Now 1-13 after 91-87 loss to Clippers in L.A.

Posted on November 24th, 2009 – 5:46 AM
By Jerry Zgoda

It was kind of fitting that Sean Rooks sat next to me on the baseline at Staples Center tonight.

The last time before tonight a Wolves team started a season 1-13, Rooks played on the 1994-95 team whose future was built around, ahem, J.R. Rider and Christian Laettner.

At least until a kid named Garnett arrived in the draft the following summer.

Tonight, the Wolves fell to 1-13 — with a 13-game losing streak — with a dud of a fourth quarter after they had led after each of the first three quarters.

They went without scoring for about five minutes midway through the fourth quarter and watched an eight-point, third-quarter led morph into an eight-point, fourth-quarter deficit before they got within two in the final minute.

But Al Jefferson was called for a traveling violation for the third time in the fourth quarter with 29 seconds left and then Baron Davis preserved the victory with a driving layup with 8.5 seconds left that was his only points of the game after he missed his first nine shots.

While he struggled, the Clips called upon Sebastian Telfair.

Yep, Bassy, the fellow the Wolves traded to L.A. last summer with Craig Smith and Mark Madsen for Quentin Richardson’s contract after David Kahn had drafted point guards Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn consecutively in the June draft.

He scored 17 off the bench, including the Clippers’ first four points in the decisive fourth quarter.

“It means a lot,” Telfair said of Monday’s victory. “I was traded for them to go get some new guards. I want to show I could play. I don’t want to say anybody made a mistake. Those guys are great players. I’m confident enough to know I’m just as good as those guys.”

The Wolves now are three losses away from tying the franchise record for longest losing streak, set twice (1992 and 1994).

A few other things about tonight:

Wayne Ellington was a DNP-CD for the second time in three games (and played less than four minutes in that third game at Portland Saturday).

Flynn’s looking more comfortable out there. He led all Wolves with 17 points, had five assists, two turnovers and more than anything, he can really, really push the basketball. Even Rooks commented on how fast he gets the ball down the court.

SIX of Al Jefferson’s eight turnovers (the Wolves had 21 total) came on traveling violations, three of those in the fourth quarter alone.

This is more the kind of line they need to get from Corey Brewer — 5 for 12, 13 points, seven rebounds, two steals, an assist, two turnovers — rather than those 19-, 20-shot games he was producing in the season’s opening weeks. He’s going to be a pretty versatile, valuable reserve on a playoff team, but he’s no starting 2 guard.

That’s all from L.A. Wolves fly home in the morning, probably won’t practice and play Denver at home Wednesday. Phil Miller’s got Wednesday night game.

Those next three games, btw, are a pair against the Nuggets and Friday’s 8:30 pm home game vs. Phoenix.

Wolves-Suns bumped from ESPN, Friday’s game still 8:30 p.m.

Posted on November 22nd, 2009 – 5:46 PM
By Jerry Zgoda

Well, that’s what happens when you’re 1-12 with a 12-game losing streak…

The Wolves-Suns game Friday at Target Center was scheduled for an unusually late 8:30 p.m. tip as the second half of an ESPN Friday night doubleheader.

The game has been scratched from the ESPN schedule and replaced by the Oklahoma City-Milwaukee game that features Bucks rookie sensation Brandon Jennings and Kevin Durant and Co.

The game will stay as an 8:30 p.m. start because presumably to change it now would create more problems than it’d solve.

Miami-Washington remains the first half of the doubleheader.

Wolves lose 12th in a row, 106-78 at Portland

Posted on November 22nd, 2009 – 3:29 AM
By Jerry Zgoda

The first two times the Wolves and Blazers played in this 13-day stretch, the Blazers won by 23 points each time.

This time, for the third time since Nov. 8, they lost by 28 after leading briefly by a bucket with four minutes gone in the third quarter.

This is progress?

Kurt Rambis called it such after the Wolves allowed 66 in the second half — the most the Blazers have scored in a half all season — and couldn’t score a lick after holding that brief 51-49 lead.

The Blazers outscored them 57-27 the rest of the way.

Rambis said his team played “really, really well for tremendous stretches” and when I asked if he saw progress from those first two games against Portland, he said, “Absolutely.”

Later, in the locker room, I asked Al Jefferson the same question and he stared at me blankly.

Then, he said, “We lost by 30. We played good into the second half, then we couldn’t score no more in the third quarter. We couldn’t make no shots.”

The Wolves have lost the last eight games in this 12-game losing streak by an average of 20.6 points, all of those eight by 10 or more points.

