First PodBash Episode is Done!!

Well we finally did it, we finally recorded our first ever episode! It went pretty smoothly and we talked, or maybe I talked, for a lot longer than I thought we would! But we did it, so now there is nowhere to go but up! So if you need something to get you through your day, give us a listen and let us know what you think. Stay tuned for future episodes by checking out the Gene & Jace’s PodBash link at the top of the page!

Episode 1 – And so it begins

Far from Picture Perfect

The Wolves are a basketball team figuring out who they are, and more importantly, who they aren’t. All is not right with the Wolves.  Through the first week and a half of the season the Wolves have given us monster first quarters, mid-game lulls and even a comeback, well,  almost.  What sticks out is what’s lacking most with this team. Am I a greedy fan? Or somebody that’s been around long enough to remember when this team was a consistent playoff team?  It’s teams like the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks, hanging around until the end of games, and forcing Kevin Love to hit last second three-pointers to force overtime — I am just not satisfied, and to be quite frank, neither should you.  The Wolves have amassed a roster wealthy with talent, perhaps the best team we’ve seen in almost a decade; however, my concern is that maybe some of that talent is just smoke and mirrors.

Nikola Pekovic, and I love the guy, is a beast but right he’s not giving the Wolves a consistent low post presence.  Zachary Bennett at Timberpups.com did a great job at looking at the numbers on how Pek is struggling, but why is he struggling? Is he is out of basketball shape? Is he being used differently? Is it something else?  From what I’m seeing he’s not catching the ball, nor is he handling it cleanly.  Pek seems is getting hacked, but rather than drawing fouls, he’s getting stripped of possession more often.  When the Wolves are struggling to shoot from the outside their opponent can fall back and really clog up the lane, this results in the struggles we’ve seen from Pek thus far, it’s due to the extra hands collapsing on him in the lane. Pek needs to be a better finisher around the rim, period. When he’s able to get the ball down low, the offense has better spacing, something this team needs, however; the rest of the team needs to help create space for Pek.

The second issue we see affecting this team is, as frequently noted, Ricky Rubio’s shooting.  Maybe I just need to change my face on this topic or perhaps it will be the Spaniard’s achilles heel his entire career.  Rubio looks just fine pulling up and shooting off-the-dribble but it’s catch-and-shoot situations that render me stumped.  Why would a young and athletic basketball player have a distinctly slow and deliberate shooting motion on attempts from behind the arc? His form is so different on those shots, it doesn’t look comfortable.  Another note: Can somebody please tell him to get more arc on those shots!?  His failure to use enough arch isn’t giving the ball a chance so drop through, let alone bounce around and ultimately fall in.  But, let’s not get started on a topic we could spend days, weeks or even months discussing.

Last, and most importantly, that of production from the Wolves bench. I am really, really concerned about this, why? Because the second unit isn’t producing much of anything so far this season.  The offense doesn’t flow with these guys in the game and Rick Adelman is forced to play the starters extended minutes trying to maintain a lead or close out games.  If the starters continue playing extended, unnecessary minutes, this could come back to hurt this team in the long run..  The reserves need to come in, maintain leads and, I don’t think it’s too much to ask, occasionally spark a run to get this team going but as of now none of those things appear to be happening. Rookie Gorgui Dieng is have issues adjusting to the NBA, Dante Cunningham’s jump shot has been off, Derek Williams, though he shows flashes, can’t create off the dribble and Alexey Shved is a mess right now. Leaving JJ Barea desperately trying to create for himself, as well as all the others.  Barea needs teammates who can make a shot and at least make a defender pause before they go to double team Barea. He’s great at getting his own shot but his talent is really driving and scoring in the lane amongst the trees of the NBA.  He’s not normally a facilitator and looks to score more on his own.

The starters are scoring just a hair over 81 percent of the teams points. Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer account for over 61 percent of the team’s output.  The remaining 19 percent is the bench producing, primarily in the form of Barea, D-Will and even Cunningham is good for a couple of buckets a game.  My concern is that on off nights when the Kevin’s (Love and Martin) aren’t filling up the stat sheet with 30 points apiece, the team does not have enough people that can help shoulder the load.  It will help when Chase Budinger comes back from injury, but he’ll only be able to account for the lack of production Shved is providing right now.  D-Will is young, has a ton of talent and is a nice boost off the bench, when he plays, but can we count on him consistently?

