Love is Gone: How the Timberwolves Stay Afloat Without Kevin Love

(Side note, I thought about starting to call Kevin Love “The Klove,” which by the way makes no sense after I found out that it’s an adult contemporary Christian music radio programming service. Yes, that’s right, I actually took the time out of my day to Google “klove.” Laugh it up readers, laugh it up.)

The Timberwolves run on Love. Not to say that they are a gushy team or anything, but you catch my drift. Minnesota stands on four legs. One leg, and the one holding up most of the weight, is Love. Another is Nikola Pekovic, a third is Andrei Kirilenko and a fourth, albeit in a limited role this year due to injury, is Ricky Rubio.

With Kevin Love, Minnesota is a low-seed playoff contender. Without him they are definitely on the wrong side of the number eight seed.

Just to reiterate, Minnesota was 26-40 last year. The worst record in the conference belonged to the Hornets at 21-45. Kevin Love had a win share of 10 last year. Jumble that all together and throw in some math signs + = / to make it look super educated and you get 16. 16 wins the T-Wolves would have had without their sole Olympian and biggest player since Kevin Garnett (sorry Mark Madsen.)

Granted that was last year, and this year is a whole different animal in terms of the season, but the T-Wolves are still in trouble. Kirilenko has carried the team so far, but I have serious reservations about whether he can carry a team for the 8-10 weeks that Love will be out. Let me rephrase that, he can carry a team, but can Minnesota stay competitive if he’s the “Atlas” of the team? Probably not.

The team needs something new. Whether that be a trade acquisition, like say shipping Kirilenko, Derrick Williams and Luke Ridnour to Memphis for Rudy Gay. Or getting injured players healthy, and in the lineup again like Rubio and Chase Budinger.

At the end of the day, the Timberwolves aren’t going to be as good as they were with Love. It’s just not going to work. The team is built around “Klove” (that might be the last time you see that on the internet ever.)

What do you think? Will Minnesota be able to stay in contention with Kevin Love, or will they fall out of it without him and never recover? Tell me in the comments section.

The Best in World of Sports: An Atlas of Atlases

In Greek mythology there is a Titan named Atlas who held up the world, or held up the sky so that it didn’t crash down on the Earth.

In the world of sports, each team has its own “Atlas” who keeps the team from falling flat.

Some of the best “Atlases” in recent sports memory:

  1. LeBron James- Cleveland Cavaliers. During LeBron’s tenure the Cavaliers were essentially James and a never-ending roll call of role players. Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace were the only really good players who James played with in Cleveland. And at that point both were in the respective twilights of their careers, and Wallace wasn’t scoring much (as per usual). Cleveland was so bad without “King James” that they set an NBA record for the longest losing streak: 26 games after he made the decision to go to South Beach.
  2. Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls. A small sample size, but while Rose dominated Game One of the first round of the playoffs versus Philly, he tore his ACL towards the end of the game. After holding on for the win in that game the Bulls went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eight-seeded 76ers. As a follow up, this year with Rose out for an extended amount of time, most pundits and talking heads have Chicago in the 6-8 seed range in the playoffs. Quite a drop-off for the team who had the best record in the East last season.
  3. Luis Suarez- Liverpool. If you take away Suarez’s fantastic production, the Reds would likely be in the relegation zone if not in last.
  4. Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic. Orlando is so bad without Howard it compelled me to write an entire piece on it, you can see that here. Orlando is going nowhere fast.
  5. Steve Nash- Phoenix Suns. Obviously earlier on in Nash’s career he had Amare Stoudamire and friends, so the team wouldn’t be that bad off without him. However, the Suns of the past couple years have needed Nash to help them stay out of the cellar. With him they were camped on the stairs going to the cellar; now they’re the cellar’s likely tenants.
  6. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout supporters love overusing the stat about the visible improvement of the Angels’ record with him, as opposed to their record without him. Take away Trout and a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells goes nowhere offensively. Continue reading

Poof! There Goes A Contender!

How one off-season trade has sent the Orlando Magic crashing and tumbling towards the basement and eventual lottery.

