This is uncharted territory.
Our pups aren’t supposed to defeat two Western Conference powerhouses in as many days. Those leads should’ve dwindled in the waning minutes and we should’ve been satisfied with an effort exceeding the cost of admission. Our progress was to be a slow and encouraging exercise in character development, but now we’re faced with a host of new questions in the wake of such excitement.
Yes, they’re only two wins. Yet given their quality, we have to face the distinct possibility that this team has improved.
Is this new found success a byproduct of the lockout? Our opponents weren’t afforded a training camp and the travel of this truncated schedule is surely wearing them thin. Meanwhile, the furthest we’ve strayed from the stimulating confines of Target Center is Milwaukee.
We’d also be remiss to ignore the aberrations contributing to this ‘winning streak’. Wes Johnson will miss another shot this season. We won’t shoot 60% from the field every game. Our opponents best player won’t break his finger every night. And can we really rely on Michael Beasley to be a stabilizing presence?
Then again, why question anything? Don’t we deserve to win? Why not just shut up and enjoy the ride?
Well, as you’ve likely heard by now, our win on Sunday was the first in 295 days. The same can be said of the winning streak. For the duration of that dry spell-and some time preceding-we’ve been the butt of countless jokes, subjected to applauding menial accomplishments and left to wonder what fresh hell awaits us upon the departure of another franchise player. So to falsely presume those days are behind us would undoubtedly be our greatest disappointment.
For now, it’s best to focus on what is certain: Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are the future of this team. They’re an unorthodox duo; neither are traditional scorers nor lock down defenders. But their expertise transforms a team of castoffs and misfits to suitable, albeit temporary, complements. Love’s ridiculous rebounding limits possessions for opponents and adds opportunities for his mates, a priceless effort for any team. His shooting spaces the floor and his ball movement keeps the defense honest. A previously nonexistent post game is making a steady crawl towards respectability and there are even signs of his much maligned defensive game rounding into shape. What were once grumblings of whether we could afford to offer a max contract have become laughably obvious. Now the only question is how opposing defenses will contain him.
Monday night, Gregg Popovich didn’t have any answers and admitted as much.
“Well, [we do] the same thing everybody else does. You do your best to guard him. There’s no magic, he’s an All Star player, he’s a great player. You do a variety of things on pick and roll, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. You don’t stop great players.”
Of course several questions remain about Rubio, however they’re now regarding how good he’ll be rather than if he’ll succeed at all. Sure, concerns of his ability to matchup with the world class athletes at his position are valid defensively, but his offensive game is nothing short of uncontainable. These are his first two weeks in the NBA; he’s already seen a defending champion, two title contenders and three of the league’s best point guards. We’ll be damned if he didn’t confound them all. So scratch those old scouting reports, he’s literally playing in a different league now. The two man and transition games the NBA thrives upon are such strengths for Ricky they defy consistent trapping from any defense, leaving him with a bevy of scoring options. Many of which he will convert.
Granted, he will turn the ball over quite often, but honestly…what’s the difference between Rubio’s pass selection and Kobe’s shot selection? Especially when only of them actually empowers their teammates? We take the good with the bad and so far, the scales have violently tipped in our favor.
Again, these opening weeks have brought some of the greatest tandems our game has to offer and our earthbound, abnormal duo kept pace with them all. Everyone is surprised, except them, as Love explained after their latest win.
“I think we complement each other because we are unorthodox. For me it’s getting in there and getting rebounds upwards of 14, 15 rebounds a game and then also being able to shoot the three and play inside/outside. It’s an unorthodox style, I’m not necessarily playing above the rim much, but it’s still effective. Ricky too. Playing with Luke, he’s going to learn a lot from him on being a pro, being a veteran and he’s going to keep getting better every day. So I hope people keep saying that he can’t shoot, cause he’s gonna keep knocking em down. He’s unorthodox too, he’s a guy that’s not extremely athletic. But he’s lengthy, he has enough size and he’s a very heady guard.”