Archive for November 8th, 2008

alIt’s gameday. Time for a quick scouting report….

Throughout the course of the season, various beat writers, bloggers, online journalist and columnists will join me in bringing you an inside look at teams from around the league as they roll into the Rip City. Today, Stephen Litel – who has covered the NBA for the past four seasons and writes for the Downtown Journal in Minneapolis -breaks down the Minnesota Timberwolves.

What has impressed you the most about Kevin Love?

It seems cliché, but I’m very impressed with Love’s work ethic. When I arrive at Target Center on game days, it’s about 4:30 pm. Love is already out on the floor with JB Bickerstaff in a full sweat, working on post moves. The outside game and passing are there, but his commitment to improving is how he’s impressed me early.

How good can Jefferson be?

Big Al is already at an All-Star level and, statistically, probably should have made the squad last year. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to secure an All-Star roster spot playing on a team as bad as the Wolves were last season. Jefferson is not shooting well to start this year, but the numbers are still there and he’s shown a much greater passing acumen with outside shooters like Mike Miller to help stretch the defense.

Portland should be aware of _______?

Rashad McCants. Much is made of McCants’ attitude “issues,” but he has shown tremendous growth in the first weeks of the season. Seeming to embrace his role off the bench, McCants has shown the scoring ability he is known to have, coupled with the ability to put the ball on the floor and dish in traffic. With Randy Foye’s struggles to start the year, McCants’ unselfish play has been a bright spot.

So, how is the rebuilding process going by the way?

As far as building a more likable team than ones that featured players such as Mike James and Ricky Davis, the Timberwolves have found success. The players making up the 2008-09 roster are easy to root on, yet have a ways to go before becoming a true playoff contender. The mix this year of youth and experience, as well as a much more balanced team will keep them in most games this year, but defining who will step up alongside Jefferson in crunch time is key for the future.

Do you ever wake up in cold sweat knowing you could’ve had Brandon Roy?

Honestly, the inevitable comparison between the two has not been fair until this season. Both had solid rookie seasons, but the second year is the difference now. While Roy blew up, making the All-Star team, Foye sat on the bench with an injury that kept him out for half the year. This season may go a long way towards determining if the trade was fair or not, even though a majority of Wolves fans would rather see Roy in the new Minnesota uniforms. The concerning aspect is how Foye has struggled with both his shot and confidence to this point, after comparing himself to Steve Nash last year and proclaiming himself a leader on the team.

Big thanks to Stephen Litel for stopping by Beyond The Beat – to read more from Stephen, make sure to check him out at Downtown Journal, or SLAM Online where he writes on the Minnesota Lynx and serves as SLAM’s WNBA columnist.

pic via: hoopsstarsonline


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sergio_rodriguez080305_esAs much as Nate McMillan probably wants to move on from the entire Sergio Rodriguez trade talk saga, chances are this one isn’t going anywhere and will play itself out like a reality TV show.

Might as well dub this one “Survivor”. We already know who is in jeopardy of getting voted off the island.

After five years of covering the league – three of those in New York where drama is always at a premium – I learned to appreciate where both Nate and Sergio are coming from today after Rodriguez’s agent (Jose Ortiz) demanded a trade. It’s a delicate situation. McMillan prefers Sergio to come to him if he is unhappy about his role on the team. Sergio is clearly unhappy about his role and playing time, but is hesitant to approach McMillan on the matter.

It sounds like – and I say that because I only talked to McMillan about the matter from the practice facility – the time was never right for Sergio to talk about his frustrations with Nate. He couldn’t do it the first couple games. Nate was busy dealing with a gimpy Greg Oden. He couldn’t do it on the road in Phoenix or Utah. Portland was too busy losing. But if that was the case – if Sergio was really wrestling with when and how to talk to McMillan about his role and playing time – then that’s on Sergio for not saying anything.

It’s on him still. Nate told the team today to come and talk to him if they are unhappy, not the press. Something tells me Sergio isn’t knocking down his door.

But I feel for Sergio. He’s in a tough spot.

It can’t be easy being the fourth point guard option behind (in no particular order) Steve Blake, Brandon Roy and now Rudy Fernandez. It’s like last year all over again. And the year before that. But let’s think about it: are things really going to change for Rodriguez by bailing to another team?

Besides maybe picking up a little extra playing time (maybe), is he a starter in this league? If his agent  really believes he’s not a half court point guard, what’s going to happen when/if Sergio ever gets into the playoffs where games are grinded out in half court sets? Will he be any happier watching from the bench then? If there is any beef between Sergio and McMillan, isn’t that a matter to keep in house and not to be broadcasted by an agent?

There may not be any right or wrong answers here.

Here’s one more to ponder: with General Manager Kevin Pritchard a guru at making moves in June during the NBA Draft, don’t you think he has the fortitude to make a trade happen during the regular season with a player whose interests are coming before the teams?

That question might be a little easier to answer.


For those arriving late, here are a few links to help you along the path to the “Sergio Saga”….

Jason Fleming from HOOPSWORLD recapped the original story out of Spain where Jose Ortiz launched the trade demand….

The Oregonian’s Jason Quick spoke with Kevin Pritchard who said Sergio is going nowhere….

Nate McMillan on his “open door policy” and how he discussed the matter today with the team at practice….

And finally, Benjamin Golliver over at BlazersEdge.com transcribed like a madman to bring us Sergio’s thoughts….

pic via: marca.com

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