I've been lurking this board, adding the occasional quip for about a year now, but I've never really added much of substance here. Last season I followed intently while writing 3 stories a week total for two other blogs. I quit those sites this year to focus on other areas of my life, but while watching this year I've had more fun than any year since KG left. Unfortunately for you guys, I've had a buildup of optimism that is about to explode all over the place so I need to alleviate some of that pressure here. This post might be long, it might be boring, and it might well add no value to any of your lives. Then again, maybe you're in the mood to reminisce. Humor me, as I waste our time below the jump anyways.
In order for you guys to better understand my perspective, perhaps it'll help you to understand me. I was born in 1990 and raised in Minnesota. My first two steps were the two steps I took after picking up my dribble for my first thunder slam on the hoop in my crib. I loved the game as a child, and according to 5 year old me, I was the best young PG in the country in 1996 (by 1997 I met 7 year old Jordan Taylor, who crushed my dreams of being the GOAT). Because of my breathtaking ability to control my right-handed dribble as I watched the ball and slowly shuffled toward the hoop, I could put my YMCA team on my back. I enjoyed getting my inferior serf-like teammates involved so they wouldn't call me names, but when the games were close and getting near the end, it was time for me to take over. I put the team on my back. I thanked my coach for the participation medal, but if that league gave out trophies, he would have thanked me for making him look like a bona fide Chuck Daly. As a fan, I was just intelligent enough to believe every league was the same way. That's why in the spring of 1996, it was obvious to me that Gary Payton's Sonics would crush Michael Jordan's Bulls
. That, and Shawn Kemp's shoes
would make me cry and pass out in a fit of jealous 5 year old rage. Needless to say, MJ broke my PG-loving spirits. I didn't understand it. To save you all two more paragraphs of nostalgia, I didn't understand when Jordan bested Stockton and Malone the next two years either.
While Jordan proved to me that you needed more than just a sweet PG-PF combo to win, I have still spent my young adult life believing it to be the easiest way to compete. The Wolves apparently feel no different. From watching KG and Marbury plant the seeds for a Wolves dynasty, to Terrell Brandon stopping and popping his way into my heart, to Sam Cassell playing with major onions on a championship contender, it seemed obvious the Wolves believed they needed to pair KG with a great PG to experience success. You all know how the story goes. We found out Sprewell fed his children diamond-studded lobster for 3 meals a day. We shipped Sam out for insert degrading term here. Since then we've been waiting. At first not-so-patiently. Then patiently. Then hopelessly. Then masochistically. We were hopeful we could pair KG with another star, but when it became apparent we wouldn't, we shipped him out. I like to believe the rest of the Wolves fan base joined me in silent ecstasy when we saw the coolest interview of all time. But meanwhile the Wolves were in a tragic state.
I'm going to skip over our Al Jefferson era, because it wasn't sweet.
Enter: The Kahn era. I'm not going to offer commentary on Kahn, because an opinion of his performance seems to be the most polarizing topic one can bring up on this board, and that isn't my purpose. Needless to say, there was one player I wanted to leave the 2009 draft with. Perhaps the drafting of a quasi-literal unicorn was what whet my fancy. Regardless, all I know is when we drafted him... I added this to my favorites. I was ready for the Freebird era to start. Was I expecting a starting lineup of Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Ryan Gomes, Jonny Flynn, and Ricky Rubio? Would you call me crazy if I was? Would you call me dishonest if I claim I didn't care what the team had, as long as it had Rubio? Well that's the beauty of using the 2nd person POV in a blog post... I can't actually hear any of your answers.
We all know what happened. But what happened happened. The end result is now. 2 years later, we know what our team is. If you've been waiting for the meat of this fanpost, I sincerely apologize, as there really isn't anything useful. However I'm about to start listing reasons I'm more optimistic now that 2 years ago. I'll use either numbers or bullet points to show the skimmers I mean business. I haven't decided which yet.
- I don't know what I can add about Adelman that hasn't already been said. I'd lose credibility if I don't mention him though. A man without credibility with strangers on the internet is a man I don't want to be.
- Perhaps one thing to note with Adelman is center is officially off my Christmas list. Small sample size theater shows Darko can be... worth the smallish contract he was given. Kevin Love made Andrew Bogut look hilarious when he was wondering whether or not to go past the elbow to defend the 3. It's foreign land for a lot of 5's. We still have yet to see Pek smash heads and break hearts yet this season, but if he knows the rules he could add a strong low post threat to a team that perhaps lacks a consistent game on the blocks when using a conventional lineup. Worst case scenario, he could be part of the 3-headed, 18-foul monster when facing Dwight Howard. A center upgrade would be nice, but we can let Randolph, Pek, and Darko play out their contracts before worrying about paying DeAndre Jordan-caliber players 12 million dollars. If Randolph's a salvageable player, he's finally with the coach that can save him.
- DWill appears to care a lot about being really good at basketball. The work ethic he's shown is a refreshing attribute to cheer for.
