The Potential Value of Kevin Love’s Olympic Experience

I’ll admit, I didn’t watch much of the Olympics. Not even much of the basketball, and when I did I watched Russia’s games for Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko. However, I did follow the US’ journey to gold, but found few redeeming qualities in the US mostly rolling to another gold medal. Yet, I was still a little surprised when I found myself thinking, “Please don’t lose to these guys…” during the gold medal game, so I’m not the worst American, ever. Well, I can’t be the worst American ever; I like Breaking Bad.

Of course, that means that our own Kevin Love now has a gold medal to add to his list of accolades he has achieved before his 24th birthday. Not only did he get a gold medal, but he earned it as a key player. In fact, after falling out of Coach K’s good graces by not hustling and chasing rebounds instead of contesting shots, Love wound up being a big reason the United States took home both Men’s and Women’s gold.

His numbers were astounding: 11.6 points, 7.7 rebounds per game, 81% (2pt), 35% (3pt), and 57% FT. Sure, it’s a small-sample, but that 81% is just freaking ridiculous. And as one of my followers pointed out, it looks as if his 2-point percentage and free throw percentage should be flipped.

But it’s not the numbers I care about. I care more about the potential for Love to have learned what it means to be a leader on a championship team. If Love was able to extrapolate anything from Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, or anyone on that team with a ring as far as what it takes to be a champion, then that will be the Timberwolves’ biggest offseason addition.

That means no more bitching about non-calls on offense and hustling back on defense. That means taking responsibility for the play of the team. That means understanding throwing your teammates under the bus and publicly criticizing the team aren’t the same as being an accessible star. That means playing the level of defense we saw before the all-star break last season.

I’ve lauded Love as often as I’ve critiqued him because he’s a special player and should therefore be held to a higher standard. We won’t know for show about any developed leadership skills or maturity, but they would greatly benefit the Timberwolves as much as his added range and improved conditioning have in the past. It will be interesting to see how Love responds over time when he goes back to being the best player on his team, and not the 3rd, 4th, or whatever best option like he was with Team USA.

Apples and Oranges

I had to find a place to fit this blurb in somewhere, so I figure why not put it behind a Kevin Love post? Anyway, as human beings, we love to compare and rank things into their proper places. Instead of just enjoying, we have to know everything’s place in the universe. Some people can’t help it, but it’s still generally annoying.

Sometimes, our comparisons are absurd or ridiculous because we’re trying to compare and contrast two different things. For example, the way people say LeBron James will never be Michael Jordan. I know that A) many have grown out of this thought pattern, but some haven’t and that leads me to believe that B) these people don’t watch much basketball because they’re really two different players.

Consider this: Michael Jordan’s 1992: NBA MVP (30.1 PPG 6.1 APG 6.4 RPG), NBA Finals MVP (35.8 PPG 6.5 APG 4.8 RPG), Olympic Gold (12.7 PPG 5 APG 3.8 RPG)
20 YEARS LATER
LeBron James 2012: NBA MVP (27.1 PPG 6.2 APG 7.9 RPG), NBA Finals MVP (28.6 PPG 7.4 APG 10.2 RPG), Olympic Gold (13.2 PPG 7.3 APG 7.5 RPG)

(Thanks to Kris Habbas of NBADraftInsider.com for the stats)

Do they look like they’re similar enough to compare outside of being basketball players? No. In fact, finding one true historical comp for LeBron is near impossible since you could argue he’s a bit of a few players. They play such different styles, positions, and have such different approaches (Especially early-MJ the Volume Shooter compared to LeBron’s do a little bit of everything style).

Obviously, MJ is widely regarded as the GOAT. And that’s fine. Just don’t miss the chance to appreciate greatness when it’s right in front of you. Much like Shaq, Magic and Jordan were all once in a generation athletes/talents, LeBron is as well.

For Tim

I don’t really know how to start this, or really go about writing this, but I just feel like I should. And I don’t feel like I should in a self-serving kind of way, but in a respectful way to pay tribute to someone I admired, although I didn’t know him. Maybe tasteful is the word I’m looking for. I just know I’ve been through similar incidents with other people, and losing someone like Tim Allen hurts.

Really, I can’t believe it. Even after I saw the posts on his Facebook page, I still didn’t believe it. And even as I sent my goodbye and thanking him for supporting me, I don’t think I fully believed it to be true as I hit share. Which is something that’s hard enough to write when you’re still rendered speechless.

I barely knew what to think, but I looked around and looked for any idea, hint or clue that something was wrong. But there were no obvious signs from his final updates.

Then I finally started to accept the truth: he was gone.

I may not have met him, but from talking to Tim on Twitter or Facebook, I felt like I still knew him. Ultimately, I’ll remember the good times. The good times being the discussions about hoops, movies or whatever. I’ll remember winning a wager on the NBA Finals against his close friend @FemaleSportsLvr and Tim on Twitter that we unfortunately never had time to collect on. And if it weren’t for Tim, I wouldn’t have been so ready to build up Quincy Miller to you guys during the draft.

And it’s strange to see him pop up on my chat as a recently talked to person, and it will be stranger come basketball season to not have him and his unique brand of analysis around. I know I’m not the only one who will miss his generally sarcastic game previews, either. It will be different reading Canis Hoopus without Tim around, that’s for sure.

