Friday, December 31, 2010
It was a tough loss that ended the year for the Wolves. It was another one that players feel got away from them and another one at the hands of the seasoned Nuggets. Denver played this game short handed without stars like Carmelo Anthony and Nene’ (including a few others….the Nuggets suited just 10 players) and Minnesota’s game plan was to turn that into an advantage for them and a win. But just like the Utah loss a few days past (and more than a half dozen other “L’s”), the Wolves played with but couldn’t quite finish one of the NBA’s better teams. Blame it on the season best performance of Chauncey Billups with 36 points and incredible from the three point line hitting six-for-six. The former T’Wolves guard stepped up big time and was impressive to watch.
Denver coach George Karl was very kind to the young Wolves team during their short visit. Karl told more than just a few people what I’ve (and so many others are starting to say) been saying for sometime. This Wolves team is close to turning around their fortunes and they are “right there”, according to Karl. Now, you see it, the Wolves are competitive night in and night out and the Wolves are closing in on much better times for sure.
Karl should know. He’s been in the NBA a long time. His Nuggets’ win over the Wolves was his 1,004th career win and he’s taken teams from the scrap heap to the NBA finals. I saw it first hand when he was pulled from Europe where he was coaching Real Madrid’s dynamic basketball team in Spain. Karl was hired by then Seattle General Manager Bob Whitsitt to replace the legendary K.C. Jones and turn around basketball fortunes in Seattle. In essence, Karl was hired to get the SuperSonics off the scrap heap and make a very talented and young roster play to its potential.
Karl did it. He expected to do it. The former North Carolina Tar Heel and Pro ball player has always been able to relate to players, whether it’s Gary Payton or Denver’s Anthony, Shawn Kemp or Chris Anderson. Karl took the Sonics to the 1996 NBA finals where they lost to the Michael Jordan led Bulls in six games. Karl has also groomed a number of NBA coaches from Nate McMillan to former Wolves coach Dwane Casey and Terry Stotts.
Karl’s full court press against cancer kept him from the NBA for a better portion of last season and he is, not only grateful to be back to the game he loves and people he enjoys, he is also taking time to give back. Make no mistake, Karl’s kind words and compliments are heard by Wolves players as they fight losses (like this one against the Nuggets) with those words of encouragement from a guy outside this organization. You know the feeling, getting a high-5 from someone you don’t really know; well…it means a lot. Same thing goes here.
So, as we put this year of 2010 to bed and look forward to a new and hopefully exciting new year, some positives.
---> The Wolves will continue to make significant improvement. One stat that I love is this. After finishing as one of the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting teams, Minnesota is 4th in 3-point accuracy and they rank 9th in 3-pointers made per game. Shooters are better and more accurate.
---> The Wolves are better defensively and their additions have made them more competitive on both ends of the floor.
---> The additions of Michael Beasley, Martell Webster, Luke Ridnour and Darko Millicic have been significant and full of impact. Improved play is certainly one big flashing indicator. If you ask fans, they will tell you too.
---> Kevin Love. Deserves to be an all star. He’s one of the NBA’s top-20 scorers and is the games top rebounder. He’s in his second year in the NBA. Yes, Love is an old school Moses Malone flashback, he’s a cornerstone to the growth and development of this team but he’s also got a heart the size of St. Paul. His coat drive raised just short of 1800 coats. This kid is special. He cares about his work and his community. He needs to be embraced and locked up in a contract that keeps him here. Love is big time!
---> How about a shout out to David Kahn. Wolves primary talent recruiter has caught a ton of grief for his wheeling and dealing and his shuffle this and shuffle that. But looking back at some of the deals, they now look very good. Kahn and his staff also got a big sack of grief for lowering ticket prices to entice fans to come and encouraging them, financially, to kick the tires (to see the Wolves new product) on this restoration project. In short, when Kahn and his staff made moves, shots were always waiting. Hmm. In my opinion, Kahn certainly has the right to say “How do you like me now” but he won’t. Not now and most likely, not later when his Wolves are winning more games than they lose. The point is Kahn is making solid decisions, he can see what this team needs to develop, grow, improve and he’s got the keys to make it happen.
The Rambis factor. Can’t be emphasized enough. Players get this former Lakers standout. They may not always like the Coach, heck, do you always agree with your boss?! But Coach Rambis has been there, done it with a handful of NBA Championship rings and an NBA career that many never thought he’d experience coming out of tiny Santa Clara. And give the Coach a little love for getting Earvin “Magic” Johnson to address his team before their game against the defending champion Lakers early in the season. I still see this as a turning point to what we are watching today.
Love from his heart:
How about Kevin Love?! His coat drive was a big success and now, hundreds of people who need a coat will personally get one of the more than 1,700 coats. The Salvation Army and the Wolves forward drove a truck-full of coats to the Harbor Light Center after a recent Timberwolves' practice.
This wasn’t a P-R event for Love. In speaking with him at a Wolves workout, he made it clear it was more a mission of his than anything else. In its third year, those 1,700-plus coats collected were more than three times the number of coats collected in 2009.
Thank you for caring out there and donating to help make it all possible. And thanks to sponsors like Salvation Army and Comcast Twin Cities for stepping up to help!
If you are just seeing this, there is still a need so contact The Salvation Army or any of the seven metro-area Comcast payment centers as well as the Target Center box office and they will get your donated coats to the right folks.
Thanks for the e-mails and the uptick in communication from you out there. I very much enjoy getting those and next week, we’ll share some of your FAN thoughts in our SimonsSays mailbag. Until then, Happy New Year and see you Sunday on GameON! I’d love to have you out to one of our live GameON! Tapings this next Tuesday at Courtside Bar and Grill in Anoka on Jackson Street. More details and guest listings on our show website (www.GameOnTvMn.com)
Happy Holidays to you all and enjoy the season! I’d love to have you out to one of our live GameON! Tapings this next Tuesday at Courtside Bar and Grill in Anoka on Jackson Street. More details and guest listings on our show website!