The NBA has now completed a third of its season.
A year ago, some criticized former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell for the team’s dismal record at the time. A year later, with virtually the same roster Mitchell inherited from the late Flip Saunders, the Wolves’ season record isn’t that much better under new coach Tom Thibodeau.
Why is “Thibs” getting a pass, especially in light of his defensive teaching reputation that preceded him to First Avenue North, and Minnesota’s defensive efficiency is 27th in a 30-team league? Why is the “his team is too young” alibi and others offered in the coach’s defense when similar excuses were turned against Mitchell last season during his one-season interim tenure?
We didn’t see Minnesota being a playoff team this season simply because of Thibodeau’s presence. But despite some local reporters pleading more patience, we hoped that the Wolves would look a little better, especially defensively.
NBA analysts Jalen Rose and Hubie Brown, in separate media calls with reporters including the MSR, responded to our queries on the team’s performance to date:
“Yes, it’s too early to assess the Thibodeau experience,” says Rose, a former player.
Adds Brown, a former coach, “I myself have been in that situation three times with young teams. Young teams do not grasp onto the importance of every possession, the importance of the defensive [possession], not the first rotation but the second rotation and sometimes the third when you’re playing a great team. They don’t grasp all of that. “But I love [the] coaching staff,” continues Brown on Thibodeau and his staff.
Rose said he loves the Wolves’ “Big Three” — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zack LaVine, all under age 25 — especially LaVine. “I became a fan of him” during his days at UCLA. “I felt he was a shining star just waiting to bloom.”
But Rose does agree that “veteran leadership in the lineup” is greatly needed. “You also need that player to be productive” on the court as well as in the locker room, he points out.
The defensive-minded coach with the lauded defensive rep shouldn’t get a pass, especially since his record thus far is not much better than Mitchell’s a year ago. But then some people are privileged when it comes to selective criticism.
All three new head coaching hires this off-season have been Black females: Pokey Chatman in Indiana, Amber Stokes in Chicago, and Vickie Johnson in San Antonio.
“To have the opportunity to be in a very unique class of women, I feel honored,” said Johnson in an Associated Press story shortly after her hiring last month.
“The fact that the three coaches selected most recently show the attributes of being women and African American is nothing short of remarkable,” stated League President Lisa Borders, the only Black female pro sport president.
Globe-tracking the Lynx
In last week’s action, Natasha Howard (Samsung Blue Minx, South Korea) averaged 26 points in two wins, including a 30-point effort. Keisha Hampton helped her Bnot Hertzeliya (Israel) club to a 20-point win with 19 points and seven steals. Sylvia Fowles had a double-double in a loss, then scored 18 points and 16 points respectively in a 2-1 week for Beijing (China).
Both Howard’s, Fowles’ and Hampton’s clubs are in action this week.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.