Tag Archives: Luke Ridnour

All You Need Is Love

In the spirit of the season, the Wolves gave back to their fans the ultimate gift: a healthy Kevin Love. Out of nowhere (so it seemed), Love returned to the starting lineup tonight. And Love made up for lost time with a first half that had Wolves fans mapping out the parade route.

The return of Love has Wolves nation thinking big.

Love had 16 points and 6 boards in the first quarter on his way to 22 and 8 in the first half.  Those 16 first-quarter points accounted for 62% of the team’s scoring. Not bad for a guy that missed the first 9 games of the season.

Riding the emotion of Love’s unexpected return and his hot shooting, the Wolves took a commanding 14-point lead into the half. A victory seemed all but a formality. But the emotion was left in the locker room. Poor shooting from the field and line ultimately did in the Wolves as the Nuggets pulled out the win.

Putting aside the outcome, this was an exciting night for Wolves nation. Love was joined by Pek and JJ in returning to the floor. All of a sudden, a team that couldn’t field more than 9 players, had so many players that D. Will didn’t see the floor (a topic for another post). Wolves nation was finally starting to see what this team will look like when healthy. And the potential is promising.

The starting five is a work in progress until Rubio returns. But, you can see the makings of a strong starting lineup. Pek and Love are efficient scorers in the post that rebound with the best of them. AK47 is a jack-of-all-trades type player that scores, rebounds, defends, and hustles on every possession. He’s simply the perfect compliment to Pek and Love at the 3-position. The Wolves still don’t have a 2 so long as they keep Shved in his 6-the man and 4th quarter role. Though, that could change if Roy somehow returns from another knee operation – not counting on it at this point.

Once Rubio returns, the bench becomes 7 deep: Ridnour, JJ, Cunningham, Shved, Stiemsma, Howard, and D. Will. It’s a nice compliment of players too, each with a critical role to the team’s success. In JJ and Shved, you have two playmakers, capable of creating scoring chances for themselves and others. Howard, if his knees hold, plays a similar game to AK47, and can be a strong defender and outlet scorer. And my personal favorite: Cunningham. He’s battles for every rebound and loose ball, never gives up on a possession, and he has a strong mid-range game.

You saw these players’ potential while Love, Pek, JJ, and Budinger fell to injuries. These role players stepped up and played gritty, fighting to a winning record. Shved showed he belongs and isn’t afraid of the big-shot. Cunningham showed the tenacity that has quickly become his hallmark for this squad. And AK47 did a little bit of everything to lead this young team; the savvy veteran. Now when healthy, it’s a matter of finding that balance and settling into their respective roles.

Some may consider this next statement overblown hyperbole, but it hopefully proves not to be: tonight may be the start of a new era for Wolves nation. With a healthy Love surrounded by a roster that has quality talent and depth, this team can develop into a playoff team not only this year, but also in the years to come. Finally, a team we can all be thankful for this Thanksgiving season.

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All Is Quiet On The Midwestern Front

For the years following the Vikings collapse in the 2009 NFC Championship game, there has been little to get excited about in terms of the Minnesota sports scene.  The Lynx won the WNBA Championship last year and got a few pulses racing, but that has been about it.

Minnesota fans battled through bi-lateral leg weakness and concussion like symptoms, both on the diamond (Morneau) and the ice (PMB).  Then, in a seemingly meaningless game against the Washington Redskins, All-Pro/All-World running back Adrian Peterson suffered a serious knee injury.  The Vikes somehow ended up winning that game and ultimately costing themselves  the 2nd overall pick.  That 2nd overall pick was recently turned into a bounty of quality draft picks.

Ricky never looked back after leaving Europe and he made a lot of people look silly along the way.

Despite all that, the arrival of Ricky Rubio changed everything.  Suddenly there was something to pay attention to night in and night out.  The Wolves were regular contributors to ESPN’s Top 10 because of Rubio’s artistry with a basketball.

Not only was Rubio fun to watch, but, with time, the Wolves made a push for the Western Conference playoffs.  They strung together wins, both at home and on the road, against quality opponents.  Then, while attempting to make the fundamental basketball play we have come to expect from him, Ricky blew out his knee trying to take a charge against the Black Mamba.  Like we needed another reason to hate Kobe.  As Rubio limped around the court, you could just feel the season’s momentum evaporating.

A savvy local team could have filled this void.  A few teams had a chance to bring some excitement to their respective fan bases.  The Vikings were in the middle of free agency.  The Twins were wrapping up free agency and about to begin spring training.  And lastly, the Wolves were nearing the NBA trade deadline with pieces to move.

The Vikings have actually done less than nothing when it comes to free agency.  Let me explain.  They cut veteran influences like Steve Hutchinson and failed to replace that talent with anything resembling a sought-after talent.  In fact, not only were the Vikings not signing anyone to get the pulse racing (apologies to John Carlson’s mom — an average NFL TE coming off an injury does not count), but, they actually refrained from being involved in the discussion.  Seemingly all the big name free agents that would have excited fans and improved the squad, never seemed to be courted by the Winter Park brain trust.  This is even more peculiar considering the fact that said brain trust is holding the people of Minnesota hostage for a new stadium to the tune of $550 million.

Any time Ryan Doumit is one of your squad's major off-season acquisitions, you are rebuilding, not reloading.

Going into spring training, the Twins were reporting with recent signees Jamey Carrol, Ryan Doumit, and Jason Marquis.  Is there even any need to explain how much of snoozer it must be down in Fort Meyers right now?  Through the first week of spring training games, the whole roster, including minor leaguers, beer vendors, and ardent white-haired super fans, had one, no, seriously, one, extra base hit.  The only thing marquee about the Twins free agent signings is the fact that one of guys’ last names is a punny play on words.  After 99 losses last season and with all this stadium generated revenue, punny is not going to it.  Aren’t we past trying to dress up average major leaguers as these diamond-in-the-rough finds?