“Thanks for reminding me,” Jefferson said.

The Wolves haven’t won since opening night when they beat New Jersey, the NBA’s only remaining winless team (0-13).

That was 26 days ago.

If the Wolves lost Monday to the Clippers in L.A., they will tie the franchise record for worst start to a season, 1-13 in the 1994-95 season.

The franchise’s longest losing streak is 16 games, reached twice (1991-92 and 1993-94 seasons).

That’s all from Portland tonight. Got an early flight to L.A. tomorrow.

Franchise record in sight: Wolves at Blazers

Posted on November 21st, 2009 – 10:53 PM
By Jerry Zgoda

The Wolves are in the second quarter tonight — trailing by as many as 11 early, of course — at Portland, trying to avoid their 12th consecutive loss after their season-opening victory over still winless New Jersey.

Two more losses — tonight and Monday at the L.A. Clippers — will tie the Wolves for the franchise’s worst start, 1-13 in the 1994-95 season.

Entering tonight, the Wolves’ last seven losses all have been by 10 or more points, including that 41-point fiasco at Golden State 12 days ago.

The Wolves again started Ryan Hollins next to Al Jefferson and again asked him to use his length against LaMarcus Aldridge, who has proven an extremely problematic matchup for the Wolves until Hollins came along.

The last time here (13 days ago, to be precise), Hollins helped limit Aldridge to 11 points and 4 rebounds (he did get 19 and 11 in the rematch four days later).

Tonight, Aldridge has two points midway through the second quarter.

Kevin Love again is watching from behind the Wolves’ bench here in his hometown.

Also not playing is injured Portland forward Travis Outlaw, out the next three to five months while he recovers from surgery to repair a broken foot.

Outlaw, 25, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

I know we’ve mentioned guys like Joe Johnson (a hard get) and Rudy Gay (an expensive get) as candidates when the Wolves try to spend all that saved cap money, but the more I think about it, the more a guy like Outlaw could be a target they actually could get.

He’s long, athletic and young.

Your thoughts?

Love’s game return still probably three weeks away

Posted on November 20th, 2009 – 3:09 PM
By Jerry Zgoda

Phil Miller’s got practice for me today because I’m already in Portland for the start of a quick two-game Western trip that starts tomorrow against the Blazers. Here’s what he reports about that X-ray Kevin Love had on his fractured left hand:

There’s been good healing progress. He’s probably two weeks away from participating in a full practice, perhaps three weeks away from playing in his first game of the season.

That’d be right in that six-to-eight ballpark estimated when he broke the hand in a preseason game at Chicago on Oct. 16, even if Love was hoping the X-ray would show he could start practicing right away again.

He did some outside shooting today, but can’t do anything physical with the hand yet. Love reports the pain is almost completely gone.

Exactly three weeks would put his return at that Dec. 11 game in Los Angeles against the Lakers, which would be a timely debut.

Rockets at Wolves tonight

Posted on November 18th, 2009 – 8:18 PM
By Jerry Zgoda

Al Jefferson’s back in the starting lineup and they’re just about set to tip it off at Target Center tonight, with the Wolves trying to end against Houston that 10-game losing streak.

Ryan Hollins is starting again at either center or power forward, whatever you want to designate him and designate Al. That leaves a Jefferson, Hollins, Ryan Gomes, Corey Brewer and Jonny Flynn starting lineup, of course.

Trevor Ariza walked into the Wolves locker room tonight less than 90 minutes before the opening tap. I was absolutely positive it was a super-duper big trade, but, alas, he was escorted into Kurt Rambis for about 10 minutes to visit with the guy who was his assistant coach with the Lakers last season.

Also, it’s hard to believe, but Tubby Smith has torn himself away from breaking down game film of Utah Valley State — the Gophers’ titanic opponent tomorrow night at the Barn — to attend tonight’s game. He’s either here to watch Oleksiy Pecherov or Rockets forward Chuck Hayes, who played for him at Kentucky.

Taking a look at the triangle, blog news

Posted on November 18th, 2009 – 12:55 AM
By Jerry Zgoda

Did a piece for the Web site and tomorrow’s Sports section on the mystery that is the triangle offense.

Here it is:

Also, this Wolves blog as been one of the last few stranglers, but the time is almost here for it to migrate to the new publishing system that has won such winning reviews for other Strib blogs.

The change will come in the next day or two.

Look for a farewell entry here that redirects you to the new blog.

