These last few days I got to speak with Nate from Canis Hoopus about his team, the Wolves, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Dallas area. Check out his answers to my questions below and be sure to check out my answers to his questions (seriously, some of the better ones I've been asked lately) right here.
And, of course, be sure to visit Canis Hoopus... here we go!
1. I'm hearing rumors that Ricky Rubio might be making his season debut Saturday. Why would you do that to us and what does he bring to the team that it's been lacking?
Ricky will probably only play 15-20 mpg in his first few games back so you won't have to worry too much about getting gutted by a full 30 minutes of unicorn awesomeness.
What does Ricky bring to the team? Perimeter defense, world-class ball handling, free throw attempts, and pictures of kittens in snow. The Wolves currently boast the 4th best Drtg in the entire league. Minny doesn't have any high-profile shot blockers or steal artists, but Andrei Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, and Nikola Pekovic are all above average defenders for their positions. They have also adopted a general philosophy of making teams shoot over the top of the defense (i.e. bad shots) while trying to foul as little as possible (very few free throws). All of this has led the Wolves to trail the Griz, Pacers, and Bulls in Drtg. They are doing this with Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea playing lots of backcourt minutes. This is, quite frankly, amazing.
Now toss in 20 minutes of a guy who can hit the defensive glass, rebound, terrorize passing lanes, and draw a ton of charges (Ricky was top 5 in charges drawn before he went down last year...trying to draw a charge on Kobe Bryant). Keep an eye out for an Alexey Shved/Rubio backcourt. Both players have legit height and length to go alongside upper-level BBIQ and court vision. The Wolves are on the verge of handing 25-30 mpg to two 6'4-6'5 guys with 6'9" arms who can jump passing lanes. That's quite the defensive upgrade from Ridnour and Barea...who would be killer off the bench. Rubio's return will only bolster an existing team strength.
Ricky also gets to the line like nobody's business. This year the Wolves have the 3rd best FT/FG rate in the league behind OKC and LA. Rubio might not be able to shoot all that well but he can sure get to the line. Again, Rubio's return will only bolster an existing team strength.
2. I wasn't aware the Wolves are around .500; what are some of the reasons for the middling record beyond the injuries that seem to have plagued Minnesota?
Might I remind you of past Wolves seasons. .500 isn't middling. At times this year they have been missing 5 of their best 6 players. If Budinger, Rubio, Pek, Love, and AK were healthy, they'd be rolling teams with the 2nd best record in their division. There's really not much they can do about the injuries. Hopefully Bud comes back quickly so he can hit all of those Rubio-assisted corner threes.
3. Two former Mavs in JJ Barea and Josh Howard get minutes for the Wolves; how is each working out?
Barea is playing as advertised. I don't need to tell you guys anything else about the guy. Howard has...um....well, he's allowed AK to have some rest and that's a good thing.
4. We've all seen the overblown reports about Kevin Love being unhappy with David Kahn, stemming back from those original contract negotiations. Though Kahn's ended up fielding an admirable team, why is he still the GM?
He's an idiot. The worst GM in the league and it's really not even close. Take a look at this flow chart of his draft picks and the number of seasons they have played with wins produced:
He's terrible at PR, he can't draft, and nearly every other GM and agent hates him. Yet, the Wolves' owner, Glen Taylor, has a soft spot for the guy. Go figure. Hopefully he'll be gone within the year, as he's an absolute embarrassment to the team and its fan base.
5. Who is your favorite Wolf and why? I'd have a hard time choosing between Love, Rubio, Shved, Pek, and Kirilenko (who is playing excellent).
It's a close battle between Pek and Rubio. Rubio is everything you could possibly hope for in a professional athlete: He's good at what he does, he's humble, he's team oriented, he's optimistic, he's fan-friendly, and he seems like an all-around good guy. Ditto for Pek. Pek also has awesome tattoos, a bruising reputation, and quotes like "I didn't hurt nothing, just a lot of pain" or "my favorite holiday food is meat." Pek is just healing up after a bad ankle injury and he appears to be closing in on last year's production. Throw in his awesome tattoos, his quotes about not needing anything materialistic, and his...well, just look at what happens when Demarcus Cousins tries to push the big fella. He doesn't move. I have been an NBA fan for a long, long time. During this period, there has been a lot of talk about who is the most athletic player. What about the strongest player? I think it's a two-man game between Shaq and Pek. That's athleticism, too, right? NOTE TO OTHER TEAMS: Do not fight the Wolves. You might unleash the Pek.
Thanks, this has been excellent. Everyone, be sure to visit Canis Hoopus