Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Continued Lament as a Timberwolves Fan

The Wolves just sent me a bill for season tickets next year -- an extra $600.  One would think that such a request from a 14-35 club would at least come with a handwritten apology from the owner.  Something like, "Geez, I am sorry that we have completely fucked you over since May of 2004, but you see, I am only worth around $2 billion, so I need to make you pay more while you put three kids through school."  You know, something like that.

The last time the Timberwolves made the playoffs, I had just turned 40 and my kids were 10-8-6.  It is now 12 years later and they are still sending me bills and explaining from time to time that they are rebuilding and really have a solid young nucleus for the future.   And we are 14-35.

Who is the Timberwolves' General Manager/VP of Basketball Operations?  Milt Newton.  The number of front offices that Milt Newton has run pre-2015?  Zero.   His hiring announcement for the Wolves says he was the Wizards' Vice President of Player Personnel for.......10 years.  During that time in Washington he was the front office.........third in charge.  What this resume would suggest is that the Wiz had two guys who they thought were better equipped for the job, and, no one in the NBA believed that Newton was worth looking at, even as a second banana.  Now that may not be true, but that is what it looks like -- Newton was a third stringer for a mediocre D.C. organization and moved up to second string by going to a far worse organization.

Who is our coach?  Sam Mitchell -- career record before this year?  156-189.    After being fired by the Toronto Raptors, Sam was hired and then demoted as an assistant coach for the Nets.  Sam's last head coaching task before the Wolves was to coach the US Select team in the 2012 William Jones Cup in Taiwan.  The U.S. took....third place.

So, that is our coach and GM.  But you know what?  Hey, a mediocre coach like Doc Rivers had Tom Thibodeau as and assistant and reached the NBA finals, winning in 2008.  So you can win with good, say, Sidney Lowe?  Ryan Saunders?  Rick Adelman -- oh wait, it is David Adelman.  Look, my son has a lot of skills and he is far superior to me in a lot of ways.  If I retired or died tomorrow, however, I would recommend hiring him as your attorney on the basis that I am/was his father.  Call me crazy, but I wouldn't do that.

The lack of quality on the basketball side of the operation can be seen in the season thus far.  Andrew Wiggins has talent -- he has declined as a player.  Karl-Anthony Towns is the best rookie the Wolves have ever had (and we have had Garnett and Marbury) by a lot.  I despise how Zach LaVine plays, but he has had a nice 4 game stretch here.  And we are.....14-35.  We may be headed for another 60 loss season.  

OK, so we are having YET ANOTHER rebuilding year.  But that is OK, because we are giving minutes to young guys like Tyus Jones.........oh, wait, we just played Andre Miller 12 minutes and Tyus Jones 0.  And Tayshaun Prince over 30 minutes.

My mom will turn 80 on March 19.  That same day, Andre Miller will be half as old as my mom.  If we are 14-35, we do not want someone playing who is half as old as my mom.  Tayshaun Prince is a professional, and he is willing to play as long as you ask him to play, but he will soon be 36 years old.  He has a 6.3 PER (league average is 15) and he plays starter minutes for us.  Why?  What possible reason could there be for this?  

If the reason that we are playing Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince is that we are trying to win games, then why are we not REALLY trying to win games?  If you were coaching this team and someone told you, "OK, you are going to be shot and killed if you do not win 35 games" what would you do?  1) You'd play Towns 40 minutes a night -- he is so obviously your best player on both ends of the floor.  2) you would run plays so that every time down you would have Towns touch the ball at least twice. 3) you'd play Shabazz 30 minutes a night.  4) you would play Rubio 40 minutes a night.  5) You'd tell Wiggins that he needs to get 2 blocks and 3 offensive rebounds a night to justify starter minutes.  If you cannot do that, you go down to 24 minutes a night and we will play Tayshaun more.

You would probably also try to find the best advice you could get from folks who are currently out of work (Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau maybe) and say, "how do I run an offense?  how do I run a defense?"   I mean, you have to win 35 games, you cannot be proud.  Just ask.  Hell, beg.

But the problem with the Timberwolves is that there is no accountability, no sense of urgency. Kurt Rambis was allowed to go 32-132.  Think about that.  David Kahn was allowed to pass on Steph Curry twice, once for Jonny Flynn.  Kept his job for three years.  

