Say goodnight to Kevin Love, Timberwolves

Kevin Love

Kevin LoveMan oh man. The Timberpuppies just can’t seem to catch a break. In case you missed it, Wolves superstar Kevin Love will miss 6-8 weeks after breaking his right hand at his home on Wednesday. I’d blame all of the team’s recent bad luck on some sort of KG curse, but that’s not even logical.

The Wolves failures and string of bad luck has existed basically since the first day they came into existence. Even the best team in history, the Cassell/Spreewell/KG tandem in ’03, lost Cassell and then a red-hot Troy Hudson for the majority of the Western Conference Finals against a Lakers team that had Shaq, Kobe, Malone and The Glove.

This coming season was going to be different. It was like the team was getting to re-do all of their past mistakes, in this one season. Kevin Love is the new superstar Kevin, after evil Kevin (McHale) traded star Kevin to Boston. Ricky Rubio is everything Stephon Marbury was supposed to be–with the exact opposite attitude. Nikola Pekovic, in half a season, may have been the greatest center in franchise history.* If he continues it this season, the Wolves are not only star heavy at the top, but filled with solid contributing players throughout the roster.

*That’s admittedly a horrible, horrible list of players, so it’s not really an accomplishment. But still true.

Andrei Kirilenko is a much better, less selfish version of Tom Gugliotta, and not just because they’re both tall white guys. Brandon Roy is the shooting guard who’s career was cut short despite loads of talent; he’s JR Rider with knee problems instead of gun problems. Luke Ridnour is what Troy Hudson was supposed to be; a solid backup who can get hot for stretches. Rick Adelman has forgotten more about the game of basketball than every other Wolves coach in history has ever known. Chase Budinger is Wally Szcerbiak’s evil twin. Budinger is ugly, Wally was not. But both can shoot 3’s. Chase plays solid D and can jump out of the gym, which Wally couldn’t do. And, well, Derrick Williams gets to be Christian Laettner, because some draft busts will always exist. Read more…

Blake Griffin gets the highlights, Kevin Love gets the wins

Griffin vs Love

Here’s an interesting fact for you. The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Clippers have played each other three times so far this season. You know what the record is between these two teams? 3-0 Minnesota.

Yeah that surprised me too. How can a team that is composed of Kevin Love and a band of misfits beat a team with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul three times in a row? This is the same Clippers team that has already beaten the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks this season. They can’t beat the Timberwolves even once?

This is why basketball is such an interesting sport. No matter how good a team is there is always a team out there that will give them matchup headaches. For the Clippers it seems to be the Timberwolves.

And one Timberwolf in particular that seems to haunt them the most is Kevin Love. Two of the three games that these two teams have played against each other have been decided by three points or less.

The very first game was in Los Angeles back in January. Love hit a three at the buzzer to pull out a 101-98 victory for the Timberwolves in that one.

Love’s statistics weren’t very lofty in their second meeting which was also on the Clippers’ home court. Love only managed 10 points and seven boards but they won by a 12-point margin despite huge games by Paul and Griffin.

So after two losses in Los Angeles the Clippers were set on exacting their revenge on Minnesota’s home court on Monday. Love wasn’t having that though and ended up having the biggest game of any player who has participated in the series so far this year.

Love erupted for 39 points and 17 rebounds going 13 of 25 from the floor, 5 of 10 from behind the arc and hitting 8 of his 11 free throw attempts. Although the highlights on Sports Center featured Griffin’s athletic dunks, they failed to showcase the dominant game that Love had over Griffin on the night.

Lob City has been great for the sports show highlights but three straight losses to the Timberwolves shows that there are still some major deficiencies that the Clippers need to address.

One major issue is Griffin’s need to improve his game away from the basket. We all know he can jump over tall buildings in a single bound but when will he ever develop a consistent jump shot?

Many of Griffin’s numbers are down from last season which has to be baffling to Clippers’ management who were hoping that Paul’s presence would help Griffin improve but it has not. Griffin’s rebounds, scoring, assists and free throws are down from his rookie season.

Love has also seen his rebounding numbers and his shooting percentages decrease but he has improved his scoring by almost five points-per-game. Love has increased his scoring by at least three points per game every year he has been in the league which is impressive considering the inconsistent play Minnesota has had at the point guard position during Love’s time in the league.

So can we expect more dominance by the Timberwolves over their Lob City foes? Even if Minnesota makes it to the playoffs it is doubtful these two teams will see each other then unless both make it to the second round.

They do still have one more regular season game to play in Minnesota on April 12th so the pressure is on the Clippers not to get swept. I can imagine that Timberwolves’ fans will have their brooms ready for that one though.

Roosevelt Hall is a Managing Editor for The Sports Blitz. You can also follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.

5 Owners that should not be running NBA teams

James Dolan

Behind every collection of players there is the team owner, the man who writes the huge checks players get for providing the entertainment aspect of their business. A large part of that business success is not dictated by an individual payer but rather an individual owner, sitting there in his office making the big decisions that mean the difference between an NBA franchise to die for and an NBA franchise that is dead.

Here we explore five of the worst owners in the NBA, and they are judged not only by the 2011-2012 season but also their actions of the last few years as well as how well they have manged the business they run. Continue reading

Kevin Love: The new Big Fundamental

Kevin LoveWhen Kevin Love declared for the NBA Draft in April 2008, I shook my head. Like Tyler Hansbrough, who was dominating college basketball at the time, I thought of Love as only a college player. He didn’t have what it would take to muster a valid career in the NBA. He would average 10 and 5 for a few years, find himself caught in the middle of a packaged three team deal, then slink to the end of the bench on a non-contender and disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.

Too pudgy. Lacks athleticism and lateral quickness. Plays below the rim. Can’t get up and down the court.

