After the Wolves lost at home to the a struggling New York Knicks team (which apparently was about to start finally fighting for their playoff lives), I have to admit I mentally checked out for the season.
I’m not one to really overreact to a win or loss. I try to stay even-keeled for the most part because the process of the season has so many peaks and valleys that it will drive you crazy if you get too frustrated or too high from the losses and wins. Plus, I’m a big believer in you don’t really know the whole scope of what you’re looking at until you can reflect back on the season in its entirety and figure out what exactly happened. Until then, it’s a lot of guesswork, which can be fine but it leads to frustration with a team like this.
The alternative though is you can get sucked into shutting down mentally and emotionally with the team. You check out and that’s where I was when the loss to the Knicks happened. Since then, I’ve been mostly unaffected by the wins and losses, just focusing on the individual play of some to get me through the end of the season. I’ve hoped for a .500 record and for the Wolves to keep their pick, and they’re currently on pace for that.
And the rest, I’ve become pretty numb to, which brings us to Kevin Love.
I want to be clear that I’m not questioning the heart or competitive fire or ability or impact of Kevin Love in the following paragraphs. That’s not the case at all. I do find what’s happening to the Wolves, Love’s present state, and the future of him and this franchise to be a fascinating real-time psychological evaluation process though.
After the Memphis Grizzlies completely annihilated them and Love had a pretty bad game, he told everybody he was allowed to have a bad game here and there with a thousand-yard stare off into nothingness. It’s not a big deal really. Frustration happens. The key is curbing the frustration and keeping your cool and focus as much as you can. Then he had two decent games (he didn’t have to do much against the Hawks and the triple-double may have been the easiest thing he’s ever had to do because of how horrendous the Lakers were) against two really bad opponents before Sunday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Love’s comments after the game are wrapped in frustration and a beaten down mentality. Granted, this is just me guessing his psychological state, which is always a dangerous endeavor with pro athletes. It’s something we do way more than we should and I can’t even begin to imagine how low the success rate is on our guesses. But coupled with the recent string of games with Love, it’s hard for me to believe his heart is in it as much today as it was on October 30th when he hit the huge 3-pointer to send the first game of the season into overtime.
Asked after the game about the Nets’ ability to turn their season around, his answer was simply that the team is in the Eastern Conference. Asked about his own 14-point, 5-of-14 performance against the Nets’ replacement frontline and Love said they did a good job but he’s also exhausted and might be getting sick or something. These aren’t bad comments to make by any means, and they’re probably quite accurate, although I have no idea if he’s getting sick or just getting sick of this season. This doesn’t seem like a guy who is completely checked in right now, which is understandable but also frustrating.
Does it mean he’s done with this team, will demand a trade this summer, and look for greener/warmer pastures? It’s possible, although I don’t really think it will happen. Could it just be that it’s hard for him to pretend this team is still eligible for the playoffs even though math has yet to eliminate them from postseason contention? Can you blame him? Yes, he’s getting paid Scrooge McDuck’s money pool to play basketball but that doesn’t leave him devoid of pressures, exhaustion, and complacency in a season that is having the plug pulled from its outlet.
I’d love for him to be locked in the final 10 games of the season, remind us just how absurd he’s been on the court this season, and help the Wolves finish with their first winning or non-losing season since 2004-05. I’d love for him to focus on making his teammates better to finish out the season strong, now that tanking doesn’t even seem like it would be an option that helps the organization in their 13th pick wasteland existence. I’d love for him to look like he’s still having fun playing the game after these contests are over. I don’t know what’s realistic to expect from a man who has had the pressures of leading this flawed organization for years and coming up short even when progress is made.
Mostly, I just wish it wasn’t so easy to project my own narcissistic numbness to the rest of the season on to him and feel like I’m looking in a psychological mirror. But I understand it. This is just how this season has gone.