Cavaliers 125, Timberwolves 104: Que Sera, Sera

wiggins-love-bennett

Before anything else happens, watch this Vine of Andrew Wiggins dunking on a drive from the perimeter tonight. Get lost in a moment of pure basketball joy, observe this talented young man sky above the floor for two points in the most stylish way you can, levitating for half an eternity before slamming the ball through the rack:

Pretty cool, right?

Listen:

I don’t usually run with informal game recaps the way Zach or Steve sometimes do, and I don’t have the disciplined writing chops of Tim Faklis, who keeps things clean and sharp and on point. I usually try to explain the game itself the best way I can, breaking down big plays and pointing out subtle ones, while tying it all together with some element of The Big Picture. If I have time, I try to put together a couple of pertinent videos, contextualize a few things with statistics, and offer the insight I’m granted by my privileged position as a credentialed media member.

I don’t know if that’s the right or wrong way, but it’s sort of my routine. I love it when Zach breaks down Jack Nicholson’s shoddy performance and accent in The Departed and I was in love with this post from Steve about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Both of those guys can do extremely detailed basketball analysis (and they’re awesome at it), but there are 82 of these games and treating every one of these like the most important game that’s ever happened is really taxing. This is a writer-based website where we’re free to do whatever the hell we want. And it’s about time I do something out of my routine for once.

Was that enough meta-writing for you? I’m sorry. I’ll get on with it.

So here’s the thing:

This game was treated by many fans and media as a chance to reflect on the trade, and maybe even treat it as some kind of referendum, and to wonder how Kevin Love is fitting in and whether or not Andrew Wiggins is really going to be a star and holy shit Anthony Bennett looked terrible and what does the future hold? Is there hope for Minnesota? Is Cleveland really a title contender? What’s going to happen? What’s going to be their futures?

And I get it. That’s part of the gig, and that’s what media members have to do because that’s what’s expected. Editors want it written because they think that’s what readers want. Some fans like juicy stuff like that. Some Minnesota fans still hold onto a grudge towards Kevin Love. Some Cleveland fans say terrible things about Anthony Bennett on the internet every single day. And Andrew Wiggins, a shy kid who was put in a really tough spot over the summer, still has to put up with questions about that awkward stuff pretty much every day.

It’s all part of the machine, the hum in the background of every NBA game, the murmur in the distance that influences all of us who follow the NBA, but we can’t tell you what the voice sounds like. The normal questions, the stock answers, the obvious subplots and convenient storylines. Each coming game is a convenient occasion to ask some questions and broach a few topics that would be non-sequitur other times.

I’m not blaming media members for asking the questions. They’re just trying to give the people what they want. I guess my wish is that we, as basketball fans, would get over the kind of stuff I described three paragraphs ago. Because this game wasn’t a referendum. When Kevin Love comes back to Minnesota in late January and (probably) gets booed, that won’t really matter. He had every right to ask to get out, and actually did the Wolves a favor by being forthright about his intentions. The media circus and fan reaction will be predictable byproducts of an odd obsession with drama.

For the trouble of trading Kevin Love, Minnesota now has Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. Wiggins looked really good, Bennett looked really bad. Even if both had looked good, or neither, or if Wiggins had a tough night and Bennett had played well, the reality wouldn’t have changed. Hell, if the Wolves had beaten the Cavs – it was a two point game with three minutes left in the 3rd, so it’s not a completely insane thing to think about – nothing would be different about these Big Picture Questions we’re always asking and seeking answers to. The tenor of what’s being written would change – the reality would not.

So, what am I blabbering about exactly? Empathy and patience. If NBA fanbases – hell sports fans in general – would calm the hell down, the writing would improve, the stories that are told about the players and coaches and games would be more detailed, nuanced and genuine, and maybe we could see these games for what they are: fun distractions. Definitely not something to get worked up over.

What we write about doesn’t change the reality of any of these games. Either you’re the kind of fan who knows exactly what the Timberwolves are (an injured, rebuilding 5-22 team) and sticks around anyway because seeing the way the team will go about building things is interesting, or you’re probably somewhat miserable. Similarly, if you’re a Cleveland fan who takes their outrageous fortune for granted, that’s not good either.

