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?
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.