Wolves, Cavs agree to a Kevin Love deal

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Just about teammates, Love and LeBron have lofty goals in Cleveland

The one, the only Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this morning that the Wolves and Cavs have agreed upon a trade in principle that will ship Kevin Love to the Cavs for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a future 1st round pick. Perhaps the biggest piece of the deal is the assurance from Love’s camp that he’ll agree to a new contract, which will seal up his future in Cleveland for the foreseeable future.

Unless you live under a rock, this isn’t news to you. In fact, if you’ve been paying attention at all over the past three weeks, you would’ve known that this whole thing was inching closer and closer to completion. After all, it makes all sorts of sense for both of these teams to reach the alleged deal.

Cleveland just secured a once-in-a-lifetime second chance after LeBron James decided to ‘go home,’ but now the pressure is on to not blow like the first time around. Lucky enough for them, LeBron is now older, wiser and even better than he ever was in Cleveland. But, in basketball, we’ve learned that a team always triumphs over the individual, a lesson LeBron learned the hard way in Miami. That’s why the Cavaliers can’t afford to hand the ball to LeBron and say, “Have at it!” They need talent beyond him and Kyrie Irving, which is exactly why Love will help those three form, perhaps, one of the most deadly triple threats the league has ever seen. And one thing Cleveland still has, despite the trade, that Miami could never really figure out completely was depth up and down the roster. They’re still looking to shore things up at the moment, including looking at Shawn Marion, but for the most part, their youth and depth seem to give them an advantage. Miami never had a guy as good as Dion Waiters as their fourth player. They never had a true rim protector like Anderson Varejao — barring he stays healthy. They never even had a power, hustle forward like Cleveland does in Tristan Thompson.

The Cavaliers roster isn’t quite there yet to name them the unanimous title favorites but it’s a much improved scene over the cast of mistfits that Miami continually brought in on the veteran minimum with the promise of a championship. This core of young guys led by LeBron are hungry for a title, perhaps none more than Love himself. The thing that will really help Love mature is having a true leader to follow suit. In Minnesota, he was supposed to be that guy, but a poor attitude and a lack of vocal leadership hindered him in ever becoming a true leader. The skills and the game are there to be a team’s number one option but it was the swag and confidence in his teammates that never followed. Playing alongside the game’s best player and a worldwide icon will give Love a better opportunity to play to his characteristics and personality, while not forcing a leader to come out of him.

I can’t state enough how fortunate the Cavaliers have been through this entire offseason. Rarely does one team get a chance to run out the best player in the world in their jersey, but now another top-five player in the league will be right alongside him in the Wine & Gold.

But those opportunities don’t just fall into your lap. There was a price to pay, and that price was the potential of Andrew Wiggins. Notice that I said “potential” there because that will become ever-so important once you see this kid play his first game for Minnesota.

I’ve been a big Wiggins fan for a few years. Got to watch him play on the best AAU circuit in the country, the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. He led his CIA Bounce team, alongside friend and teammate Tyler Ennis, to the championship game, where they fell to the Aaron Gordon-led Oakland Soldiers. But then even through college, where he played at one of my favorite programs Kansas. He wasn’t a star by any means but he oozed with potential and still was able to throw in some of the most impressive plays that most college kids couldn’t ever pull off.

The problem with Wiggins is his consistency and passive-aggressive nature on the court. Overall, his year at Kansas was solid. It wasn’t enough to garner talk of the first overall pick like Michael Beasley’s freshman year did but it was good enough to pair with his NBA potential at such a young age to justify the pick. The problem was that, scattered throughout the season, were some really poor performances, especially scoring-wise.

How about three points on 1-5 shooting in a big conference game with Oklahoma State? Or how about seven points on 2-12 shooting against Texas? Better yet, the show-stopper, a measly four points in Kansas’ tournament-ending performance against Stanford in the second round? The evidence shows that Wiggins’ poor games happen more than just poor shooting nights. He tends to disappear in games — at least on offense — which is by no means a trait of any superstar in this league.

But what Wiggins does best doesn’t show up in the stat sheets. He’s an above-average defender as it stands right now, and he’ll only get better as he learns assignments better. He’s also been very durable over the course of his career (Knock on wood). He makes a lot of things happen on the court simply due to his elite athleticism that many players couldn’t even fathom. It doesn’t all add up and make a pretty stat line but he’s been doing what it takes to win games at every level he’s been at. That’s something Love can’t quite say yet in his career.

