Though the Minnesota Timberwolves are 5-2, one would never guess that based on the overall health of their roster. Despite injuries to some key players, the team is off to its best start since 2001 under head coach Rick Adelman. That year, Minnesota started the year 6-1.
That said, allow me to give a brief rundown of the team's injury issues. Most important of all, star forward Kevin Love has yet to play in a regular season game due to a broken hand and point guard Ricky Rubio is still recovering from ACL surgery.
On top of that, Brandon Roy's knees are acting up, Chase Budinger just had knee surgery, J.J. Barea has a balky foot and ever-improving center Nikola Pekovic suffered a sprained ankle in the team's victory against the Dallas Mavericks Monday night.
Despite all of these key players being out, the Timberwolves managed to defeat an up-and-coming Mavericks squad, albeit one that was without Dirk Nowitzki. The depth is there and the team is a far cry from the squad that collapsed last year once Rubio went down with his knee injury.
Look at it this way. Before Rubio got hurt last season, Adelman had Minnesota playing like an actual team and not just a bunch of selfish young players. Rubio's team-first approach made the team better as a whole and prior to his injury, Minnesota was in the hunt for a playoff spot and hovering right around .500 at 21-20.
Once Rubio was gone, however, the Timberwolves won only five more games over the remainder of the season and finished the year at 26-40.
The team dynamic was gone and selfish players like Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson sunk the team with their shoot-first attitudes. Not even a double-double machine in Love could keep Minnesota afloat.
This season, however, the Timberwolves are better prepared for such a situation. Beasley and Johnson are gone and team players like Andrei Kirilenko and Luke Ridnour are in.
Everyone is responding well to Adelman's philosophy of sharing the ball and not being selfish. The overall depth is unbelievable as guys like Alexey Shved and Dante Cunningham have stepped up with some of the top dogs out.
Sure, this isn't the ideal situation Minnesota fans had hoped for this season, but the fact remains that their team is still competing in a tough NBA Northwest Division and is only a half game behind the tough Oklahoma City Thunder. With six of the eight best players out, most teams would struggle mightily not just to win, but to just keep the games close.
Now that the bad apples have left the barrel, the Timberwolves and their deep team are motivated to do extremely well. They are ready to prove that they don't need their stars to win big games. This attitude will only help them once Rubio, Love and the others return to the lineup full-time.
At that point, Minnesota's season won't be about how good a team they were in the absence of their best men, but how great they were following their return.