Kevin Love's big night; Wolves win 126-123

Kevin Love is an All-Star. Even though he didn’t look the part when he was shining under the L.A. lights, but underneath the Northern Lights, he’s a different animal.

First came the unimaginable 31-31 game in the comeback win over the New York Knicks. And tonight he did the unthinkable putting up 37 points on just 13 shots from the field.

This is a truly amazing feat. Toss in that he grabbed 23 rebounds as well and Love made a serious statement tonight. He loudly pronounced that he is the leader of this team and refuses to give up that right.

If only I could’ve actually seen this game — I was driving back from a weekend in Chicago — I was very disappointed I missed such a good game. Here’s the box score and here are some quick thoughts:

  • There was a special cohesive effort from out starting five tonight. Led behind Love’s immaculate effort, Michael Beasley dropped 25 points and Wes Johnson and Luke Ridnour combined for 30. This may be the best effort from all starting five players in a very long time. That’s considerable improvement.
  • Stephen Curry dropped 33 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Jonny Flynn? A putrid two points and nine assists. Can you guess on who would’ve been the better draft pick.
  • Our front court depth was impressive tonight. Aside from newcomer Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver and Nikola Pekovic stepped in and were very productive.
  • 13 mins for Darko? Really?
  • The Wolves rebounded 61 tonight. That’s insane.

As pathetic as this recap is, back off! No, I’m kidding. Next up is the Lakers on Tuesday night. Should be a great game if the starters play the way they did tonight.

The singular move… Literally

David Kahn, the laughing stock he’s been of the NBA during his reign as GM here in Minny, has a plan — or is it had a plan? When he arrived about two years ago, so beautifully gracing our presence, he announced that the Wolves would no longer dwell in the NBA’s basement for much longer. He vowed that in 24 months this team would be turned around, well on its way to the Playoffs.

It’s safe to say that no one’s perfect. Neither is Kahn’s plan. Let’s be honest with ourselves: nothing ever goes according to plan.

But what I’ve taken away from the latest trade deadline to come and go without so much of a single “Ah ha!”move, it’s that Kahn’s plan has taken a turn for the worse. Or else he really does have something cooking and no one’s allowed to see magic happen behind the steam.

Kahn’s been preaching the “singular move” for quite some time now. Last season the Wolves teased with the idea of picking up a much-needed superstar to man one of the wing positions. Andre Iguodala was a relevant trend at the time and arguably a great fit here in Minny. This season, rumors flew about of the Wolves finally achieving some sort of stability at the point guard position. Whether that meant moving Jonny Flynn and simplifying matters for the future or making that risky move and reach for a big name such as Steve Nash, we figured something would’ve happened on one of the most exciting days of the year for a guy like me.

So what happened?

The past two trade deadlines have something eerily in common: They were both busts. Plain and simple. Kahn failed to nail down that singular move to turn the franchise around as promised before. Whether he just refused to work the phones like some desperate telemarketer working for pennies on the dollar or teams just really weren’t interested in our young assets — I highly doubt that — the deadline came and passed without the slightest ounce of progress towards the future — No offense, Anthony Randolph.

Some might view the Brewer-Randolph/Curry trade as a complete bust. We gave up a fan favorite for two demoralizing human beings that have never been happy in the NBA. Curry has been nothing but an obliterate slob who refuses to lose weight and Randolph still has not found a place to call home where he can hone in on his outstanding skills and make something of his NBA career. But you could also spin the trade with “a glass half full” approach. Randolph has the talents to become a Lamar Odom-like player, who could prove to be vital on a title run as we’ve seen in recent years with the Lakers’ success. Sure, we gave up a lovable character in Corey Brewer, but let’s face it: he was never going to learn how to shoot or dribble effectively, and even his strength of being a defensive wizard never panned out — he was a tremendous on-ball defender but took way too many gambles going for steals and loose balls.

No matter which side you decide to take, we can all agree this wasn’t Kahn intended on being that singular move, you know, the one we were looking for. But why didn’t it happen to us? We saw the deadline turn the OKC Thunder into legit NBA title contenders instead of the Lakers’ punching bag. We saw the Portland Trail Blazers turn their unfortunate injury-riddled situation into one of the most physical defenses the Western Conference will ever see in the Playoffs — if they get there, of course. Even the Eastern Conference was awarded with two of the West’s ultimate superstars, who are likely to go on and lead their respective squads into Championship contenders.

Other teams left the deadline basking in the fact that they found a new hope or a fresh start. The Wolves left the deadline literally at the same place they began.