I am open to trading Shved and/or D-Will for a more consistent shooting guard or small forward.  Someone like Evan Turner of the Philadelphia 76ers may be available later on in the season, maybe even Aaron Afflalo of the Orlando Magic, although the way these two are playing right now, the price tag could inflate out of the Wolves price range.

It’s the beginning of the season I am in Midseason fan form; I want to win and win now.  I see this team improving and a potential playoff contender, but why not aim to be this years Golden State Warriors? Rather than settling to be merely an team that’s improving.

Will Flip Saunders make a move to strengthen the reserves? Do we hope D-Will finds consistency? Maybe Shved regains his form from the early parts of last season form and Chase returns sooner rather than later, but it’s too soon to tell — every team in the league is still trying to find their identity.  I like this season’s Wolves, things are definitely looking better. But they are far from picture perfect. Exciting times are ahead of us, but after waiting nine years to make the playoffs, I hope this doesn’t end as a wasted opportunity.

The Adventures of Ricky and Bud-winkle and Friends

Timberwolves

When we last left our heroes, Ricky and Bud-winkle had led our Wolves to a season ending victory over the soon to be Western Conference Champs.  Ricky urged young Boris Shved to “Change his face” and Owner Glen Taylor kicked Clueless Leader (David Kahn) to the curb.  Now that order had been restored Ricky and Bud-winkle rode off to enjoy their summer vacation.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but much has changed since we last left our favorite cagers on the hardwood.  What started out as a promising year in the preseason, with a peak at what could be with a Gold Medalist in Kevin Love, a rejuvenated Brandon Roy and a Swiss Army Knife of a player in Andrei Kirilenko ended in one of the most injury riddled seasons in recent memory.  Last year’s disappointment was filled with knuckle push up-gate, terrible three point shooting,  and at least 19 different players seeing game action because of previously mentioned injuries.

 After missing the playoffs for the ninth straight season and an injured star player who was not happy with David Kahn, owner Glenn Taylor made the right decision to let Kahn go.  However, mortally wounded, Khan activates Genesis, which will reorganize all matter in the nebula including the Enterprise, er Timberwolves.  Spock, I mean Flip, goes to the engine room to restore the warp drive, I mean Timberwolves roster. Hmm, maybe I watch too much TV. Regardless, Flip came in and made some changes to the Wolves roster in attempt to correct the laco of three point shooting and overall depth to the team.  First Flip made a reasonable offer to Kirilenko, Kirilenko declined and headed to Brooklyn to play for Mother Russia, er I mean the Nyets, oops Nets and their Russian Billionaire owner. Next the options on Roy and Steimsma were not picked up and Gelabale was not retained.  Flip’s next moves took place at the draft, where Flip turned the 9th pick into the 14th and 21st picks.  With those two picks the Wolves took UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad and Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng respectively.  The Wolves later traded away the 26th pick and Malcolm Lee into a 2014 2nd round draft choice.  There have been mixed reviews of how the draft went for the Wolves, but in an instant gratification society, fans don’t want to wait long to see their new rookies blossom into what they potential could be.

After the draft the Wolves set out to fill their remaining holes through free agency. Their big catch was obtaining the services of Kevin Martin, a scoring wing who was also very familiar with Coach Adleman’s system. However, ironman Luke Ridnour needed to be traded back to his previous team, the Milwaukee Bucks, to accomplish this financially.  They then needed to add to some depth at the Small Forward position after Kirilenko left, so the Wolves resigned Chase Budinger and brought back former Wolf Corey Brewer.  The Wolves were able to retain the services of fan favorite Nikola Pekovic at what is becoming a reasonable price for a quality big man at approximately $12 Million per season. The team rounded out their 2013 – 2014 roster by signing veteran big man Ronny Turiaf, point guard A.J. Price and former Wolves 2nd Round pick Forward Robbie Hummel.

