6 Reasons to Be Worried/Confident as Minnesota Timberwolves Begin NBA Season
There are pros and cons to almost any situation, and the new-look 2012-13 Minnesota Timberwolves roster and current position is no different.
From injured players...to more new faces than returning ones...to recent outside criticism and controversy, several reasons exist to be skeptical about how this season is going to go for the Wolves.
Let's not ignore the positive, though. There is much more depth on the team, some key pieces were added during the offseason and the team's morale is solidly optimistic.
Timberwolves fans may be used to expecting the negative, but that won't necessarily be the case this year. Before you make your decision, let's take a look at the top three reasons to be both worried and confident with starting the 2012-13 season.
Reason No. 1 to Be Worried: Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio Both Injured
Minnesota Timberwolves fans have known since last spring that point guard Ricky Rubio would not be ready to start the 2012-13 NBA season. A torn ACL will keep him sidelined until December or January. What Minnesota was not planning on, however, was Kevin Love's absence.
Love broke his hand while doing an at-home workout Oct. 17, and he is expected to miss 6-8 weeks from the time of the injury.
Between the two of them, Love and Rubio contributed an average of 37 points, 21 rebounds and eight (all from Rubio) assists per game. These are significant numbers. The Wolves will no doubt miss their two stars going into their season opener against Sacramento on Friday.
Reason No. 1 to Be Confident: More Options to Fill in for Love and Rubio
When Rubio went down last spring, the team morale crumbled. Backup guards JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour also experienced injuries, and the point guard position almost completely disintegrated. If Love had suffered an injury last season? There's no telling what the Wolves' record would have been.
During the 2012 offseason, though, David Kahn and company put a lot of work into bringing in stronger players that could play a significant role on this team. In 2011-12, there wasn't really a solid bench player to fill the power forward position. Now? Take your pick.
Minnesota brought in veteran Andrei Kirilenko to strengthen the defense, and the additions of Dante Cunningham and Brandon Roy immediately offer two solid options to cover for Love during the first few weeks of the season.
The main concern with Roy is his knees. Portland released the five-year forward because he wasn't able to tolerate the bone-on-bone pain in both joints. Roy underwent a procedure this summer, and he says he experienced immediate results. According to a recent article, "he’s been practicing full speed and playing in preseason games with little or no discomfort." If he stays healthy, Roy will offer the shooting and decision making the Wolves need without Love, especially during fourth-quarter situations.
Reason No. 2 to Be Worried: So Many New Faces
With so many new players joining the Timberwolves during the 2012 offseason, one wonders how everyone will mesh.
How much about this roster has changed? From the 2011-12 season to the 2012-13 season, only seven players are returning. If I'm doing my math correctly, that means eight new faces (over 50 percent) will be on Minnesota's bench this year. Good players or not, can a team that fresh get it together to form an on-court chemistry strong enough to make the postseason?
Jose Barea, Malcolm Lee, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams
Lou Amundson, Chase Budinger, Will Conroy, Dante Cunningham, Phil Jones, Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved, Greg Stiemsma
Reason No. 2 to Be Confident: Offseason Has Delivered a Great Group of Additions
Although so many new players have joined the Timberwolves' roster, David Kahn has put in tons of effort to make sure he's bringing in the right guys. And "new" doesn't necessarily mean "young."
In the past few years, the Wolves have had one of the most inexperienced teams in the league, made up of mostly rookies and extremely young players. During the 2012 offseason, Minnesota brought in a few players that will not only improve the stats but will also provide that level of veteran experience that has been lacking in the Target Center.
Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Andrei Kirilenko are all veteran players that will have a lot to offer the lineup. Kirilenko holds 10 years of NBA experience and is one of the strongest defenders around. Roy will hopefully bounce back from his knee problems and return to the All-Star player he was in Portland. Budinger played under Adelman in Houston, and his familiarity with the coach's style will give him a significant advantage.
These guys are used to playing with new teammates, and it won't be a problem for them. This factor will also help the younger ones make a smoother transition.
By bringing in so many new faces, Kahn is slowly adding the necessary puzzle pieces—Kirilenko for post defensive presence, Budinger to improve the perimeter shooting, Dante Cunningham to increase point totals.
It may take a few weeks to truly meld together for the regular season, but this lineup promises great things.
Reason No. 3 to Be Worried: Media/Outside Scrutiny
Recently, the Minnesota Timberwolves have come under major scrutiny because of the "overwhelmingly white" roster that the 2012-13 squad has produced.
Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul's African American leadership council, said, "I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance."
The question at hand is whether or not the Timberwolves franchise is intentionally "catering" in a way to a fanbase that is admittedly primarily white in skin color. While Brandon Roy is slated as the only black player in the starting lineup (Love, Roy, Kirilenko, Rubio, Pekovic), Kahn points out that his pursuit of top players has reached to Russia, Spain and Puerto Rico.
Regardless of fans' opinion of the situation, the overall controversy and timing of the scrutiny no doubt puts an added pressure and tension onto the team immediately preceding the season's kickoff.
Reason No. 3 to Be Confident: The Team Is Confident
Even with all the potential concerns—new players, injured stars and outside criticism—the Minnesota Timberwolves are feeling positive and excited about the 2012-13 season. That means fans should be too.
The team might be receiving criticism based on the skin color of its players, but the athletes themselves don't seem too concerned. Forward Brandon Roy weighed in:
It's just basketball. I never really had to feel like I'm the only black guy out here. I've played on teams that maybe had all black guys and the feeling is just the same when I'm out there on the floor playing with these guys. The only problem we have is in the weight room, arguing over what music we're going to listen to.
Injuries on the roster are certainly disheartening, but it doesn't have to be a death sentence. Rick Adelman and David Kahn have created enough depth during the offseason to bide some time, and even those sidelined are optimistic about the direction of the team despite their absence.
“I just feel like it’s time,” Love said. “The players deserve it. The coaches deserve it. The organization deserves it. But most of all, the fans deserve it. We sold out a lot of games last year. It was awesome. If we can do that, the Twin Cities, Minnesota, they’re ready for a team to break out and have someone to really cheer for. They’re ready, and I hope it’s us.”