Kevin Garnett is one of the all-time greats, and Wolves coach Flip Saunders says he will always have a soft spot for a player he first coached as a teenager.
But KG as a coach? Not so much, Flip said in this leftover nugget from the Wolves/Brooklyn game earlier this week. Per the New York Post:
When asked before the game if his former star pupil could become a coach in the future, Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders didn’t hesitate with his response.
“No,” Saunders said with a smile. “What he could be is he could be a good consultant, short-term stuff.
“He’s got great knowledge, and he’d be great working with players. But his frustration … he gets frustrated pretty easy. That would be pretty tough on a coach.
“He might be a short-term guy, but it’s not because of lack of knowledge. His personality, his DNA, he’d get too frustrated.”
Seems to make sense. Anyone who remembers KG viciously banging a basketball against his head at the free throw line (or other countless examples) would understand his intensity might burn a little too much on a sideline.
After two months of turmoil and a relatively quiet October, the Vikings have reached their bye week here in early November. Given all they have endured, their 4-5 record is actually kind of impressive, and head coach Mike Zimmer has the Vikings in position to potentially make a run at the playoffs.
But instead of focusing on the uphill climb that remains for the Vikings to get there, let’s take a few minutes and gaze back at the first half — well, technically the first 9/16ths — of the 2014 season.
We will do it superlative style, handing out 11 digital honors to the players, moments and moves that have defined the season to date. As always, feel free to use the comments section to chime in.
BIGGEST STORY: Five days after an impressive win in the season opener, news broke that star running back Adrian Peterson had been charged with abusing his 4-year-old son. The Vikings deactivated him. Then they re-activated him. Then they deactivated him again. His case was resolved this week, but his short-term and long-term future with the Vikings remains in doubt. So the Peterson saga could turn out to be the story of the second half, too.
MOST THRILLING PLAY: The Vikings, after blowing another fourth-quarter lead, headed into overtime against the Buccaneers in Week 8. The Bucs got the ball to start overtime, but they didn’t hold onto it for long, as rookie outside linebacker Anthony Barr ripped the ball away from Buccaneers rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, scooped it off the ground and returned it for a game-winning score. Barr’s big play has turned the season around.
BIGGEST STOMACH PUNCH: The week before the overtime win in Tampa, the Vikings lost a game they should have won in Buffalo. The Bills scored with a second left to win, 17-16, but the most painful play was the 4th-and-20 conversion the Vikings allowed earlier in the drive.
TOP ROOKIE: The Vikings have gotten significant contributions from their rookie class. Teddy Bridgewater and Jerick McKinnon play big roles on offense and late picks such as Jabari Price and Shamar Stephen have found their way on the field. But it’s Barr, and it’s not even close.
BIGGEST WIN: The Vikings have no wins over teams that currently have winning records, so there is no clear-cut answer here. We’ll go with the win over the Redskins, because the offense showed signs of life and the defense was able to get off the field with the game on the line.
TOUGHEST LOSS: The last-second loss in Buffalo gets the nod, but that blowout Thursday night loss in Green Bay — the one that America watched for maybe an hour — sure was embarrassing.
MOST SURPRISING STAT: After ranking 31st in pass defense a season ago, the Vikings are fourth in Zimmer’s first season in Minnesota. The pass rush, which leads the league with 30 sacks, has been a big factor in the Vikings allowing 71 fewer passing yards per game than in 2013.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Josh Robinson graded out as one of Pro Football Focus’ worst cornerbacks a season ago and Zimmer didn’t seem thrilled with Robinson’s injuries during training camp. But here we are three months later, and Robinson has arguably been the team’s top cornerback. He has thrived under Zimmer, and it helps that he plays only one the outside. Heck, even Pro Football Focus has plenty of good things to stay about him now.
BEST OFFSEASON ADDITION: The Vikings overhauled their defensive line in the offseason and added cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and brought back linebacker Jasper Brinkley in free agency, too. But no one seemed to think much — good or bad — about the Vikings signing journeyman defensive tackle Tom Johnson. Through nine games, Johnson has contributed 5.5 sacks in a situational pass-rushing role. That’s more than he had in three seasons with the Saints.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Many expected left tackle Matt Kalil to return to Pro Bowl form after an injury-riddled 2013 season. But Kalil has struggled mightily, allowing the most sacks in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. General Manager Rick Spielman scoffed at PFF’s grading methods, which is fair, but even a novice eye notices Kalil getting beat more often than he should.
MOST VALUABLE VIKING: With nine sacks, defensive end Everson Griffen certainly has numbers that grab your attention. But I give the nod, ever so slightly, to do-it-all safety Harrison Smith. Zimmer has used Smith all over the field, allowing him to make an impact in many different ways. But if you prefer Griffen or even Barr, I certainly understand where you are coming from.
Last year’s Timberwolves, under Rick Adelman, were mid-pack in the NBA when it came to three-point field goal attempts, averaging 21.4 per game. They were quite poor at making them (just as they were the previous season), checking in at a 34.1 percent clip in 2013-14, which was 26th in the NBA.
The change to Flip Saunders has — so far — brought about a predictable change in that approach. While much of the NBA has become three-point happy in recent years, in large part because it has been accepted as not just an effective weapon but an efficient one, Saunders’ offense still remains predicated around a lot of mid-range jumpers and other two-point shots.
Small sample size, of course, but the Wolves rank dead last in the NBA so far this season in three-point attempts at just 12.8 per game. Interestingly, though, they rank fourth in three-point percentage, making 41.2 percent of their tries so far.
Again, it’s very early and four games is a poor sample, but we would imagine those trends could continue. In Saunders’ final full season as Wolves coach — the glorious 2003-04 season, when the Wolves had the best record in the West — Minnesota ranked 27th in three-point attempts but fifth in three-point percentage.
In that regard, Saunders has proven that he can have a very good team — one that could have gone to the NBA Finals if, apparently, Sam Cassell hadn’t done his special dance and injured himself in the process — without shooting an abundance of threes (or at least while stressing quality threes over the quantity of threes).
Some of it is almost certainly tailored to personnel. The Wolves just don’t have a ton of great three-point shooters, particularly now that Kevin Love is gone. (Of course, Saunders the personnel boss gave that roster to Saunders the coach).
We’ve already seen the change in Ricky Rubio, whose jumper seems more confident when it’s from 17 feet instead of beyond the arc. He attempted his first three of the season in the team’s fourth game, and we’re getting out of the habit of cringing every time he puts up a jumper.
Overall, though, it will be interesting to see if the Wolves can muster an efficient offense without using the three as a consistent threat — and it will be interesting to see how Saunders adjusts his offense for particular matchups.