Ricky Rubio was due back from microfracture surgery at some point in December. Nikola Pekovic looked to reach new heights after a breakout
rookie season. Newly acquired players like Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved and Greg Stiemsma provided the team with excellent depth. Brandon Roy would make a triumphant comeback from degenerative knees after showing much promise during workouts in the offseason. Most importantly, Kevin Love – like his other Olympics peers – would have a monster year and carry Minnesota into the playoffs for the first time in his career.
All signs pointed to a positive change in direction for the franchise that hasn’t had a winning record since the 2004-2005 season. Then, disaster struck. Again and again.
Love broke his hand during a routine knuckle-pushup workout and missed the first three weeks of the season. As if that alone wasn’t bad enough, Roy’s knee started to bother him after only five games – forcing him to undergo his seventh knee surgery – and Budinger tore the meniscus in his left knee, sidelining the valuable bench player for at least three months. Pekovic showed regression in his
second third season, Derrick Williams continued to be ineffective in a starting role (or any role, for that matter), and the team found itself in mediocrity once again.
Perhaps it was the chain of negative events that clouded the judgment of Love, but he decided to lash out on the organization. Here are some things he said to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
“I don’t know who labels people stars, but even [T'wolves owner] Glen Taylor said: I don’t think Kevin Love is a star, because he hasn’t led us to the playoffs,” Love told Yahoo! Sports. “I mean, it’s not like I had much support out there. “That’s a tough pill to swallow.”
In a regimen he’s done most of his life, Love fractured a bone thrusting himself to his feet upon completion of a round of knuckle pushups. He missed a month on the floor, but his ears missed nothing from those in management whispering that maybe the injury didn’t happen the way Love insisted it did. “Even people in my own organization were asking if it was a legitimate injury, people calling my honesty and integrity into question,” Love says. “And that’s what really hurt me.”
“You walk into the locker room every year, and it’s completely turned over,” Love says. “There’s new guys everywhere. And then it happens again and again. You start to wonder: Is there really a plan here? Is there really any kind of a … plan?”
Someday, Kahn wants Rubio to be his five-year, max-out star, but will Rubio want to stay in Minnesota should Love walk out the door? “It was a projection over a sure thing,” Love says. “There’s no question there was an agenda here. A different agenda.”
Although Love wouldn’t back away from anything he said, he did clarify some things the following day, from Jon Krawczynski of The AP:
”I’m not going to fall back and say I didn’t mean the things that I said,” Love said. ”I do believe this is the closest-knit team that we have, the coaching staff has been great and we have a chance to make something very special this year and for years to come.”
He also said he still sees the possibility of a bright, and long, future for him with the Wolves. ”I’d love to end my career as a Timberwolf,” he said.
”I never have a problem with anybody getting paid,” Love said. ”If there’s one other guy to pay on this team it’s Ricky Rubio. I’ve kind of been enamored with him since he got here. He’s a pass-first point guard, a guy I haven’t really played with before. ”I’m not going to pick favorites but he’s one of my favorite teammates and one of the best guys to be around. And I’ve mentioned since Day 1 that it’s refreshing to be around him because he loves the game so much.”
The timing of his impatient thoughts are a bit curious, given that his team has played respectably – its current record is 10-9 -despite being shorthanded, and that franchise point guard Rubio is due back any day now. Once Rubio returns and the Timberwolves start rolling, Love may have to track back on some of the things he said. His critical comments about “new guys in the locker room every year” is particularly questionable, given the quality of the players that were brought in during the offseason.
Onto other news around the league from Wednesday: