Hold onto your hats; this is about to get real personal. Because honestly, I don’t think anyone’s particularly interested in trying to break down just why the Wolves lost to the Mavericks tonight. Maybe not even Mavs fans. Brand had a throwback game with 20 pts and 6 rebounds. I know plus/minus is kind of wonky for individual players in individual games but O.J. Mayo was +THIRTY in this one. Darren Collison threw down a dunk with 30 seconds left and Dallas up 16 points so yeah: screw that guy.
But did the Wolves confront Collison like the Bulls did when Lillard dunked on them with the game in the bag? Nope. They probably felt they deserved it. For the Wolves, the questions this game provokes are things like: when is Rubio going to start; why isn’t Derrick Williams starting; how can Barea be both our best offensive and defensive player (and he actually is the best guard we have defending the pick and roll); and why bother?
And believe me, I would love to see Rubio start, but I’m sure that’s not going to happen until they’re absolutely sure he’s fully back. It would be terrible to see him break down just in the name of shaking things up. And Williams has been genuinely impressive off the bench, yet I still think the team feels like they have to bring him along at just the right pace. Ladle too much onto his plate and we could see him regress. As for that last one, I have no good answers. Maybe there aren’t any.
And maybe that’s why this is beginning to feel like the awful inescapable static that pervades and makes indecipherable the end of a relationship. Now I don’t know how most people get through the death throes of a long-term relationship, but I got through mine like a mewling, drooling, useless kitten, unable to even figure out what I was supposed to do when I woke up every day. Even the most basic actions suddenly seemed freighted with significance, as if the right way of holding my hands, the right way of saying the same things I’d always said could become the thing, the ward that could stop this fraying.
But of course, it couldn’t. Every break broke the wrong way. Every glimpse of even the most basic feeling of normalcy, of being on track, was quickly decimated and swept away by a tide I had no control over. That’s what watching the Wolves has felt like these last few games. Every move feels like the wrong one. Acting on instinct leads to disaster. Careful planning leads to disaster. This leads to careful planning of the most instinctual things which leads, of course, to disaster.
There are reasons for the Wolves’ struggles, stats both commonplace and advanced that point to trouble with consistency, with shooting, with plugging holes due to injury and then working injured players back into lineups. But basketball is also an emotional landscape, a collective effort by people to make something together, and sometimes it just falls the fuck apart.
Is it hopeless? No, even if it feels that way. Can I point to reasons for hope? Not really, except knowing that change happens whether we want it to or not, and it breaks both ways. Right now, facing another long injury recovery from Kevin Love, the prospect of watching Rubio play his way back step by shaky step, and a team that feels hollow and wrongfooted almost all the time, we’re in the horse latitudes, that stretch of ocean where the winds die and you drift.
Let’s just try not to eat each other before we make it out the other side.