November 3, 2005
I watched last night's Wolves-Blazers game while finishing up one of my articles for The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. While one game doesn't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, it was the first extended look a lot of Wolves fans had at several news players. Some random notes ...
If the Wolves play Jaric, Rashad McCants, and Wally Szczerbiak on the floor at the same time for extended minutes, it could get ugly. Having Kevin Garnett, Michael Olowokandi, and Eddie Griffin around to block shots will help make up for some of that, but they can only do so much. Once Troy Hudson gets healthy (which is something that has been said for about three years running), I imagine he'll be playing quite a bit during crunch time, which is not good news.
Meanwhile, I thought the refs were very fair, and if someone wanted to criticize players for not deserving their contracts, they could basically take their pick from the Wolves' roster. How someone can go out of their way to criticize Randolph's contract without bringing up Szczerbiak's very similar deal or the deals Kevin McHale handed out to Troy Hudson, Trenton Hassell, Michael Olowokandi, and Mark Madsen is beyond me.
Unlike Smoot, Miles followed up his talk by playing extremely well. He put up a monster line, with 32 points (on 13-for-23 shooting), 11 rebounds, five assists, five steals, and three blocks. Hassell looked overmatched guarding him for most of the night and Miles singlehandedly wrecked the Wolves' offensive execution repeatedly down the stretch.
I will punish him, like I have been doing. Regardless of who guards me, it doesn't matter. Trenton is probably their top defender, but I have been posting Trent for years. He doesn't have anything that I haven't seen.
Of course, after one of Miles' fourth-quarter steals Peterson said, "If this game were a blowout, Miles wouldn't be showing this much effort defensively." Whatever. Instead of trying to find a way to rip a guy who is playing extremely well, how about saying, "If the Wolves weren't playing this poorly, this game would be a blowout"?
If he weren't a former #1 overall pick who the Wolves wasted a bunch of money on, Olowokandi would be a nice role player capable of rebounding and blocking shots. Instead, he gets too many minutes and brings the offense to a screeching halt every time someone makes the mistake of passing him the ball. It's hard to imagine how a seven-footer who weighs nearly 300 pounds and never strays farther than about 10 feet from the basket can be a career .435 shooter until you watch Olowokandi play.
Ebi has become a bit of a running joke, but letting him go was a mistake. He's young and has some actual athletic ability, which makes him unique on the Wolves. Plus, cutting him loose and eating his $800,000 salary makes little sense considering the Wolves didn't have much of a roster crunch. In fact, they filled his spot by sending a second-round pick to the Pistons for Ronald Dupree, who is nothing more than roster filler.
So instead of keeping Ebi, working with him for another season, and hoping he turns into something useful, the Wolves gave up a second-round pick and about $1.1 million (the $800,000 owed to Ebi, plus the $300,000 or so Dupree will make) just to swap one end-of-the-bench guy for another. I will be shocked if Ebi doesn't sign pretty quickly with another team and I will be mildly surprised if he doesn't turn into a solid NBA player down the road.
In letting Ebi go, coach Dwane Casey said:
Ndudi is a hard-working young man who has NBA talent and a future in this league. He just needs an opportunity to play and be in game situations and unfortunately we don't have the luxury of giving him the minutes he needs at this time.
Actually, that's exactly what the Wolves have the luxury of being able to do. After Garnett the rest of the roster is severely lacking in talent and until they find a way to acquire or develop another top-line player or two, the team is going nowhere. Ebi represents a chance -- however slim -- of developing some of that talent, and all it would have taken was giving him 20 minutes per game off the bench for a borderline playoff team.