Thursday, October 18, 2012

Say Goodnight Kevin, Goodnight Kevin

Man oh man. The Timberpuppies just can't seem to catch a break. In case you missed it, Wolves superstar Kevin Love will miss 6-8 weeks after breaking his right hand at his home on Wednesday. I'd blame all of the team's recent bad luck on some sort of KG curse, but that's not even logical.

The Wolves failures and string of bad luck has existed basically since the first day they came into existence. Even the best team in history, the Cassell/Spreewell/KG tandem in '03, lost Cassell and then a red-hot Troy Hudson for the majority of the Western Conference Finals against a Lakers team that had Shaq, Kobe, Malone and The Glove.

This coming season was going to be different. It was like the team was getting to re-do all of their past mistakes, in this one season. Kevin Love is the new superstar Kevin, after evil Kevin (McHale) traded star Kevin to Boston. Ricky Rubio is everything Stephon Marbury was supposed to be--with the exact opposite attitude. Nikola Pekovic, in half a season, may have been the greatest center in franchise history.* If he continues it this season, the Wolves are not only star heavy at the top, but filled with solid contributing players throughout the roster.

*That's admittedly a horrible, horrible list of players, so it's not really an accomplishment. But still true.

Andrei Kirilenko is a much better, less selfish version of Tom Gugliotta, and not just because they're both tall white guys. Brandon Roy is the shooting guard who's career was cut short despite loads of talent; he's JR Rider with knee problems instead of gun problems. Luke Ridnour is what Troy Hudson was supposed to be; a solid backup who can get hot for stretches. Rick Adelman has forgotten more about the game of basketball than every other Wolves coach in history has ever known. Chase Budinger is Wally Szcerbiak's evil twin. Budinger is ugly, Wally was not. But both can shoot 3's. Chase plays solid D and can jump out of the gym, which Wally couldn't do. And, well, Derrick Williams gets to be Christian Laettner, because some draft busts will always exist.

This was the team that was going to surprise everyone. I wasn't predicting a 42 win season and sneaking into the playoffs; no, this team was built to win 50-55 games, AT LEAST, if everyone was healthy. Even if just Rubio missed the first month, a 47-50 win season still didn't seem out of reach.

Now, with both Rubio and Love expected to miss at least the first month of the season, someone, or multiple someones are going to need to step up. If Brandon Roy can somehow return to his old self, he could help offset the losses of Love and Rubio at least slightly. What I think a lot of people are underestimating, though, is just how good Andrei Kirilenko really is. He doesn't do anything at an elite level, but he does pretty much everything at a good or very good level. A healthy Roy combined with Kirilenko could keep the Wolves afloat for the first month or so.

Unfortunately, Love's injury seems to have killed any hopes of the team winning 50 games this season. He's quite simply a top 5 player in the NBA, so naturally losing him for an extended period will damper the team's chances at having a great season. Some fans are hopeful Derrick Williams will step up in Love's absence, and while a player breaking out in his second year is quite common, Williams rookie season was abysmal. I've said it before, but I truly believe in 3 years Jared Sullinger will be a better player than Derrick Williams. I would love to be wrong.

At this point, a 43 or 44 win season might be the best case scenario, which makes the playoffs hardly a guarantee, but they'd be within reach. And for a team that has struggled so mightily over the last 24 years, even playoff contention into the last week of the season would be a welcomed change. Of course, as is always the case with Minnesota sports, come playoff time, the fans will almost certainly be left wondering "what might have been."