Posted on: July 11, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 10:23 pm
A look at what is at stake for the NBA's Northwest Division if a whole season was lost due to the lockout. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Talk of losing an entire NBA season is a bit ridiculous. But it's a possibility. And with all this hardline talk going on, it seems like neither the players nor the owners are wanting to budge. There's incentive for teams to get a deal done and not just for the money, but because a year without basketball and more importantly, basketball operations, could greatly affect each and every NBA franchise.
Earlier this week, we took a look at the Southeast Division, the Atlantic Division, the Central Division and the Southwest Division. Let's continue with the Northwest Division.
The NBA's worst team won just 17 games last year, had the league's seventh-worst home attendance and is generally mentioned at the top of the list of examples that "prove" the NBA's economic system is broken. That's because their local television, ticket and memorabilia revenue simply cannot compete with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of the world. Despite all of that, the Timberwolves might very well have more to lose than any other team in the Northwest Division if the league were to miss an entire season.
Let's start with 2009 lottery pick Ricky Rubio, who against all odds took the plunge and decided to finally join up with Minnesota. For multiple seasons, Rubio has represented hope, carrying Timberwolves fans through ugly winters and late-season collapses. The wait was excruciating. The uncertainty about whether he would or wouldn't stay in Europe further into the future made it worse. Now that he's on board, he's been greeted at an airport, introduced to his teammates, sold some jerseys and rallied the collective fan spirit a bit. To lose an entire season would make that interminable wait that much longer. It would also rob Rubio of a valuable development and acclimation year, which would be an absolute disaster. This is a point guard who needs to start on Day 1, entrusted with the full support of his coaching staff and allowed to make mistakes and build chemistry with his teammates while learning on the job. No season means no opportunity to do any of that.
Aside from Rubio, there are financial risks as well. That might be surprising, because the Timberwolves currently are the only team in the NBA that does not have anyone on their books for more than $6.3 million next season, a fairly astonishing accomplishment. Of course, there's a catch: All-Star power forward Kevin Love is on his rookie deal. Indeed, Love is heading into the last pure season of his rookie deal before Minnesota either must issue him a qualifying offer or sign him to an extension. Worse yet, it's possible that Love, one of the league's premier rebounders, will command a mini-max extension or close to it. The point here? He's set to make just $4.6 million next season, a bargain for his production. If the season is lost, the Timberwolves miss out completely on that outstanding value and are one year closer to biting the bullet on extending him without having reaped full benefits. That's tough.
Last but not least, a lost season is the perfect excuse for any franchise to delay tough decisions or to talk themselves into trying to make things work. With an imbalanced roster full of mixed and matched pieces, the Timberwolves, despite their accumulated talent, are going to struggle mightly again next season. The pains of those struggles, theoretically, could be enough to finally convince owner Glen Taylor to pull the plug on president David Kahn, a man who hasn't shown the ability to construct a team and outright wasted two second round draft picks on technical mistakes during the 2011 NBA Draft, by trading a hurt player (Jonny Flynn) and drafting someone who lied about his age (Tanguy Ngombo). A year without games, then, is a year without losses, which means another year for Kahn to preach patience and wiggle out of responsibility for this mess. The sooner Kahn is gone, the sooner this ship turns around. A lost season will make "sooner" feel like never.
OKLAHOMA CITY Thunder
While the Timberwolves need to get headed in the right direction, the Oklahoma City Thunder are already there. With the best designed roster in the league, two young All-Stars, an undisputed Northwest Division title and a Western Conference Finals appearance under their belt already, and a passionate fanbase that is guaranteed to provide 40+ home sellouts next season, the Thunder would happily start the season today. A lost season, then, would be a nightmare.
Name something, anything, and it's at risk for the Thunder. They lose the value of Russell Westbrook playing on a rookie deal. They lose the value of James Harden on a rookie deal. They lose the value of Serge Ibaka on a rookie deal. They lose one year of Kevin Durant's Hall of Fame playing career. They lose another season of playoff experience. They lose a very good chance at making a run at an NBA Finals. They lose a season of having their top eight players (Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefalosha, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor) all locked into affordable contracts. They lose the chemistry and momentum that goes with having an entire nucleus together for multiple years.