Rick Adelman was +9, +5 +9 in his three years as the Wolves coach, going from 17-65 (Rambis) to 40-42.  Then after Adelman left the Wolves went 16-66 under Flip.  

The Wolves after going 16-66 got Karl-Anthony Towns, who may put up 7 Win Shares.  Yet the Wolves appear ready to completely squander his effort (LeBron as a rookie had 5.1 WS but the Cavs won 18 more games than the prior year).

Anyway, just another long lament to note how awful I feel and how the Wolves continue to kick me in the balls and then send me a bill for the privilege.  As a Timberwolves fane, I am..........the gambler from "Let It Ride" where the main character asks the gambler why, instead of betting $200, the gambler  doesn't just give the main character $100 and let the main character kick him in the balls -- it would be quicker and cheaper.


Friday, January 29, 2016

ESPN's NBA Rank Reaches its Final 36

My list of 36 contains 32 guys currently not already ranked in the top 100 by ESPN.

I lost 4 guys from my top 36:  I am told that I overrated Ray Allen by 22 spots (50 v. 28); Reggie Miller by 17 spots (51 v. 34), Rick Barry by 10 (37 v. 27) and Gary Payton (41 v. 35). 

Here are my 32 remaining guys listed alphabetically by last name):

Kareem, Barkley, Baylor, Bird, Kobe, Wilt, Drexler, Duncan, Durant, Dr. J, Ewing, KG, Havlicek, LeBron, Magic, Jordan, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, George Mikan, Nash, Dirk, Hakeem, Shaq, Chris Paul, Bob Petit, Pippen, Oscar, David Robinson, Russell, Stockton, Wade, West.

I cannot imagine that the remaining 32 guys are not absolute locks to be in ESPN's top 36.  Who are the 3 absolute worst guys on my list?  Pippen, Ewing and Havlicek?  Are those guys gonna be ranked below 100?  No.

So who are the 4 guys I missed (supposedly underrated)? We know that, right or (very) wrong,  Steph Curry will be on the ESPN top 36.

Of the guys who were on the 1996 Top 50 list and who have not yet been ranked by ESPN in its top 100, we have remaining Dave Bing, Hal Greer, Kevin McHale, and Bill Sharman.  You gotta think that McHale at least will make it.

I did not have Jason Kidd on my list, as I did not evaluate him as a top 36 player (was Jason Kidd as good as the guys I have in my top 36?  I'd say no.).  But he did play 50,000 minutes, so I imagine he will be another fill-in.

Then if you look at the ESPN PG ratings you will see that they have Isiah Thomas above Chris Paul and Kidd, so Isiah will make it.

Therefore, look for ESPN to add McHale, Kidd, Thomas, and Curry to my top 32, probably in that order.  Hell, Curry might be #1 overall in their minds.

So what will be the horrible glaring errors for ESPN's #nbarank?

Well, in 1996, Dave Bing, Hal Greer, and Bill Sharman were considered top 50 all-time players by a panel of experts.  These three gentlemen are not in the #nbarank top 100.  Seems hard to imagine. 

In addition, poor Neal Johnston continues to be completely forgotten.  Now, compare Neal Johnston's NBA statistics and honors with those of Yao Ming (their #89) or Bill Walton (their #42) and tell me that Neal Johnston deserves to be left out of the top 100 completely.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ESPN Ranks ##51-60 all-time

I must say, I have grown even more confused now.  I was skeptical of players like Dwight Howard and Tracy McGrady at 61-70, but geez, compared to many of these guys, 61-70 are "no doubters".  Should quickly note, this is the dumping ground for "worst ever League MVP players" with McAdoo, Cowens and Unseld in this group of 10).

ESPN's list
51. Reggie Miller
52. Bob McAdoo
53. Wes Unseld
54. Bernard King
55.  Dave Cowens
56. Pau Gasol
57. Robert Parish
58.  Tony Parker
59. Carmelo Anthony
60.  Earl Monroe

The biggest head scratchers?  I had Reggie Miller at #34 on my list.  They have him 17 spots lower.  Reggie Miller has more WS  and a better WS/48 than Kobe.  He is #2 all-time in Offensive Rating.  If you have Reggie Miller at #51, you are stating that you give NO value to longevity, offensive ability and clutch playoff performances and only care about whether the guy was first-team all-NBA or MVP of the league.  Will be interesting to see what wing scorers they put ahead of him.
Terrible injustice.

