If you like words about basketball, you’ve probably read a ton of Steve McPherson‘s stuff. The dude’s a great writer, and he’s everywhere–Rolling Stone, Grantland, Cat Fancy… He’s also a scribbler at Wolf Among Wolves, and so, in exchange for a dandy recipe for warm grape salad, agreed to drop by our lil’ e-corner to give us the skinny on tonight’s matchup. You can check out my answers to his Knicks questions here.
Robert Silverman: So, how’s year one (or rather, the first few weeks) of the Post-Kevin Love era going? Lots of frisky, young pups scurrying about? Tell us more…
Steve McPherson: Welllllllll, what started kind of promisingly has gone a bit pear-shaped in the last week during this long road trip. Not only is Rubio out for the foreseeable future with a high ankle sprain, but Thaddeus Young and Nikola Pekovic are both out at least through the weekend, Young because of his mother’s death and Pekovic because of a wrist problem. So I think expectations that had already been adjusted down probably need to be adjusted down again. As I just recently figured out, the likely Wolves starters for the next three games who are not Kevin Martin–that is, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Gorgui Dieng–have played just 177 NBA games, and only started 30 between them. So, hooray for developing youth!
RS: The Knicks are dead last defending the three. And looky here, the Wolves have attempted the fewest threes in the league? Who breaks first here, the resistible force or the moveable object?
SMc: The Knicks being godawful at defending the 3-pointer is not going to lead to the Wolves taking any more of them. It’s not as if the Wolves are passing up 3-point looks for better looks; Flip Saunders just isn’t running an offense that’s designed to get a lot of 3-point looks. I’m not convinced that’s terrible, actually, since I don’t think the Wolves would particularly great at 3-point shooting in any case. The Wolves are probably going to scrabble to hang onto any consistency they can, so I wouldn’t look for them to try and adjust to the Knicks’ weaknesses in any specific way.
RS: The Wolves have given up a bucketful of points of late. What’s going wrong here? Inexperience? Learning Flip’s system? Rubio’s absence?
SMc: When two of your five starters were in the top five in the league in steals per game last season (Rubio, Young) and those guys aren’t in the lineup, you’re going to have problems. Obviously, neither of those guys is a stopper on defense, but their defense such as it is is predicated on generating those turnovers. Losing those guys has also brought out the worst from Kevin Martin and Mo Williams, who are both players who can play not awful defense so long as things are going well for them on the offensive end. When they begin to feel like they have to carry the team offensively, suddenly the defensive effort completely evaporates.
RS: A bold prediction for tonight’s game. What’s the most GIF- and/or Vine- able thing we’ll see?
SMc: I’m going to stick with the hometown team here and say that Shabazz Muhammad will do something absolutely crazy all over some poor sap from the Knicks second unit. Muhammad has been playing like a man possessed this season, and while that hasn’t always led to the best results, you can’t knock the hustle. That kind of effort often results in the unexpected and Vine-able.