What's worse: they have nothing to gain from a work stoppage, other than perhaps the money that would come with increased revenue sharing. Without a single bad or untradeable contract on their books, there is no financial reason OKC would root for a year away from the game. In fact, any change to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that firms up the cap would make it more difficult for the Thunder to keep all this talent in house. That means they wouldn't get the chance to win now and their ability to win later could be compromised.
Usually, young teams that make a deep run through the playoffs can't wait to get back on the court for a second go-around. Multiply that feeling by about 10 and that's the situation facing OKC.
PORTLAND Trail Blazers
You might think the injury-plagued Trail Blazers would welcome some time off to lick their wounds and assess the damage, but missing an entire NBA season wouldn't necessarily be a good thing for this franchise. Really, it's a muddled picture.
The main benefit is clear: the Blazers have a very difficult cap situation next season, thanks to a mini-max contract for guard Brandon Roy, who is apparently no longer capable of reaching his previous All-Star level of play. Saving the $15 million owed to Roy, as well as the $10.5 million owed to aging center Marcus Camby, would be a tempting proposition for most small-market owners. Money aside, saving the miles on Roy's knees wouldn't hurt either.
Blazers owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, however, has dealt with serious health problems in recent years and is clearly in spend-big, win-now mode. He would cut a check tomorrow for five times his team's total salary cap if it meant a shot at the NBA Finals, no questions asked. It's difficult to imagine a financial enticement that would make it worth Allen's while to take a year off.
Aside from Roy, the other big question is center Greg Oden. Missing an entire NBA season doesn't play in Oden's favor, as he hasn't taken the court for an NBA game since December 2009. A lost season means his layoff would extend nearly three full years to October 2012. That's a long, long time to be away from basketball. Complicating that further for the Blazers is the fact that Oden is a restricted free agent this summer. The Blazers would retain matching rights on Oden if a season was lost but they would be forced to offer him an extension without being able to see whether he recovers fully to be able to take the court and, more importantly, withstand injury once he's out there. Oden could command a mid-level type of offer on the open market, which would be a major investment for Portland, because the Blazers have already committed to nearly $80 million in salary for next season, with contracts to Roy, forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace and guard Wesley Matthews already on the books into the future. Without another center on their roster who is in their long-term plans, though, the Blazers wouldn't have a choice. They'd have to pay up. Given that situation, you want as much information as possible; a lost season would mean no information.
Finally, the Blazers have a big question at the starting point guard position. His name is Raymond Felton, and he was acquired in a draft day trade for previous point guard Andre Miller. Felton is in a contract year and hasn't played meaningful minutes with any of his current teammates, except for a stint in Charlotte with Wallace. Felton will require a good-sized contract extension next summer as well and the Blazers would surely like to see how he gels with their core, particularly Aldridge, before they commit to him long-term. Without any starting quality options on the roster, they would again find themselves stuck in a corner, forced to do what it takes to retain Felton without a readily available back-up plan.
To boil it down: the Blazers have enough questions without a lost season. Missing a full season would simply create an array of complications and made some tough roster decisions that much more difficult and, potentially, costly.
Sure, the Denver Nuggets lost franchise forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, but they did an excellent job of stripping their roster down to allow for a quick bounceback rebuilding effort. The Nuggets, somewhat like the Thunder, are in a financial position where their salary cap situation makes it more advantageous for next season to take place unhindered. The Nuggets currently don't have a truly horrible contract on their books, although the mid-level deal for Al Harrington and the $15 million or so left to be paid to Chris Andersen over the next three years are regrettable. Indeed, the Nuggets have committed to less than $40 million in salary for next season, pending a potentially major financial commitment to big man Nene, who has decided to test the free agency waters, and a decision on guard J.R. Smith.
The biggest risks for Denver would be missing out on the value of point guard Ty Lawson on his rookie deal and managing whatever concerns might arise about Denver's ability to use its salary cap flexibility to continue work on its rebuilding situation. Most analysts believe teams with salary cap room will be in a position of strength, regardless of how the new CBA shakes out, so perhaps that uncertainty is more of an annoyance than a true concern.