- Kevin Love is unquestionably a star. He can definitely be the best player on a champion. We had no idea he'd be this dude two years ago. We were still wondering whether he should bite into Big Al's playing time. We've graduated from the idea that Kevin Love is a solid 3rd man. We don't need a Durantula. I do not care what 25-15 looks like. I do not care what 25-15 looks like. I do not care what 25-15 looks like. SnP linked to a list of players who produced 25-15 for a full season in one of his posts. I however, am unfortunately inept at managing the basketball-reference database, and don't care to look for the post he did it in... but he certainly did it. Love was listed amongst plenty of hall of famers. It is pretty easy to say that his current 25-15 is unsustainable over the course of a 66-game season jam packed into 130some days. Fine, but if anyone doubts his potential to do so this year, or after his 24th birthday or 25th birthday or 26th birthday, they might be better off cheering for a different team than the Wolves. People last year questioned how he performed against all-stars. In 3 consecutive games Love has outplayed Chris Bosh, Dirk, and Tim Duncan. It hasn't really been close either. He is simply masterful with the ball. He draws fouls. He drains trey bombs. I even saw him dunk once or twice! Eat it Blake! He is quite simply the only NBA player in the history of the game to dominate the offensive paint without clogging it. He doesn't have a Duncan-esque post game. He doesn't have a Dirk-esque fadeaway. He doesn't have LMA's length, or Blake's athleticism. However, none of those guys can crash the boards offensively like him. None of those guys shoot 3's like him (even you, Dirk). He is weird. He's really weird. I'm not going to say he is the best PF in the game right now. Hell, I won't even say he's one of the top 3. But from the improvements in his game this year, I won't rule that conclusion out by the end of the year. If he continues to get to the line 10 times a game while hitting 2 3's per game, we will have the most awkward 25 points a night from possibly the goofiest PF in basketball. He might not be able to create the last shot of the game. He doesn't need to. This next bit is why.
- Unicorn. I have been absolutely giddy about this draft pick. I literally typed "Ricky Rubio" into youtube every day during the 2009-2010 season to see highlights of Rubio's games after we drafted him. I literally watched every single game he played for Spain and FC Barcelona by waking up at 2 AM and watching on an illegal stream in 2010 and 2011. For the rare occasion I'd fall asleep during the game, I subscribed to a youtube user named Dejanbody who seemed to put every single Rubio play (good, bad, or ugly) on the site. I was a lunatic. Not only did we draft the most unique PG since Magic, but he was improving. Sure, his shot wasn't falling, and people complained loudly about that last year. I personally don't care if my team's PG shoots shoots 30%. For Rubio, it pretty much translated to shooting 1.5-5 instead of 2-5. The most important thing to take away from every game last year was Rubio was no longer striving to be a highlight reel. He was an efficient PG who made plays when he needed to. His assist-TO ratio improved. His handle on the game improved for one of the most disciplined teams in European basketball. He has come over this year and proven to be all that's advertised. As in Europe, I have little doubt that he'll settle down and improve his assist numbers while decreasing his turnovers. He'll continue to make us praise DVR. He'll continue to whip cross court passes when a weakside defender steps one foot into the lane. He will control the game for us. Because we've grown accustomed to watching MJ or Kobe win championships with clutch individual plays, we've forgotten that the pick and roll is one of the most effective late-game plays in basketball. We don't need to worship the Beasle's ability to drive the lane and get his own shot that would be considered ill-advised in any other situation. Rubio will get late game shots. Maybe Ricky will shoot, maybe KLove will shoot, maybe Beasley will shoot. I don't know. Neither does the opposing team. Late in the game, team's can key in on one guy dribbling. It's far more difficult to stop a pick and roll than an isolation. We haven't seen late game success yet, but I'm sure we will by the time Ricky turns 22. Most importantly, we have one of the most unique big man-little man combinations in the NBA. They are 23 and 21. If we can keep both long term, this could make up for whatever we missed in the KG-Marbury era.
- We need a wing, for sure. In the meantime... did you guys know the unicorn could cover 2's? That was one thing some thought he was capable of that I was skeptical of when he was in Europe (even though he did it effectively over there). I'm sure he'll get terminated by some of the more athletic guys in the league (as he did in Europe) but in the meantime I kind of forgot about the fact that there are roughly two 2's in the league that can beat us when being under-defended. I don't mean inexplicably being completely ignored like last season, but consciously defended by a 6'2" or frail 6'4" PG. I mean people talk about Eric Gordon as if he's Clyde Drexler Jr. or something. The guy isn't that good. I mean no offense to him at all, as there's no problem with a league having Eric Gordon as the 8th best SG in it. However, when he's legitimately possibly the 3rd best SG, I really have no fear of that position. By the end of the year James Harden could very well be the 3rd best SG in the league, while being the 3rd scoring option on his team. The league right now is perfect to use 2-PG's with a frequency. Ridnour, Rubio, and Barea can play 70 minutes a night with very little problem.
We still need a few pieces, but for the first time in 8 years we're actually moving the right way. I'm rabid with excitement. I don't even mean that figuratively. I literally mean I might be suffering from rabies due to how much fun this year has been so far. I'll check out webMD. That's pretty much all I have to add. I wrote this overnight, so forgive me if it was poorly written. Don't blame me for it being long and boring though. I warned you.
P.S. Public Kudos to PoorDick on his sponsorship of Ricky Rubio's basketball-reference page. I laughed when I read it. Then I passed out in a fit of jealous 5 year old rage.