Finally, Kevin Love has help. And health. And a coach who can put his team in a position to compete.
The All-Star power forward -- the best in the league at that position when healthy -- came into the season with a career 86-201 (.299) record, and that only counts games in which he played, not the late-season losing streaks he's missed due to injury. Now, the Timberwolves' long recession, which includes the league's lengthiest active playoff drought (nine years), may finally be over. And Love, of course, is a huge reason why.
He's not a surprise, though. He's always put up fantastic numbers, especially when it comes to shooting and rebounding. He's at 27 points and 14 rebounds per game right now; he's flirted with averaging 25-15 for a season before. (In 2011-12, he averaged 26 and 13 in 55 games.)
What's surprising about the Wolves is how much the team and coach Rick Adelman are getting out of the offseason acquisitions. Kevin Martin, signed away from the Thunder, is scoring like crazy (23 per game) and shooting the lights out (.624 True Shooting). Martin's best years have come under Adelman, excepting a couple of years during the brief Reggie Theus in which Martin was stellar, but never acknowledged by Theus. (/axe grind) Adelman has, of course, always known how best to use shooters who can slash: see Peja Stojakovic, Clyde Drexler and, well, Martin.
The expected problem with a team based on Love and Martin was defense, but the Timberwolves have surprised on that end so far. Minnesota held its own in that category last season (No. 13), but lost Andrei Kirilenko and played most of that season without Love. Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio are good defenders, but again, with Love and Martin getting huge minutes, fears of a defensive drop-off was understandable. Instead, Minnesota is defending really well early on, ranking No. 4 in defensive rating and No. 12 in opponent shooting, per Basketball Reference. A top-10 defense mixed with an offense led by the scoring exploits of Love and Martin and the passing of Rubio is insanely dangerous.
In addition to Martin, Corey Brewer's been just lovely in his second tour of duty in the Twin Cities. As the starting small forward, he's defending and filling his role. His presence and performance has relegated Derrick Williams to a sub-20 minutes level; I'll be surprised if the trade rumors around the No. 2 pick in 2011 aren't heavy soon. But so long as Brewer can play well and stay on the court, Adelman will stick with what's working. He's actually the kind of coach who will also stick with what isn't working. He doesn't really like change.
The real key that will determine whether Minnesota becomes the new Golden State, though, is Rubio. In Los Angeles on Sunday, he posted a triple-double with 12 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds (adding five steals and only nine field goal attempts to make it a real Rondo line). He still can't shoot, but he has multiple weapons for the first time in his NBA career. If Love and Martin can both average more than 20 per game on .600 or better True Shooting -- something done by teammates only four times in the modern era (Bird and McHale in 1986-87 and 1987-88, Worthy and Kareem in 1985-86, Issel and Vandeweghe in 1981-82) -- Rubio will have done his job. He needs to score enough to keep defenses a little honest, and turnovers will be something to watch. But for a passer like Ricky, having the Love-Martin battery is almost points in the bank.
The Wolves are going to be a whole lot of fun this season.
Ray Allen told the Boston Herald that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett still will not talk to him, so this is still a thing. It's easy to see both sides of the situation. Pierce and KG believe that by choosing to sign with the Celtics' most bitter rival, Allen not only cast aside loyalty, but jabbed Boston directly in the eye. Ray believes that the Celtics organization, which had come close to trading him a couple times, in one case to the hinterlands, didn't deserve loyalty.
The crux of the issue is that Allen understood and understands the difference between teammates and the organization. He felt loyalty to Pierce and KG, but not to Danny Ainge and Wyc Grousbeck. KG and Pierce seem to work in a different way: if you feel loyalty to teammates, you don't sign with their least favorite opponents. Really, this is a breakdown over LeBron, Wade and Bosh, not Ray, KG and Pierce. Allen might have felt as if he was sitcking it ot Ainge by signing with Miami on the cheap, but KG and Pierce remained Celtics. By sticking it to Ainge, he was sticking it to them.If there's one route in which Allen can get some sympathy, it's by comparing his own situation to that of Doc Rivers. Doc still had KG and Pierce, and he begged out. He didn't go to Miami, of course, and that seems to matter a whole lot. But he did abandon them despite the fact that he could have a job in Boston forever. He broke up the Celtics. Yet there seem to be no hard feelings from KG and Pierce. If Ray wants to repair his relationship with the guys he won a title with, that's the narrative to pound.
Of course, Allen has a whole new set of championship teammates. KG and Pierce may never get that. So if they want to leave the 2008 Celtics broken and angry, they'll be the ones who suffer inasmuch as they actually care about the relationship at this point.
People are so complicated.
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