MINNEAPOLIS The Timberwolves are making Tuesday night about themselves.
Its their second preseason game at the Target Center, and theyre facing off against Israeli team Maccabi Bazan Haifa (and their glaringly green uniforms). If this game mattered, it would have involved a ton of scouting and film work after all, the best exposure Haifa had came last week, when it nearly beat Golden State.
But really, scouting doesnt matter so much for this game, at least not in terms of who the opponent is and devising plan to beat them. The Timberwolves are the unquestioned favorites, and right now, their biggest concern lies in testing out different lineups and combinations and seeing what their team looks like when completely healthy.
If they do all that successfully, a win should come.
"Its our chance, especially after yesterdays practice, to go through our sets, be crisp," Kevin Love said. "Our defense has been there, and more than anything, just go out there and free flow and play with confidence."
Assistant coach Bill Bayno has led the teams Haifa-specific preparation, which is similar to the prep work the team would do in advance of any other opponent. Theyve watched a highlight film and walked through the teams high-volume plays, but more than anything, theyve focused on the improvements that they need to make, regardless of opponent or familiarity.
"You cant overload them with scenarios that you have to stop," Bayno said. "Its more three or four things, this is what we have to do to win the game, and then we have to get better at what we do, regardless of who were playing."
Baynos biggest takeaways from watching Maccabi Bazan Haifa on tape come in the form of warnings about two players: small forward Donta Smith and point guard Paul Stoll. Both have the green light, Bayno said, and they are the most productive players on the team.
So is this a must-win game for the Timberwolves? Of course. It wouldnt look good to lose tonight, not to a team with a combined four years of NBA experience. However, the Israelis have had four days of rest since playing in California last Thursday, and theyll be ready.
"They play hard, and this is like the Super Bowl for them," Bayno said.
The NBA abroad: Although a game like Tuesdays might seem pointless in the grand scheme of things why not play an actual NBA squad instead? it does have its benefits. Bayno said that he hopes the game, which will be televised in Israel, will bring the Timberwolves some Israeli fans. At the very least, it will increase the exposure of the NBA game in Israel.
"(David) Stern had a lot of high hopes for expanding his game to Europe and everything and really saw where the game was in 2008 in Beijing, how global its become," Love said. "Being around the guys this summer, seeing what kind of international stars and I guess celebrity that they hold, is pretty special. To have our game probably only second to soccer worldwide as the most popular sport is great."
Having a team like Maccabi Bazan Haifa come to the United States and play both broadens and highlights that popularity. More Israelis will see the game, of course, but it also offers a chance for international players in the U.S. to see former teammates and opponents. Years ago, if this game had somehow happened, there would have been little familiarity. Now, there are Americans on the Israeli team and Russians, a Montenegrin and a Spaniard on the Timberwolves. The international focus really is a two-way street.
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