Alongside Wiggins in the deal is Anthony Bennett. I’m not huge on Bennett. I believe he’s simply a newer version of Derrick Williams with even a shakier jump shot and less athleticism. That doesn’t bode well moving forward, but what I do like about Bennett is the will and the want to get better. He had one of the worst statistical seasons ever last year, of any player, so Bennett knows what’s at stake. In order to improve, you have to work very hard at it. Bennett came into Summer League having lost a good amount of weight, had his tonsils removed, so he’s breathing on the court better. There was no slacking off in getting prepared for this season because he knows it’s a big one.

The toughest part of this trade is imagining the drop-off from last year’s starting 4 to this year’s potentially starting 4. Love was the best statistical power forward in the league, while Bennett was the complete opposite. And as it stands right now, Bennett is the best option at that slot. That’s scary. So unless they can flip Bennett or find another way to deal for Thaddeus Young, as rumor has it the Wolves’ interest in acquiring him from the 76ers is very high. I like the idea of bringing in Young to have Bennett sculpt his game in the mold of his, while coming off the bench. Otherwise, as things stand currently, the Wolves are set to take a huge step back in terms of production of their starting five, and that’s very scary for a team that missed the playoffs for the tenth straight season this Spring.

All in all the trade was a huge success just in terms of getting something substantial in return for a mega-star, who made it known that he had zero intentions of staying in Minnesota past this coming season. He was going to walk, leaving the Wolves with nothing but his statistical records in the books. So for that very reason, to pull off a deal for a player with high aspirations in this league and another that looks to be climbing a mountain, is a great deal for Flip Saunders and the Wolves. It doesn’t necessarily dawn yet another full rebuild but fans must be willing to accept the step backwards and be ready for brighter days ahead with a roster constructed in the right manner.

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Andrew Wiggins Just Wants to be Wanted

Before we begin, I need you to do me a big favor. Just watch that video below and do your absolute best to watch it to the end. I promise this isn’t some trick that’s going to show you some close-up of Paul George’s mangled shin bone, but I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t pretty brutal as well, just in a completely different sense.

Okay, now that that’s over, let’s begin to bash the brutally pathetic reporting/journalistic skills of that interview. I’m not going to bash Bram Weinstein for the interview questioning because he probably didn’t come up with the questions. But, on the other hand, since he was the “journalist” pestering Wiggins into answering those bizarrely unfair questions, he’s getting grouped in on this rant.

See it like this: there’s a more-than-likely potential trade that’s about to go down. Somehow, some way Kevin Love is going to be wearing a Cavaliers jersey by the beginning of next season. That much we know, especially after Glen Taylor admitted as much in a recent interview. But the whole proprietor of a coming deal — Kevin Love’s camp — has been pretty mum on the whole thing. Rather, they’ve taken on the Minnesota nature and played the situation so painfully passive-aggressively that it’s forced the media to take on the narrative themselves.

That in itself can be a huge problem, especially in today’s world of lightning-fast news via Twitter without needing so much as a “BREAKING” or “SOURCES” taking up very few of your precious 140 character “report.” Because of the national firestorm that can catch ablaze in just seconds nowadays, the Love trade has risen to a whole new level, like that new storm movie. And Andrew Wiggins’ interview was the tipping point of it getting out of control.

This is how I see it: Wiggins is a 19-year old. He probably plays a lot of video games, eats candy and junk food and stays up probably way too late. He’s a teenager through and through despite the fact that he can leap into the sky 45-inches on average. But he’s still just a kid, and because of one media outlets attempt to prove their reports right — that Love-for-Wiggins is near inevitable — that latest interview is the byproduct of sticking an innocent player in the middle of a battlefield. In my honest opinion as, 1) a fan of basketball, the NBA and the Timberwolves, and; 2) a former student of the art of journalism with a degree in PROFESSIONAL Journalism and Sports Management, I believe ESPN hung out one of its subjects to dry, and if he wasn’t so inclined to being the top overall draft pick in a worldwide-recognized sport, his agent, his camp and he himself would never do such an interview again for ESPN.

