Derrick Rose is a special player. How special is obviously dependent on who you ask and more importantly, what they value. Now there’s certainly no shortage of metric centric posts available to espouse or denounce his worth, so let’s just take a moment to appreciate the obvious.
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So where does this leave us? When Rajon Rondo’s name was wiped off the locker room whiteboard, there was a sigh of relief, as the struggling Celitcs of late became slightly more beatable. But after the first quarter ended, so had any thoughts of morale lifting victories. Boston was in the midst of a 32-13 drubbing, to the delight of several new found fans. Ray Allen ran Wes Johnson ragged, Delonte West met no resistance in serving his role as starting point and Michael Beasley seemed intent on breaking a shooting record, if not a scoring one. Woe were the three hundred Wolves fans in attendance.
Last night’s contest was close, but largely uneventful. It would be optimistic to think the return of Darko, Wes Johnson and Martell Webster propelled us to compete with another contender, however it wouldn’t be realistic. Dirk Nowitzki was saddled with foul trouble and the Mavericks-sans Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler-struggled to score in his absence. Upon his return Dallas opened the fourth with a 15-2 run, en route to a 35 point quarter and three point victory. As for any further details, Nikola Pekovic and Anthony Randolph ate away at Darko’s minutes, Michael Beasley alternately dazed and confused, and Kurt Rambis’ clock management baffled us yet again. You know, the usual. Nothing much to see here.
Except Kevin Love.
The Wolves embarked on this week’s three game road trip shorthanded, something a team so inherently fragile can ill afford to do. Sure, they had enough to stride confidently through a culture of failure in Detroit, but Philadelphia and Washington while not exponentially better, were still equipped to withstand our best efforts this weekend. The losses did nothing for morale, of course, but when considering that we are in year one of yet another rebuilding project, it’s important to remember that no single number will be indicative of failure or success. There are more than moral victories to be claimed this season and any team worth its salt uses this time to re-focus their efforts on experimenting with solutions for the coming year. So perhaps it was best that Darko, Wes and Martell were gone this weekend. It gave us an opportunity to reconsider some things.
Pardon me for looking a gift horse in the mouth, but my despondence has only been slightly alleviated. Target Center’s occasionally faithful finally had something to celebrate besides a box score and as they gleefully filed towards the exits, Michael Beasley was interviewed for all to hear. The key to this afternoon’s win? “Just scoring more points than they did.”
I have to admit, I laughed, as did several others. Because he was serious.
The novelty has worn off. For many of you it probably did some time ago, but I couldn’t help but be enthused by my friend Ben’s smiling optimism. He can be quite influential, as I’m sure you know. So even as the losses piled up, I was able to take solace in Michael Beasley’s resurgence and Kevin Love’s historic breakout season. I saw the potential in Wesley Johnson’s deft touch and defensive energy and to this day I prefer him over the churlish petulance of DeMarcus Cousins. Even Martell Webster’s achy back proved to be a worthwhile addition. A bit of a chucker, yes, yet still a stabilizing locker room presence worthy of my trust. There were plenty of things to love about this basketball team. I wanted to believe and in order to be of any worth to you, our fair readers, I still need to. But nights like these make it hard.Very hard.
If you can’t tell by now, Ben wasn’t at last night’s game. For the most part, neither were the Timberwolves.
It’s funny how the schedule works out sometimes. Kevin Love has been engaged in a heated battle with LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin for the past month over an All-Star spot. Now that he’s been named to the team, he has to face them both before Sunday’s festivities. How’s that for congratulations?
Well, let’s ask LaMarcus…
“First of all, I have nothing against Kevin Love, he is a really good player. But I thought All-Star was about making your team better, making your record better. But now I know: It’s about stats, not record.”
How’s that for passive aggressiveness? It’s disappointing that his ire wasn’t directed towards Tim Duncan, an actual undeserved candidate, but then again, his bewilderment with Kevin’s selection was equally understandable on this night. Not only did the Love and the Wolves starters go scoreless for the first eight minutes of the contest, LaMarcus nearly outscored our entire team in a first quarter where we could only muster 14 points to his 11.
The Denver Nuggets have been an impressive collection of talent for quite some time. Carmelo Anthony remains one of the league’s premier scorers, Nene’s reliability is criminally underrated and J.R. Smith-the very personification of this volatile unit-is dynamite in sneakers; wildly unstable, yet effectively explosive. Unfortunately, the same carefree demeanor that’s allowed them to fill up stats sheets and highlight reels has continued to define them in moments that demanded far more poise. Plainly put, they’ve never been considered a contender because they’ve never been able to get out of their own way. So it was particularly amusing to see them move at such a deliberately slow pace as they set about picking the Wolves apart.
Despite the visitors obvious intentions, our boys proceeded with business as usual to predictably varying results. Postgame, Kurt Rambis was asked to comment on his unit’s 8 scant turnovers, yet neither coach nor scribe acknowledged that such supposed ball control was actually due to unconscionably poor shooting: the Wolves attempted 95 field goals and made just 39% of them. This however, didn’t keep us from witnessing an entertaining affair in which both teams tried to wrestle victory out of their own hands. The Wolves gave the game away early, the Nuggets tried to give it back, but we-being such gracious hosts-refused to take it.
Der Komissar delivered the good news before last night’s tilt versus the Raptors and the STrib’s Jerry Zgoda was kind enough to spread the word:
Rambis stopped Martin from starting his scouting report and told everyone that Love will play in the Feb. 20 game at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“He put out his hand and I thought he was messing with me,” Love said while sitting at his locker after Friday’s game.
“I was so shocked. I blacked out for a second ’cause I didn’t know what was going on. When he said that, I was sitting right here, I just like ‘What are you talking about? Is Ashton Kutcher about to hop up in here?’ I had no idea.”
Love is the first Timberwolves player named to the All-Star Game since Kevin Garnett made the 2007 game in Las Vegas.
The Wolves immediately bought advertising space on electronic billboards around Target Center and Block E. Messages congratulating Love flashed over First Avenue Friday evening and will continue through Sunday.
It was just another Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The Lakers and Rockets were engaged in a mildly entertaining matchup and we were all probably searching for something better to watch while they delayed the inevitable. But those who couldn’t find the remote were treated to a noteworthy showing from Lamar Odom.
As it has for quite some time, Odom’s game defied definition. His elongated frame swept through the lane with a preternatural grace, each step too casual to have been calculated. On the defensive end, opponents were denied and rebounds were snatched with an aggression that belied such finesse, each board leading to a magnificent whirlwind of versatility. He conducted fast breaks, dished with a captivating flair, calmly pulled up in transition, and spotted up expertly from three. Of course this wasn’t anything we haven’t seen from him before, just more of it. Kobe Bryant’s theatrics may have dominated the nightly recaps, but the W was primarily thanks to Lamar’s 20 points and 20 rebounds.