I don't often do game recaps, but since last night's Wolves-Rockets game was the first time in years that I had seen the team in the home arena (the team seems to always be on road trips when I visit home), I have a few comments on last night's game.
The first is that, basically, the Wolves never should have even been in this game. I'll let this table speak for itself:
The two big negative numbers are the starting frontline. When your starting frontline lays two huge eggs like that, you generally get blown out. But two bench players helped out a ton: Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams. In the backcourt, Barea had a good night to make up for Ridnour's stinker (of course, Barea had his obligatory "live by the, die by the" moment in the team's penultimate possesion with a foolish kamikaze move that led to a turnover that was perfectly timed -- for Houston).
Right now, I really feel for Derrick Williams. He must be asking himself what the hell else he has to do to earn some playing time. If he cannot see the floor on a night where Kevin Love cannot buy a basket and keeps making terrible decisions (more on that in a minute too), and he's doing everything right (attacking the boards, zero turnovers, hitting shots), then it's very hard for me to buy Rick Adelman's constant "he's not in my doghouse" line. I understand that Williams makes lots of decisions that must drive Adelman mad, but there's certainly a double standard at work here; Love's decision making has been frankly pretty terrible throughout the 2012-2013 season, and his 3-pointer attempt with 0:47 to go last night was a perfect example.
With the Wolves up by 1, and about 16 seconds left on the shot clock, Barea initiated the offense with a pass to Love on the high post. Love then took a step back dribble and launched his 7th 3 of the night. He had been 0-for-6 so far. But hey, an open look for your best player is a good thing, right?
First, you are up by 1. Use the clock. Work the offense to get a shot. Second, a step-back 3 is hardly the "wide-open" look everyone made this out to be. The defender is closing hard and you have to get the shot up fast; it's hardly the same as catching a swing pass to the weak side when your feet are already set. And third, Love has a kaputt hand.
I know a little about this. I broke my shooting hand in my early twenties and had a cast on for about 5-6 weeks. The cast holds your wrist in a certain position because if you move your wrist, the tendons and ligaments will pull on bones in your hand and fingers, which will move that one little bone that you are trying to keep perfectly still. So, when the cast first comes off, your wrist's and hand's mobility is awful because the tendons and ligaments in your hand/wrist have not been stretched in weeks. You know that burning sensation you get when doing a stretch? For the first day or so, literally the tiniest motion gives you that sensation. I had to constantly flex my wrist back and forth to get mobility back, and it probably took about 2 months for me to completely stop noticing any stiffness.
And, of course, I played ball literally the day I got that cast off, and at that time of my life, I was playing 5+ days a week. And, of course, I felt like I had to shoot to "prove" to my teammates that I wasn't a liability.
Now, I'm not trying to compare myself to a professional basketball player in terms of skill, but I am perfectly willing to compare my twenty-year-old body's healing abilities to Love's. There's only so much that professional trainers can do; at some point, your body heals when it heals, and no amount of drugs/therapy/whatever will make that instantly happen, as every doctor will tell you.
I am not suggesting that Love should not play; the hand is clearly not hampering his rebounding, and having a power forward yanking down 18-19 boards per 48 really helps a team win games. Unless that same player is killing you on offense. And right now, Kevin Love is killing the Wolves offensively, and it's primarily because he seems to feel a burning desire to prove that he can shoot threes despite his recovering hand. Consider this table:
Yes, despite shooting his career worst from beyond the arc, he's also setting a career high in attempts beyond the arc. Among power forwards, only Ryan Anderson, Charlie Villeneuva, Antawn Jamison, and Matt Bonner, and Melo attempt more 3s. One expects this from Ryan Anderson and Matt Bonner because that's pretty much all they are good at offensively. One expects this from Melo because a) he plays lots of SF, too, and b) he really likes to shoot. The other two...well, Love shouldn't be emulating them, should he? Kevin Love has always been quite good at other things offensively; he's got a decent low-post game and is very good at getting to the line. So why is he jacking up every three he can get?
It makes no sense to me that the Wolves look at Ricky Rubio's knee and say "let's limit his minutes and bring him along slowly", yet they look at a Love's broken hand and say "Bombs Away!" Doesn't it make far more sense for the coaching staff to tell Love to try to do less in the offense while that hand heals? To emphasize posting up, rolling instead of popping after setting picks, trying to move more aggressively off the ball, and to only shoot threes that come within the flow of the offense (like ones where his feet have been set)? This is not a spacing issue, either; one does not need to shoot THAT many threes to spread the floor.
But perhaps these are things you can't tell a player who's ego has already been bruised by the management and ownership?