First, I should start off by mentioning that the Magic are 2-1 as I write this. I know they have a winning record, but they’ve played three games. They’re serving as kitchen-store lighting at the moment, also known as a flash in the pan. If the season goes really well for the Magic, then the joke’s on me, but on paper and for the future the Magic look anything like their name.

Dwight Howard got traded. I think everyone down to the foul pole at Safeco Field knew it was coming. The question then became, “ok, well what can they get for him?” Continue reading

While You Were Out NBA Headlines- Joel Pryzbilla Signs with Milwaukee, David Stern is Still a Resident Jerk and Dwight Howard was Traded to the Lakers… Wait WHAT?!?!?!?

Let me convey my surprise again: WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!… ?!?

Here’s the skinny, Dwight Howard has changed his address, thanks to the Lakers, Magic as well as Denver and Philly. The league’s best center is going to Tinsletown.

I still can’t get over the fact that LA got Dwight Howard, defensive monster extraordinaire, for the price of Andrew Bynum, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga. Continue reading

NBA Trade Deadline Grades that Pay

(Corny title, I know.)

The deadline is upon us as I write this. It probably isn’t the magnitude that the baseball trade deadline is, but it’s close, at least on a higher level than the NFL.

Deals will happen. They always happen at the deadline and will continue to do so in the NBA’s existence.

Let’s start with the Lakers, who have glaring needs at forward and the point. Here’s what they have done so far-

  • The Lakers Acquired Ramon Sessions to stabilize the point guard spot while also picking up young forward Christian Eyenga. The cost to acquire those two was and is wings Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and a top 14 protected 2012 first-round pick.

Sessions was expendable from the sense that the Cavs already have Kyrie Irving on payroll and the fact that Irving is the future.

The Lakers give up what is probably a pick somewhere in the 20s if they make a playoff run.

That might be the only huge loss here for LA. They get out of the rest of Walton’s contract as well as Kapono’s. They also get a youth infusion in the front court with Eyenga.

This leaves the Lakers with Sessions, Steve Blake and Derek Fisher on payroll. Which leads us to this…

  • The Houston Rockets Acquire PG Derek Fisher from the LA Lakers for Jordan Hill and the Mavericks first-round pick.

The Lakers have now moved both of the first-round picks that they owned in this year’s draft. But on the flipside, the Lakers have unloaded both Fisher and Walton, who are under contract next year, replacing them with players who might not be under contract next season.

Hill gives the Lakers more youth in the frontcourt as well as depth, which is another thing that they probably could have used to help their championship aspirations.

The Rockets pick up another first-round pick to add to their hull while also picking up a stop gap point guard to fill in for Kyle Lowry while he recovers from injury. The Rockets could also buy out Fisher following the return of Lowry, or keep him for a stretch run.

Hill was movable in a sense because of another trade…

  • The Houston Rockets acquired Marcus Camby from the Portland Trailblazers for former lottery picks Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second-round pick that originated with the T-Wolves.

The Rockets picked up a presence in the frontcourt after going down swinging in the original Chris Paul trade. Thabeet and Flynn were almost dead weight in Houston and should benefit from a change of scenery. The Blazers might be in a bit of a rebuilding or retooling stretch, whichever lights your fire after moving this key cog to an Eastern Conference team…

  • The New Jersey Nets Acquire F Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trailblazers for frontcourt depth in Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur and a top three projected 2012 first-round pick.

The Nets are attempting to keep Deron Williams for next season just as Dwight Howard has now chosen to stay in Orlando for next season. A starting five and core of Wallace, Williams, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks isn’t too bad.

This is curious for Portland, who after dealing Camby and Crash, they have also reportedly fired Mr. Sonic himself, Nate McMillian. This is truly sad news, as the Blazers are supposedly starting to rebuild or retool. Again, whichever lights your fire. Williams has a player option for next year, which will likely be exercised as well as Okur’s expiring deal, which totals almost 11 million dollars. This should set up Portland to go after a big free agent while also getting a potentially high pick in a very good draft.

