Tonight, I went to the Timberwolves-Nuggets game tonight in Bismarck, North Dakota. As expected, Blake Ahearn did what he does, close out games. Tonight, however, it wasn't from the line. Ahearn came in for the last 4 and 1/2 minutes of the game, and played at the 2-guard spot, alongside Kevin Ollie. Blake's played the point pretty much his entire career, but both in Vegas at Summer League and tonight with the Timberwolves, they've tried him out at the off guard. Though he's not big/athletic enough to play defense off the ball against the two guard (Dahntay Jones got to the lane at will with him), he is able to get open to get the open 3-pointer off, which is what NBA teams should pay him to do for the rest of his career.
Tonight, since he played for the hometown Dakota Wizards the majority of last season before being called-up the NBA, he was the most popular player at the game. When Kevin Ollie got off the bench before him, it seemed like he wasn't even going to get in the game, since either he or Ollie have gotten a DNP-Coaches Decision when the other plays the last few games, and tonight it was Ollie's turn for playing time. But at the 7 minute mark, Ahearn got up, took his warmup's off, and got to the scorer's table to check in with the crowd cheering for him, before Coach Wittman brought him back to the bench. At the next timeout, Ahearn got in the game, playing the off-guard while Ollie played the point. Jones took him to the hoop his first possession, and did that frequently throughout the next four minutes, however didn't have much success as the help defense helped.
On offense however, Ahearn played well. His first touch, he pump-faked, drove to the hoop, and handed off to Ryan Gomes for an assist. His next touch, he got the ball for an open 3-point attempt on the wing that caromed off the rim, leaving the score at 104-102 in favor of the Nuggets. A minute later, with 30 seconds left in the game, the score was 106-104, Nuggets lead. Ahearn got the ball in the corner from Ollie and let it fly, shooting over a challenging Chris Andersen. Blake went down, the ball went in, the crowd went wild, Ahearn left Bismarck a hero... Again. Hopefully for the last time without a guaranteed NBA contract.
Continue on for quick shots from the game.
- I thought about renaming my blog from Schenschational to BlakeAhearnsChestHair.com. He's got to have more body hair, forearms and chest, than any other NBA player. Note to players that want to be good: Make sure the chest hair comes out the top of your jersey. Also, according to the local news station, word on the street is that Rashad McCants bet Ahearn $100 dollars that Ahearn wouldn't make the biggest shot of his NBA preseason career. Ahearn boarded the plane tonight $100 richer.
- Nick Fazekas looked like he just woke up when he got in at the end of the first half. He probably should have stayed sleeping. He runs like J.C. Mathis from the Skyforce last year, and that isn't a compliment. He also went 0-for-2 from the field, missing both makeable attempts.
- Mike Miller can shoot. He had 9 of the Wolves first 18 points, and shot pretty much every time he touched the ball. Not a bad thing for this team. He also addressed the crowd at the beginning, thanking everyone for coming out. I personally think Ahearn would have made a better choice, but if Wolves GM Jim Stack was making the decisions, it made sense. When I was down in Vegas interning with the Summer League , I rode the elevator with Stack, where I introduced myself, as I was looking for a job and Stack was the GM of a team closest to my hometown. Upon learning I was from Bismarck, he said "Oh, Mike Miller country... Dakota Territory..." and that ended the elevator ride. Miller however is from Mitchell, SOUTH Dakota, and the Dakota Territories haven't been one since 1889.
- Allen Iverson didn't make the trip. Disappointing.
- Carmelo Anthony did make the trip. He played 28 minutes, scoring 15 points, and kicked his shoes off over his head and into the crowd when he took the bench for good in the fourth quarter (Kenyon Martin did the same). I also got text messages from friends that took pictures with him on Saturday while he was at Best Buy and Buffalo Wild Wings, so he apparently got around. By all accounts, in Bismarck, he's a nice guy.
- I didn't look at the box score until after the game, but I though Linas Kleiza played well. He didn't. He went 1-for-8 from the field, but made up for it shooting 11-for-12 from the line.
