Again, Love is ours, but skepticism abounds. Here’s a few more takes on Kevin’s contract extension:
Then of course, we heard from the man himself.
Can’t you see how ‘excited’ he is?
Kevin Love just signed a four year contract for $61 millon. So he isn’t to be pitied. However, I’d like to think we can still discuss our misgivings without someone doling out cliched quips regarding men being paid to play a kid’s game. Right?
Our Wolves have recently enjoyed national attention for the captivating play of their stars and not the bumbling ineptitude, which fair or not, has come to be synonymous with this franchise. Yet with the eyes of the basketball world upon us, we’ve managed once again to dampen the forecast of what should be a bright future by slighting our best player.
It can’t be repeated enough. We’ve made it out of the first round just once in our 23 year history. We’ve posted just 32 wins in our last two seasons. We are a small market, cold weather franchise with no prestige and little realistic hopes of championship contention. Kevin Love wanted to stay here anyway. For five years, the maximum allowed. Management offered him four with an option to leave in three. Why?
The answer would seem to be in the doe eyed media darling, Ricky Rubio. As we know, only one five year extension can be offered per team and if it isn’t for Love then we’re left to assume that it currently belongs to Rubio. Now while Kevin is surely happy to have Ricky as a teammate, he must also find this insulting on some level.
Regardless of the complications of his buyout, the fact remains that Rubio was initially hesitant to join us here in Minneapolis. It was clear to anyone who saw him cross that stage on draft night, who listened to his uncomfortable conference call shortly after or read his tepid quotes of freezing weather. Now considering the complications of his buyout, we still had to wait two years for his arrival, whether he was excited to be here or not. In that time, Kevin Love grew from a dubious draft pick into a superstar.
The Wolves first nationally televised matchup in ages furthered a few story lines and revised a couple others. Kevin Love is indeed that good, Ricky Rubio is clearly ready for prime time, we aren’t pushovers anymore and maybe Darko isn’t such a bum after all. Of course we already knew this, but it was important that everyone else did too. Whatever degree of relevancy we’d attained through a bevy of highlights this season crept closer towards legitimacy with Friday’s win.
Which also brings expectations. However, they aren’t so lofty that we can’t see the truth. This was a winnable game. But it was also the fourth in five nights and it showed.
Kevin Love’s post game is progressing. He looked surprisingly comfortable with dropsteps and stepthroughs against the Clippers and even wiggled his way up and under early this evening. Though he remains undersized and earthbound, Love is slowly becoming crafty enough to maneuver the block against bigger defenders. Problem is, our young man has seemingly delayed this development and abandoned a reliable midrange game to cement his reputation as a sharpshooter.
If you’re not already, now is a good time to familiarize yourselves with our friends over at The Classical.
The Awl’s David Roth, who’s penned a few wonderful pieces for us over the years. Nathaniel Friedman, formerly of Free Darko and patron saint of esoteric hoop musings. Eric Freeman, half of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie and two-thirds of the internet’s Gossip Girl references. And now, Ben Polk, guest starring with a thoughtful look at our own Ricky Rubio.
Much like Rubio, Ben weaves the wonderfully complex-fans undeniable attraction to both Rubio’s game and personality-into shockingly simple insights:
Great passes come just before, or just after, we expect; or they are delivered from an unconventional spot on the floor, or at an impossible angle, or travel some exotic trajectory (for example, through Dirk Nowitzki’s legs) en route to some unforeseen recipient. They can even, as with Ricky’s ridiculous lob to Anthony Randolph, do all of the above. Incredibly, for all of its exotic disruptions, a great pass, like a magic trick or a joke, usually ends with some dumbly obvious result: a dunk; an uncontested layup; a wide-open corner three. This is the real thrill: a great pass only reveals something that (we feel) should have been plainly before our eyes all along.
As enjoyable as any highlight so far this season.
I’ll stop wasting your time. Go check it out.
Something that may have gone unnoticed last night, many nights actually, is our Wolves improved defense. If any one man receives the lion’s share of credit for this, it should be our new taskmaster, Rick Adelman. However over at the mother ship, our fair leader, Henry Abbott, shines some light on who’s making a difference on the court. Surprisingly enough to some, it’s our offensive wunderkind, Ricky Rubio.
BasketballValue tells us that when Rubio is on the court, the Timberwolves are giving up 95 points per 100 possessions. When he’s off, that number is 104. It’s early yet, and those adjusted plus/minus numbers are particularly vulnerable to small sample sizes. But it looks right now like Rubio is already a difference-maker defending NBA guards, and that his impact on defense rivals all that stuff he’s doing at the other end.
Derrick Rose was every bit himself last night, with 31 points and 11 assists. But injury or not, he should’ve had more. To these eyes, there were at least a half dozen instances in which Rose’s maddening changes of direction were anticipated and stifled by Rubio, who finished with four steals.
There were several concerns about Rubio’s game before he ever donned a Wolves uniform: His shot, his athleticism and even though he was ACB’s 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, many questioned if he could keep up on this level. One by one these myths are slowly being dispelled, if not completely eradicated.