In this game the Cavs ran away at the end of the 3rd by going on a 13-0 run. Kyrie scored 29, Bron 24, Love 20 and Andrew Wiggins had 27 of his own for the Wolves. You’ll forget all those numbers in a week, you’ll forget any ideas of this Cleveland-Minnesota game as being of significance. The idea of this game leaving a lasting impression is kind of silly: file it away, remember a play or two, look forward to the next one. Will they win? Will they win enough? Will Wiggins become a superstar? Will Anthony Bennett become a competent role player?

Whatever will be will be.

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5 Responsesso far.

  1. johnny small fry says:

    For myself it was a waste of time reading this article – which says nothing I want to know and less about anything pertaining to basketball. Save that style of writing for a book please. Quel bore! Bennett has been awful all year, getting meagre minutes on a truly rotten basketball team. The team’s mindless turnovers, the missed layups, jeez! These guys are an insult to professional basketball. Wiggins wakes up from a 3 game slumber and shows a bit of stuff but he is not convincing me yet that he belongs in the NBA. When I see Jimmy Butler of Chicago or Leonard of San Antonio making Wiggins look like a little leaguer it is a harsh reminder of how far he has to climb. Lavine is at this point a write off. A turnover Queen. Minnesota has one good player – Rubio – who has a great mindset for basketball. After that it is all downhill. The coach appears to be clueless and is laughingly trying to establish a new low in performance. His charitable salary contribution to Pekovic seems bizarre – a huge salary to a mediocre player with injury issues. Fire Flip should be Minnesota fans slogan for the rest of the year. Fire him as manager, as coach, and as part owner. Get rid of him like Washington did. Dump the pathetic sod. He hires his son as an assistant. He is a disgrace to the NBA. I cannot believe that the owner Taylor is so dim-witted to keep Mr. Saunders – Sad Sack Saunders – on his payroll.

  2. gjk says:

    I agree that it’s bad to read too much into individual games, win or lose. Not every long-term concern should be tossed aside just because of their youth and injuries, but the results aren’t as important as the process. With that stated, part of what makes this enjoyable is learning in more detail about why certain things are happening. Strategy and process are worth questioning when the same problems keep happening, for they indicate concerns about a coach who has been out of the league for several seasons and might be coaching the future of this franchise for a few more years.

  3. William Bohl says:

    GJK: I get what you’re saying. I guess I was feeling that the noise from that game was drowning out the signal. And when that happens, I like to take a step back. I also feel like it’s tough to read too much into what the Wolves are doing on either end because this isn’t the team Flip thought he’d have at all. Without Rubio, they’re running like 5% of their offensive sets (so #SadSackSaunders says). LaVine and Mo defending other teams’ point guards for 48 minutes a night pretty much ruins any defensive strategy the Wolves can come up with. I think we’ve learned a little about Shabazz, Gorgui and Wiggins, and not much else.

  4. gjk says:

    That’s fair; it’s easy for a non journalist like me to mute that noise, so it wasn’t as noticeable. It’s tougher to adjust mid season, and lack of continuity matters. I just look at how the Sixers, despite their roster issues, have a top 15 aggressive D, or how the Celtics, with less talent, generate good offense. I don’t know how reasonable it is that Flip can only use 5% of his playbook; it makes me wonder why that is.

  5. Pyrrol says:

    gjk, great points. I get the difficulties the team has this season. I went in with some cautious optimism, and once the injuries happened I had to throw out most any expectations I had for the season. That said, as fans we still look around and see these teams getting so much more out or equal or lesser talent. Even teams clearly better than us talent-wise crush us beyond reason. The excuses don’t add up for us, they are starting to not pass the smell test completely. Which translates to worry about the future–fear we will be bad for a long time, rather than quickly rebuild. The playbook thing is odd. We all know the team is going to look creaky when a player like Rubio goes out. But 5%? And still? A sign of bad coaching is when one player goes down and the team can’t even put out a competitive effort for weeks on end. We aren’t going to be the same without Rubio, but we need to compete more, and we need to adapt, and we need to be ready for anything. It was embarrassing how unprepared we were for an injury at point.

    Also, I want to mention that to my eye I still see in Bennett a bunch of potential. We’ve seen him add no skills and regress in the skills he did have and the small confidence he built. As a staff, the Wolves need to do everything to keep Bennett confident and learning. We’re paying him too much and he has too much potential for him to not be an asset at all. I get the feeling that in the hands of almost any other team he would have come along more by now. I hope we don’t let his confidence get too low and ship him away, either to rot away the remainder of his crushed NBA dream, or have a classic ‘once I get away from the Wolves’ renaissance.

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