The Nuggets have a lot of questions. How will they spend their money? Who will they bring back? Who will they let go? Are the players under contract currently good enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference next year or is it better to continue slashing and burning for another season? These are good questions to have because they all point to one fundamental truth: The Nuggets have flexibility thanks to their young, cheap assets. The worst case scenario is that Nuggets fans have to wait a year to watch a promising, athletic upstart group entertain. That's not too bad.
If I'm the Jazz, I'm totally cool with taking a year off. A lost season means that Utah would save $14 million owed to Al Jefferson, $10.9 million owed to Mehmet Okur, $9.3 million owed to Devin Harris and $8.1 million owed to Paul Millsap. While Millsap is probably worth his number, the other three certainly aren't worth theirs, especially on a team that lost its foundational identity when it shipped franchise point guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets at the trade deadline.
Right now, Utah's finances are pretty tight, with $61.5 million already committed for 2011-2012. Look ahead just one year, though, and that number drops to $48.7 million. To make things even nicer, Jefferson, Harris and Millsap will all be expiring that season. The Jazz will be poised to take advantage of their new-found flexibility, keeping the parts that fit (probably only Millsap) and dispensing with the rest.
The biggest risk in a cancelled season for Utah would be the lost development for younger guys like Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and 2011 first-round picks Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. In Favors, they have a potential franchise forward who needs to start enjoying a loose leash so he can blossom into the player the Jazz expect him to be. Forcing him to take a year off does him no good and, depending on how he responds, could do him some harm. Kanter, meanwhile, looks like an even bigger risk on paper because he was forced to sit out last year at Kentucky, his only year at the college level, due to eligibility issues and because he hasn't yet tasted the NBA game. A lost season would mean two full years away from competitive basketball, not an ideal situation for someone the Jazz selected with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft. As for Hayward and Burks, they are lesser concerns. Both have shown promise and clearly have room for improvement. Losing a year wouldn't be critical, but it would be better for them individually if it could be prevented.
On balance, the financial rewards seem to outweigh the development risks for the Jazz.
Salary numbers courtesy of StoryTeller's Contracts.
Tags: Al Harrington, Al Jefferson, Alec Burks, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, David Kahn, Denver Nuggets, Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Greg Oden, J.R. Smith, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Marcus Camby, Mehmet Okur, Minnesota Timberwolves, Nene, Oklahoma City Thunder, Paul Allen, Paul Millsap, Portland Trail Blazers, Raymond Felton, Ricky Rubio, Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson, Utah Jazz
Posted on: June 29, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 3:48 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Some are saying the 2010-11 NBA season might've very well been the best in league history. History. What better way to top that off than with a debilitating lockout where players and owners haggle over money? Momentum!
But despite all the depressing lockout stuff, there's no doubt this past season was pretty special. It all started with a wild free agency period that was capped off with a one-hour special and a preseason celebration party in South Beach. It finished in that same place but instead with the Mavericks being the team that took their talents there.
It really was a pretty remarkable season. The NBA grabbed its highest ratings since the Jordan Era, had an amazing All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, saw the rise of a bundle of young players that will carry the league to great places over the next 10 years and had polarizing teams and figures that had people talking constantly. I don't know that 2010-11 was the best ever, but for sure, it was really darn good.
And what better way to send it off than arbitrarily trying to wrap it all together in a list of 10 neato plays? There's no better way, that's what.
There were some pretty difficult omissions. Like Paul Millsap's 11 points in 28 seconds. Or Emeka Okafor's crazy buzzer-beater. Or that one Brian Cardinal thing he did that one time. Like any top 10, there were some tough cuts and I'm sure you'll disagree. Regardless, here are my top 10 moments from the season and 10 really good reasons why a lockout would totally suck.
10. Touchdown, Wade to LeBron
LeBron was a wide receiver in high school at St. Vincent - St. Mary. But I don't think Dwyane Wade was ever a quarterback. This play is pretty much what people were dreaming about the second LeBron announced he was teaming up with Wade. Two incredibly skilled players with stupid amounts of ability hooking up for a ridiculous play. Hate the Heat all you want, but you know you loved this play.
