This is the week I’ve been waiting for all season. I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to schedules, planning and essentially looking forward to games. So, when the NBA schedule was released months ago, there were key games I had circled. This happened to be the week that was, well, just behind Christmas and little Annie’s birthday.
If you recall, that initial schedule would have to change because the lockout. When the post-lockout 66-game schedule was developed, it gave us a week of amazing basketball right about now. The suddenly vogue Clippers, the always pesky Portland Trail Blazers, the Lake show and the Hornets. All in a week. Without a doubt, the scheduling God’s have given us something special. It’s lived up to the billing.
These Wolves, this team, its arriving faster than anyone could have imagined. Even me, Mr. Glass Half Full (fill it to the rim), couldn’t have believed they’d jell so fast and so many elements would be coming together so quickly. I actually did but most dismissed me with a flick of the hand and a roll of the eyes. I see them all now.
The proof is all around us. Certainly on the court, in the stands where fans are flocking back and outside where the national media and basketball watchers are looking in with a curious eye.
On Monday, I had the great pleasure of sitting by a reporter from The New Yorker and scribes from other out of state publications. Their questions about Team Adelman were like so many that are thrust upon me in chats with folks and those piling into my in box this week. In this edition of SimonsSays, we’ll get to the mailbag for the first time in a while to go 1 on 1 with you. It’s good stuff. Quite frankly, it’s nice to see the bandwagon filling up and many of the naysayers finally giving in. It’s OK.
Now the mail. Jayne in Bloomington met me at the game and asked, “If you had to point to the main reasons the Wolves are doing so much better, what would they be?" Jayne, thanks…I get this one a lot and turn to the Wolves players who join us on GameON! For their insight and inside information. Here goes. 1.) It’s gotta’ be the emergence of Kevin Love. He’s scoring 25 points a night, grabbing 14 rebounds, just won the NBA all-star 3-point competition, 2 time All Star, he’s taking game winning shots and basically telling his team to jump on his strong shoulders and hop on board. Love is, without a doubt, an emerging star just as Kevin Garnett was here and an incredibly valuable player. 2.) Head coach Rick Adelman. Coach brings a unique dynamic to this team. Portland coach Nate McMillan told me it was Adelman’s “leadership” that is the straw stirring this drink. It’s clear, Adelman is a coach who played and did well in the league (back in the day) so he knows how players think. After years of coaches who broke down Wolves players, Adelman has arrived with a proven winning resume and the right approach. Adelman builds them up, teaches his players and finds ways to bring out their best qualities. Wayne Ellington told me that Adelman is the “big time….he gets it." When Adelman finally got his team together on the court, he made it clear what happened in the past needs to stay there. They, individually, could fix the things they did wrong and improve as a team. Adelman wanted them to believe in themselves. Adelman wanted to make sure he put his team in a position to win and finally, when the fourth quarter rolled around, Adelman wanted the Wolves to finish instead of giving away games. 3.) And although he’s struggling a bit right now, Ricky Rubio has been vital. Here’s a point guard who’s been all that’s advertised. Rubio’s mentality is pass first, second, third and fourth then shoot. The Wolves backcourt now understands its important role in the scheme of things. Rubio is the reason.
Daniel in Oakdale asked, “Do you seriously think the Wolves can make the playoffs?" Yes. Absolutely. And why not? There is a serious test ahead next week when the Wolves play 7 games in 12-days on the road. It will be back to LA against the Lakers, to Phoenix, Utah, Sacramento, San Antonio and ending the trip against the crème of the Western Conference, OKC (still should be in Seattle). Right now, the Wolves are right there, playing well, neck and neck for the final playoff spot. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves but let’s also not count ‘em out. K, Daniel?
Joseph in New Hope asked me, “Do the Wolves need to make a trade to make the playoffs?" Joe, thanks for the note and visiting us at GameON! tapings over at SEVEN Steakhouse. No, I don’t think so. Honestly, I’m hoping the team stays still and does no deal unless a Wolves friendly trade emerges for a shooting guard. NBA Basketball deals are rarely one sided so, that understood, I don’t want to deal a Beasley or Johnson, a D-Will or anyone. Let this team evolve. It’s a nice work in progress. Obviously, Mr. Kahn makes that call but he’s been rolling big time aces so I would imagine he won’t tinker with the good vibe this team has.
Barry in Plymouth, “Wes Johnson has to go. He’s not fitting into this system.” Thanks for the note, but again, I disagree. Wesley is adjusting and look what he did against Portland just Wednesday night. When most are giving up on him, Adelman still believes (and he’s the one with the keys to the car) and Johnson responds with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Sure he’s averaging about 6 points a night and less than 4-rebounds but not everyone is going to respond like K-Love. Sometimes you just gotta’ have patience. A pinch of patience, OK? And nice work Wesley Johnson. Great outing.