Second most terrible -- Earl Monroe.  Take a good long hard look at Earl Monroe's stats.  basketball-reference has him ranked objectively as the #150 most qualified Hall of Fame candidate.  So, just move him up say 90 spots because he was flashy and had a cool nickname?  Sure, why not. 

Moving on -- love Bob McAdoo and Bernard King, but they each had less than 5 outstanding years. 

Wes Unseld was a key cog on a constantly winning team, but after his rookie year (where he was ROY and MVP) he really wasn't that great of a player.

Regarding Pau Gasol - probably a tad too low. 
Robert Parish -- I am stunned to learn that he is a much better player than Artis Gilmore (as I am sure he is)
Tony Parker - too low, when Tony was going well he was an unstoppable force for a championship club.
Carmelo -- I get a little queasy thinking about him being this high because he is a badly overrated player who has wasted his talent a lot.  But is he a WAY better player than Earl Monroe?  Sure. He probably deserves to be down below Vince and TMac and CWebb, but is it the end of the world that he is up here at 59 when his physical talent should have had him at around 25?   Yeah, it probably still is awful, but not the worst thing ever. 

Re-doing the list. if I am stuck with this list: 

51.  Reggie Miller  (same, but should be 34th)
52.  Tony Parker (+6)
53.  Dave Cowens  (+2)
54. Pau Gasol (+2)
55. Carmelo Anthony (+4)
56. Bob McAdoo (-4)
57.  Bernard King.(-3)
58.  Robert Parish (-1)
59.  Wes Unseld (-6)
60. Earl Monroe  (same, but should be down in the 70s or 80s).

Karl-Anthony Towns Headed for One of the 10 Best Seasons Ever for a Rookie Under Age 21.

Now, as we can see from the list, being on the list does not assure you that you will be an all-time great (DeJuan Blair, Greg Monroe, John Drew).  But there are some great players on the list.

If KAT can raise his game a little in the second half (say .200 WS/48 and 4 more WS) then he'd have a top 5 rookie-under-20 season in both categories for his age group.

KAT has had a Game Score of 9 or better in 31 of 46 games, and if you search for player with consistently good Game Scores (greater than 15, greater than 20) you will see KAT's name next to  players like Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Klay Thompson, and Al Horford.

Based upon WS and WS/48, KAT is a borderline contender for the all-star game (having about the 33rd best overall season to date).  Guys with the most similar 2015-16 seasons thus far:

Al Horford, Greg Monroe, Dirk Nowitski, Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard

Monday, January 25, 2016

ESPN Going Through and Ranking Top 100 NBA Players of All-Time and look for the hash tag #nbarank.  Some of the rankings are just straight out bizarre, but I will give ESPN credit for undertaking such a difficult task, so I will only start my criticism of them at rankings 70-61.

Here is their 70-61 list:

70.  Artis Gilmore
69.  Vince Carter
68.  Bob Lanier
67.  Dwight Howard
66.  Chris Webber
65.  Alonzo Mourning
64.  Dennis Rodman
63.  Tracy McGrady
62.  Alex English
61.  Manu Ginobili

Now, ESPN purports to rank guys based upon both their BEST years and their longevity, meaning that a younger player may not achieve the highest score he ultimately could as he plays longer.  (Example, James Harden and Steph Curry have put up ridiculous numbers in a couple seasons, but they should not rank above, say, Jerry West.

OK, so we assume that ESPN is doing what it says it is doing.  Let's see what we think of how well they are accomplishing that.

Well, Artis Gilmore has more career Win Shares (almost 190 total) than Oscar Robertson or LeBron James.  He has 107 NBA Win Shares, more than anyone else in this group except Vince, Lanier and Dwight Howard.  He was first-team All-ABA 5 times and is the career leader in WS and WS/48 in ABA history.   

If ESPN wants to give Artis 0 credit for his ABA play, OK.  But I will expect Dr. J. to be down around the low 20s based upon his NBA play only.  We shall see.