9. Taj has a moment, or two
It started with one of the ultimate posters of the season. Two hands, right over Dwyane Wade. It was so dirty that even Wade's children were giving him grief over it. Then he went ahead and followed that up with a follow-up finish in punctuate Chicago's Game 1 Eastern Finals win. Every time I watch these two dunks it makes me want to scream like I'm Carlos Boozer.
8. Love sees 30-30
Really, the top Kevin Love highlight from this season is probably his failed high five with Wesley Johnson. But I'll just recognize Love here with his second best moment of the season -- the first 30-30 game in, well, about 30 years. Love humliated the Knicks with a 31-point, 31-rebound effort doing something that no one has done since Moses Malone. Just look at that again: 31 points, 31 rebounds. Love was pretty unreal all season but that is just really outlandish.
7. The game that never ends
With the stakes high, the Thunder and Grizzlies needed 63 minutes of basketball to settle Game 4 of the Western Semifinals. Memphis led the series 2-1 after Oklahoma City blew a big fourth quarter lead in Game 3. What's crazy is that Memphis led by 18 in the first half of this game.
But the Thunder held a seven-point fourth quarter lead and finally lost it after Mike Conley hit an impossible 3 over Kendrick Perkins. Then Grievis Vasquez doubled down on the insanity by dropping another game-tying 3 in the first overtime. Eventually Kevin Durant and the Thunder wore down Memphis and took the game 133-123 and used that to top the Grizzlies in seven to move on to the Western Finals.
6. Indiana starts the third 20 for 20
How does 54 points in a half sound? Pretty good, right? Well, what about 54 in a quarter? That sounds like a pretty good number for an entire game if you're the Butler Bulldogs.
The Pacers started the third quarter against Denver 20-20 and would've had a perfect quarter had Mike Dunleavy not missed with a couple seconds remaining. For a team though to hit 20 consecutive shots? An entire team? If I'm George Karl and the Nuggets, at that point I'm not even guarding them just to see how many in a row they can hit.
5. Reke, from pretty far out
It looked like O.J. Mayo had just hit a nasty backbreaker for Memphis against the Kings. The Grizzlies went up one with 1.5 seconds left and Sacramento didn't have any timeouts left. No bother for Tyreke though as he launched from behind the halfcourt line and drilled a game-winner as time expired.
Still though, the most impressive part of this is the sixth sense from Donte Greene. He's entirely on the court already celebrating before the shot dropped. What would he have done if it had missed? I guess he just knew it wouldn't.
4. Coming back is easy to do for Dallas
Worst thing you can do: Put the Mavericks in a double-digit hole in the fourth quarter. Dallas had already pulled off two impressive comebacks against the Thunder and Lakers, but its Game 2 triumph over the Heat is really what won the Mavs an NBA title. Trailing by 15 points late after a Dwyane Wade 3, the Mavs turned it on with Dirk scoring the team's final nine points in the last two minutes to steal a game in Miami and probably a trophy right out from under LeBron and the Heat.
3. I believe that I just saw a man fly
Don't get in J.R. Smith's way. He won't just dunk over you, he'll dunk through you. With two hands.
2. Durant, Haywood and oh my goodness
Magic Johnson said this was the greatest postseason dunk ever. And considering the circumstances -- Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals -- he might have a point. Durant's Thunder were off to a bit of a slow start against the Mavs and faced falling into an 0-2 hole. But Durant woke up the team by throwing down right over Brendan Haywood.
Durant picked up a technical after the dunk for having some words for Haywood, but if I were the officials, I'd have just kicked Durant and everyone else out, because he basically turned out the lights right there.
1. Blake Griffin
Take your pick. Over Mozgov. Over Gallinari. Over a car. Oops from Baron, oops from Bledsoe, oops from Mo. The 2010-11 regular season was really kind of the season of Griffin and how he took over the world with YouTube highlights. No player has made people buzz quite like Griffin. Night to night, you had no idea what might be coming. When Blake Mania was reaching its peak in January, I think we all thought he might dunk over Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol if Gasol was standing on Bynum's shoulders.
I still don't think we've seen the ultimate Blake Griffin highlight. And when it comes next year, that just means we'll have 2011-12's best moment. If there is one. Oh please for the love of James Naismith, let there be one.
