Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota won twice in two games in week six, but the real action was off the floor, where Kevin Love aired his frustration with the franchise at a curious time.
The Timberwolves' season thus far has been defined by uncontrollable frustrations. More than half the team has already missed significant time with injuries, and Ricky Rubio has yet to even see the floor. Injuries are uncontrollable, and the Wolves know better than most the dent that this can cause in a team's fortunes.
At the moment, though, things should be looking up. Rubio's back at practice, and could play in Saturday's game against Dallas. Andrei Kirilenko returned from back spasms to key the Wolves' win over Denver. Nikola Pekovic's injured foot appeared to be fine in that same win, as he scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. J.J. Barea looks to be mostly recovered from his sprained foot.
Things should be looking up. The Wolves won twice in week six - drubbing Cleveland at home, then outlasting the whirling dervishes from Denver, one of the teams they'll likely battle for a Western playoff spot. And though Wednesday's game began a stretch of six games in nine days, fans should be looking forward to next week, when Minnesota tests itself against both Miami and Oklahoma City.
Instead, the focus was off the floor, as Kevin Love decided that now would be a good time to re-air every grudge he holds against the Timberwolves' front office. The interview, with Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, caused a furor in the Twin Cities, as fans re-assessed the player who had become perhaps the most popular athlete in Minnesota.
We need to talk about Kevin.
1. Most importantly, there's no point in worrying about what you'd do with the money if you won the lottery. Love is unhappy with his contract, but he's still under contract through 2015. For a Timberwolves team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004, worrying about the 2015-2016 roster is putting the cart light-years in front of the horse. Let the Timberwolves have some success, maybe even make a playoff run, before we start worrying about whether management can hold the team together.
2. Love may be one of those guys that fuels himself based on the perceived slights of others. Though no one compares to Michael Jordan, it's instructive to remember that he was the same way, always feeling there was a score to settle, real or imagined, in everything he did. Love has names to go with his slights - owner Glen Taylor and president of basketball operations David Kahn - but he's already been using them to turn himself into one of the best players in the league. If he needs to use some imagined conflict to make him even better, then that's a situation that even Kahn and Taylor might accept.
3. Though it seems like Love has been around forever, it's probably instructive to remember that he's just 24 years old, and that he's still growing into the role of team leader / face of the franchise. It's not necessarily a role that comes naturally. Kevin Garnett seemed to struggle with it throughout his time in Minnesota, even after the team made him the highest-paid player in basketball. To change sports and cross a Minneapolis street, Twins catcher Joe Mauer still seems unable to assume that role, even after nine professional seasons. Love spoke Wednesday about learning that he needed to keep his criticisms in-house; if this points him in the correct direction, in terms of leading the team, a small good thing may be rescued from the ashes of a large bad thing.
4. That said: how was there not a part of Love's brain that told him, "You know, I probably shouldn't give a national writer a ton of negative quotes in the middle of the season?"
5. Love didn't say anything untrue about Kahn, nor did he say anything that most of us haven't said a hundred times already. Love said, "Is there really any kind of plan here?" Anyone who's watched Kahn's spastic, panicky method of building a franchise knows that the answer is no. If Love had really wanted to hurt Kahn's feelings, he could have just said, "Jonny Flynn is playing in Australia."
6. For the moment, the "Love affair" that Minnesota fans had with #42 is over. He got heckled from the stands on Wednesday, mostly a function of the article but also a function of a 3-17 performance from the floor. But if he scores 35 points against Miami and Oklahoma City next week and the Wolves win both games, I guarantee that the entire city will forget that he ever said anything about anyone.
This may well turn out to be the key week of the season for the Wolves. They play Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, with only Saturday's game coming at home. A successful week, and Love's outburst will be forgotten. A disastrous week, and the history of the Wolves' 2012-13 season will begin to be written - one in which Love's dissension scuttled an otherwise promising, potential-filled year.
Health update: Rubio will almost certainly return at home, and if he does not play Saturday against Dallas, it's a virtual lock that he'll play the following Thursday against the Thunder... Josh Howard missed Wednesday's game due to illness - possibly the same bug that Love had to overcome last week... Malcolm Lee hyperextended his knee Wednesday, missing the second half of the game, and is day-to-day... Brandon Roy has begun shooting on his own following his mid-November arthroscopic knee surgery, but is not yet close to returning to practice.