Vince should have been disposed of long before #69.  Vince is a great talent, but he is not the 69th best player in NBA history.  He has never once been first-team all-NBA and he finished top 9 in MVP balloting.....never.

Webber is too high.  Maybe he squeaks in back down at 70 and you move Gilmore way up.  But Webber did not have the career that Lanier or Howard have had. 

Mourning has under 90 career WS.  If you are going to rank Vince high because he has played forever, then Mourning must be marked down for longevity. 

I am not going to bitch too much on Rodman, T Mac, English and Ginobili -- they are all roughly 61-70 area, give or take a few spots.  Rodman was one of the game's great defenders and rebounders, won titles.  English was an epic scorer, played forever.  TMac had a top 10 all-time individual NBA season and was top 8 in MVP balloting 6 times.  Ginobili is one of the greatest winners and clutch performers of all-time.  But I will say that his overall statistics and honors in the regular season do not justify his lofty ranking.  So I'd drop him a little.

If you forced me to take these ten guys and rank them 70-61, here is my list:

70.  Vince Carter (-1)
69.  Chris Webber (-3)
68.  Alonzo Mourning (-3)
67.  Bob Lanier (+1)
66.  Dwight Howard (+1, it kills me, but he is 5X 1st team all-NBA)
65.  Alex English (-3)
64.  Manu Ginobili (-3)
63.  Dennis Rodman (+1)
62.  Tracy McGrady (+1)
61.  Artis Gilmore (+9)

Again, if the rules are that you cannot consider ABA stats AT ALL, then I will wait the rankings of Dr. J, Moses Malone and Rick Barry and we will see if they are similarly dropped 10-20 spots.  But it seems to me that you cannot just take a guy who was 5X first-team all-ABA and 5X first team all-defense and just completely ignore those stats/  That is particularly true when, after his athletic ability declined somewhat, Gilmore was still a 6X an all-star in the NBA and 62nd in career WS for only the NBA!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Jordan, Kobe and LeBron Through Roughly 37,000 Minutes and 7,500 Playoff Minutes

Jordan clearly the best player.  James a clear second.  Kobe languishes behind in virtually every stat (particularly in the advanced stats).

One thing that caught my eye -- probably due to his superior defensive rebounding, LeBron gets more defensive credit in advanced stats than does even Jordan.

The weirdest stat is this:  as of 1/22/16 -- James is 1,303 for 3829 from 3, which is EXACTLY what Kobe was from 3 through roughly 200 more minutes in his career.  Bizarre. particularly when if you asked anyone (OK, if you asked me) they/I would tell you that Kobe jacked a ton more threes and was far more dangerous from three.   Not so on either account.


Monday, January 18, 2016

30 Invited to Olympic Tryouts -- Who Were the Snubs and the "Shouldn't Be Invited" Folks?

Guys who have played 1,000 minutes and accounted for at least 3 Win Shares (52 guys):

Invited (7 guy in Bold who do not qualify under both criteria)

LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)
Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings)
Paul George (Indiana Pacers)
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz)
Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)
Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)

DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
John Wall (Washington Wizards)
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder).

Biggest snubs -- Kyle Lowry, Chris Bosh, Paul Millsap, Isaiah Thomas -- all have more than 5 Win Shares and have played over 1,200 minutes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Is Rafael "Ted" Cruz a "Natural Born Citizen"? I'd Vote No.



So, as I have said in the past, I believe that Ted Cruz's argument to be a "natural born citizen" is a 50-50% shot.  Now, if you read the cases on the issue, it is pretty clear that virtually no one has standing to get a court to rule on the issue, so the gatekeepers on this sort of thing are:  1) voters; 2) Electoral Congress delegates; and 3) Congress, which may, I would think, impeach and remove a President for violating the Constitution by serving as a non-NBC.

That said, it is an important issue, so let me tell you why I would vote no. that Cruz cannot be President.

         1) If you read the two articles linked to above, you will see that there are arguments pro and con about whether Cruz is a "natural born citizen" (he wins) or a "naturalized citizen" (he loses) or a person who is treated as a "natural born citizen" by statute (in my opinion, he loses).

