The Minnesota Timberwolves played the Los Angeles Lakers last night, and they came out successful despite a loss.
Yes, I am pretty sure that the L.A Lakers played lackadaisical. But considering the fact that Kobe took over 25 shots, I'm not exactly sure that he was in it for fun.
The Wolves lost by five, held the Lakers to under 100 points, and finally looked like an actual team for the first time this season. Make no mistake, this is an incredibly young team as they turn the ball over way too many times to win on any given night.
Also considering the fact that the Wolves are injured (incredibly ironic that they are short of point guards), there's some positivity to take from this game.
Kevin Love, for one, really is starting to show some glimpses of hope, but we still have to be reminded that he's only 22 years of age.
I think there's still upside, even though he's averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds. That's absolutely huge, and considering the fact that if coach Rambis gives him minutes, he looks like an All-Star caliber forward.
Here's his issue: effort every game and defensive intensity.
For a guy that's as smart as Kevin Love is, it really puzzles me as to why he cannot figure out how to play defense adequately by taking charges or even just contesting shots. He shows some effort at times, but his consistency at this end is an incredible question.
Let's re-evaluate his franchise player status. Six double-doubles in eight games, three 20+ point games, and in his recent game, 23 points and 24 rebounds (11 offensive).
That's flat-out getting it done despite his percentage from the field. Once the Wolves get acclimated on the offensive end and get all of their weapons back, Love's efficiency will rise 10-fold.
But like his defensive prowess, Kevin Love also struggles in the post. He simply doesn't have the post moves to get it done night in and night out.
Because he's a tad undersized at the four, he gets his shot blocked in the paint against anyone with half a decent wingspan and leaping ability.
Here's what I took from Kevin Love last night.
He wants to be a franchise guy. He doesn't have that type of talent on a championship roster as of right now, so he needs to bust his butt every single night.
With the way he rebounds, he shouldn't have games where he isn't getting double-figure boards in 25 minutes (mind you, he averaged nine boards in 25 minutes as a rookie). He shouldn't be taking ill-advised shots because he can make all the open 3's he wants to.
He needs to lead by example, and the rest will follow. His status in Minnesota shouldn't be questioned; he's their franchise player right now.
He just needs to show it.
What else I took from the game last night? This team is so young, and it's painful, especially with vets like Martell Webster and Luke Ridnour being out.
They don't know how to play 48 minutes a game yet. Similar to last season, at times you will see brilliance on both ends of the floor, but when they are out of it, they are nonexistent.
This should cease by the All-Star break, after which we will see the Wolves having a easier schedule than now. They'll also have a little more chemistry and cohesion, and hopefully everybody's fully healthy and ready to make a run toward the 30-win mark.
At this point, it looks like the Wolves won't eclipse 15 games. But considering the fact that they are banged up and still growing with talents like Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson, the pain and suffering shouldn't be long-term.
Also, Darko is going to improve. There's just something about him at times when he looks like he can duke it with the best in the league, and at times he just disappears.
He needs to be aggressive, and it's only a matter of time before he's having 10 points, seven rebounds, two assist, two blocks a game every night. He's still a young player, and he's still huge with some more upside.
4.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 2.6 blocks in 22 minutes per game will not get it done. Solid numbers for a backup, but Wolves need more.
His numbers should increase steadily in the season. Come the last 15 games of the season, if everything goes as planned, he should be averaging nearly double points and a few more rebounds to go along with more assists.
Other than that, a very slow start for the Wolves. But sooner or later there's got to be some optimism, right?
Beasley is still talented as heck, Love can fill it up, Wes is developing... right?