Moving on with no transition, we see a very surprising trade from George’ Karl’s Denver Nuggets-

  • We move on to more former Sonic news as George Karl’s Nuggets have moved their big free agent resigning- Nene Hilario- to the Washington Wizards for JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf. This trade also involves the Los Angeles Clippers as Nick Young will head to LA to help the Clippers’ two guard needs. The Wizards will get forward Brian Cook and a future second-round pick in return.

This moved shocked me to be honest with you. The Nuggets dealt their starting center in Nene for another one in McGee as well as another good bench player in Ronny Turiaf. The Nuggets will certainly be fine because of their exceptional depth, but the Wizards clearly won from a talent perspective now. Nene might just be a better fit with John Wall than McGee was, and he gives a young Washington squad a veteran presence.

The Nuggets might have benefited long term more so than the Wizards because they got to unload Nene’s contract. This frees up money not only for the future, but also money for restricted free agent Wilson Chandler. Chandler, who is fresh off a stint in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), would give the Nuggets a boost on the wing.

The Clippers are the under the radar team here as they pick up a shooting guard to replace the long-injured Chauncey Billups. This really helps the Clips in terms of a missing piece and needed scoring punch.

New we really don’t have any transition as the Indiana Pacers get some backcourt depth with Leandro Barbosa.

  • The Pacers picked up Barbosa for a second-round pick and cash considerations from the Toronto Raptors.

The Pacers didn’t need to put any outgoing players in the deal because of their vast salary cap room. Not exactly vast mind you, but under these circumstances, that’s a lot. Good deal for Indy.

  • Golden State acquires Richard Jefferson and a first-round pick from the San Antonio Spurs.

The Warriors did a brilliant job of turning Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown into Andrew Bogut, Jefferson and a first-round pick. That’s a nice little roster turnaround for Golden State. Jefferson might be bought out, nobody knows. Nice swap for the Spurs as well as Jackson gives the Spurs a little bit more of a scoring touch compared to Jefferson.

  • In the last move, or first chronologically — whichever way you want to look at it, the Philadelphia 76ers picked up athletic wing Sam Young from Memphis for the rights to former second-round pick Ricky Sanchez.

So there are your trades everybody. Some other notes of prominence-

  • The Raptors have released point guard Anthony Carter, who was originally believed to be part of the Barbosa trade.
  • The Magic didn’t trade Dwight Howard, as he will presumably come back next season.
  • The Celtics kept the Big 3 intact for at least this season.
  • Steve Nash stayed put in Phoenix.
  • Michael Beasley is staying in the Twin Cities.
  • And Deron Williams is still a Net.

NBA Season Predictions Western Conference

Northwest-

In the somewhat accurately named Northwest division, you have everyone’s chic pick, Oklahoma City (not mine). A rugged team that has gone through a ton of adversity, Portland. The deep team that seems built for a lockout shortened season, the Nuggets. A squad that has a lot of youth, but also a lot of veteran presence, the Utah Jazz, and a team who is looking to take their lumps in a rebuilding year, Minnesota.

Predicted Finish-

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder 40-26
  2. Portland Trailblazers 38-38
  3. Denver Nuggets 35-31
  4. Utah Jazz 34-32
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves 23-43

The Thinking:

Oklahoma City is going to be good, how good, I’m not sure. Kevin Durant will get his 20-30 something points per game, outside of that the starting five could have some problems. The Thunder has made the decision of going with defensive stopper Thabo Sefalosha over the more offensively gifted James Harden. This works when guarding the elite perimeter players, but offensively Thabo isn’t going to give you a lot. Throw in two defensive-minded bigs in Serge Ibalka and Kendrick Perkins, as well as Russell Westbrook’s streakiness and there’s some potential to have a terrible game on the offensive end if KD has a bad outing.

Rip City has been the subject of adversity as of late. Brandon Roy was forced to retire due to his knees. Greg Oden’s status is still up in the air. But Portland has rebounded in one of the better ways possible. They replaced Roy with fellow Seattle area native Jamal Crawford, and added frontcourt depth with Craig Smith and Kurt Thomas. The Blazers also swapped Andre Miller for Raymond Felton, which looks genius from a lot of different standpoints. Throw in those additions with guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Mathews and Gerald Wallace. I’m telling you, Portland is going to be good.