What do all these resigned and new parts mean to this team? Most importantly the team is starting the year healthy.  Oh wait, Chase Budinger got hurt again and is out indefinitely. Now don’t worry Wolves fans, it should only be a temporary situation.  As someone who has undergone multiple knee surgeries it could be much worse, Bud will be fine and I hope back on the court sooner rather than later.  The Wolves have added a shooting guard that is an efficient scorer, shoots well from deep and he also moves well without the ball.  From what little I have seen from him in the preseason Martin should be just what the Wolves need on nights when the first team offense goes into catatonic mode.  For the first time it what seems like forever, the Wolves have a legitimate starting shooting guard that is over 6’ 2”.  Now I know the scouting report on Martin does not speak highly of his defense, but lets be honest Luke’s defense, while admirable consider what he was asked to do, wasn’t exactly Defensive Player of the Year material.  The Wolves defense is less about having individual stoppers but having a good team defense.  While the Wolves may not have a lockdown defender, they can play within this team concept.  The additions of Brewer, Turiaf and Dieng will add to the defense of the team.  Brewer is a pest to opponents wings while Turiaf and Dieng will add that shot blocking element that left with Stiemsma.  The Wolves should, scratch that, will be better from the three point line.  Martin is a career 38.5% three point shooter, Brewer has improved his three point shooting since he left the Wolves, and the return offormer three point contest champion Kevin Love will only increase on last years league worst 30.5% three point shooting.

What did the preseason tell us? Although only three games were shown on TV, it appeared that as time has gone on the first team continues to gel.  After hearing reports that the second team was beating the starters in team scrimmages and viewing the Wolves come out flat and not shooting well it raised some concerns with this team.  If this team doesn’t get into the flow offensively I could see that affecting their defensive intensity.  Basketball is a sport that sometimes your offense helps to fuel your defense and I think the Wolves are one of those types of teams.  The key for this team to making the playoffs and even advancing in the playoffs will be getting defensive stops on nights where they can’t simply outscore opponents.

Most nights this team will be moving the ball around quickly while making cuts in Adleman’s corner offense that we all know and love, but when that doesn’t happen what do you do? Add in instant offense, JJ Barea.  I know I have been hard on him before and found myself yelling at the TV while watching him, but when he is used correctly he can be very dangerous.  By all accounts he played very well this preseason after playing well in the Tournament of the Americas. If JJ is not counted on to be the guy on offense and more of a change of pace guy off the bench he is very useful.  JJ can be paired with Shved in a combo of two guards that can play either guard position.  As long as JJ is not required to be the go to scorer he is much more of asset than a detriment.

What do Wolves fans need to be concerned about? I wish I could say nothing, but as most Minnesota sports fans know, there is always something bad waiting to happen around the corner.  Maybe there isn’t, but it often feels that way.  The main thing that could derail this team is the same thing that derailed the last two seasons, injuries.  We know Pek will probably miss some games, it happens each year, but with the reserves and potential to play small ball the loss of Pek in the short term could be minimized.  However, if there was an injury to Ricky or Love that could really destroy this teams playoff hopes.

Another concern is how this team is constructed and how their “Big Three” matchup with opposing teams.  The wolves front court have two extremely talented big men, however certain players can give them fits. The long athletic shot blocking types, which affect a lot of players,  can negate the strength that the Wolves bigs utilize.  Maybe it’s just me but does Pek’s wingspan seem pretty average? Maybe its just how big his muscles are, but he doesn’t seem to have the reach of other players. He does utilizes his strength and footwork to create space that allow him to get the shots he wants, of course he needs to finish those little rolling shots.

The last thing to watch is Ricky’s shooting. When Ricky started his rookie year his shooting, and especially three point shooting, was better than most people anticipated.  Last season after not being able to consistently work on that shot due to recovering from ACL reconstruction it seemed to revert to what most expected.  That coupled with Ricky not being able to finish around the rim caused concern that teams would back of Ricky and force him to shoot.  I think that losing so many players last year forced Ricky into scorers mode, which will ultimately help this team.  Whether it be shooting threes at a percentage the defense needs to respect or getting to the rim to draw fouls or finish Ricky needs to look to score.  Being a threat to the defense will force teams to guard him more closely and that in turn will help open up and space the floor better for his teammates.

