I fell off the wagon a few times over this season. Maybe fell is a strong word — I sat on the tailgate and half-heartedly observed the losses mount. The bleakest points of the season were many. Early on, you could say when the Brandon Roy experiment was clearly falling apart, Alexey Shved suddenly became a threat and Chase Budinger dove baseline and rose for 3s; those things disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived.
When Rick Adelman stepped away from the team, Terry Porter was manning a beaten up ship and forced into even more strange rotations than he usually has. Ricky Rubio was still a ways away from coming back. The Texas, by way of Oklahoma City and New Orleans, road trip was a particularly dark time for the Wolves that caused even columnists to kick and scream in frustration. Times were tough.
After a particularly nice whipping, Minnpost’s Britt Robson observed some tough-guy talk from Luke Ridnour, who by all accounts at the time was having his game chewed up and spit back at him by everyone he lined up against, and was maybe trying to be a leader, show some backbone, not shrink from responsibility — honestly, I don’t know what else the guy was supposed to say short of the Wolves had no chance of competing with the existing roster and they should just waive a white flag instead of having a tipoff. This seems to be a clear distinction between the mindset of one who is observing the fight and one who is being forced to endure the constant battles. I digress.
While the stubborn boneheadedness was a turnoff to some, it was as good an example of what Luke Ridnour actually is. Because until he’s designated at his proper role of backup point guard, he is overmatched every night, be it by quickness or size. He is a solid and steady performer who you can imagine would perform that role ably for any above-average club. Plug him in for Norris Cole, Cory Joseph, Jerryd Bayless or D.J. Augustin and do you think any team in the NBA’s final four would complain? He’s not a lockdown defender, tremendously overwhelming physical specimen or blazing gunslinger — and most would say that means his ceiling isn’t remotely high, but the shaky handles the Pacers displayed (almost all the time) or the uneasy, gambling feeling a backup like Bayless or even Joseph give you is not the same Ridnour does.
Regardless, Luke is probably not long for this Wolves roster. He is flatly: an expiring contract at $5 million, not a position of need, a needless expense. Former Oregon Ducks and PAC-10 Players of the Year can have a market to them even without modest expiring contracts.
Here’s Robson’s tantrum:
After a red-assed spanking at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night, Wolves veteran guard Luke Ridnour was exasperated. When a reporter proffered the hardly novel notion that too many injuries have robbed the team of the requisite resources to be competitive, Ridnour barked, “You know what, I’m tired of hearing that. Guys are out, so what? Everybody’s got guys out. We’ve got to find a way to win games. Whether guys are in or out, we still have to play 48 minutes. We’re all professionals. We have to find a way to get a win.”
OK, let’s take the bait. Luke Ridnour is the starting point guard. He actually had some flashes of solid performance on this road trip, which probably provided him with the internal standing and impetus to sound off. As kabuki for the maw, his timing and passion, dare I even say sincerity, were well delivered. It’s the kind of stuff that will linger in the lizard brain of pundits and accrue to his reputation as a “veteran locker room leader” months, even years, down the twilight trail of his career.
But if we seriously embrace the contextual framework posited by Ridnour in his outburst, the man is a laggard and a charlatan, unprofessional to the core. The four starting point guards who opposed him on this road trip absolutely ran roughshod over his miserable pretense at defense.
Averaging just 30:13 minutes per game during this road trip (blowout wins reduce playing time), the quartet of Russell Westbrook, Greivis Vasquez, Tony Parker and Darren Collison shot 55.4 percent from the field (31-for-56), 54.5 percent on three-pointers (6-for-11) and collectively averaged 21 points, 9 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4-to-1.
For his part, Ridnour averaged a mere 28:31 minutes (blowout losses reduce playing time) and shot 46.3 from the field (19-for-41), 30.8 percent on three-pointers (4-for-13) and collectively averaged 12.8 points, 4.5 assists and 2 rebounds per game, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.57-to-1. More importantly, he and the other professionals in the Wolves locker room didn’t find a way to win a single game.