Things almost got out of hand. In fact, they did get out of hand. Yet once again, we came barreling back.
We still lost though.
Much of this season will be spent articulating the subtle differences between last year’s uptempo collapses and the developments currently unfolding before us. Yet for all the excitement surrounding our fair ball club, for all the strides we’ve seemingly taken, that first quarter against Chicago was the unfriendliest reminder of our lot in life.
You see, no matter the personnel, there is still some truth to be squeezed from that old cliche: With solid fundamentals, proper teamwork and an unyielding effort, any team can compete in this league. However in order to actually win, a team needs someone that defies the rules. Someone a step faster, a foot taller, a leap higher, capable of seizing control. Someone who simply can’t be stopped.
Enter Derrick Rose.
He skips through the narrowest of gaps before a defense even recognizes them. Even when expertly defended, he’s liable to score anyway. There isn’t anyone he can’t jump over and no three men he can’t weave himself around. Plainly put, Rose is an unprecedented package of size, speed and skill, complete with a competitive streak that would make even Chicago’s most celebrated sociopath nod in admiration.
In case you missed it during your post holiday haze, Derek Bodner provided us with an excellent breakdown of Ricky Rubio over at NBA Playbook. Focusing on zee Spaniard’s transition and pick n’ roll game so far this season, we see things that may have been missed during the first thirty YouTube replays. Those savants perceptive enough to grasp Rubio’s brilliance in real time will surely appreciate another look too.
Check it out.
Update: Our old friend Sebastian Pruiti is punching the clock for Grantland this year and today he unveiled his Rookie Rankings. To no one’s surprise, our favorite mop top is No.1. Take a detailed look at what we’ve previously discussed: Rubio’s unpredictability and efficiency as a passer is leading to easy scoring opportunities.
Unfortunately, our true rookie, Derrick Williams, failed to make the list, but fret not. It’s going to be a long year of attention for our boys. Let’s soak it in.
This is uncharted territory.
Our pups aren’t supposed to defeat two Western Conference powerhouses in as many days. Those leads should’ve dwindled in the waning minutes and we should’ve been satisfied with an effort exceeding the cost of admission. Our progress was to be a slow and encouraging exercise in character development, but now we’re faced with a host of new questions in the wake of such excitement.
Yes, they’re only two wins. Yet given their quality, we have to face the distinct possibility that this team has improved.
Is this new found success a byproduct of the lockout? Our opponents weren’t afforded a training camp and the travel of this truncated schedule is surely wearing them thin. Meanwhile, the furthest we’ve strayed from the stimulating confines of Target Center is Milwaukee.
We’d also be remiss to ignore the aberrations contributing to this ‘winning streak’. Wes Johnson will miss another shot this season. We won’t shoot 60% from the field every game. Our opponents best player won’t break his finger every night. And can we really rely on Michael Beasley to be a stabilizing presence?
Then again, why question anything? Don’t we deserve to win? Why not just shut up and enjoy the ride?
Our Wolves are still a team with enough recognizable strengths to compete with anyone. Voracious rebounding, accurate shooting and a blistering pace have been the theme in several quarters of basketball brimming with potential. However this is also a team marred with glaring weaknesses, visible to even the most inept opponents. The lack of a dependable scorer, a propensity for carelessness and porous defense have left us scratching what hair we haven’t pulled out on many a night. One step forward, two turnovers and a failure to get back.
And so it began in Target Center this evening; another contender presumably content to delay the inevitable for forty minutes before sapping us of our will.
Michael Beasley continued to struggle. Gone was the ball stopping irreverence of games past, but the inattentiveness and inefficiency remained. Shots were rushed, entry passes were practically rolled into the post and an inability to do much of anything else rendered him useless. Since Beas is still the only player capable of creating a shot, sheer necessity will afford him several more opportunities, but a lack of productivity won’t be tolerated as tonight’s box score reflects: 2-6 FG, 3 REB, 1 AST, 2 TO, 4 PF (the last two courtesy of an unnecessary over the back and a shameless tugging on Bron’s jersey), 22 MIN (none in the fourth quarter).
You’ll have to forgive me for not knowing where to start. It’s just been so long. But I suppose as good a place as any is with three minutes and sixteen seconds remaining in the first quarter. Yes, 3:16.
I suppose you’ll also have to forgive the blasphemy, but I’m certainly not going to chalk this up to coincidence. The years of ineptitude and failure, the endless mocking of our faith; it all became prologue when our franchise’s savior took the floor at that fateful 3:16 mark.
Now we’re all quite familiar with the energy whisking through First avenue on these opening nights; a guarded optimism masking our eternal hope that small steps towards relevance will ultimately result in victory. The hope that there’s a plan for us. Like all other sports fans, we don’t just want to be entertained, we need to believe that it’s all worth it.
Well, the victories are still a matter for discussion, but there is absolutely no doubt that we will be entertained this year. Our imaginations are no longer relegated to the grainy confines of a YouTube box. With that first effortless flick of the wrist, confounding the defense and leading an open teammate to the basket, 19,000 fans leapt to their feet and exhaled in unison: Ricky Rubio is real.