Looking at the offseason moves, the relative health of this young team and the potential they possess it looks to be a very exciting season for our Wolves.  Based on what we have seen from individual players like Love, Pekovic and Rubio, this team can be very very good.  Will they be good enough to make the playoffs? I believe they will. Let’s face it, the Western Conference is loaded.  To get the 7th or 8th playoff spot may not seem like a great landing spot, however the 7th or 8th seed could win as many as 50 games.  I know most Wolves fans would love to be a 50 win team again. It’s been a long time since the Wolves have been relevant but the time is now and it all starts Wednesday vs the Magic. So don’t miss the next episode of Ricky and Bud-Winkle, it’s called “Run, Run Scoring is Fun” or “Catch Us if you Can!”

The Week That Was

These past two weeks at work have been different, and I don’t really want to get into why, those that know me know why it’s different; regardless, lunch time is different.  With both girls in school it frees up time for Sandy and I to go out to lunch together. This past week we had lunch together five times and we have even had lunch together a couple times last week as well.  We enjoyed the time together very much and have gotten a chance to try some of the restaurants downtown.

We have tried Erbert and Gerberts (sandwiches), Wasabi (sushi), The Beef Steak Club (steaks and more), Qdoba (Burrito place) and Spicy Pie (Pizza and Grinders).  All of them have had their unique foods and signature dishes.  Wasabi had spicy tuna and avocado roll called the Dakota Roll and jalapeño, cream cheese and spicy tuna appetizers called Heart Attack  ; while The Beef Steak Club had fresh cut fries cooked in duck fat!

The Dakota Roll
The Dakota Roll

 

Heart Attack Appetizer
Heart Attack Appetizer

 

Chicken BLT w/Gaucamole and Duck Fat Fries
Chicken BLT w/Gaucamole and Duck Fat Fries

 

However, after all the eating out the during the previous week, the last two times we simply just ate lunch together in the truck with food Sandy brought from home. Even though the food did not have exotic ingredients they were the best of the meals, simply because we got to spend lunch together. Thank you hunny for a great week of lunches.  I love you!

Lunch Date!
Lunch Date!

 

Lunch Date in the Truck
Lunch Date in the Truck

 

Moonlighting on Another Blog

This summer I got the chance to write for The Daily Wolf , blogging about one of my favorite topics, the Minnesota Timberwolves!! I wrote a post and thanks to John, the owner of the blog, up my post went! I am hoping to be a weekly contributor to the site and blog about my favorite team. I will post links here to the finished product here in addition to whatever else I feel like blogging about here.

Here is the link to my first ever post on TheDailyWolf.com titled Risking the Future for Wins Today. Enjoy!

Aveeno Men’s Collection

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Dad Central Consulting for AVEENO. I received product samples and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

Every guy goes through the tradition that is handed down from their father of learning how to shave. That happened to me many years ago (I won’t say how many, ha!) and my shaving routine has largely stayed the same. The razors may change and the shaving cream may evolve into shave gel, but its always the same. Wet your face, later up, break out the razor and get rid of the unwanted hairs.

Normally I only put my face through this process once or twice a week depending on who I have to impress. Normally it’s something I don’t really enjoy, due to the way my skin feels after the shave and the frequent nicks and cuts. Well Dad Central Consulting sent me the Aveeno products to try them out and see how I liked them. I have always loved Aveeno products that my wife has bought, but now they have products just for Men! They are great!

I tried the Aveeno Men’s products, they all feature the Active Naturals Oat ingredient which work to cleanse, moisturize and soothe Men;s sensitive skin. The Aveeno the Face Wash really helps to clean and exfoliate your face prior to shaving. The Aveeno Men’s Shave Gel contains Vitamin E and Aloe to help soothe your skin, while my personal favorite, the Aveeno Men’s After-Shave Lotion calms and soothes irritated skin by moisturizing the top two layers of the skin. I noticed my skin was smother and softer and I had no more nicks and cuts! Success!!

So guys if you want to get a great shave and healthier looking skin go and get the products from Aveeno Men’s Active Naturals products, you will love them!!