Thunder 104, Timberwolves 100: Who's the Manna?
You’ll have to forgive me for not knowing where to start. It’s just been so long. But I suppose as good a place as any is with three minutes and sixteen seconds remaining in the first quarter. Yes, 3:16.
I suppose you’ll also have to forgive the blasphemy, but I’m certainly not going to chalk this up to coincidence. The years of ineptitude and failure, the endless mocking of our faith; it all became prologue when our franchise’s savior took the floor at that fateful 3:16 mark.
Now we’re all quite familiar with the energy whisking through First avenue on these opening nights; a guarded optimism masking our eternal hope that small steps towards relevance will ultimately result in victory. The hope that there’s a plan for us. Like all other sports fans, we don’t just want to be entertained, we need to believe that it’s all worth it.
Well, the victories are still a matter for discussion, but there is absolutely no doubt that we will be entertained this year. Our imaginations are no longer relegated to the grainy confines of a YouTube box. With that first effortless flick of the wrist, confounding the defense and leading an open teammate to the basket, 19,000 fans leapt to their feet and exhaled in unison: Ricky Rubio is real.
The allure of our fair sport has always been in the preternatural athleticism of unfathomably large men, but at the risk of wearing this metaphor thin, it shall be a child who leads them. He doesn’t dunk much, in fact he hardly ever shoots, yet Rubio’s uncanny gift of anticipation and court vision renders the old adage of ‘seeing the game a step ahead’ obsolete. This is more like telekinesis.
Ricky’s ability to create new angles in both transition and the half court makes every one of his teammates a threat. Wes Johnson, for all his explosiveness, still hasn’t exhibited the capability to drive, while Darko Milicic and Anthony Randolph remain equally timid and confounded in the post. But they can see and catch, so they will score. Every assist is a reminder that this a symphony, a concert of working parts, not a solo.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Rubio’s sleight of hand is its contagion. When he sat, the defense relaxed, but the ball didn’t stop moving. Luke Ridnour immediately fired a no look post entry to Kevin Love, leading to two free throws. On an ensuing possession, Ridnour whipped a cross court bounce pass to Love in transition. Kevin bobbled the ball- and a sure two points-but the realization that Luke hadn’t thrown two such passes all of last season wasn’t lost on anyone. Now this could merely be the result of a newfound freedom from the Triangle’s restrictions, but he wasn’t the only one. Actually, it was damn near everyone and more importantly, they took care of the ball.
Of course you know who the ‘damn near’ in ‘damn near everyone’ was and it’s slightly saddening, if not wholly frustrating. For it was all good just a year ago. Michael Beasley was the exciting new addition, beating buzzers and an apparent master of the midrange. However his act has grown predictable, both on and off the court. We can save the judgment of his extracurriculars for, well, the judge, but his insistence on hoisting the rock is already a problem. Last night he took as many shots as the rest of our starters combined.
Now it’s difficult to peg Beas as a selfish guy. It’s more likely that he’s simply stubborn or quite possibly, just incapable of change. Let’s not forget Super Cool has always been a scorer and volume shooter. Of course last year, there was a begrudging acceptance of these facts because we had few other options. However now we find ourselves in a tight spot. He’s still our best scorer, but if he can’t acquiesce and share the load, what are we to do? He hasn’t exactly gained much trade value and a move to the bench could result in an irreversible shift of attitude. Perhaps it’s best to let this situation play itself out, but make no mistakes, this will be the stretch that makes or breaks his career. Let’s hope our young man finds his way.