I will take Cruz at his word and state that he was born in Canada and, at the time of his birth, his mom was a U.S. citizen and his dad was a Cuban citizen.  If those are the facts, then he was clearly NOT born in the United States or a territory of the United States.  At the time of his birth, his parents were not subject to the laws of the United States.  They were both residents of another country.

          2) I think that the winning argument in such a situation is that the child's "natural born citizenship," or not, is determined by his place of birth.  What do we know about the founding fathers?  They specifically made an exception in the written Constitution to state that someone who was not a NBC could be President anyhow if that person was "a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution." 

The founding fathers understood that they were all born in British colonies under British rule (Alexander Hamilton was born under British rule outside of the 13 colonies) and that, should they limit the Presidential contenders to those who were not British born, they would have no one to serve as President.  (Washington, Jefferson and Adams were all born in the 13 colonies; everyone knew that Washington would be the first President, so they clearly considered him NOT to be a natural-born citizen but DID consider him to be a Citizen at the time of the Constitution).

The Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788.  35 years prior to that was 1753.  There was no United States in 1753, and, therefore, no "natural born citizens" was available who could serve as President in 1789.  (Even if you considered someone born in late 1776 a NBC, they would have been 13 years old, not 35.) 

What this exception does tell you is that there is something important about being born in the United States.  A natural born citizen is one who, unlike George Washington, was actually born inside the U.S. after it became the U.S. (an issue could arise as to whether Martin Van Buren was the first NBC President (born after Declaration but before Constitution) or whether it was John Tyler (born 1790)).

If there is not a difference between being a "natural born citizen" and a "citizen" then why does the Constitution clearly indicate that you can be other than a NBC and qualify if you are a citizen at the time of the Constitution?  I think that this distinction defeats the argument that a "natural born citizen" is anyone who the Congress says it is.  If Congress could have just made Washington a NBC by passing a law saying, "He is a NBC" then why have the two rules?  Why not say "a NBC is any U.S. Citizen recognized as such by Congress" or state "all people born in the colonies are natural born citizens"? 

If Congress can pass a law saying someone is a natural born citizen, what, if anything, is the limitation on Congress's power?  "A natural born citizen is anyone who says they really love it here and/or who has won more than 5 Mr. Olympia titles."   Is that a NBC?  If the word "born" means "Congress says they are/were a citizen at birth" then Congress can basically write the requirement out of the Constitution.  Anyone it says is a NBC is a NBC, no matter where that person was born or to whom. 

This also creates an awful problem -- if in 2018 one Congress says that Michael J. Fox is a natural born citizen, and then in 2022 the next Congress says he is not, do we really want our qualifications for who can be President to vary from Congress to Congress?  I would say not. 

     3)  What concern is expressed by the NBC clause?  I have read a lot of books about the mood back in those days, and the big concern from Jefferson's side was that we would be taken over by the English, and Hamilton just absolutely hated the French and feared their influence.  So, what is being expressed here is that someone born in England or France should not get to be President of the United States.....ever.  You cannot trust them.

If that is the basis for the rule -- fear of people born outside of the U.S. -- then why should that fear be lessened because the person had one parent who (while a citizen) did not even care enough about the U.S. to stay here and, in fact, actually took up residency outside of the country.....with a non-citizen!  Reading the Constitution, we must assume that fear of the foreigner is justified.  That is the whole basis of the rule.  So why would Cruz - admittedly born outside of the U.S. - not be subject to the same prejudice that the founders had against the foreign born?  He would.

If someone with one citizen parent can be President, then that means that a prospective mother or father from, say Saudi Arabia, can stay in the U.S. long enough to gain naturalized citizenship, can then move to Iran, join some terrorist group, and his or her kid (born in Iran to one U.S. parent) can some day be President. Right?  We were terrified that someone from the House of Lords might move to the U.S. and run for President, but heck, the loyalties of a kid born overseas to one U.S. parent don't bother us.....?

       4) I think the 14th Amendment hurt Cruz.  Many people believe that the 14th Amendment (which bestows citizenship on anyone born in the U.S. and gives Congress the power to enforce the Amendment) helps Cruz because it gives Congress power and, if you asked Congress, they'd say that Cruz should be a citizen to the maximum amount possible.  (This argument also can be bolstered by the power of Congress to make immigration and naturalization laws.)  Probably true, but....

