Steve McPherson over at awolfamongwolves had an anecdote I read this morning that I came back to…
I teach a class at McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul called Composition Ensemble. The basic goal of the class is to have songwriters work on original material in a collaborative, group context. It’s not hard to get students to write songs, even with one another; I’m often stunned at how willing they are to write words for each other’s songs or play an instrument they’re unfamiliar with to help out.
Here’s what’s hard: getting guitarists to play fewer than six strings all the time; getting keyboardists to play with one hand; getting acoustic guitarists to play rhythmic palm mutes like their lives depended on it; getting bassists to play something in between the roots of the chords and a complicated, melodic bassline.
There are many reasons for this. It has to do with age and experience and understanding; it has to do with seeing yourself as part of a larger thing, and not the whole thing in and of yourself. In that sense, it has to do with self-awareness and also patience. But the way it relates most closely to the Timberwolves is in knowing exactly what you’re about and going out and doing exactly that thing.
It is, in essence, why Williams continues to be problematic as a part of the team (he had 6 pts on 2-8 shooting and 9 rebounds last night). He’s improved, certainly, and has room to improve more, but a large part of what he’s lacking is that directionality, that unerring sense that this—whatever this is—is exactly what he should be doing at that exact moment.
Despite the rust and a lack of strength in his surgically repaired knee, Budinger has shown that sense. When he curls around a screen he knows just how to hit the cut hard. When he catches the ball in the corner on the weakside, he goes up for the shot.
And as a whole, that inerrant sense of self is what the Wolves showed last night, with Pekovic catching the ball in the post and moving with purpose (it was amazing to see him body right through Perkins, who himself is tremendously hard to move) and the ball moving crisply from side to side and into the post and back out. Budinger is a large part of what makes that possible by creating more space on the floor with his outside shooting. Seeing all this click—and without Love in the lineup—is bittersweet, making you realize what could have been this season.
A lot of the selflessness that Dante Cunningham brings to the game is what haters are gonna hate about D-Will. When is the last time you saw D-Will dive on the floor for a loose ball or chase a fast break for an offensive rebound (unless he was going to attempt to dunk it)? The bench is traditionally where most of this selflessness comes from, and I’ve always felt like Williams either didn’t know where he was supposed to be positioned or thought it was beneath him to hustle the way Dante does. Sure, I’m being hard on him, but like other frustrating, athletic and highly drafted Wolves who have flashed their abilities and flown away, Williams doesn’t seem to understand all the things he is capable of doing.