Simons Says - Dec. 12, 2013

It wasn’t what we come to expect after winning a big game. There weren’t lines of fans hanging on his sleeves nor was a big deal playing out hours after the game with all his peeps. Nope. With a post-game meal in front of him, Robbie Hummel sat alone, savoring his Sushi and reliving the highlights in his head. Number 6 just solo.

Hummel has arrived. The sharp shooter from Purdue, who’s survived two knee surgeries and EuroHoops overseas, is making the most of his place on Team Timberwolves. He’s Rick Adelman’s kind of player. Adelman’s “Glue Guy,” as he calls him, was one of the big reasons the Wolves are enjoying this back-to-back game set. Finally.

You see, something had to give. The Wolves entered the season with big plans. A revamped and improved roster, a pack of players back and healthy from a season past of injury and frustration and fans clamoring for a return to the playoffs after a nearly decade long absence.

It’s been a week of meandering for the Wolves. Off to Mexico City only to spend days there and have the game postponed due to an Arena fire. So, there and back, 2-games under 500 and after 20-games, nearly a quarter of the NBA season played, the Wolves were spending plenty of time, off the court, festering and trying to figure out why they’re not meeting expectations. Everyone’s been kicking it around too. Talk radio and web stories are firing up fans, coaches and heck, to the players themselves can’t get it out of their heads.

To make matters worse, this team’s Achilles heal, back-to-back games, reared its ugly head as the team was putting away the summer shorts, flip flops and shaking off its Mexican jet lag.

Back-to-backs haven’t been that friendly to Team Timberwolves. It’s been a year since the Wolves have swept games on consecutive nights. In fact, prior to departing to Mexico City, the Wolves smacked Dallas on a Saturday, dropped the next night to OKC.

Coach Rick Adelman knows the score and sounds a bit like a broken record to his troops. If we are to make the playoffs, you (gesturing to his players) have to take care of business. You must win the lion’s share of the back-to-backs that they (and so many other NBA teams) are saddled.

Two games under-500 just days ago, they are now even-steven, 11 and 11, back to .500 after a hard fought and well-earned b-to-b sweep.

It started nicely in the Palace of Auburn Hills with a Motown Smack down. The Wolves lit up the Pistons, as they should have, by scoring 121 points. By putting up their second highest point total this season and shooting almost 50% for the game, the Wolves regained a spring in their step and more importantly, rediscovered their shooting touch. Eleven 3-point field goals help a great deal and at the end of the game, the Wolves had tacked on a sixth win this season by a margin of 18 points over the opponent.

The business trip a success, it was back to the home office to offer Philadelphia a cold and rude visit. But as the team was waking to go to work, critics were already lining up on air and in cyberspace. “Is Adelman lost his touch,” “Flip ready to flop on his underachievers,” “Can’t this team get a little Love” and on and on. 21-games and not only were packs of fans fleeing the wagon, so was the band or so it seemed.

A quarter into the Wolves-Sixers game and it appeared the naysayers might be on to something. Listless and meandering, the Wolves were floppin. Phila up 19 after one and a rout was on.

The good thing about an NBA game is that it lasts four quarters (and yes, Adam in St. Paul, there’s a lot of action in the final 2-minutes. There, I said it). It took Adelman’s athletes time to warm up but the second half was nothing short of sweet.

This is what the Wolves have to do to regain a foothold in the West. This conference is stacked and their effort, intensity and focus on each and every game, especially those at home, have to be sharper.

In the second half, the Wolves played up to expectations. Hummel recalls this vividly as he was the dagger in the Fourth quarter. Hummel plays “D”, he’s in the right place at the right time and the kid takes good shots. So, Robbie Hummel’s 10 fourth quarter points were gold and the Wolves were in business.

It’s also great to have Kevin Love back after an emotional week for him. He was rock in the b-to-b, finishing with 26 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists. The Wolves tell me Love has now recorded a double-double in 12 straight games and has recorded a league-leading 20 in 21 games this season. He’s headed to the All Star team again and now making noise for first team all NBA. Enough on “touching the money”…we’ll just leave it at Love is solid.

The Wolves might not have gotten a big night out of Kevin Martin but big man Nikola Pekovic was large, his night with 20 points and 10 rebounds. What I like is that the Godfather finished with a nice shooting night of 9-for-15. Must have’s if this team is to win.

And I digress. A GameON! viewer who reads SimonsSays as well, taking issue with the writer and Ricky Rubio. Michael from Edina writes, “Do you dislike Ricky Rubio? You never seem to give our floor general any credit and spend no time talking about how important he is. Figure it out Sportsguy.”

Michael thanks for taking the time to write but I give No. 9 plenty of love. Ricky Rubio was all over the floor on both nights and against the Sixers, scored a season-high 21 points, 7-assists, snared 5-rebounds and had three steals. With all due respect, I give Rubio lots of love. He’s vital. I appreciate your note but dismiss you now.

Hummel would have as well. Sushi tastes even better on nights when it’s brutally cold outside. The critics are howling like the ill-December wind and your team shows its character and guts by rallying and kicking a very athletic team out its home door.

The sooner the sign goes up in the opposition locker room that reads “Welcome but you DON’T win here” the better. Nice work Wolves. Now, naysayers and fair weather friends, step back from the edge. It’s OK. Game-23 is ahead. There’s time.

Again, here’s hoping your Holidays are filled with joy and kindness. Wherever you may be we’re hoping only the best for you and your family. And as you dial your basketball radar into this month of December, keep an eye on this vital stretch of games. The Wolves need to define themselves this month. And to team Adelman, keep your GameON!


Help someone stay warm:

A few days remain to help one of our fellow Minnesotans in this cold time of year. All Star Kevin Love continues his Coat Drive! Love is partnered with The Salvation Army to gather coats to help those in need this winter. It’s started and will end December 18 as Love invites all fans to bring new and gently used coats to the Target Center Box Office. Love will personally deliver all donations to The Salvation Army on Dec. 17, and remind fans that there is one more day to contribute to the coat drive.

"Cold weather is here and many people are in need of winter coats," Love said. "With the support of The Salvation Army and Wolves fans, we can make a difference again this winter for those in need."

Donate and Love has purchased tickets to the Timberwolves' Jan. 1 game vs. the New Orleans Pelicans and the Jan. 8 game vs. the Phoenix Suns. Fans will receive a pair of tickets to one of these games for each coat they donate (limit four tickets per family on a first come, first served basis while supplies last).

Vote now and often: The NBA’s All-Star Balloting is underway! Timberwolves starters Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio highlight Wolves representatives on the ballot as fans worldwide have the opportunity to vote for their favorite players as starters for the 63rd NBA All-Star Game.

This is the second straight year that fans can vote for their favorite player via social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter. Twitter voting allows fans to tweet a vote for 10 unique players each day throughout the All-Star balloting period. Kinda’ makes it feel like a Chicago election. Kidding!!

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As we have for years, we talk Wolves. Every day. High’s & lows. We’re there because we are fans, just like you! Keep your GameON! See you soon!

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