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Why the streak didn't matter, and why it did

 

On the surface, it's really an arbitrary construct, and one that does not celebrate grand performance. As I'm sure others have pointed out, double doubles occur often, and by players who are not considered among the league's elite. Ten points and ten rebounds can happen without seriously impacting a game, and even blind squirrels can scrounge up ten assists given enough typewriters. And that's why the streak didn't matter. More over, that's why teams or players, even more than fans, focusing on stopping the streak appears so absurd.

I can see a pitcher being determined that Bonds homerun record not be built on one of his fastballs, but the double double streak? How does David Lee's insistence on returning to a blow out game to keep a guy from getting 10 points sound anything but petty and somewhat absurd. Ten points. In a game. It's the type of statistical output that loses a player his starting spot. It pales even in comparison to a hitting streak in baseball. A one hit game is nothing special, but there is a smaller margin for error. More importantly, during a prolonged hitting streak, a batter tends to throw up gaudy, unsustainable hitting numbers. Love's scoring and rebounding numbers during his streak were excellent, but not far off what his seasonal averages will be this year, and seemingly for a long time. All that just screams of a low bar, despite the few who have put together a truly extended double double streak. And that's why Kevin Love and his streak shouldn't deserve the accolades that many have thrown his way.

Except, it does matter. It matters especially on the Wolves. Of course it galvanized the fan base. That may have been Love's biggest accomplishment. He not only gave the fans something to cheer for in an abysmal season of crushed hope, but he crafted something for himself. If, one year ago, someone polled not just casual fans, but the hardcore masochists on Canis Hoopus to find out which player produced the most divisive opinions amongst the fan base, I'm sure it would have been Mr. Love. There are still wildly combative camps fighting over the relative merits and flaws of every member of this roster, the topic of Love's game caused the swords to be sharpened to an extra fine edge. Whether it was his actual play and statistical production during his play, or the thrill of the long absent media attention it brought to the team, Love won over a large portion of the fan base. The dude made some damn ploughshares, that's for sure. The warm fuzzies he got back from the fans as he approached and passed some all time greats are likely the only part of his 3 year TWolves experience that could help sell him on staying here.

To me, however, that's not even the reason the streak mattered most. I've heard two different NBA ex-coach talking heads talk about the importance of consistency in the league. The argument was that the most important thing a player could give his coach was consistent production. That, regardless of the level, if the coach knew what he would get from a specific player every time he hit the court, coaching became easier by several orders of magnitude. Put away concerns about his general competence for a second, and think about the job Rambis has in "developing" this young team and charting a course forward, in addition to just trying to win games. Will he get "fiery Darko" or "mopey Darko"? "Deadeye Wes" or "1-7 Johnson"? There are maybe two players on the roster from whom you know what you'll get in any given game, and aside from Love the steady output is not that of a starter. Now, it's not that Love won't vary from a 30/30 game to a 12/14 on 4 of 13 shooting. But it is still true that a coach will have to worry less about what he'll get from Love than he will about how to get coordinated and efficient production out of his other working parts.  So, essentially, it's exactly the workman-like nature of this streak, rather than the flash of it, that gives it its power. And in that sense, the fact that Love has been capable of that night after night production is more important than the fact that he actually did it. In this framework, the streak lives on, because it is immune from the single game efforts of other teams or players to deny him the numb#rs. That's because, oddly, this decidedly number-based "record" was most significant when seen to not be about the actual numbers.

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