- Calvin Booth was the last guy left out there at the end of warm-ups, practicing with Ed Pinckney, the TWolves assistant coach and former Tourney MOP with Villanova. If I had to pick which player I'd rather have now from that warm up, I'm going with Pinckney.
- Brian Cardinal is bald. He also kind of looks like Kane from wrestling.
- Smush Parker won the lay-up line impromptu dunk contest that the Nuggets got going. Other participants included JR Smith and Chris Andersen.
- Wizards mascot Dunkie put on weight in the offseason, but it helped, as his arm was much stronger. He also dunked off the trampoline after Crunch, which was somehwhat exciting.
- Randy Foye got credit for 15 assists. I wasn't counting, but it didn't seem like he had that many. He didn't really play like a point guard, but he did play well.
- Al Jefferson did not show much savvy in the post. He went 7-for-16, usually settling for some sort of weak left handed hook shot. Definitely not the dominating presence that would help while he plays next to Kevin Love this season.
- Speaking of Kevin Love, he fouled out. In 11 minutes of action. Did not look good. I think George Karl just told the Birdman to take it to Love.
- Renaldo Balkman has to have the longest hair ever in the NBA. He also tucked his warmup pants into his socks pregame. Interesting look.
- Chris Andersen USBasket Outlook is as follows: " Chris is a very athletic white 4/5 spot. Chris is a great rebounder and very athletic." He is athletic (twice) and white, though if you looked at his arms, you wouldn't notice. Andersen has a lot of tattoos, gels his hair before putting on a headband, and tries REALLY hard to dunk on people. He wasn't able to tonight though, going 0-for-3 from the field, where the majority of his attempts either consisted of him getting called for the offensive foul, or not being able to throw it down while getting fouled. He almost had the dunk of the preseason as he was thrown an alley-oop on the inbound pass, boxed out by Kevin Love, but still skyed over him and caught the ball and stretched out to get the ball to the rim before it rimmed out while being fouled by Love for his 6th.
- It was also a homecoming of sorts for Andersen. According to Wizards folklore, Andersen was actually discovered by current head coach Duane Ticknor, back when he coached the team in it's IBA days. After hearing this tonight from Wizards GM Tom Wagganer. Apparently he was brought into Wizards camp, but released prior to the season due to an injured pinky. He later player in Fargo, North Dakota, for the Fargo-Moorhead Beez. Chalk one up for Coach Ticknor, discovering my two favorite players in the game tonight. Andersen (in Texas in 2001), for his tattoos, and Blake (in the fourth round of the D-League Draft), for his Blakeness.
- Mark Madsen tries REALLY hard. He's the anti-Nick Fazekas.
- Mateen Cleaves didn't play. Almost more disappointing than AI not coming. Mateen is rather famous in Bismarck for fouling out and then crying while playing for Bakersfield last season. Wizards PA/music guy Scott Woodmansee played Daniel Powters "Bad Day" song while the video on the score board put the footage of Cleaves crying on repeat. While watching the game, a 60-year old lady looked back at me while I was doing my running commentary when I said something about Cleaves not playing. "Mateen's still on the Nuggets?" she asked. When I said yes, but probably was not going to play, she was disappointed, then explained to her husband who he was. It intrigued me.
- The Timberwolves PA guy is annoying. During the "defense song" or whatever it's called, he actually chants defense, very creepily. I could not handle him 41 games a year, or even the 24 that I get to hear the baritone voice of "The Voice", Woodmansee. UPDATE: This apparently wasn't the Timberwolves PA guy, but instead an 18 year-old kid that does the PA work for the Lynx. Being 18, I'll cut him some slack. But still, if people don't know you're supposed to say D-Fense during that little song...
- The crowd was small by NBA preseason game standards here in Bismarck, with just 6,081 announced. That doesn't even top the Wizards highest drawing crowds, as the Wizards have topped that a couple times that I can remember. The last two NBA preseason games in Bismarck, I believe the crowd was over 9,000, much closer to capacity.
- Highlights of the game, mostly Ahearn, available from local news station here.