The 14th Amendment actually does not make everyone born in the U.S. a citizen.   You also must be "subject to the jurisdiction of' the U.S."   Cruz fails on both counts - when he was born, he was not born in the U.S., and when he was born, he was not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S.  He lived in another country.  While one could argue that his mother's citizenship rendered him somehow "subject to the jurisdiction of' the U.S." that is a stretch, particularly in light of #5......

      5)   Cruz's dad was not a U.S. citizen at the time of Cruz's birth,  Cruz is a big believer in "original intent" and the belief that the Constitution does not change with time but, rather, it must be interpreted to reflect only the time in which it was made.  When the Constitution was ratified, there is no way that someone who claimed American citizenship only through his mother could have any chance of being considered a natural born U.S. citizen.   It was the father's citizenship that mattered.  The mother was basically considered chattel as far as the law was concerned.   (Recall that women could not even vote until 50+ years after black men could vote).

Laurence Tribe (a constitutional law professor and Democrat) has opined that there are serious issues regarding Cruz's citizenship.  Tribe points out that HIS view of the law (that the Constitution is a living document and must be interpreted differently as it ages)  would help Cruz's position.  But Cruz's actual position on the Constitution is that it NEVER evolves and it NEVER can be changed.  It meant something in 1788 and it will mean that forever.  Well, if so, then the founders clearly understood that someone born in Canada who claimed citizenship only through his mother was, in no way, a "natural born citizen."  Sorry, Ted, you are stuck with that understanding from 228 years ago. 

I would vote that Cruz is not a natural born citizen, and I would say he is ineligible to be President. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

It Is Official -- I Root For the Worst Franchise Ever In NBA Basketball

Last night the Clippers won and the Wolves lost, bringing the Clippers above the Wolves (both are around 39%) for franchise all-time winning percentage.

So, in 26 years, I have paid for season tickets and won 39% of the time, losing roughly 61% of the time.

I doubted that the Lions were better - they are.  Or the Bills -- they are.

I am struggling to find any franchise even close to a 39% winning percentage (other than the Wolves for whom I currently root, and the Clips, for whom I rooted in Buffalo).

Well, at least it is official -- pretty certain that no other 26 year plus season ticket holder has a worse franchise record than I.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Rubio Super PAC Blasts Chris Christie

No matter how hard you blast Chris Christie, it is hard to dislodge him very far, so I guess you gotta go big or go home.

Two awesome ads and all 100% true.  Christie's response about slimy-amnesty-loving Rubio also is 100% accurate.

I love GOP primary ads.  So much truth.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Things Get Worse and Worse for the Timberwolves

The Wolves started the year 8-8.  They are currently 12-22.  So they have lost 14 of 18.

Last night against the Bucks, the Wolves led 22-5 and lost by double digits.  A difficult thing to do, but even up 17 it never seemed to a fan like the Wolves would win the game.

The Wolves are a horribly dysfunctional team.  At the helm is Interim Head Coach Sam Mitchell, who should be happy to remain interim, because once he is fired he will be able to say that since he was labeled "interim" he was never given a fair chance.

The Wolves organization has no idea what it is doing.  It lost its leader Flip Saunders (who wasn't doing a particularly good job while he was alive) and has not really replaced him.  Of note to me last night was Sidney Lowe's doing a lot of coaching from the bench.  Sid is Sam's #1 assistant.  Here is Sidney Lowe's career coaching record:

Pros -- 79-228
College -- 86-78 (he coached at NC State and achieved 0 NCAA appearances in 5 years).

When Sidney (a nice guy) starts to take over the sideline, you are floundering.

Sam Mitchell has obviously been told that he has to play Tyus Jones.  Sam does not want to do so.  So Sam has an episode every game where he screams at Tyus for making a mistake.  To punish management for making him play Tyus, Sam has benched his only quality NBA shooter in Kevin Martin, telling him, "Sorry, I have to play the young guys."

And when Sam loses his mind and unloads on Tyus, Rubio (twice) and KG (once) walk out from the bench, remove Tyus from the situation in the huddle, and tell him what he did wrong and how not to do it again.  This creates a bizarre situation in which the head coach is irate at a player, but his teammates are not.  The players are the adult and the coach is the whiny baby.

