Words by Phlip
It is do-or-die time up there in Minnesota…
Those are not just my words, but also those of their budding megastar-slash-jack-of-all-trades Kevin Wesley Love. Apparently, being on the US Olympic team has put him in the presence of winners. Being around perennial MVP finalists, scoring champs and NBA champions has shown him what it is to be around a winner and therefore want to become one himself. I championed the cause of his team from the very beginning of last season, espousing the opinion that they would be new entrants into the playoffs if everything went right for them. I am of the opinion that if they had made the playoffs last season, then Kevin Love would have ONLY lost the MVP by the skin of his teeth if at all and Ricky Rubio would have taken the Rookie of the Year.
Then Ricky Rubio bumped knees with Kobe Bryant and the Wolves’ playoffs hopes and the awards season sweep went off the court on one leg with him.
Well that is now the past.
Wait, no… let me dwell on the past for a minute.
Summer 1992, The Dream Team assembled and Charles Barkley was given an intimate look into his since-good-friend Michael Jordan’s workout. Equipped with that, Chuck won the 1993 MVP award.
Summer 2008, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James got the same look into Kobe Bryant’s magic, and lo and behold, Dwyane Wade led the league in scoring while LeBron won his first of consecutive titles.
Both Jordan and Kobe went on to win titles in the seasons where their secrets had empowered their foes, but it is what it is. I say that to say that Kevin Love has come back from EVERY summer of his life in the NBA better than the one he had just completed. Mixing him with winners and he will naturally develop more. He has a Rodman-like appetite to own every rebound he can see and an uncannily effective jumpshot for a player of his position and playing style.
Now it is on two people (well, one person and one group) to make sure he attains his apparently intended greatness which will be the link to Minnesota keeping him.
1. Team GM David Kahn: he needs to put the right pieces around his star to win and win VERY soon. (history is not on his side)
2. Team Training Staff: Fixing Ricky Rubio’s knee to where he is back to at least 90% of his original self.
Now, what have they done?
- • Signed Brandon Roy out of his early retirement (good move, adds a scorer)
• Signed Andrei Kirilenko from his depression-fueled ouster to a year home in Russia playing ball (ehhh… I dunno about this one)
• Let malcontent Michael Beasley go as a free agent (well, no one would trade anything for him so this is “whatever”)
• Signed center Greg Stiemsma (this guy could be the 2012 Scalabrine, which at least keeps the fans interested and internet meme-creators busy)
• Brought in G/F Chase Budinger, who is the most athletic white dude I have seen in years (take that as you will)
•Traded Wesley Johnson and some cap space and trade exceptions for draft picks (this made the Kirilenko deal worse)
On paper, this team CAN make the playoffs, and if even a SMALL amount of Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade’s killer instincts rub off on Kevin Love in the Olympics this summer, then we can fully expect them to come off in about the 6th or 7th seed in this season’s playoffs. They can still be an 8th seed even if not. They’re still a first round exit due to inexperience on the big stage. The further development of one star and hopeful healing of the other should nurture growth in the group as a whole.
With two rising stars coming into their own, though, this team will again be wildly fun to watch win or lose.