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The Timberwolves shot 42 percent from the field in their opener Wednesday. They let a fourth-quarter lead evaporate into a three-point deficit late in regulation. They looked disjointed on defense at times.
But they still won. Yes, it was an overtime win against a mediocre Orlando team playing the second night of a back-to-back, but it was a much-needed victory. It was also a win that would not have come in that fashion a year ago because the Wolves lacked these things:
1) A healthy Kevin Love. Even when Love was on the court for his 18 games last season, he was not himself. He made just 21.7 percent of his three-point attempts a season ago, still bothered by his hand. A healthy Kevin Love knocks down a wide open three-pointer a good 50 percent of the time. Love last year knocks it down a quarter to a third of the time. That's a big difference when Love is shooting a game-tying three in the closing seconds to send a game into OT, as he did Wednesday.
2) A shooting guard who can take a game over. Kevin Martin was just 6 of 19 from the field and will certainly have better shooting nights in a Wolves uniform. But he was a perfect 9 of 9 from the free throw line and scored 7 of his 23 points on overtime as the Wolves pulled away. We'll say it again: Best shooting guard in franchise history after just one game.
3) A lockdown wing defender. Arron Afflalo tried to play hero ball at the end of regulation, holding the ball until the final seconds before trying to attack Corey Brewer for the game-winning shot. Brewer stuck with him through the full move, got a hand in his face on a fadeaway and watched it come up short on the rim. Andrei Kirilenko was great on D last year, but he was better guarding 3s and 4s and in help defense than in locking down a wing. (Also: Who bet money on Brewer being the only starter to shoot over 50 percent in the opener?)
4) Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio and Love shared the court for fewer than 15 minutes last season. Just having all three in the lineup and on the floor together is huge.
New Wolves boss Flip Saunders gave every Wolves player, coach and employee a two-sided "we're ready" coin as a symbol of team unity. We like it. Why not?
Good idea? Lame? You be the judge:
Regardless, we can all agree it's better than the David Kahn coin (#cheapeningit):
Well here's something you don't read every day. Per Marc Stein from ESPN.com:
The brief tenure of Gersson Rosas in the Dallas Mavericks' front office is over.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that the Mavericks and Rosas parted company Tuesday, the eve of Dallas' season opener against the Atlanta Hawks and just more than three months after Rosas was hired away from the Houston Rockets' front office.
Sources briefed on the situation told ESPN.com that the abrupt parting was triggered by the fact that Rosas -- hired by the Mavericks to work in support of longtime president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson -- wanted to be "in charge" of basketball operations. Concerns about how Rosas would fit into the Mavericks' front-office structure in a supplementary role to Nelson, sources said, surfaced almost immediately after Rosas' arrival in late July.
You'll also recall that Fran Foley, one-third of the triangle of authority with the Vikings for a brief spell in 2005, also lasted about three months.
This is not a compliment to Rosas.
We had an amusing series of back-and-forth voicemails and finally a phone conversation with Rocket the other day. The disagreement was about sports, which is bound to happen when you have known someone for 25 years. The particular subject was the post and video about the least dysfunctional team in Minnesota men's pro sports. He voted Wild (forcefully). We voted Wolves (forcefully).
Our argument was that it couldn't be the Wild when it always feels like they are one poor stretch of play away from a major coaching/front office shakeup. His argument was that the Wolves haven't made the playoffs in a decade and Flip Saunders' first draft was questionable.
In any event, it does nothing to dissuade us from our annual Timberwolves optimism. This time, alarmingly, we are backed by a decent number of others who feel the same way -- including the SCHOENE projection system from ESPN.com (Insider), which has the Wolves at 52 victories and a 96 percent chance of making the playoffs this season.
You can accuse us of rampant optimism, but as far as we know computers are cold entities that have no emotion and probably don't even know how adorable Ricky Rubio is.
The metric involves all sorts of player projections, team projections and simulations, and blah blah blah 52 FREAKING WINS?!
Well, health is obviously critical. So, too, is establishing a winning culture. All we know is Vegas has the Wolves at 41 wins over-under right now. That's low. Check your smoke detector batteries, grab a big glass of SCHOENE and enjoy the season opener tomorrow night.
H/T: Phil Mackey for the heads up.
It looked for a while like undrafted free agent Rodney Williams might beat the odds and make the 76ers' roster to start this season. Over the weekend, though, he was reportedly among the team's final cuts -- with Philly actually going down to 14 players, one below the minimum. Per CSN Philly:
Williams, who went undrafted last June after a four-year college career at Minnesota, will remain a part of the organization and play on the D-League Delaware 87ers. Coach Brett Brown has repeatedly talked about being intrigued with Williams’ athleticism and defensive instincts.
Williams was sidelined most of training camp with a hamstring injury and appeared in just the final two preseason games.
The Sixers also cut Royce White -- part of the recruiting class with Williams at Minnesota in 2009, though he never played here -- last week. Philadelphia is going to be awful, perhaps even historically awful, this season. It will be interesting to see if one or both of them gets a shot there at some point.