Since Tyus has been playing (96 total minutes), Zach LaVine has been put back into his old position as an off guard.  Of course, what this has done is cut LaVine's minutes (Sam likes to play Wiggins at off guard, so LaVine doesn't get the 20-24 minutes he was getting when backing up Rubio).  What we have learned by watching Zach LaVine play off guard for 15 minutes a game is that he cannot do it.  He cannot catch and shoot.  He does not spot up in open positions at the 3 point line.  He does not do well coming off screens (does not use screens well or shoot well when catching the ball off a screen).  He is a very poor defender and thin and weak.  He is not an accurate shooter from any distance beyond 3 feet.  In his last three games he has registered a NEGATIVE game score for each game.  That is very, very difficult to do, and it certainly should not occur when your Usage Rate is pushing 29%.   What that says is:  you hog the ball a lot when you play and (over the past 3 games) you are one of the worst players in the NBA while you are doing it.  Wow.

So, what have we learned about LaVine?  He does well only when he can pound the ball for 5-15 seconds and basically wear out an opponent who tires of watching so much dribbling.  This is simply not a good strategy for a guy playing PG, but he is so terrible at playing off guard that to get any value out of him you would need to play him at PG and just let him be a far-worse Russell Westbrook -- a PG with a Usage Rate over 30.

Early in the season it was easy to see how much Kevin Martin and LaVine hated one another (at least on the court).  But we are now 34 games in and there are a ton of relationships that are poor:

-- Sam hates Tyus
-- LaVine hates Tyus
-- Martin and LaVine hate one another
-- Shabazz hates the fact that he is not playing more
-- Andre Miller hates the whole situation, since he cannot figure out why he is not playing or why the team brought him here,
-- Rubio just last night expressed his disdain for his teammates who could not hold a 20 point lead (therefore putting Rubio at odds with his fellow starters, since the bench was still up 15 when Ricky returned last night).

You can go through many on the Wolves roster and be baffled by what is happening:

-- KG - miraculously has turned it around from early in the year and has become a very good player, but can only play 18 mpg and never plays back to back games.  He needs 75 defensive rebounds to pass Artis Gilmore on the NBA/ABA list.  He is likely to get it.  But KG knows his body cannot hold up, so it is weird to see him accept playing 15 minutes when, at his position more than any, the Wolves need help.

-- Bejelica -- came in and played well for 16 games, then has turned just simply awful.  He and the huge guy for the Spurs were all-Euroleague last year.  The big guy is great for the Spurs, and "Belly" is awful.  He is probably a small forward in the NBA due to his complete lack of strength or toughness, but he is slow footed defensively, so he won't be a good defender as a small forward either.

-- Rubio -- he does nothing in the off season except practice shooting.  He still cannot shoot.  He is historically the worst shooter the NBA has ever seen.  Yet he complains about his teammates' play?  If you get your percentage up to 40%, then maybe you will have reason to start complaining.

-- Rudez and Payne -- Rudez and Payne give you about the same thing defensively (they will try hard but are terrible).  Payne and Rudez have similar shooting stats, but Payne has played twice as much.  Virtually impossible to tell why.

Dieng -- if ever there was a player who fans are split on, it is Gorgui Dieng.  If you go through his stats, he has really solid stats.  For example, his assist to turnover ratio is better than Towns' ratio.  But watching the guy play every other night, there are times that you simply want to kill yourself or him.  Can he allow yet another offensive rebound?  Get dunked on again?  Commit another just horrendous turnover?  It is rough to watch, even if the end result is pretty good.  It is like watching sausage get made.  It can turn you off in a hurry.

Wiggins -- remarkably, Wiggins is getting worse.  He simply cannot make a jumper, he is shooting 24% from 3.  He is still piss poor at getting steals, blocks and assists, and he has a 28 Usage Rate  and .054 WS/48 and at a VORP of less than zero.  This means that if you took a random NBA guy who played any and inserted him into the Wolves lineup, he would probably play around the same level, or better, than Wiggins.

