There is nothing finer. To be home after three weeks of back and forth, being on the road and the annual challenges that present themselves each and every mid-March. This had nothing to do with college basketball bracket busting. No, it was good to slam the suitcase and belly-up to a game I knew the Wolves were going to win away from Target Center. Wolves vs. Bobcats in HD. All set. No distractions. Gametime and a “W” I knew was in the books.
So, after their own long month on the road, the Wolves are back home for a change of their own suitcases, a showdown with the Boston Celtics and the return of that guy (er…KG)! This is another sellout ahead and one of a dozen big time games that Team Turnaround is not afraid to play. Not this year. I have been saying it since the hiring of Rick Adelman, this is a young, talented basketball team that is in the playoff chase (whether some want to believe it or not) but very tired. The Wolves won’t use the “T” word Friday night when they host the aging “Big 3” and mates but they will give the C’s a look they haven’t seen out of Minnesota in a long, long time.
One of the key intangibles to the growth of these Wolves is how they close. Close games. Close (or “Finish” if you prefer) the season. And not lost on these guys is this opportunity to reach the post season and they are knockin’ on that door. Heading into the weekend, the Wolves are in a pack of teams separated by a few games. Memphis, Utah, Houston, Denver, Phoenix are all just in front of the Wolves but clearly within striking distance. JJ Barea (who knows a little something about playoff success as he shines his NBA championship ring from the run last season with the Dallas Mavericks) was telling me this is the best time of the year. “We know what’s at stake. We are all playing hurt, we’re all sore but we’re trying to make it happen. We’ve believed in ourselves all season. This isn’t something that we just started doing.”
Barea’s sentiments are echoed by valuable reserve guard Wayne Ellington: “Everyone is on the same page. Coaches. players. We are banged up but we’re alright.”
It would be nice to get Barea back in the lineup and keep him there. Talk about nagging injuries. Barea’s bumps and bruises kept him from making the trip with the team to Charlotte/Memphis. JJ’s battled that tweeky hamstring all season, he’s had sore wheels and now this thigh is the reason for more missed games. I couldn’t have been happier when the Wolves grabbed Barea via free agency and his worth is evident. Look what he did at OKC on that faithful Friday night in March. Barea became the 8th Wolves player to record a triple-double, off the bench, with 25 points/10 rebounds/14 assists. He told me recently as a guest on GameON!, “We know what we have together in this locker room. We will never stop trying, stop playing. If you ask me what’s different from last year’s team to our team this year, it’s that.” Couldn’t agree more.
Fans have been filling my ear and mailbox with their Wolves thoughts. You have heard the phrase, what a difference a year makes, well…proof here. A year ago the Wolves had won their last game of the season already with __ to play, we’re _____. This year, at 25-27 with room to move upward. Looking at their schedule to the end of season and it only fuels my optimism with 8 at home and 6 on the road with only two back-to-backs. Phoenix, Golden State twice, the Clips, OKC, Memphis and Denver will roll through in April. You take care of business at home and steal a few on the road, then you are making a serious play for the playoffs considering you are beating teams in front of you.
It’s no mistake that fans are so pumped about the possibilities, filling Target Center again (like never before) and being vocal about it. Some of their thoughts from the SimonsSays e-bag:
David writes: “It’s hard for me to think where the Wolves would be if (Ricky) Rubio were still in the line-up. How is he and do you think he still has a shot at ROY (Rookie of the Year). Great note Davis and thanks for checking in and visiting the taping of GameON! downtown at SEVEN after a recent Wolves game. First of all, I think the ACL injury will keep No. 9 from winning the ROY award. Gotta’ be Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving. I agree with you…Rubio was instrumental in the improvement of this team this season. Look at the numbers weeks after he was sidelined. Rubio is still third in the NBA in steals at 2.2 per game (1st among rookies) and in the top-10 in a number of other categories. Word from inside the Wolves is one of optimism regarding Rubio’s situation. The surgery went well and now it’s rehab time. Here’s hoping for the best.
