March 2, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Luke Ridnour (13) drives to the basket against the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
The traditional response to seeing the Wolves trot Luke Ridnour out at starting shooting guard is one of embarrassment. The number of missteps (utter failures) that had to take place in order for the undersized journeyman to be thrust into that position in the first place are significant in illustrating the failed flailings of one David Kahn, but if you want to look at the situation through rose-colored coke bottles, there is always Joan Niesen’s piece over at Fox Sports North…
"The dawn of the Rubio era did not relegate Ridnour to the bench. It gave him an even tougher task, shoving him not out of the starting lineup, but rather into a spot that didn’t quite fit.Rick Adelman has never started a player of Ridnour’s size at shooting guard before, he says, not this consistently over so long a period of time. That’s a 21-year coaching career we’re talking, with dozens of shooting guards all bigger and stronger, dozens who look the part far better than the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Ridnour. At least, those are his measurements on paper, measurements that in the NBA are computed and transmuted. The too-short become taller, the too-tall become shorter, and then there’s way-too-short Luke Ridnour, playing shooting guard beside a five-pounds-heavier, two-inches-taller point guard.There he is, guarding over a five-day span everyone from Jodie Meeks to Russell Westbrook to Jerryd Bayless to Courtney Lee, grateful for Metta World Peace’s injury that shifted Kobe Bryant over to be someone else’s responsibility. They’re all bigger, all stronger, all playing their natural position. And Ridnour pokes at them. He pesters. He throws his weight as if he truly believes he’s got an extra 40 pounds. He fouls, sometimes, by the sheer flailing of his motion, and sometimes he’s left splat on the floor. Other times he’s run over.But never, ever, does he complain. Not ever. Not at his locker before games, where he’ll tell you he doesn’t have time to talk and then make time. Not after, when he’s getting dressed or passing his three young sons around the locker room, upset after losses and thanking God after wins. Not at practice, not at shootaround, not to his teammates, not to his coaches. There’s not a peep.“We’re just going to keep fighting, no matter who’s out there and who’s not,” he said March 12 after a particularly surprising win over the Spurs. “We’re just going to keep fighting away. It’s about just playing the game you love and trying to make the best of it.”If Ridnour is hurting, you’ll never know it. If he’s resentful of the position he’s put in, he’ll never show it. That’s just not how he chooses to function.“I think he’s a little bit underrated,” Andrei Kirilenko said. “Everybody thinks, hey, he’s small. But he can really hold his ground. I think it’s very unique for guys of his size to be able to guard guys who are one head taller than them.”"
The fact there are so few actual shooting guards in the league make it less amazing that the Wolves can get by most nights with Ridnour starting. The question of whether a traditional center or traditional shooting guard are more rare in today’s NBA, is a real consideration when looking towards the near-future draft prospects and offseason resignings.
I’m more likely to look at Ridnour, remember him as the former PAC-10 Freshman and Player of the Year; the guy who, upon being drafted, it was said “can’t guard a folding chair” and consider the desperation that must exist, the dire circumstances a team must be in to roll with him as its starting shooting guard.
I’m more likely to imagine how much better off that team would be with a plus-defender or shooter at that spot. Oof.