Al’s back

Posted on November 17th, 2009 – 12:04 AM
By Jerry Zgoda

Sorry, I thought I’d posted this late this afternoon, but apparently it disappeared into the ether…

Al Jefferson was back at practice this afternoon, returning to practice shortly after it began this afternoon because his flight back from Florida was delayed.

He had been there since Thursday, arriving to see his ill grandmother just 30 minutes after he arrived.

Here’s a short story on Al and his grandmother for the paper and Web site:

One interesting tidbit is that the Wolves sent new player development coach Darrick Martin and a strength coach down to Florida to help him workout and stay in shape while he was away. One little, telling example about how David Kahn and Kurt Rambis are going about changing the franchise’s culture.

Al says he’s ready to play Wednesday against Houston at Target Center.

Streak hits 10 straight, Wolves lose 97-87 to Grizzlies

Posted on November 15th, 2009 – 1:56 AM
By Jerry Zgoda

OK, so the Wolves are three more losses away from tying the franchise’s worst start to a season, 1-13 in the 1994-95 season that led to Kevin Garnett being drafted fifth overall the next summer.

The Wolves, you might remember, were 1-10 at this time two seasons ago, in that first month playing without Kevin Garnett after the Boston trade.

Where have gone Al Jefferson and Kevin Love? Timberwolves Nation turns its lonely to you…

Al is expected back for practice on Monday. KLove will get his broken hand X-rayed again on Friday to see how the healing goes and if he can return to practice (that might be wishful thinking this soon).

It’ll be interesting to see if, or how much, the Wolves’ style of play changes once Love gets back and gets in the groove. As David Kahn mentioned from his letter earlier today, this isn’t the running show he promised and we’ll see how much Love’s rebounding can change things.

It was mentioned on the last thread, but…

Did you see Brandon Jennings didn’t score in the first quarter tonight against Golden State…then scored 55 the rest of the way.

Good thing his last name doesn’t rhyme with Flynn, huh?

Here’s the game story from tonight’s game:

I set my DVR for NBA TV before I left town this morning and won’t get around until tomorrow or Monday to watch that Ricky Rubio Euroleague game from last week.

Anybody see it? Your thoughts? He didn’t have the greatest stats line, but I’m curious to see him just the same. Was Brandon Jennings right? Is RR all hype?

That’s all I got from Memphis tonight.

Let’s hope things get more interesting when Al, and then Love, return.

From David Kahn

Posted on November 14th, 2009 – 2:49 PM
By Jerry Zgoda

David Kahn has written another letter to Wolves followers, this time with his team off to a 1-9 start that includes a nine-game losing streak.

Here it is…

Dear Timberwolves Fans and Supporters:

I am writing this to you while on the plane from Minneapolis to Memphis, on Friday night following our loss to Dallas.  We are 1-9, having lost nine in a row.  Our record was to be expected – but it will not be accepted.

Big difference, I think.

What matters most to me is how we respond to adversity this season – knowing it will come in heavy doses occasionally.  Our last nine opponents are a collective 51-30, and there will be similar tough stretches throughout the season.

Specifically, I am eager to determine if the team:

•    Improves week to week, month to month, first half to second half.  This should occur as everything becomes more familiar and our young players develop.  Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington in particular need to take advantage of the rare opportunity to play significant minutes as rookies – to learn what works and what doesn’t work at this level and eliminate the mistakes.

•    Displays a physical and mental toughness, even when we lose.  We cannot lose as we did at Golden State – without a fight.  I liked the fact that we fought Dallas until the end tonight and won the fourth quarter.  Our crowd appreciated it.  I expect that to be the norm.  I not only expect that to be part of our culture, but also will demand it.

•    Starts running and attacking more on offense, as Kurt and I envision this team playing in the long term.

On that last point, it has been hard for us to sustain a running game without our best rebounder, Kevin Love, and with Al Jefferson still not all the way back from his ACL knee injury.  And our defense has been poor at times.  It is extremely difficult to run when you are taking the ball out of the basket.  But make no mistake – this will become a running team and that will be our identity.

I also don’t want to use Kevin and Al as excuses.  Everybody has injuries.  Everybody has tough parts of the schedule.  Everybody has adversity.  We will not be a team that makes excuses.

At times like these, I am motivated to work harder.   I want to scout more, watch more film, crunch more numbers, ask more questions.  I know Kurt and the coaching staff feel the same.  The coaches are the strength of our ballclub right now – I am proud to be working with them.  We all recognized when we signed up for this mission that it takes a Herculean effort, from all corners, to turn around a franchise and make it championship-caliber.

We obviously are not working hard enough yet.   We need to do more.   And we will.

Best regards,

David Kahn