It’s also been sad-happy to see the outpouring of support and condolences on Twitter from people that likely never met him, but still had their lives affected by Tim. I mean, it’s great to see the impact he had on so many people, but sad in that we didn’t get to say it to him. I know that I appreciated the way Tim often supported my work and meant a lot to me that a writer of his ability and stature respected it enough to earn his endorsement. Unfortunately, aside from the occasional Follow Friday, I never really got the chance to let him know I admired him like I did.

Yet, this isn’t limited to basketball or writing. Somewhere, someone lost a family member, their best friend or someone important to them, and those are the people I really feel for. I mean, it’s hard not to get teary-eyed writing this, and we never met. But they’re not alone. None of us are. On some level, many of us are dealing with a loss.

 

From Russia, With Lots of Love

Crossover Panda and AK47 should bring the Timberwolves closer to fulfilling their playoff dreams.

If you’re like me, you were asleep when Russia played China at 3am this morning, and missed the two newest Timberwolves in action. With some time to kill and an eagerness to see them for myself, I sat down and re-watched the first half before my stream died. Let me just say, we heard that Timberwolves fans should be excited, and we probably should be based on what I saw. This is going to be a fun team next season, and an even more fun one once Ricky Rubio returns.

Before I get into my thoughts on Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko, I should point out that Russia’s offense ran a lot of kick-and-drive with Shved as the point guard, as well as a lot of motion by the wings; made for a fun watch. I also should mention that China got berated by their coach for the lack of hustle late in the first, so they may not be the best barometer of judgment, but it’ll have to do for now.

Crossover Panda!Three things stood out at first with Shved. First, his size as a point guard is obvious. Secondly, he looks very comfortable at either guard spot. And, finally, his jumper isn’t pretty — he tends to lean and/or flare his legs out when he’s in the air – but it works enough of the time for it not to be a huge deal.

When Shved was running the offense, Russia either attempted to get him a shot off of the pick and roll, or have him get into the lane with the kick and drive. Either way, it was effective against China. On the kick and drive, Shved either got to the basket, or was able to draw the defense in and find a teammate for a good look. In fact, he hit a teammate in the lane with a precise behind the back pass. This leads me to believe he may have a few more turnovers at the end of the year, but probably enough highlights to make you overlook that.

At either position, he has good guard instincts, and could play well with Rubio or as the lead guard. Shved made some passes as the point guard that were Rubio-esque in that they made you wonder how he saw that passing lane, and often he wasn’t targeting who you thought he would. And, while his shot may not be pretty, he’s not afraid to shoot it anyway, if he’s asked to be the two-guard. Whether it’s Shved or Rubio, there should be some very good scoring opportunities for Timberwolves shooters.

Defensively, nothing stood out too much either way with Shved. He showed good instincts, and understood where he needed to be. He looked average, I’d say; which is fine as long since he’s not a liability, it appears.

As David J Smith pointed out in my last post, Kirilenko may actually be most effective defensively on the block. He just doesn’t seem to be quick enough to guard opposing 3’s on the perimeter anymore, and was beaten off the dribble a few times. Yet, he seemed to still be a pretty good help defender on the wing, so he’s no lost cause. Even so, Kirilenko follows shots and still shows good instincts, and makes the smart play.

He seems to have decent moves, and fights as a rebounder. Kirilenko may be best off getting his shots within the flow of the offense and not trying to create on the perimeter. Now, he’s not a bad ball-handler, or shooter, but he looks so much more comfortable working close to the basket or cutting through open lanes. Since he appears to be very active on offense this should be possible. He can still get to the basket as a cutter, so he’s better off not trying to create on the perimeter. When he does, he tends to over-dribble, and/or settle for a bad shot, like a contested jumper.

Forgot about Kirilenko's tattoo until I saw it creeping out of the back of his jersey. Of course the open lanes thing depends on his teammates and their spacing, but if he’s with Shved, Shved will find him off of the kick-and-drive. Ultimately, the less work he has to do creating his own shot, will be better for the offensive efficiency.

The other thing with Kirilenko is that he is a willing passer, especially down low. He knows how to facilitate, and set up teammates as well. This will be especially effective if Kirilenko can draw attention away from Pekovic and get him an easy bucket or and-one opportunity.

Having both of these players will help each other adapt to Rick Adelman’s vision (Although, Adelman does a great job adapting to his players.). You can see the chemistry Shved and Kirilenko have together. It was no more apparent than when Shved found Kirilenko on the cut for the and-one layup. Shved may like to handle the ball, but he seems to know when he should defer and when it’s OK to take it himself. Both players appear to be very hardworking and active on the court, too.

That’ll do it for now. We already know that the Timberwolves got better before these two came into the fold, but it appears they were able to upgrade two more times. The added passing and hustle are both things that are contagious on a team, so hopefully this trickles down to the lesser players as well. Seeing the effect they have on guys like Pekovic, Dante Cunningham, and Brandon Roy (Who may be able to be a more spot up player now versus having to create his own shot now, even though he’s a ball-handler) will be interesting.