season.”

48 Minutes of Hell tried to lay this issue to rest by using actual data to support the thesis that eyesight be damned, the preseason matters! Still, I can’t shed the memory of Deshawn Stevenson, in an obviously personal vendetta, airmailing an early shotclock 3 over Gilbert Arenas with a ridiculous grin on his face– then remaining in the game to get his prescribed run. Yet, while it’s obvious that most players don’t care about these games nearly as much as LeBron James’s Mom, they are still out there “playing.” I have to watch! I must be learning something!

Ethan, can you offer a counterbalance before I fall off the ledge and declare that the Timberwolves are the West’s sneaky sleeper after starting 3-0?

Ethan: Beckley, keep in mind that “keep in mind, this IS Summer League” is King NBA analysis meaning-killer. Nothing has mattered less than Summer League, not even Muresan’s toenail clippings.

(When asked about his Summer League play, Sisyphus replied: “I never existed and I’m a symbol for futility. I just dunked on Brandan Wright”)

Here’s where it gets “meh”ta. I

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