Even the highly respected beat writer, Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press, wrote to his Facebook friends, “Folks! You might not believe this but the Timberwolves could be playoff-bound for the first time in eight years! The T-Wolves (21-19) are tied for the 8th & final Western Conference playoff spot with Houston! Saw a real good performance by them vs. Portland at Target Center, and they didn't have their starting center or a solid game from Rubio. Rick Adelman has the T-Wolves playing some serious ball!!! By the way, if you haven’t caught Ray’s radio work on “Back in the Day” on KMOJ-FM 89.9 when he’s going old school, you are missing out.
I like what’s happening. It’s very uplifting for hoopaholics everywhere. As we write, 21 wins and in 8th place in the Western Conference. Last year, 17 wins in 82 games. The year before, 15 wins. Total. Bright spots up and down that Wolves roster. The joint is jumping again with 6 Target Center sellouts this season and another coming Friday against Kobe and the Lakers. Six sellouts when they had three in the past three seasons prior to this 66-game run.
Defensively, this is a better team from a year ago. Holding the Clippers to 94. Beating back the Blazers to a 94 point night as well. The Wolves gave up 108 points a game last season and this year, they are holding the opposition to an average of 96 a night. The coaches have made it clear that, in their world, that is perhaps the biggest reason for the turnaround.”
The Love is everywhere:
Kevin Love has probably seen it all now. The two-time NBA All-Star, an NBA Three-Point Contest winner and the 2010-11 NBA rebounding champion will enjoy the underwater honor of having an octopus named after him.
K-Love the octopus is joining the team of 10,000 sea creatures from SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium at Mall of America. The octopus has been released into his new tank by K-Love. Why an octopus? As Wolves media folks tell me, both the octopus, K-Love, and Kevin Love have excellent grabbing ability – one to grab boards, the other mainly grabs food. Unique. Part of this great turnaround season!
I Love to Read:
March is a big reading month & the Timberwolves FastBreak Foundation is focused on helping children develop a lifelong love of reading. The Foundation's Read to Achieve Month, presented by Hennepin County Medical Center and Travelers, is putting books in the hands of children and offer them incentives to keep reading. The March schedule of events is highlighted by a staff-wide effort on the part of all Timberwolves employees to read to students in the Twin Cities area. Read to Achieve Month will also feature a $5,000 grant presentation and additional reading events.
"A love for reading is one of the most important gifts we can give to a child," Timberwolves President Chris Wright said. "So we're excited to have our Foundation and staff engaged in all the wonderful events and activities surrounding Read to Achieve Month."
Congratulations to the Wolves for Read to Achieve Month. It makes a difference. On March 22, members of the Timberwolves/Lynx staff will read at local elementary schools. The goal of the staff-wide reading campaign is to commit more than 120 volunteer hours to the program while reaching more than 3,000 students. Each classroom the Wolves/Lynx employees visit will receive books and various prizes. The Timberwolves game vs. Denver on March 25 (2:30 p.m. tip) has been designated as Read to Achieve Night, as the Wolves will welcome thousands of young readers to Target Center. All students who completed the Wolves' Starting Five reading incentive program will receive free tickets to this game, and the top-three overall readers and top classroom in terms of pages read will be recognized in an on-court presentation.
I love this effort because my wife and I read to our little Annie every day. It’s a gift that goes so far, costs nothing and will only grow in value with each passing day. Read to Achieve is the Timberwolves’ and the NBA’s year-round literacy program that helps young people develop a lifelong love of reading, and encourages adults to read regularly with children. Reaching an estimated 50 million children a year, Read to Achieve is the most extensive educational outreach initiative in the history of professional sports.
See you on TV:
You don’t want to miss GameON! powered by SEVEN Steakhouse/Sushi/Ultralounge & Skybar this Sunday morning on FOX’s My29 at 10:30AM. Our special guests are former members of the NHL Minnesota North Stars. All our shows are broadcast in High Definition and shows with Wolves like Coach Adelman, JJ Barea, Wayne Ellington, Jack Sikma and Anthony Tolliver can be found on ITunes & online at www.GameOnTvMn.com.
GameON! powered by SEVEN allows you the opportunity to get up close and personal, to meet your favorite players and fellow fans at our weekly tapings next door to Target Center at SEVEN (7th and Hennepin). GameON! is about in-depth interviews with the top players, great food, sports newsmakers and we get you inside your favorite teams (including the Wolves). You can friend us on Facebook at GameOnTvMN and drop me a note, Rod@GameOnTvMN.com. We reserve the right to use your e-mails here in SimonsSays at Timberwolves.com.
Keep your GameON!