Justified by watching tape of the UCLA Bruins, these were all legitimate knocks on Love’s game.

Sure, he had plenty of strengths to match: great hands, developed post moves and footwork, nice passer, uncanny rebounder, and can step behind the arc and knock down some treys, etc.; but these strengths would be overshadowed and could not compensate for the obvious holes in his game.

Never mind that Love scored in double figures in all 39 games he played as a frosh at UCLA, and that 23 of those games consisted of notching a double-double.

The NBA is fast and Love is slow.

Bust.

But I was wrong. Kevin Love just plays basketball. That’s what he does. He plays the game. He knows the game. Fundamentals may be missing in much of today’s NBA players, but not in Kevin Love; and, while I’m not equating Love with Larry Bird—he’s no Larry Bird by any stretch of the imagination—the supposed weaknesses and what the critics said about the Indiana St. Sycamore in 1978 parallel.

Despite carrying 10 lbs. of concrete in each Converse, Larry Bird still figured out how to get from Point A to Point B in the same amount of time as James Worthy; so, too, has Love honed his craft to not only recompense for his weaknesses, but to mask them almost entirely with his ridiculously high basketball IQ.

“Plays below the rim,” says the critics. With 90% of rebounds snatched below the iron anyway, who needs hops when you have position? Not last year’s rebounding leader with 15.2 per game.

I doubted Love’s ability in much the way Stephen A. Smith doubted Tim Tebow all season long. Although I was watching an elite athlete do his thing before my very eyes, I still couldn’t believe it. Has to be a fluke. Must be a fluke.

Then, on November 12, 2010, Love became the 19th player in NBA history—the first since 1982 (Moses Malone)—to record a “30-30” game, pulling down 31 rebounds to match his 31 points. Then there was that whole double-double streak of 53 consecutive games, the longest streak since the NBA-ABA merger of ’76.

‘Tis no fluke.

Said Kevin Love during an interview with ESPN this January: “I believe I’m the best ’4? in the league. I think you have to believe that you’re the best. I think Mohammad Ali even said, ‘I was the greatest before I knew I was.’ I think everybody needs to have that mindset. That’s part of winning the mind game from the very start. You have to believe it. You have to hold yourself accountable.”

While it’s debatable that Love is the best PF in the Association (I have to go with Nowitzki myself), what we’re seeing is a bonafide freak of nature in the making—a young man with a chip on his shoulder who is just scratching the surface thus far in his career.

Part of being the best is believing you are and Love, as he quotes Ali, already has this. From the very start, before he ever laced up his shoes and stepped foot on an NBA floor, Love had one-upped his critics.

As the malapropic Yogi Berra once said, “[Sport] is 90% mental, the other half physical.”

Therefore, when a story breaks with the headline “Love’s Buzzer Beater Lifts Wolves,” I am no longer surprised. It’s to be expected. I would be more surprised if it said he missed. Now, the real story of Friday’s game wasn’t that Love hit a game-winning three in the final seconds; it’s that Darko Milicic had 22 points and 7 rebounds.

Don’t make me eat another hat Darko. Don’t make me eat another hat.

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The Ricky Rubio effect

Bienvenido al programa de Ricky Rubio. Get used to hearing that phrase people. Well…that is of course assuming you’re tuned into a Spanish-speaking station. Rubio’s teammates may end up hearing the phrase a lot though with the Spanish media drooling all over Rubio and his highlight-worthy passing game.

Although he has yet to start, Rubio leads the team in assists. Some of Rubio’s passes have already made Sportscenter which you can expect to be a common occurrence as he and all those young guns that play with him on the Minnesota Timberwolves start to find their way.

Rubio has even managed to turn some of his fellow NBA players into fans. LeBron James would post this comment on Twitter after watching Rubio play his first regular season game:

[blackbirdpie id=”151498066199969794″]

Rubio hasn’t wasted any time showing off his ability to see the floor and his uncanny knack of knowing when things are going to happen before they do. Some of the passes he makes are reminiscent of the passes we are used to seeing from the likes of Jason Kidd and Steve Nash when you watch how he is able to thread seemingly impossible angles to set up easy baskets for his teammates.

Having a guy with that kind of passing ability is a great thing to have with so many young players on this team. The Timberwolves changed coaches during the offseason and brought in three new players (JJ Barea along with rookies Rubio and Derrick Williams) so it’s going to take time for this team to jell.

Having the offseason shortened because of the lockout is another obstacle that has slowed this teams’ progress so the ability to get easy buckets will be extremely valuable as these young Timberwolves learn each other and get acclimated to their new coach’s offensive scheme.

Rubio is not just a one-dimensional passer though. Not only has he made an impact with his passing ability, he also leads the team in field goal shooting percentage (57.1%) and three-point shooting percentage (66.7%) scoring just under ten points-per-game.

To be honest, it shouldn’t surprise people to see Rubio playing so well so fast. He has been playing professional ball in Europe since he was 14 and even won an Olympic Silver medal as a member of the 2008 Spanish National team losing to LeBron and company in the Olympic basketball final round.

Rubio’s play overseas is why he already had the reputation of being a pass-first point guard before he even set foot in the league but if he can continue to shoot lights out like he has so far then it is going to really open things up for his teammates. Teams would rather play off him and clog the passing lanes but with him shooting so well defenders have to respect his shot.

Which only serves to open up those passing lanes that Rubio is so fond of. Be ready to witness a Pistol Pete-like passing display when Rubio and company come through your town. And Minnesota fans? Don’t be surprised if an announcer shouts this phrase over your P.A. system: Bienvenido al programa de Ricky Rubio [Translation for those of us who don’t speak Spanish: Welcome to the Ricky Rubio show].

Roosevelt Hall is an NBA Featured Journalist for The Sports Blitz