Making your way east a few blocks to the Target Center, you will find Wolves GM David Kahn working furiously on finishing his first Level 2 sudoku puzzle.  Other teams are calling the Wolves about their multiple trade pieces: Michael Beasley and Luke Ridnour.  But, don’t worry, Kahn is not going to take the bait.  Full fairness in savagery, the Wolves were at least mentioned in trying to flip Ridnour or Beasley into Jamal Crawford (who, by the way, would have been a great fit on this squad).  Though, considering both the principals in that deal, Portland and L.A., made moves for players who were not as good as the Wolves pieces, you have to think the sudoku got in the way.

Ultimately, it has been eerily quiet since Rubio’s anterior cruciate ligament decided to take a vacation.  One can only hope that both he and AP are able to fully recover and return to inspire their respective squads.  Considering the current state of affairs, we should hope for good weather this summer, at least then we can take advantage Minnesota’s remaining recreational gems: the golf courses.

Wolves the next Thunder?

The next Thunder? Not quite.

ESPN Insider recently ran an article proclaiming the Wolves the next OKC Thunder based on far-reaching similarities: both teams drafted cornerstone players in the top of the draft (Durant and Love), both teams paired them with young point guards (Westbrook and Rubio), both hit on a non-lottery Intl. big man (Ibaka and Pekovic), and both have stockpiled draft picks to turn into different assets. At first glance, this article seems to have legs; but upon closer examination, this comparison is worse than ESPN’s forced efforts to compare Gronkowski’s twisted ankle to Curt Schilling’s ankle (Seriously ESPN, enough focusing in on this glorified frat boy with a bum wheel. Everyone knows he’s going to play. And, it’s not even close to the same thing as Schilling’s epic game 5.)

Undoubtedly, both teams have franchise players in Kevin Durant and Kevin Love. But, the difference between the two is stark. KD is probably the second best player in the league, and the two-time defending scoring champ. He scores at will, and can create his shot. K. Love is the Big Fundamental. He puts up impressive numbers, but he is not the elite score like KD and struggles at times creating his shot. His numbers have improved this season, but it’d be hard to deny the fact that Rubio’s presence has helped him get better looks. Now, I understand K. Love brings more to the table with his rebounding. But, the bottom line is they are completely different players. Its like saying the Packers and Vikes have similar franchise players in A-Rodg and AP.

Similarly, the article focuses on two complete opposites at point guard. Westbrook is a scoring point guard who uses his elite speed to get to the rack. Rubio might already be the best passer in the league (tell me the last time you recall seeing someone deliberately pass it between a defender’s legs to a spot-up three!) Both bring excitement to the squad, but in completely different fashions.

The worst comparison is claiming both teams hit on International big men after the lottery. First, Serge Ibaka was the 24th selection in the 2008 draft, while Pekovic was the 31st selection (also known as the first pick of the second round). Ibaka is a defender first, averaging 2.4 blocks per game – good for third most in the league. Pekovic has 5 blocks the entire season. Ibaka is also a freak of an athlete. Remember, he was in the Slam Dunk contest last season. Pretty sure Pekovic doesn’t know how to jump off one foot. Now, this isn’t intended to slam Pekovic. He has played well of late, and really done a nice job on the offensive glass. Frankly, it’s to early to even say the Wolves “hit” on drafting Pekovic, especially if you consider DeAndre Jordan was taken four picks later (and incidentally immediately after the Wolves drafted and then traded Mario Chalmers). Regardless, the two players are simply not comparable.

Kahn won the bidding war for Darko Milicic.

Finally, and most importantly, the article neglects to discuss the fact that OKC has surrounded their star players with a great core. OKC signed Thaba Sefolosha away from Chicago, and fills the role of defensive stopper. James Harden, another top draft pick, is turning in a Sixth-Man of the Year type season. And they traded away young, solid players (such as Jeff Green) to nab Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics. Meanwhile, well, I’m pretty sure there is a new adjective for how the Wolves have been built: KAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHN!!!!! To put it nicely, Kahn hasn’t quite built the team in similar fashion. Outside of drafting (and patiently waiting out the two years) Rubio, Kahn has unfortunately whiffed on most of his draft picks – Jonny Flynn (instead of Steph Curry), Ty Lawson (who  was immediately traded), Wes Johnson (instead of DeMarcus Cousins – yes I know he’s a mental midget, but Sactown is so dysfunctional, who knows if he would have responded to K. Love’s leadership and Adelman’s coaching), Nick Calathes (instead of drafting Wes Matthews who went undrafted – sorry, I have a weird, unnatural man-crush on this solid, nothing special Madison native), and they drafted a guy from Senegal (Hamady N’Diaye) that proved to be a few years older than they had thought – kind of embarrassing. Further, Kahn signed two point guards in back-to-back summers to essentially the same deal – Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour. He paid $20M to Darko Milicic – yep, that’s the same Darko you’re thinking. Otherwise, the roster is full of players that make for solid 7th to 10th men off the bench. Who knows how Beasley, a.k.a. the Black Hole, fits in with Rubio and the new system. (Full disclosure, I like his role coming off the bench in these past few games. He is one of the few players on the squad that can create his own shot, and is a nice fit for the second team players.) Needless to say, the motley crew of “other players” Kahn has assembled to go with his stars is not quite on the same page as OKC.

There is no doubt that the Wolves are improving… finally. But, they are not the next Thunder. Thankfully the Wolves have another top pick in this draf… oh wait, MCHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALE!!!!!