Tags: Blake Griffin, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Dwyane Wade, Indiana Pacers, J.R. Smith, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, LeBron James, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Sacramento Kings, Taj Gibson, Tyreke Evans, Video
Posted on: June 20, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 3:40 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Only with the Timberwolves would a No.2 overall pick be considered a burden. But that's the case as just as soon as the Wolves found their spot in the lottery, rumors of them trying to trade it sprang to life. And as Thursday's draft inches ever closer, they've gotten out of control. They're multiplying like Gremlins. Seriously, if you see one, don't feed it after midnight. Here's what we've got. These are rumors and should be viewed with skepticism, but they pass the "okay, that's not so absurd it's laughable"/"that can't possibly work under the current CBA" test.
Pau Gasol for Kevin Love and the No.2. Yeah, that's what you call a blockbuster deal. It sounds insane, until you think about it. The Wolves do want an established star. Gasol is buds with Rubio out of Spain. The Lakers have been frustrated with Gasol and Love would rebound and hit threes while not challenging Bryant. Then you think about it some more and it's still completely insane. Eric Pincus of Hoopsworld floated some substantiation of the idea touched on by ESPN in a chat session about Gasol being on the Wolves' radar. Respected cap analyst Larry Coon tweeted over the weekend that there "may be some fire" there. Coon also said Love and the No.2 is too much, and that Love has not been put on the table. The big thing here is that moving Gasol means risking the championship window which is assuredly still open as long as Gasol is still within range of his prime, which he is, though the distance is increasing. Plus Love's poor defense could be a big issue under Mike Brown. But there's a decent around of smoke around this one, even if the flames seem plastic.
Here's a fun one. The ESPN radio affiliate out of Minneapolis reported over the weekend that conversations had taken place between the Wolves and Bucks, sending the No.2 pick for Andrew Bogut and the No.10 pick. Darren Wolfson of local television confirmed the report and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says it's possible, but Milwaukee isn't biting. If Milwaukee were chasing the deal, it would mean that something was seriously wrong with Bogut's wrist, which would probably kill the trade in a physical anyway. And with Darko Milicic on the books for four more years, the deal only gets more confusing.
Weirdly, the one established player who the Wolves could use who is on the block, and the one team that could use the No.2 as a building block in starting over is Monta Ellis and the Golden State Warriors. But while it makes a lot of sense, there's no one biting, so far.
Thankfully a rumor that had Washington offering up JaVale McGee was shot down by the Washington Post. Trying to imagine McGee in the Minnesota winter trying to clown around with Ricky Rubio while Kevin Love cries at his locker was a little much to take in as a mental image.
Posted on: June 6, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 3:23 pm
Posted by Royce Young
The Wolves have been shopping the No. 2 overall pick the past few weeks. But it's looking like no one is willing to trade a good veteran player for it so the Wolves will just do what we all expected: draft another talented player who doesn't really have a place on the roster.
Except this time, there's more to it.
According to Draft Express, if the Wolves hang on to No. 2, they'll take Derrick Williams but instead of having him in a logjam with Michael Beasley and Kevin Love, Minnesota will immediately put Michael Beasley on the trading block.
It’s likely that Williams will be the one taken since he is the consensus second-best talent in this draft, according to NBA decision makers. If Minnesota keeps the pick and indeed selects Williams, sources say the Timberwolves will look to move Michael Beasley as they try to improve the “culture of the team.”Well that's a nice little twist. And one that actually makes a lot of sense.
See, that's been the problem with the David Kahn plan. He keeps adding talented young players but without any sort of plan or cohesion for the roster. It's just one guy after the other stacked on top of each other. People wonder why Sam Presti has been able to succeed with drafting youngsters and developing them. Why have the Thunder's players progressed while Minnesota's really haven't? A big reason is because they've got to be put into a position where they can learn through experience and develop in a role they're comfortable in.
Finally, with Williams, it sounds like that might be the case. Instead of planting him in an awkward role behind Beasley who will eat possessions and shots, Williams could actually maybe make small forward his spot in Minnesota.
I can't just say, "Good job Kahn!" and move on for two reasons though: 1) This hasn't actually happened and with Kahn, I'm like Kevin Love: I'll believe it when I see it and 2) because remember how Kahn said in an interview after the season that the building of his roster was complete? That was an idiotic thing to say then and this type of thing just makes it even more so.
