Simons Says - Nov. 14, 2013












It wasn’t five minutes into my flight to New York when I knew I was in real long day. The flight wasn’t the issue. It was sitting next to and having to endure two and a half hours of my buddy, “Hoop.”

Hoop is in heaven these days. The Wolves have won six of their first nine games, and fans are enjoying the ride. Long-suffering basketball fans couldn’t be more excited. This is a good Timberwolves team and fans, many like Hoop, are calling in Karma and fate and anything else they can figure to explain the turnaround.

“Hoop,” I said, “r e l a x. I love this team too but it’s eight games, dude. This is the getting to know you phase and there is a lot of season to come.” Hoop was having none of it. “Grumpy butt,” he called me. Me?! Grumpy?! Not a chance. Careful. Cautious?! Perhaps a bit superstitious but not intentionally. I have been with this team since early the 2000’s I reminded my well-dressed friend. I can’t remember a tougher season than last year with the expectations and injuries. That team had trouble keeping players on the court.

As Hoop’s running mouth slowed to a cabin-filling snore, I was running highlights through my mind. We should be enjoying wins especially “W’s” like the one against Cleveland. Missing Kevin Martin, Rick Adelman was at Symphonic directing best. In goes Robbie Hummel, tweaking with other players like Corey Brewer and a sweet song results. In the first half, the Wolves superior fast break and good shot looks allowed the team to shoot over 60 percent, they owned the paint scoring three times as many points as the Cavs close to the basket. A season high 70-first half points (100 by the end of the third quarter). Speaking of Brewer, CB with 17 by halftime. As much as I loved 70-47 at half, I liked 124-95 better as the Wolves avoided a letdown and kept Cleveland down.

My mind continued to wander as our plane rumbled east through the clouds. I then went back over some old SimonsSays e-mails to remind me just how good it should feel now. A year before Ricky Rubio arrived in Minnesota, while playing in Europe and being non-committal about a pairing with the Wolves, this note from a reader. Benjamin in Maple Grove shot at me, “We should just trade Rubio to the Knicks or Lakers or whoever will give us something. The Wolves will never be able to afford Rubio, he’d want out or he’d complain about it being cold. Just do something”. Well, in fairness to Benjamin, he wasn’t the only fan who felt that way. David Kahn picks Rubio and Jonny Flynn didn’t immediately turn the basketball world upside down but funny how things work when a little patience is practiced. Tough to do, no doubt, but in Rubio’s case, he’s untouchable in my mind. Rubio’s laser guided passes his innate court sense, his passion and determination as a gift to this team. So, all you fans who might have lacked the patience to wait, you get a pass with me. It’s all good. Isn’t it?!

The snores of Hoop still a hidden by my ear buds, my mind continued to wander and remember and recall the past. Remember Kurt Rambis? Remember that doghouse in which he threw Kevin Love?! This from a fan who had it out for Kahn and Rambis. Stanley in Minneapolis wrote back then, “Hey Rod, you go to the games and practices. Would you are someone PLEASE tell me what the hell is going on. I get that Love makes mistakes and might not play the triangle the way Phil Jackson’s dictated to all his disciples but for Pete’s sake, the kid is a scorer. He’s got NBA blood in him and we need his points. If this kid leaves because of being, what I believe is mishandled; I’ll NEVER give the Timberwolves or the NBA another moment of my time. This is stupid”. I agreed with Stanley then and looking back, I’m glad the Wolves finally got it right.

Love is now, well, one of those special players we’ll never forget. Sure, NBA All Star, rebounding and shooter, Olympic Gold Medalist, NBA first rounder out of UCLA. Love makes every player on this team better. Against the Cavs, Loved dropped 33. In 9-games, he’s scored 30 or more. But Love triggers the break; Love draws defenders to gently open up another teammate for that second that allows something good to happen. Love demands special attention from the other team and Love makes things happen. Love’s 32-minutes, his 10-for-16 from the field, his 12-of-14 from the foul line and 6 assists (of a team season high 34) were key. Love had 8 of the Wolves 49-rebounds and hit some Cav-back breaking shots. Love is everything to this basketball team. Just seeing the pride of Lake Oswego, Oregon smile on the court does it for me. To go thru all the stuff these guys have over the past few years and to see ‘em start winning and enjoying their work is good enough for me. I love it.

Then there’s always that one fan who can’t be convinced (yet). Ronnie from White Bear Lake wrote me, “Mr. Simons, you are truly a fan of the Wolves and you have a rube-like take on the team. I’ll give it to you that Golden State is a group growing into team but the Wolves have a LONG way to go. They’ll be lucky to have a winning record after the first week of December”. Thanks for the note Ronnie. I don’t consider myself a “rube” simply because I can call it when I see it, good or bad. I just choose not to hit a team when they are down. You can still be critical while being objective; you just don’t need to be an ass about it.

Now, the Wolves will play 18-games in November and that first week of December will be telling. After tangling on the road against the best of the East in Indiana, the Wolves will open the last month of the year at OKC then home against San Antonio then Miami. I can tell you under Rick Adelman and his longtime assistants; this team looks past no opponent, won’t look too far ahead and fears no one now. Crushing that 22-game losing streak in LA was a mental high point in this early season, beating the Knicks at the Garden and running then hiding from a handful of teams is paying dividends. Ronnie, relax babe. Try to enjoy the highs and the lows that will pop up along the way. That’s what makes the seasoning ending payoff so special. You know the playoffs?!

Wheels down and a sunshine filled New York sky stirred Hoop just before we landed. So did the conversation of two Wolves fans sitting next to us on the plane. The stranger’s gushing about Rubio and Love, Barea and Brewer got Hoop in a Huss. “They talking about the Wolves” he muttered to me. “yep, they sure are. Kinda’ cool eh…instead of Vikings bashing or something else” I said to Hoop. Before I could finish, Hoop had invited himself into their on-plane-chat.

These are good days. Compared with the season past, what a difference a year makes. I’ll take it! Even if I won’t get in that last sentence with my buddy. So, from 33 thousand feet, hang on. More good stuff to come!

SIMONSSAYS SHORT TAKES

Well done Wolves

Loved reading how the Wolves have apparently and very quietly ended so-called rookie hazing.

Wolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad told the LA Times that the Jonas Brothers backpack forced on him by his veteran teammates was no longer needed. Shabazz told the Times that team president Chris Wright and general manager Milt Newton said he “could no longer wear it.”

With the situation continuing in Miami’s NFL Dolphins, the reevaluation of priorities is welcomed. Focus on work and not the non-sense stuff will empower everyone.

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