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NBA PLAYOFFS MINNESOTA VS. LAKERS / SERIES REPORT /
OTHER VIEWS

Wally's World Is Upside Down

May 01, 2003|Dan Barreiro | Minneapolis Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — New York Post NBA columnist Peter Vecsey excoriated Kevin Garnett for not taking over Game 4 of the Minnesota Timberwolf-Laker series. Garnett missed two big free throws, and Vecsey also hammered him for taking too many turnaround fadeaways rather than taking the ball strong to the basket.

Vecsey's point: If you pay a guy this much money, and he expects to be a viable MVP candidate, he can't shrink down the stretch.

Though there was some merit to the argument that Garnett was reverting too frequently to fadeaway jumpers, Vecsey was missing the forest for the trees. The Timberwolves are asking Garnett to do about 10 things: score, rebound, guard his man, play free safety on Shaquille O'Neal, recover to find his own man, run much of the offense, block shots, even occasionally bring the ball up the court.

The success percentage in Garnett's case remains remarkably high.

The Timberwolves do not ask Wally Szczerbiak, who will start a six-year, $63-million contract next season, to defend or rebound or run the offense. They don't want him to think too much. They ask him to do only one thing: make spot-up jump shots from the perimeter.

He can't.

They beg him not to do another: Put the ball on the floor.

He just can't help himself.

And when he can't do one thing, and refuses to stop himself from doing the other, he becomes a luxury the Timberwolves cannot possibly afford.

That, in a nutshell, was foremost of several reasons why the Timberwolves got blown out again in Game 5, almost gave away Game 3 and had no margin for error in Game 4, the one that will haunt them.

Szczerbiak never has been as good as he thinks he is at taking the ball to the basket. But he has never been as bad as he looks now, and with each passing game of this series, he has regressed into a fellow auditioning for a shot with the Sioux Falls SkyForce.

Every time Szczerbiak puts the ball on the floor, the Lakers treat him like a bleeding trout. Laker defenders circle him like a pool of sharks.

Here's how ridiculous it got: Midway through the third quarter, Szczerbiak put the ball on the floor, was stripped, and got it back long enough to throw a desperation pass to Kendall Gill in the corner. Gill made a three-pointer.

The moral: Even when Szczerbiak picked up an assist, it was almost too harrowing to watch.

*

Dan Barreiro can be reached at dbarreiro@startribune.com.

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