Simons Says...






Thursday, January 26, 2012

I love social media. Since I’ve always been a basketball fan, I enjoy following my team and having access to all the inside information and data that a great site like Timberwolves.com offers. I’m fortunate enough to get to cover the team and get a first hand, up close look. My hoopaholic buddies cling to the site and pour over it so they might mix numbers with, what is sometimes, sorry rationale.

They are one of the reasons that over the past month, it’s simply been amazing to watch, read and follow along as Facebook/Twitter has been blowing up. Many of those twitter and FB friends are sports fans and some of them (in fact, many of them and I remind them of their place in history) have been very outspoken about a basketball team that they left for dead just six months ago.

If you happen to be one of those still on the fence or living in denial about the resurgence of the Timberwolves, it’s time to reconsider your stance. It’s a little akin to owning an old typewriter in the days of the iPad. It’s been a remarkable start to the season and the past few days have done nothing to dampen the optimism that surrounds Team Adelman.

There’s no question that this is the best Wolves team we’ve watched in years. Great? Not close. Getting better with big steps, Yes. Quickly.

Certainly, games like Houston will eat at you and stick in the back of your mind. After that game, Wolves players knew it was one that got away. MUCH different from a year ago when a loss like that would have been expected.

What’s different?

For one, even after a short start to the lockout shortened season, these Wolves expect to win when they play. That’s right; the players have expectations where as in recent seasons past, even though they might have said one thing, escaping that losing mentality was nearly impossible. So when they took the Staples Center court days ago and even though they fought from behind, this team expected to beat the highly hyped Clippers. When the NBA Champion Mavs rolled into Target Center and the Wolves made their recent trip to Dallas, they knew they could not only match up but beat the champs. Roughin’ up the Kings on the night they get their rings. That’s good stuff!!

It’s true, the front office can only help to get fans back and the basketball people can only help develop a roster. Coaches are expected to teach and groom their players. It’s refreshing to see a roster of young, talented players who enjoy playing together and accept the challenge of turning around this team’s fate. Early on, that’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen with the Wolves. No longer does this team walk out on the court and before the tip-off, concede, in the back of their mind, that their five can’t beat the opposing five.

Secondly, this year there are just better players on the team. Those players get it and understand their roles. Players tell me that they appreciate the way this coaching staff works with them, respects them and puts them in positions to succeed.

On a recent edition of GameON! sharp shooter Wayne Ellington told me that the new coaching staff is one of his biggest reasons for the change of fortunes here. Ellington is a case in point, too. Look at the improvement he is enjoying on the court. He’s shooting better, running the floor and offense with improved and noticeable confidence. Ellington’s characterization of Coach Adelman and his assistants was sharp insisting it was their “blueprint” of success and an attention to detail that puts the players in a position to win. Better practices. Improved instruction. Coaches with success. Been there, done that. Remember too that No. 22 was a national champion at North Carolina under Roy Williams so he, like most of his Wolves teammates, arrived here winners from their respective schools. Players are responding.

Love is good!

No doubt when the talks went down to the last day, many fans got nervous and frustrated but at the end of the day, the deal that had to get done did.

The Wolves locked up one of the franchise’s foundation blocks by signing forward Kevin Love to a four-year contract extension.

President of Basketball Operations David Kahn was clear, too. Love is important to the organization, saying "Kevin is now one of the top players in the NBA. In Kevin, we have a core player that we can build around as we continue to improve our team."

For Love, sure money played a role but commitment was too. “I like the direction our team is going, and I feel that big things are ahead of us. I look forward to being a part of this team as we continue to develop and grow.”

In the early afternoon, on my wife’s birthday, my Facebook blew up with fan excitement:

Scott from MPLS: Another very fun game the other night but great news on an off day because the Wolves win by signing KLove !! Our crowd continues to grow & be so much fun, while helping our Wolves win!

Chris from MPLS: So stoked KLove will b a member of the TWolves for at least a few more yrs!!! Bt PF in the NBA!!! Griffin may b flashier but ill take KLove any day over Griffin. TWolves future is bright!!! Haven't said that since the KG / Marbury days. :-

Paul from Brooklyn Center: I can’t remember the last time I saw an NBA game, especially the Wolves, that had me as excited as the game vs. LAC. I’m back. This is happening. AMAZING gwshot from Love!!

Love is the most marketable player this team has ever had. And yes, his stats are numbing in the short time he’s played in the NBA. Taken with the 5th overall pick in 2008 out of UCLA, picked to the All Star game, named the NBA's Most Improved Player last season after averaging 20.2 points and a league-leading 15.2 rebounds per game. The first NBA player since Moses Malone 20 years ago to average 20+ points and 15+ rebounds. And so far this season, Love’s even better averaging 25 points and nearly 14 rebounds a night. For his career, the 23-year-old is averaging 15.8 ppg and 11.9 rpg.

For as good as he is on the court, no Wolves player has given on and off the court like Love. Those hard working Wolves staffers delight when teamed with the gracious and sincere Love as he gives back to the community time and time again. This is a kid who (please allow me to say it again) get’s it. He is grateful for his place in the game and his ability to help others. People like being around him. He’s not cocky or pretentious, he’s a good guy. I talk to parents all the time at games and after meeting Love and his teammates, they say things we parents say (and it’s important). Just like Love, I know I want my little six year old to grow up achieving great things and, in turn, using that success to help others. Love walks the walk. Write it down. Because Kevin Love is the entire package, he will go down as this franchise’s greatest player ever.

Covering Up for Good Cause:

Love’s coat drive to help those in need this winter is back.

The Kevin Love Coat Drive has started and Love is inviting all fans to bring new coats to any of eight metro-area drop-off locations, including the Target Center Box Office and Comcast service centers before February 17, with all donations supporting The Salvation Army.

"We've had a mild start to the winter, but it's starting to get pretty cold in Minnesota and many people are in need of new winter coats," Love said. "I want to help out again this year, and with the support of The Salvation Army, Comcast and Wolves fans, we can make a difference this winter for those in need."

As a thank you to those who donate, Love has purchased lower-level tickets to the Timberwolves' Feb. 22 game vs. the Utah Jazz. Fans will receive a pair of tickets to this game for each new coat they donate (limit four tickets per family while supplies last).

Locations and specific information you might need can be found at Timberwolves.com

Throwback Time:

If you catch any of these six Wolves home games this season, you going to catch a bit of throwback history. The Wolves will wear the 1967-68 Minnesota Muskies uni’s for home games against Indiana, Dallas, the Knicks, Clips and Lake show as well as the Celtics on March 30.

Lynx Update:

The WNBA Champion’s know who they’ll play now as the Lynx will tip off their 14th season on Sunday, May 20 against Phoenix at Target Center. It’s one of four nationally televised games this year. In all, 34 regular-season contests (17 home/17 away) from May 20 through September 23. The WNBA will break from July 14 to August 15 to allow WNBA players compete for their respective countries in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.



SEE YOU ON TV:
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GameON! powered by SEVEN also allows you the opportunity to get up close and personal, to meet your favorite players and fellow fans @ our weekly tapings next door to Target Center @ SEVEN (7th and Hennepin). GameON! is about in-depth interviews with the top players, great food (heck, we’re coming to you from the best Steakhouse for Pete’s sake), sports newsmakers and we get you inside your favorite teams (including the Wolves).

It’s GameON! powered by SEVEN Steakhouse/Sushi/Ultralounge/Skybar. You can friend us on Facebook and drop me a note, Rod@GameOnTvMN.com.