Want to see a scary chart, Wolves fans?  Of the 6 guys in the league who have a Usage of 28+ and a WS/48 and VORP as bad as the figures for Wiggins (or worse) THE TIMBERWOLVES HAVE TWO OF THEM!!!!  Tony Wroten has been released.  Speights is fat and unhappy.  Kyrie (leg) and Kobe (age) have excuses.  Then there is Wiggins and LaVine.  Yikes. 

Sam Mitchell is not a winning coach.  He has had one season where he was slightly above .500, and that year he was named Coach of the Year.  He seemingly has no offensive or defensive strategy.  The Wolves played the Bucks last night and were absolutely beaten to death on side pick and rolls.  On both ends.  When the Wolves attempted to run a side pick and roll (guard goes outside of the wing screen) the Bucks aggressively trapped the dribbler and made an effective first pass almost impossible.  When the Bucks ran side pick and roll, the Wolves tried to help and recover, failing to ever actually recover and failing to get any help in cutting off the pass to the rolling player, resulting in constant scoring by the Bucks.

When someone is beating you to absolute death with one play, perhaps (rather than screaming at your players as if they had committed a crime) you should call time out and say, "Guys, that is not happening anymore.  Let's do this:  [fill in the blank]."  There is absolutely no clearer sign of a bad coach than a coach who just allows a team to beat him doing the same thing repeatedly.  I mean, OK, you cannot stop everything an opponent is doing, but you can stop one thing....right?   I guess not.

What is the remedy for the Wolves? Well, as I have said for years, it is a thankless job to make suggestions, since there is so much to fix.  But here goes:

1) The offense just simply has to take and make more threes.  Even if we are making fewer threes than we want, you cannot survive in today's NBA ranking 30th in 3-point attempts and makes and 25th in percentage.  Run your offense to set up some threes.  Every other team in the league is capable of it.

2) Trade LaVine to someone.  If you can get Nerlens Noel for LaVine (a rumored trade)?  Done deal.   If you can get a low #1?  A bag of practice balls?  Done and done.  He simply is not a winning player, and by the time he figures out how to be a winning player (if ever) he will be long gone from Minnesota.

3)  Sit down with Wiggins and explain expectations -- the typical NBA player is at his peak of athletic ability at age 27.  Andrew Wiggins will be crippled by age 27.  You simply cannot take the ball at 3-4 huge men every possession.  Work on your jumper, gain some weight, lift weights.  And, most of all, for the love of God, please try to put up stats that do not resemble Kevin Martin's non-shooting stats.  Try to get 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks, 5 rebounds, 3 assists.  That should be your goal for the season.  These are the guys you should aspire to be:  If you do all of those things and work on your jumper, the points and accolades will come.

4) Fire Sam and the entire basketball side of the operation.  A secret that not many know -- the Wolves' non-basketball side (fan relations, media, etc.) is excellent.  The basketball side, however -- I mean, come on.  Look Glen Taylor, you need to go out and find competent people and give them a lot of money and power.  You simply cannot continue to allow marginal employees to run an organization that finally has a chance of actually becoming good.  Wiggins should be much better than he is and he has huge upside for talent.  Towns is a potential star (he is on pace for 6+ Win Shares as a 20 year old player).  Rubio, if someone could teach him to shoot, would be an above average NBA guard.  I know that I am in the minority, but I think Tyus Jones will become a good NBA player.

You need to find someone to accurately evaluate your assets.  Some examples -- I hate LaVine, but a lot of people love him.  So find an experienced NBA guy who can tell you "He is a _________ and we should keep/trade him"  Same with Pekovic.  Same with Dieng.  Same with Shabazz.  Same with Kevin Martin.  What are they as an asset?  Can they be starting players on a playoff team?  Good backup players?  Do teams elsewhere value them at a level above their actual ability (so we can get more for them than they are actually worth)?

You just never feel with the Wolves that they understand what they have or how to get the best out of it.  I mean, Bazz may be a 20 ppg guy.  He may be a guy whose defense is always so awful that he will never play 10+ minutes on a playoff team.  I'd say he fits roughly in between those two guideposts, but I have not been a successful NBA coach or NBA GM for 5-10-15 years.  Sadly, neither has anyone in charge of the Wolves currently. 

There.  Enough bitching for now.