Carmelo Anthony is gone. And quite frankly, Denver seems to have moved on just fine. The Nuggets have taken the identity of a team who can play a lot of guys and still score deep on the bench. Denver is very deep in most positions and can beat you in a number of ways. The Nuggets could be a problem come playoff time because of their depth.

Utah is a curious team. Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Devin Harris, Raja Bell and Josh Howard form a nice veteran core for the Jazz. On the flipside they have a talented young nucleus in Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. If the now Jerry-Sloan-less Jazz can find a good mix of intriguing vets and youth, it’s there in Salt Lake City. If they can’t find a good mix, it might be a long year and other teams will come calling for guys like Millsap, Bell and Howard.

Minnesota will be fun to watch. Not on par with Lob City, but a core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, Michael Beasley  and Derrick Williams will excite. The future is there in the Twin Cities, but the present might be filled with growing pains and turnovers.

Pacific-

The California/Phoenix division is going to be fun. In LA especially, Chris Paul will lead the league in Alley-Oop passes, Kobe Bryant will lead the league in… something — you pick. Lamar Odom is out of tinsel-town for the first time in a while. His replacement is the one and only Josh McRoberts. Yes that’s right, the reigning sixth man of the year was, and is replaced by McBobs. Golden State meanwhile is ushering in the Marc Jackson era with a new found attempt at being a defensive team. I’m not messing with you. A team with a starting lineup that includes Monta Ellis, David Lee and Stephen Curry is focusing on defense. We go from one run-and-gun (though they don’t want to show it) to another in the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have Steve Nash, and if they ever lose Nash for an extended amount of time, it could be a problem. We’re talking major problems. I guess Sacramento is the same kind of team, same mold, as the last two teams listed. They are going to run, they are going to gun and a good deal of the time, they will brick. This is a team with some good players with young talents like Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins (it would probably serve them to draft strictly John Calipari guys going forward).  Throw in the Jimmer and there’s some potential for some big highlights, but also some big time bricks. The Clips might be Lob City, while the Kings might be Brick City.

Predicted Finish-

  1. Los Angeles Lakers 36-30
  2. Los Angeles Clippers 34-32
  3. Golden State Warriors 31-35
  4. Phoenix Suns 30-36
  5. Sacramento Kings 19-47

The Thinking:

The Lakers could very well finish fumbling down the stretch if Kobe gets banged up. It’s already a three man squad to begin with, with Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. There isn’t much else to be pumped up about on the bench or in the rest of the starting lineup. You’ve got nice pieces in McBobs and Steve Blake. Outside of that it’s newly dubbed Metta World Peace, Derek Fisher, Gerald Green and Luke Walton. Yikes.

The laughing stock isn’t necessarily the joke it used to be. If you have lived under a rock for the last couple months you’ve missed that A, we have basketball again, but B, the Clippers are relevant again. When I say relevant, I’m not saying a title is a distinct possibility this season, but a ring certainly isn’t out of the question in the next couple of years if a couple things go as planned. One, CP3 resigns. This is the key. Pair him with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan going forward, and there’s going to be some dunks and points scored. Two is that Blake Griffin resigns long term as well. They’ve locked up Jordan. Now they just need the other two to resign and they are golden. Oh yeah, did I mention that they brought in some guy named Chauncey Billups as well? The Playoffs this year are certainly not out of reach for the Clippers.

Tell me if you notice a theme here. Monta Ellis, strength: offense. Stephen Curry, strength: offense. David Lee, strength: offense. Klay Thompson, strength: offense. Ditto Brandon Rush and Dorrell Wright. Did I mention that new coach Marc Jackson wants to be a defensive team? Confusing, I know. There will be some growing pains in the bay area this year. Don’t be completely shell-shocked if they sneak in as an 8 seed with all the unrest out West.