Fans should be angry. Fans should be disappointed. Not angry or disappointed in the fact that the big, singular wasn’t made but that no singular move was made to make our team better immediately. Randolph is good, don’t get me wrong, but like I said, he’s a project — a big one at that. I’m talking well beyond the one trade made over two days ago. From the buzz of things that I gauged on today’s Twitter feed and the flurry of ESPN reports, the Wolves had opportunities to make a move, something, anything. Nothing happened and so that’s why fans should be bummed out and deflated of all hope. Kahn had the opportunity to make one simple thing happen and elevate this desperate fanbase’s morale but it just didn’t happen. We were all let down for the second time under his command and there may not be any reason to forgive him for that.

What’s left to hope for?

Kahn’s plan isn’t worth jumping ship quite yet though. Even after bashing the man for his questionable calls and dormant manner at today’s deadline, he still has a chance to redeem himself. Only one chance that is.

With a new CBA in the works and tons of assets to handle, including a sure lottery pick — potentially top 3 — this team has some leverage. But as we’ve seen before, it’s a matter of being able to utilize that leverage and create a better situation on the court in 2011-2012.

The best reasoning I could muster up on why the Wolves didn’t make their move today is because they’re the team lurking in the shadows just waiting for the moment to pounce. The new CBA could crack down on the higher payroll teams more than we think, and who will be ready to welcome that “overpaid” All-Star from their team? The Wolves.

Hope also comes in the form of this magical being from Spain. The name’s Ricky Rubio. The game could very well stabilize a position the Wolves have never had properly filled for more than three years tops at a time. If indeed the magician from Barcelona makes his way to the frozen tundra, it’d be a whole new ball game. Whether or not he can be relied upon as the savior of this God-forsaken franchise remains to be unseen, but he’s easily our brightest glimmer of hope of having any success in the next year or two.

All hope is just a game of cat and mouse for now. The talk of the new CBA is just speculation at this point — A lockout is looming, for God’s sake. Perhaps it’s arranged in such a way it gives larger markets even more power than they have now, which leaves the Wolves in an even darker place. And the actual coming of Rubio is completely out of anyone and everyone’s hands except his own.

The only solid hope fan’s can insert their faith into is Kevin Love and potentially Michael Beasley. Without these two, this season, no, this franchise would be nowhere. We wouldn’t have to root for a double-double every night so Love can break some record. We wouldn’t have Beasley’s antics to sit back and enjoy as well as his raw potential of becoming one of the league’s most lethal scorers. Things would truly be in disarray without these two. They’re easily the building blocks for the future no matter what Kahn makes happen this summer and beyond.

All we can hope for is stability from those two. Everything else is as good a guess as yours. I advise not placing any wagers on the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves, especially with what could go down this summer.

Wolf Track: Kevin Love's story

Grabbing national headlines hasn’t been difficult for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the past. Short tenured coaches, bozo-headed GM’s that make clownish moves and of course the bottomless pit that has been our losing record. All are easy targets to cynical analysts who need someone to pick on.

But not this time. Anna Katherine Clemons is reviewing the amazing life story that is our NBA superstar in Kevin Love. This is a must read, so check it out.

Webster and Flynn's return gets spoiled; Wolves lose to Warriors 108-99

Golden State Warriors' Monta Ellis, left drives past Minnesota Timberwolves' Corey Brewer during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo)

Monta Ellis doesn't need Stephen Curry

Those Warriors are pesky. Just when you think the Wolves had them backed into a corner with no escape route, they hop aboard the Monta Ellis-express and sail their way to a smooth victory.

What should’ve been the story of the night — Martell Webster and Jonny Flynn shine in their game back from injuries and lead the Wolves to a victory — was toiled thanks to magnificent play from Ellis and terrific three-point shooting from the Warriors.

The Wolves came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, which seems to be the case in recent games. Lately they just find a groove in the first quarter that doesn’t seem comparable, making them run away with the score. Darko Milicic was hot and Mike Beasley was firing on all cylinders, especially from mid-range. This continued all the way into the second quarter, where the Wolves actually took hold of a commanding 12-point lead. It seemed unsurmountable at the time, but you never count out a team that has Ellis, a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and let’s his game do all the talking for him.

Ellis took charge and led the Warriors back into the game igniting a 12-2 run late in the second. And he didn’t stop there. With the scored tied at 51, Ellis hesitated at the perimeter with the ball in his hands and unleashed a 26-foot bomb with no doubt in his mind — as well as mine — that it would go in. Swoosh, and the Wolves lose their lead going into halftime.

From there, things didn’t get much better. Ellis continued his valiant effort and even got his teammates involved, most notably Reggie Williams. They started firing, and hitting, the three-pointer at will and the Wolves’ defense grew tired and porous as a result. Once the defense was spread out enough, Ellis started beating them off the dribble, slicing through the defense like a knife through butter and attacking the hoop with animosity like he had been all game long.

Ellis was essentially unstoppable tonight. He really is one of my favorite players in the league and probably my favorite to watch play live because of how creative he is and the energy he devotes to a game. The combination of his superior strength and freakishly athletic abilities was too much too handle, especially when he had poor Luke Ridnour guarding him all night. Ridnour was out-matched all night long and paid the price for it. He became frustrated on the offensive end throwing up unneeded shots and only made one out of nine of them. His assist total — 11 for the night — was impressive but it doesn’t make up for what he lost shooting the ball wildly and inefficiently. He honestly just looked like a lost puppy out there looking for someone to pick his ass up and cuddle him.

Kevin Love had a subpar performance, one of the firsts in a very long time. He still got his double-double recording 13-14 but got his 13 points off of a dismal 33 percent FG%. His now infamous three-point shot was contested nicely by the Warriors D as he failed to knock one down, and couldn’t get anything going inside thanks to some tough love on the inside on the part of the Warriors front line and the refereeing crew.

All in all this just wasn’t our night. I was, however, impressed with Jonny Flynn and Martell Webster in their return back to game action. Flynn didn’t do a whole lot, but you couldn’t help but cheer for the guy when he was on the court. After he hit his first three-pointer, he simply jogged back down the court with that smile from ear-to-ear that so many fans have fallen infatuated with. As for Webster, he couldn’t have done anything wrong tonight, in my eyes. He plays like that well-seasoned veteran we need because it seems as if he does everything right, or at least he did tonight. Like I said earlier today, if he keeps these kinds of performances up, we might see Wes Johnson fall into a reserve role as Webster moves into the starting lineup. It could ultimately benefit the team as a whole in the future.

The Wolves continue their road trip tomorrow night with a game at Phoenix, and the tumultuous road trip doesn’t end there: The T-Pups will then head to Portland, Denver and L.A. shortly after that. For a team that’s only won one game so far on the road this season, you can consider this stretch a real test of patience, will and determination.

For all those ESPN Insiders…

…Make sure you check out John Hollinger’s new article. He highlights everything that’s going right for the Timberwolves so far this season (i.e. Our new forward duo, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love).

It might just be time for the Wolves to start earning some credit and recognition on a national level. But I won’t say much more than that because then things could go terribly wrong and we find ourselves on a 10 game losing streak. Can anyone say karma?

Be like Dennis?

I’m sure you all remember the glory days of the NBA. Michael Jordan and the Bulls were a true dynasty that provided some of the greatest memories the NBA has to offer. Guys like MJ, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman all compartmentalized their game to form a near unbeatable team during the mid-to-late 90’s. MJ was, well, MJ. Pippen was the ultimate sidekick who seemed to do everything right. And Rodman was like Mr. Clean when it came to keeping the glass shining (Too corny?)

Well unlike the Bulls, the Wolves are obviously missing some pieces (i.e. the MJ and the Pippen). But in Kevin Love, the Wolves have a Rodman-like rebounder that plays a huge advantage in their favor.

Rodman had a brilliant career. He had a minimal post game to speak of, if any at all, but his job on the court wasn’t to score anyways. His role was to be mean, grab rebounds and entice fear into the eyes of his opponents (Trust me, he did this freakishly well).

When you look at Rodman’s numbers, it’s quite astonishing. During the ’95-’96 season, Rodman posted a career high and league best offensive rebounding percentage with 20.83%. That means Rodman was estimated to rip down nearly 20% of the available offensive rebounds through that season.

In his ’92-’93 season, Rodman posted another career high and a league best defensive rebounding percentage when he grabbed 36.78% of all available defensive rebounds when he was on the court.

Through just 11 games this season, we’ve seen some outrageous numbers from Love in terms of rebounding. His 31 rebound game last Friday grabbed attention on a national level, when ESPN acknowledged his effort and rewarded him with the front page headline.

Now I understand that 11 games isn’t near the full sample size of 82 games like Rodman’s numbers had to withstand, but just to give you a realistic view on his progress thus far this season, Love has an ORB% of 17.63% and a DRB% of 34%. That should be rather impressive because it leads the league currently . . . By a lot, in terms of the DRB%.

He’s on pace to post the 5th best DRB% in a single season since the ABA days. Maybe even more impressive, and to give you a better idea of where he fits in on the all-time scale, the guys above of him are Ben Wallace, Bill Walton and, of course, Rodman himself. That’s some pretty good company if you ask me.

Rebounding is a key, fundamental skill in basketball. And in today’s fast-paced style of game, players don’t play nearly as many minutes and aren’t always likely to be in the right position to grab rebounds when there are a lot more shots being put up. But Love has adjusted to his role and, when given the proper amount of minutes, can post these daunting numbers and help the team produce some wins.

And, ultimately, it’s all about the wins.