In the middle of watching horrible interview, I couldn’t help but think, “Where’s Kevin Love?” After all, he’s the proprietor, remember? He’s the one wanting out of his current situation, and in order to grant him that, there will be some innocent bystanders affected such as Wiggins and perhaps Anthony Bennett. So why not go after him with these kinds of questions? Pressure him into answering, “Since you’re not sure what jersey you’re wearing next year, how do you feel?” Or “What do you have to say to Minneapolis or Cleveland about playing for them in their respective cities?”

Maybe ESPN was smart in grabbing the innocent, know-nothing player involved here. Maybe they thought they could get him to say something everyone doesn’t already suspect because he is just a rookie. After all, he doesn’t know any better, and he himself said he’s just a rookie, he has no say. But if you take that approach, you’re just furthering the notion that ESPN reprehended its duty as a journalistic outlet by trying to play “gotcha” journalism with someone who didn’t know any better. On top of that, they unveiled a genuine lack of being able to choose frontline sources to confirm reports of their own. Wiggins himself, as a rookie in the NBA, isn’t going to be told a damn thing about any trade he may or may not be involved in. For one, that’d be a massive misstep in following the rules by the Cavaliers, and two, why should Wiggins be involved in that process? He himself, once again, said he’s just a rookie, he has no say. So shame on ESPN for believe that he could give insight into a closed-lips process since the very beginning.

Wiggins himself, the Cavaliers and the Timberwolves all have a right to be upset with ESPN’s interview yesterday. It was a poor, pathetic attempt to wiggle their way further into the reports they themselves created, while leaving the rookie to fend for himself. If you didn’t think he felt “wanted” before, now they probably made things even worse. The interview could’ve been very simple. A couple “How’s your life changed so far?”, “Have you met any new people along the way?”. That would’ve been easy, made for a watchable interview and then still carried out their initial prerogative by dropping just one potential trade question in there, and not conduct the interview with a barrage of FULLY-LOADED questions that were going to get the kid in trouble.

If there ever were a time Wiggins would want to feel “wanted” it was definitely after something like that. And it probably doesn’t even matter which franchise warmed him up with blankets and hot cocoa. But I can assure you this, judging by the backlash on the Internet by Wolves fans everywhere, Minnesota is going to be a place that genuinuely wants to have Wiggins a part of this team’s future. As a team that’s struggled greatly to just get back to the postseason in over 10 years, adding high-quality young talent is a must, whenever they see fit. In other words, the Wolves couldn’t ever have enough star-potential guys under the age of 22. Wiggins would be the cream of the crop, if the trade were to go down, and fans here would go ballistic to see him as part of this franchise.

So if Wiggins’ true feelings are to simply play for a team that wants him, loves him for who he is, and will be patient enough to live through his mistakes in order to get better, Minnesota is the place for him.

Cavs Hang on, Upset Timberwolves 93-92

You know how it feels the next day after you play some pickup ball and everything in your body hurts? You know, your legs are so locked up they won’t bend and your back is on fire because it’s not used to the impact. Then, when you play a little more regularly, your recovery becomes easier and easier even though you are no elite athlete. Well, that was how the Timberwolves came out against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night on their first back-to-back of the season.

Not to make excuses or anything, but the Cavs had the luxury of having Sunday off after an exhausting road game in, oh, Indiana. Whereas the Timberwolves had to cross time zones to play a hard-fought game before facing a young and talented Cavs team. But the Timberwolves’ legs would eventually awaken.

From the start it looked like the Timberwolves may be able to carry over their momentum from the first three games of the season when Corey Brewer raced underneath the basket for a quick hoop to give the team their own lead. But that’s where the superlatives would really stop for Minnesota. Kevin Martin continued his hot start from three, but Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic looked fatigued from playing heavy minutes the night before and then traveling. 

Still, the frenetic pace the Timberwolves operated at during the first few games of the season was not as effective with tired legs. Their timing was off, their shots short and even their defense was slow to react. Consequently, the Cavs — led in part by CJ Miles who finished with 19 points — racked up a 55-38 advantage at the half.

With the injury to Ronny Turiaf in the frontcourt the Timberwolves tried to use rookie Gorgui Dieng on the Cavs’ frontcourt, but Dieng quickly picked up three fouls in three minutes against Andrew Bynum and was never heard from again in the game. Cleveland was really able to take it to Minnesota in the paint during the first half with the Timberwolves unable to run the Cavs out of their own building, but were able to wind up finishing the game with a 48-42 advantage in points in the paint by the end of the game.

