(This is another in a series of 30 guest columns that will run in October, when optimism reigns supreme across the NBA. The theme will be “Five Reasons to Feel Positive About … ” We encourage you to follow the authors on Twitter and visit their sites. – CS)
To many NBA fans, the news of Kevin Love’s broken hand and subsequent absence of six to eight weeks came as a shock. To Minnesota Timberwolves fans, it’s just another year.
The last time there was any sense of optimism – much like there was coming into this season – was back in 2004. The Wolves had just come off a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals, but most fans were confident that the trio of Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell and Latrell Spreewell had at least a couple years of title contention left in them. They were wrong.
To this point, Minnesota hasn’t been back to the playoffs, and a long line of injuries (Cassell, Al Jefferson) and bad personnel decisions (Brandon Roy trade, Darko Milicic contract) haven’t helped, either. Among all the bad moves made in the past few years did come some good decisions, and for the first time in a while, there is hope in Minnesota.
Yes, Love is out with a hand injury and Ricky Rubio is still recovering from a torn ACL. But both are expected to return in December, There are multiple reasons to get excited if you’re a Wolves fan, and not that “I really think this is the year Corey Brewer has a break-out year” kind of excitement.
This year, it’s the kind of excitement that comes with expectations of playing basketball in May. Here’s five reasons to feel positive about the Wolves.
1. The new old guys: Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko
Rarely does a Minnesota sports fan have reason to get excited over a free agent. The large majority of the best players from the state’s pro sports history were acquired via the draft (Kevin Garnett, Kirby Puckett, Fran Tarkenton). But this year, GM David Kahn decided to change things up and attack free agency. Along with some less-publicized trades (Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham), Kahn decided to take chances on a couple of former All-Stars who didn’t play in the league last season.
After years of knee issues, several surgeries and time spent away from the game, Brandon Roy decided to call it quits for a while, retiring from the Portland Trail Blazers and missing the entire shortened 2011-12 season. Andrei Kirilenko decided to play a year in his home country of Russia after a rough last couple years for the Utah Jazz.
Now they are both in Minnesota, and thus far have gotten rave reviews from coach Rick Adelman as well as the rest of the staff. They solidify the shooting guard and small forward slots, problem areas for the Wolves a season ago.
The Wolves are lucky enough to have a weak start to their schedule, with their opponents having a combined .468 winning percentage from a season ago. One of the teams is the Brooklyn Nets, who are expected to improve significantly. But another is the Orlando Magic, who should be preparing for a rough season.