So, uh, I don’t know how to break this to you but … wait, bad choice of words. You see, sometimes, things happen and … no. This isn’t going well.
Kevin Love broke his hand this morning while working out and will miss 6-8 weeks, meaning 16-21 games, meaning up to a quarter of the season. There: I said it.
Two things come to mind immediately: This is terrible and this isn’t so bad. Let me start with the latter. Although the Wolves have stocked up impressive depth at the point guard position, with at least five players on the roster capable of playing the one-spot (Ridnour, Barea, Rubio, Shved, Lee), the elephant in the room this offseason has been how many players they’ve acquired that would be best at the four but won’t play there because of Love. Kirilenko was most effective in his last season at Utah at the four, and while Adelman maintains that Williams has to play both forward positions, he is—as of right now—still better suited to playing power forward. Add in guys like Amundson and Cunningham and the Wolves have some pretty solid, if not outstanding depth at the position.
Compare this all to last season, when Love going down would have meant a rookie Williams, Tolliver, and Randolph rotating at power forward, with maybe Beasley getting some minutes there. Hardly awe-inspiring. If the tenor of the locker room has genuinely changed, this also might be the best test of that. Last season, this would have absolutely torpedoed the team’s confidence. It’s now time for the much-vaunted veterans the team acquired to step up and show that they can lead.
And while what we’ll see out on the floor to start the season isn’t a lineup you can confidently pencil in for a 7th or 8th seed the way we all were, uh, yesterday, it’s at least conceivable they hold serve, and maybe even learn way to play effectively that the presence of Kevin Love would never have revealed. Love’s production can’t be duplicated, of course. But I think it can also be plugged back in without disrupting things too badly because so much of it comes from rebounding, put backs, and spot-ups. The offensive plan doesn’t revolve around him the same way it does for Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant.
Now let’s go back to the terrible part. This is terrible for this fanbase. Rubio’s injury was already a blow to its newly-earned happiness, and I think we’d almost talked ourselves into thinking we could make it through to Rubio’s return without too much further disappointment and then this happens. There’s an unmistakable “Why can’t we have nice things?” vibe to this whole thing, and it’s a mantle that’s discomfitingly comfortable for a battered fanbase.
And no one must have felt as bad about this as Love did when it happened. For a guy who’s put a lot out there about the team competing and not giving up, who’s put his name on the line by calling out the management in the offseason, this must be a terrible blow to his sense of himself as a player and leader. Now he has to watch them come together—or not—while he’s on the bench.
I’m going to resist the urge to come to any grand conclusions right now. This is still unfolding and I’m still processing the ramifications. Everyone’s been saying that when the Timberwolves take floor this season, it will be a whole new team. That statement will be even more true now, and not in a good way.