Fridays With Fenrich is a new weekly feature here, the aggregation of an extended, week-long email conversation on a single basketball theme, between myself and Kris Fenrich of Dancing With Noah.
Kris - It’s a time of confusion for Wolves fans: On the one hand, a smooth and finely manicured hand, the Spanish heart throb that is Ricky Rubio emerged from the icy lakes and freezing forests of the Minnesotan wilderness on Saturday and looked exactly like the basketball savant we remember from last year (high fives and hugs). On the other hand, which is wearing some kind of studded leather glove, we had Kevin Love’s comments last week where he told us all that he never forgets a slight or an insult (a motivational tip stolen from MJ’s HOF speech) and feels his team’s owner and GM both put him down. So does the fanbase celebrate the return of Rubio as the bright, shining savior or do they pine over the potential divorce of their favorite power foward from their favorite team?
Ian - Frank Herbert has an answer for Timberwolves fans far more eloquent than I could pen - “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
The most primal and deeply held fear of any ‘small-market fan’ is to see their team on the verge of something special, only to have it pulled apart by the powerful tractor beams of bigger media markets and economic limitations. The cards are always stacked against them, so to have a winning hand gleefully ripped from their grasp by a bully from Los Angeles or New York, before that final bet can be made, is an excruciating torture. But the Timberwolves fans can take heart in a few simple truths. The first is that they have Love under contract for another three seasons. Whatever ill-well he might hold for David Kahn, Love is not the type of player to give anything less than his very best. If it becomes clear that the situation is unsustainable, the Wolves have three years to wait for the right deal.
The second thing the Wolves have in their favor is Ricky Rubio and a glorious offensive system. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable teammate to run with than Rubio, or a more enticing offense to exist in that Rick Adelman’s passing, moving, cutting creation. I understand the fear that can be born of wrapping a significant portion of your emotional capital up in something as fragile as a basketball team. But what the Wolves have right now is too good. If you spend too much time worrying about the longevity you may forget to enjoy the blissful basketball which is right in front of you.
Kris - So you’re starting off by quoting the sci-fi writer who authored Dune? That’s not what I was expecting to be up against, but here we are.
To your point though, maybe I’m reaching in looking at the onset of a potential Love-Kahn-Taylor feud as something to fear, but maybe I’m a victim of a basketball world where we set our calendars to sync with prominent NBA free agent dates and the media does everything it can to create dramas that play out in the press and on the finger tips and tongues of scribes, talking heads, fans and bloggers (myself included).
Part of the reason fans might be anxious about this Kevin Love thing is that Minnesota does have a great thing going and that’s even with Derrick Williams falling short of expectations. They’re one of the more entertaining teams in the league; particularly now that Rubio’s returned. We’re getting glimpses of Pekovic, Kirilenko, Love and Rubio on the court and it’s poetically reminiscent of Adleman’s Webber-led Kings. It’s like a basketball commune where everyone’s willing to sacrifice in favor of the greater good. And with all the European influence on the roster, I guarantee you Bryan Colangelo’s sitting up in Toronto furiously envious of David Kahn.
But back to Love … we agree that he’ll always go hard, but given that we’re only in the first year of a four-year contract and already encountering misunderstandings and public sniping (perhaps a harsh word choice), it’s fair to acknowledge that the roots of this relationship may be poisoned already and if anyone has a taste for rumor and/or innuendo, it’s the unnamed sources that drive basketball rumors to fever pitches that confuse and contaminate all of us—Love, Kahn and Taylor included.
When you look at Kevin Love and the Timberwolves from one angle you see all the same elements that led to the fork-in-the-eye turmoil around Dwight Howard leaving Orlando, Chris Paul leaving the Hornets and Carmelo Anthony leaving the Nuggets. You see a big star in a small market, a star who doesn’t feel like they’re on the same page with management, and one who would like to be compensated at a level commensurate with his capabilities. But there are some things that make Love and the Timberwolves completely different.
The Magic, Nuggets and Hornets were all teams who had appeared to have run their current course and exhausted their potential. They had chances with their stars but had run into brick walls of varying heights. Love is in his fifth year with the Wolves but they have just begun to build their soap-box racer. Love has had not experience the frustration of having taken a try with in a vehicle with every available feature, only to find out it wasn’t quite enough. There has been no plateau, no dusty mesa top. There is still a clear route to climb.
The other important factor in the Timberwolves favor is the abundance of fun. Watching Howard, Anthony and Paul play their final games with their original franchises one couldn’t but help be struck by how miserable they made their joyous profession appear. Love plays in a glorious offensive system, surrounded by generous, gifted passers. There is no slog in Minnesota, no grind and no drudgery. Basketball is being played in a way that can’t help but make you smile. I have faith that Love is a player who appreciates the finer things in life, and it can’t get much finer than the offense the Wolves are running this season.