Losing Beasley wouldn't be a big deal because the Wolves didn't give up much to Miami to get him (a second-round pick). And while Beasley showed flashes last season, is he really a building block? This would be smart for Minnesota, but that's what also makes me skeptical about it's reality.
Posted on: June 2, 2011 12:31 am
Edited on: June 2, 2011 6:52 am
Posted by Royce Young
There's no doubt that the drafting of Ricky Rubio and his unwillingness to come play for the Timberwolves has been quite the sore spot for general manager David Kahn. It's been embarrassing.
But with word that Rubio will sign with the Wolves and play in the NBA next season -- if there is a season -- there's reason to be excited. The long nightmare is over and finally the Spanish floppy-haired savior is coming. You're psyched, right Kevin Love?
Love's next two tweets said, "Just thinking about pick and rolls... goodnight" and then "Pick...N...Rolls." That sort of suggests Love wasn't entirely serious with his original tweet. Still though, with as sensitive as that situation has been and as embarrassing as it's been for the organization, that's a pretty wild thing for the face of the franchise to say.
"I'll believe it when I see it" is pretty much what everyone is saying because of the way the Rubio situation has been handled, but it reeks of a lack of faith in management to actually get it done. Almost like Love is saying, "Yeah right, like this front office finally got this done." Not exactly a ringing endorsement. But again, let me say: He could just be making a silly. Hard to really decipher in a tweet.
Which means we might be reading into this too much but still, Love's reaction isn't saying, "Woo! Rubio! Championship!" Maybe he's not nearly as excited about the supposed Euro "phenom" as some are. I guess it has been two years. That new car smell has pretty much worn off. The hype machine has died down.
I'm sort of like Love. When I see Rubio actually in a Minnesota Timberwolves uniform, then I'll believe this is true. That should tell you the kind of mess this has been.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 11:52 am
Posted by Matt Moore
"Most Self-Actualized Player?" "Most Resiliant to Bad Coaching Player?" "Most Stat-Excessive Player?"
Any of these would be adequate awards to give Kevin Love. But "Most Improved Player?"
It just doesn't fit.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't some crank post about how Love didn't really improve, that he just chased stats on a bad, bad, bad team. There was a little bit of that last part going on, but those stats did help his team. Love was the Wolves a best player, and that does constitute an improvement compared to his previous season. But what's wrong here is the idea that Love somehow made a phenomenal jump in ability, skill, and performance, worthy of the MIP award. To say that is downright insulting.
To Kevin Love.
Love has been this good. He wasn't this good as a rookie, no one is. But he was this good last year. He would have put up these numbers, and had he gotten the minutes he was rewarded this season as a sophomore, the slight differential in his per-36 and advanced stats would likely have been negated. Love was ready to contribute at this level last season. He didn't. Not because of his play, or his attitude, or because he was stuck behind better players, but because Minnesota Timberwolves coaching and management have never really understood the enormous asset they have available at power forward in Love.
Love played 28.6 minutes per game last year, which doesn't sound like that much more than his 35.8 he played this season. But it's the inconsistency he got them which infuriated Wolves fans. Take a look at Love's 2009-2010 minutes compared to this season, and pay particular attention to the wider range of game-to-game minutes Love received last season.
Most of Love's dips this season were due to injury. Last year, he was yanked around from game to game. Even take a look at those first couple of games. He was getting fewer minutes this season, without Al Jefferson, than he was last season. But from there, Love took over, had his breakout games, which forced the Minnesota coaching staff to play him and for management to back him. It hasn't exactly been a secret that GM David Kahn has never bought into Love as the star and franchise player for this team. There was a lot of talk in circles about Minnesota's management being signficantly interested in trading Love. If Love were to be swapped tomorrow, inevitably for some sort of high draft bust with upside, most people that follow the NBA wouldn't be shocked.
Kevin Love had a phenomenal season, the kind of season he should have had last year. You can argue that it's Love's improvement that earned hi more trust from the coaching staff which led to those higher minutes, but to do so would be to ignore what he was capable of last season. You can argue that Love's per-36-minute numbers and rebound percentages show enough of an improvement to warrant the award, but how much of that was simply due to opportunity and being allowed to be a focus on the floor; how much of it was the result of improved confidence?
