- Next, and less pleasantly for Wolves fans: Jerry Zgoda reports that Kevin Love will miss (at least) this two game road trip with the same groin injury that’s been bothering him over the past few games. If that massively unpleasant fourth quarter against Sacto is any indication, this is really not a good thing. The very thin silver lining is that Anthony Randolph will see his first starter’s minutes of the year. Not that we’re expecting even a Love-caliber performance against Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. It’s more that this is a prime opportunity to see what the newest Wolf can do in extended non-garbage time. Impress me, kid, please.
- Last, despite some very rumor-y rumors that Kurt Rambis’ job is in jeopardy, Wolves players are getting their coaches back. Here’s Martell Webster (all of these quotes are reported by Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press): “He’s always putting the work in. He and the staff never give us the short end of the stick and just throw us out there and say, ‘Whatever happens.’ We’re the ones who have to go out there and play. As players, we can always say the right things, but the proof is how you do on the court.” And Anthony Tolliver: “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. It’s up to us out there on the floor to execute the game plan. As players, we have to take more accountability and responsibility for our actions.” Finally, and maybe most importantly, Kevin Love: “It’s not a direct reflection on him. It’s all on us being a young, youthful team. It’s unfair. As a player, I have Kurt’s back.”
Two observations about these sentiments. First: I realize that statements like these tend to be de rigeur for struggling teams. Rarely do players come right out and savage their coach. And it does often appear from stands and from our couches that Rambis has a somewhat detached, even fractious relationship with his players. But these statements of Webster’s et al are completely consistent with what I’ve been hearing all year. At no point has any player, to my knowledge, questioned his the coaching staff’s approach to teaching and game planning. Even Love, who is forthcoming to a fault, who expressed some serious frustration and confusion last season and who has an uneasy history with Rambis, has been unwavering in his support of his coach this year. Maybe I’m naive, but I buy it.
Second observation: to a man, the players deflect criticism from the coach and place it squarely upon themselves. “The plan was there,” they’ll say, “we just didn’t execute it.” And I believe this wholeheartedly; it’s clear that one of the Wolves most serious problems this season has been the simple ability to enact the coaches’ strategies consistently and with the necessary effort. Surely, as both the players and coaches say, this is a sign of youth.
But isn’t it the coach’s responsibility to not just prepare an airtight game-plan but also to teach it in such a way that the players actually execute it? If students repeatedly fail to do what they’re taught, doesn’t that partially reflect poorly on the teacher? Or at least cause the teacher to deeply interrogate their own methods?