Shelley writes: “Kevin Love is the reason we come to the games. We followed him at UCLA and were so excited that he was drafted to play here. I think he’s the best in the NBA.” There’s no question that K-Love is one VERY special player. We could write and write about him. What fans don’t see is that this young man IS kind and giving OFF the court to friends and charities. He’s a very intelligent person who’s benefitted from a Dad who played pro basketball (Dad Stan played four seasons in both the NBA & ABA) and a family who knows the pro game well. K-Love’s been around it and growing up, knew he’d have a place in the NBA if he did the work. He’s done and still at it. K-Love is playing 40 of 48-minutes a night (1st in the NBA), 2nd in rebounding to Dwight Howard and his scoring is amazing at over 26 a night. Wolves PR tells me K-Love’s 7 games of 30 points/20 rebound games is the most among active NBA players. Between March 19-25, K-Love led the NBA with 33 points a game, 16 rebounds AND shot 55% from the field (52% from the land of “3”). He had 51 points in 48 minutes at OKC, 30 two night later at home against Denver then 40 at Charlotte. Yes, Shelley. K-Love is one of the reasons I too go to games. You need a thesaurus (OK, a Google search will do) to lay out all the adjectives about how good he is.
Bryan writes: You were one of the few who wasn’t ranting for a trade at the deadline, like shipping off Beasley or Wes Johnson. Do you regret that yet?” Bryan, thanks for the note and heck no. I don’t regret holding that line. In fact, I’m think I’m supported by the team now. Look, if they’d traded, the Wolves would have had to most likely let go of more than one player. Standing pat has allowed us to see the value in the support play of Ellington, Anthony Tolliver (double-double vs. Bobcats with 11 pts/11 reb), rookie Malcom Lee and it’s given rookie Derrick Williams and Martell Webster significant minutes. I’m impressed by the patience and direction that David Kahn is showing in building this team. Sure, there are banged up bodies on Team Adelman (with Rubio being the most visible) but they are getting it done while positioning themselves for a major play next season. This is a good time to be a Wolves fan. FYI, still room on the bandwagon.
Here’s to a frenetic and successful April run and seeing you at an upcoming GameON! taping to talk Timberwolves basketball! With so much attention on the court, what you might not know is how much time and energy these players give back to us in the community. Just a small sample for you:
SuperBeas: Sore toe and all!
Wolves forward Michael Beasley was part of the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital's third annual My Superhero Day for patients, family and staff. This was an all-day event, which celebrated the superhero in all of us and featured cape decorating for children, faculty costume contests, face painters, caricature artists and food. Beasley signed autographs, played with the kids and visited patient rooms during his visit.
I Love to Read!
Martell Webster took the lead when the Wolves FastBreak Foundation staged another Reading Time-Out. It was at Galtier Elementary School/St. Paul with 5th and 6th grade students separated into teams of five or six. Each team read a story together, took notes on the story then each team presented their collection of notes to the classroom and Webster. Webster energetically took part in a Q&A session then passed out books and prizes. Wolves radio producer John Focke was also on hand as host of the event.
Caring for kids
Wolves forward Kevin Love was one of seven NBA players who teamed up to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of the world's premier pediatric cancer research centers, during "Hoops for St. Jude" Week which is just ending. Love, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, Dwight Howard, David Lee, Dwayne Wade and Denver head coach George Karl have joined together to serve as ambassadors for kids of St. Jude and will join the league and teams to raise awareness and recruit fans to support the hospital and its mission of finding cures and saving children. Love has served as a spokesman for St. Jude and helped in fundraising efforts during each of the past three seasons.
Love walks the walk when it comes to supporting St. Jude. I have seen their work first hand and it truly is heartwarming and personally, I’m grateful for K-Love’s support. Every parent should be. As Love says, "I've had the privilege of touring St. Jude and visiting with patients. I'm excited to continue my support and encourage basketball fans to join our Hoops for St. Jude team and donate to St. Jude." Even though the five-day celebration is over you can still support “Hoops for St. Jude” by logging on to www.stjude.org/hoops. There you can learn more St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and their work for more than 50-years. You can also donate to St. Jude or bid in the online auction. All funds raised will help children battle cancer and other deadly diseases.
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. We’re delighted to welcome the personalities from KFAN’s PowerTrip Morning show join us! All GameON! shows are broadcast in High Definition and shows with Wolves like 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). It’s GameON! powered by SEVEN Steakhouse/Sushi/Ultralounge/Skybar. You can friend us on Facebook 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! See you soon!