Minnesota has a brighter future than most think. Even without Ricky Rubio, there's some talent on that squad, and they played with a lot of toughness for stretches in games last year. A coaching change will help, a management shift towards a more cohesive roster will benefit the team. But while Love deserves to be rewarded for his efforts, to call him most improved is to insult his intelligence in regards to what he's been capable of in this league the whole time.
Posted on: April 5, 2011 8:47 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Basically, the cycle goes like this: Get good at basketball, get drafted by an unsexy market, put up big numbers and then have people bother you constantly about if you'll remain there into the future.
Kevin Durant answered those questions for two years before he signed a five-year deal to stay in Oklahoma City. Dwight Howard will has been answering them for a couple years and will continue to. And now Kevin Love is starting to get a taste of it.
Love spoke to reporters Monday and was asked directly about his long-term standing with Minnesota. And Love took the oft used road of saying something without really saying anything.
"If it all works out and it's all right, I think I definitely could. I enjoy the city, I like the people here, I like the organization," Love told the Star Tribune. "I like a lot of things about it besides the cold winter. ... I could definitely see myself here."
He likes the people. Likes the organization. Love doesn't love it. (Excuse me, that was terrible.) That's me definitely reading way too far into Love's comments, but truly, those aren't the most glowing statements about the team. Not exactly a huge drop of encouragement.
Love is eligible to sign an extension with the team starting July 1. That is if a new CBA is agreed upon to which there is a fat chance. If Love doesn't sign though, he'd become a restricted free agent in 2012. And to that end, Love used the dreaded line: He's keeping his options open.
"You have to weigh your options," he said. "If there is a better opportunity out there, you have to look at your situation and see what's going to be best for me. ... But also, sometimes you have to go with your heart. When you break it down like that, it really could go either way. But if everything works out right here, I'll probably be here."
Again, I'm just wildly speculating, but that doesn't sound like a guy that fired up about his organization. And why should he be? The Wolves have been a hamster running on a wheel of rebuilding the last four years and really haven't made much progress. So not only is he really cold all the time, but he doesn't have a bunch of wins to warm him up. Not a good combination.
Players want to win. That's the main objective. And if they don't see that in their future, they'll start looking at options. The Wolves are in a position where they need to get better for a lot of reasons, but maybe the most important one is to prove to Love that they're a franchise worth building with.
Posted on: April 5, 2011 12:48 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 12:50 pm
The New Jersey Nets have released a campaign video to help forward Kris Humphries win the NBA's Most Improved Player award. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Last week, I cast my vote for the NBA's Most Improved Player award for Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. I based my argument on Westbrook's statistical improvement, his team's improvement and how his progress hasn't come at the expense of his teammates.
That decision, unfortunately, was made before the New Jersey Nets decided to state their overwhelming case for forward Kris Humphries by combining a video highlight montage with a Digital Underground soundtrack and a comic book hero treatment. The result? "The Incredible Hump," a green-tinted, humpty humping good time that serves as a great reminder of how many Humphries highlights are completely lost to history because no one watches the Nets play.
Take a look at the video courtesy of YouTube user zeblowtorch.
The Nets not only makes the case that Humphries should be Most Improved Player, they also campaign for his placement on the All-Defensive team. Some of Humphries accomplishments: increasing his rebounding numbers from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011 by a greater margin than any other NBA player, upping his scoring from 7.1 to 10.0 points per game, nearly doubling his rebounds from 5.5 to 10.4 and being the league's fifth-best overall rebounder.
To sum it up, Humphries was the middle class man's Kevin Love who also had some spectacular block shots. I'm not sure that's enough to win you Most Improved Player -- seeing as Love himself is a strong candidate too and the Nets were downright awful -- but it definitely deserves a light-hearted tribute video. So kudos to the Nets.
Pretty proud of myself for making it through an entire post referring to Kris Humphries as "The Incredible Hump" without making a single reference to his celebrity girlfriend, Kim Kardashian. Too obvious. I'm above that.
h/t Yardbarker and SB Nation