The second half started like this: Brewer, turnover; Rubio, missed 22-footer; Pekovic, offensive foul; Martin blocked shot; Pekovic turnover. Despite this slow start by the Timberwolves, the Cavaliers only managed to add two points to this lead before Pekovic sank an easy shot. The Cavaliers made nothing easy on the Timberwolves’ big men, playing a very physical game that caused Pekovic to miss several bunny layups.

After playing much of the third quarter down by as much as 20, it seemed that the game was likely out of their hands even though they entered the final frame down by 15. It really felt as if the Cavs just had another gear that the Timberwolves just didn’t have last night, and would therefore be a great chance to give someone like  Shabazz Muhammad a baptism by fire, but the Timberwolves had other ideas.

See, I forgot one important thing about basketball in that assessment that I had cemented into my ideology by the Timberwolves: young teams should never, ever, ever be trusted with a 15-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Even if the other team is on the second night of an onerous back-to-back.

Looking to prove me wrong, the Timberwolves came out firing. Brewer threw in a quick layup before Derrick Williams converted a very good three-point play in the paint, and all of a sudden the Timberwolves were in range of returning their deficit to single digits. Cleveland still pushed back with a Jarrett Jack two, a pair of Miles baskets and an Andrew Bynum 14-footer, giving the Cavs an 84-69 lead with about seven minutes left in the game. Timeout Timberwolves.

The most interesting thing to note is that the Timberwolves nearly completed their comeback with Barea, not Rubio, as their point guard. Coach Rick Adelman noted after the game that he went with what was working, which is a thought process that is hard to fault him for. Barea came in and got a couple of easy hoops that gave the Timberwolves hope for one more final push to comeback.

There are three factors that really make a difference in being able to close a game or make a late game comeback: good shots, limiting-if-not-eliminating turnovers and getting stops. The Timberwolves were able to use their ability to d-up the young Cavs and force them to make young mistakes (including bad shots) and turn their mistakes into points.

Eventually, the Cavs found their once great lead down to just three when Kyrie Irving blocked Barea’s layup, but it was Love who picked up the rebound and put in the layup to bring the lead down to 93-92. On the other end, Martin rebounded Irving’s miss and the Wolves brought the ball most of the way up court before calling a timeout to setup one final play. Adelman appeared torn on calling the timeout and let his players get the bucket off of the rebound, but made the smart call to collect his team for one final play. After all, Martin rebounded the shot at 0:14 seconds, which may have left Cleveland too much time to setup for the last shot. This way, the Timberwolves were able to remain in control of their destiny and own the game’s final possession down one.

The Timberwolves inbounded the ball to Barea, who had the ball poked loose as he drove to the hoop, but was able to find Love waiting outside of the arc with room in front of him. Love caught the ball and set his feet and got the ball off in time, but his shot caromed off of the back iron as both teams scrambled for the rebound as time expired in regulation. That was it for the Timberwolves’ comeback hopes in Cleveland.

Really, it was an incredible finish that no one watching the first half saw coming. It wasn’t for a lack of effort or desire that they got down big in the first three quarters, but somehow the team managed to get their second wind and force the Cavaliers to make the same mistakes they were making not too long ago. This was a game the Timberwolves had to experience by getting their first back-to-back under them, as well as some more crunch time experience. Love finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and five rebounds. Kevin Martin, who was the only Timberwolf to make a three in this game, added 23 and Derrick Williams added 13 off of the bench. Kyrie Irving finished with 9 turnovers 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists, with CJ Miles providing 19 points off of the bench for Cleveland.

The Timberwolves look to regroup at home against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night when we get to listen to parts of the fanbase whine about Steph Curry not being a Timberwolf for the millionth, bajillionth year in a row.

Oh, and #FistB2B.

Notes: 

– Kevin Love has shown an improved ability to pass and willingness, too. For example, Love hit a cutting Williams from the high post late in the fourth to bring the Wolves within five that was perfectly threaded. That was great. However, when Love checks out of a layup five feet from the basket to kick it out to Rubio or Brewer for three…that’s not a good decision, or really a good pass. Especially since he was one-on-one. There’s such a thing as good passing and over-passing, but I don’t want to see him stop– just to find that happy balance.

– Cavs rookie and last June’s first round pick is now 0-15 from the field to start his career and has just two points to show for his first four NBA games. This means nothing unless his career winds up being four games long, but is just interesting to watch.