Nets 114, Timberwolves 99: A Love ballad worth learning

Zach Harper —  March 31, 2014 — 13 Comments

LoveBallad

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.

Zach Harper

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13 responses to Nets 114, Timberwolves 99: A Love ballad worth learning

  1. Just briefly about the game, the Wolves run into problems when teams go small because they can’t seem to exploit mismatches as effectively as the opponent does. Also, I wish Paul Pierce was a realistic option; he’d fit well with this roster in multiple ways.

    I still think there’s more to figure out by season’s end:
    - Who on the bench can be okay with the starters? At this point, I don’t understand why the timing of the rotation isn’t tweaked. Bring JJ and Gorgui in with 6 minutes left in the 1st. See whether Rubio and Brewer can prop up the second unit to start the second quarter. Experiment with starting Luc. They have serious decisions to make on which wing spots need upgrading (is Luc still a defensive stopper, who do they turn to when Brewer doesn’t have it, does Budinger bring enough to stay on a non-Adelman roster).
    - Determine if they need to re-sign Dante and who on the roster could replace him if needed. He’s worth keeping at similar $ but not necessarily at more than that. Can Luc or Hummel take over that spot next season?
    - Figure out how to play effectively if Love and Pek are both inside. Love should move around the floor, but it seems like he’s consigned to the perimeter if Pek’s in the game. There have to be other options that will work and provide a bigger threat on the offensive boards.

    For all the talk about playing young players, they have many more things that need to be explored with their vets to worry about giving Shabazz and Gorgui major minutes. Their 1st-rounders’ strengths and weaknesses are pretty clear at this point and are better improved in the offseason than during increasingly-meaningless games. They have a lot of veterans that didn’t fit well this season, and they have to figure out if any rearrangement of the puzzle will lead to the pieces fitting better.

  2. I know you’ve mentioned this before Zach but I can’t help but thinking there has got to be a way extricate the biggest bullet in our foot and turn the ship around next year. Our bench is bad but what is worse is that we’re overpaying them. We have 17.4 million dollars sunk into Chase, JJ, LRMAM, and Shved who have been mediocre to downright laughably bad this year. There are a plethora of affordable perimeter players that actually have some range and we can’t survive in a shooters league when none of these guys hit a 1/3 of their attempts. Now I know Flip isn’t Khan, but are good options for clearing these guys off our books without giving up additional assets (a la paying the Suns a protected 1st rounder to take Wes Johnson off our hands)?

  3. If worse came to worse, the last 3 on your list could be bought out since they’ll be in the last season of their contracts next season. Any trades with them would just require the Wolves to take on a player or more who have multiple seasons left on their deal.

  4. All I ask is for a season I don’t go to the ESPN draft lottery page and play it until the Wolves win the pick. because that’s the only place they have ever drafted higher than their record indicated they should.

  5. Buying out players generally doesn’t do anything other than reduce an owner’s luxury tax bill, which is why usually it is tanking teams doing it after the All-Star Break.

    For example, if you somehow got JJ, LRMAM and Shved in the offseason to all take 50 cents on the dollar and give away guaranteed millions so they could be free of the Wolves (highly unlikely, but let’s say they agreed to do it for some reason) the Wolves would still be well over the salary cap even if they did that, renounced all their free agents AND gave away all their draft picks in order to not take on new salary. Being over the cap, they’d have only the same exceptions to play with as if they didn’t buy those guys out. You can’t improve teams by buying out players unless you’re way under the cap. Otherwise you’re just saving the owner luxury tax money by replacing actual players with dead cap space that is less than their original salaries.

  6. That’s why the post stated “if worse came to worse.” It’s an option of last resort. I understand the cap ramifications of a buyout, but however they exit this roster, some form of their salary would remain on their cap. If they trade them, they likely won’t gain any cap space, either, since they’ll have to take on someone else’s deal or give up one or more second-rounders. But if they found 2 good players with their 3 second-round picks to go along with a possible lottery pick, the roster spots matter more than the cap space.

  7. JJ would be a good fit as a 2nd option backup SG. If he is on stick with him if he is off and jacking up bad 3′s with 18 seconds on the clock sit him. I would rather see him gone though.

    Shved is a wasted roster spot. He might be OK as a backup PG but in the AJ Price mode. our only hope with these guys is a 2 fer 1 for a high priced player with multiple years on his contract since they’ll both be in the last year of theirs. Maybe something like a Arron Afflalo who would still have 2 years on his deal.

    We would still need to figure out SF and a backup PG and probably a second PF. Although I believe with a true PG. DC would still be a good fit if there were better options on the floor than watching Barea dribble the air out of the ball.

    I wish the pay and dump a non productive player without hurting the cap situation were an annual event. I think it would increase the level of play throughout the NBA. These guys do have a lot of pride. Not wanting to be a pay and dump player would motivate a few more of them to give a damn. Each team gets one per year. I know it’s not happening just saying..

  8. I’m getting sick of his frustration. Be the leader that you are looked (and paid) to be. When Michael Jordan had an off game, he credited the other team’s game plan, shrugged it off, and went out to play his game the next night. No excuses, he was a consummate professional about it. But to completely act like a 2-year old after having two good games only to offer up that the team that shut him down is in the East and that he is probably getting sick is a nonsense, infantile remark. If he is sick of the team around him, he needs to put them on his back and carry them to the end… like a true leader would do. He is a tremendous talent with great things in his future… that is if doesn’t revert to being a child. I’m OUT!

  9. I’d say every 2-3 years, but I agree with you. The biggest problem with the NBA compared to the NFL is the long-term hopelessness many fans have to go through.

  10. I think the amnesty is a horrible deal. It punishes teams that built a team the right way. I am all for parity, just don’t think that is the way to go about it.

    I think the best thing to hope for s something like the Iguodola deal. You need a team to that wants to get rid of a All-Star level layer an a team that can take bad Salary. It would cost a few future 1sts, but the Wolves with another player like that are not likely to be giving up a great 1st round anyway.

    I think that kind of dal is rare, but it is absolutely what the team needs. Hard to find a team that will just salary dump a solid 2nd option though. Afflalo seems most likely

  11. Jordan, can you expand on your take that amnesty would punish a team that was built right?

    How exactly would OKC or the Spurs be punished if teams could dump a bad salary?
    Also it’s not as if even those teams don’t have players they wold love to part ways with. Imagine if they (OKC) would have been able to dump Perkins instead of dealing away Harden. The Spurs? man do those guys even have anyone on their team not in double figure PER? best managed team in the history of the league IMO. Just saying not sure how they’re hurt if the flotsam and jetsam of the league could be dumped to head off to the Euro league.

  12. The Thunder COULD have used it on Perkins, they Chose not to because the owner is cheap. I think it is an unfair advantage it gives an out to teams that spent money poorly, while the teams that did not get no benefit.

    The only way I think it is fair is if the Amnesty Clause becomes a tradeable asset, that way every team can get a benefit from it.

  13. I love the idea of an amnesty clause every 2-3 years and having it be a tradeable asset. Golden idea that should be looked into imo

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