Welcome to Brick City! Yes, that’s what signs should read all over the capitol of California. Jimmer will make some shots that make people go Google BYU and see how they are flopping in WCC this year. Other than clicks for ESPN’s BYU page, Sacramento won’t accomplish much. And I’m serious about the whole only drafting Calipari players.

Southwest-

The real up and comers out west, the Grizzlies,(that’s right Thunder) are looking to rebound on a solid season last year in which they surprised a lot of people. Not to mention without Rudy Gay, lots to like in Memphis. Then there are the defending champs, the Dallas Mavericks. Excuse Shawn Marion’s blonde hair, I’m not disrespecting Dallas. I still think they are a likely 1-3 seed come playoff time, and I really like the Delonte West signing. A repeat is not completely obnoxious to think about. Following them down the line are the Spurs, who because of the lockout will likely give up some games to rest their Big 3 for the playoffs. Big if here, but if Houston’s clustered roster of former lottery picks plays up to the hype that made them lottery picks, then Houston could be a thorn in some higher seeded team’s side come playoff time. Then there are the Hornets who are just begging to be moved to Seattle (again had to throw a Stern jab in there), and are subsequently owned by the league. But the rebuilding process is under way in NOLA and it’s not too bad of an outlook for the Hornets.

Predicted Finish-

  1.  Dallas Mavericks 43-23
  2. Memphis Grizzlies 40-26
  3. San Antonio Spurs 37-29
  4. Houston Rockets 33-33
  5. New Orleans Hornets 22-44

The Thinking:

The Mavs will be relevant again after their title run last year. They could very well go to the Finals once again because of all the uncertainty in their very own conference. Dallas added some nice pieces (Lamar Odom, West) and lost some pieces that were extremely important to them (Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea). The regular season will likely end in a playoff berth, that much is probably true, because the Mavs are too good not to make it. The key for Dallas will be Brendan Haywood. If he plays more like Tyson Chandler than himself (another big if) then Dallas could repeat, if not, the ring ceremony on opening night might be their highlight of the year.

Memphis is the up and comer. None of the OKC business, the Grizzlies are for real. They have no glaring needs anywhere and are a complete team that can hurt you in a number of ways. Not just one, (cough: Kevin Durant) while the phrase “a lot to like” has been used probably a little more than anyone would like in this column/piece, there is a lot to like for the Grizz.

The Spurs are going to succumb to the shortened season by sitting their Big 3 on some nights for rest. Or entire road trips for that matter. The Spurs will make the playoffs, and if proper rest is used accordingly, this team could be dangerous come playoff time. (Again another overused phrase, but just roll with it.)

Kevin McHale has somewhat of a curious team in Houston. The Rockets are rich with former lottery picks, so the “rebuilding” tag is a hard sell at this point. Houston’s basketball team might be stuck in NBA no-man’s land:  middle of the pack. Like I previously said, if they play up to the potential that made them lottery picks. Watch out. (Yet another overused statement that likely is being burned out of my mental dictionary/word-bank as we speak due to over usage.)

The Seattle Sonics… Oops sorry the New Orleans Hornets, have a difficult season ahead of themselves this year. One, they just lost their starting point-guard and face-of-the-franchise: Chris Paul. And two, they have the second worst owner in the league: (only to every northwesterner’s favorite sports figure, notice the heavy sarcasm, Clay Bennett) David Stern. Plus they don’t really have ownership at all seeing as the league still owns the team (a point I can’t state enough). It might be tough in NOLA. (Yes, I just used NOLA more times than New Orleans.)

If all that becomes somewhat of a reality the playoffs would then look like this in the west:

1 Dallas Mavericks vs 8 Utah Jazz

2 Memphis Grizzlies vs 7 Los Angeles Clippers

3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 6 San Antonio Spurs

4 Portland Trailblazers vs  5 Los Angeles Lakers

I don’t see a whole lot changing here. With the exception of a Steve Nash miracle (not out of the question) the playoff picture probably looks something like this:

1 Dallas Mavericks vs 8 Phoenix Suns

2 Memphis Grizzlies vs 7 Los Angeles Clippers

3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 6 San Antonio Spurs

4 Portland Trailblazers vs  5 Los Angeles Lakers