Saturday, March 31, 2012

Healing Minnesota: The Two Kevins

March 31, 2012 – 1:30am
30,000 miles over Western Ontario

Let me start by saying, I really don’t have time for this.

I wish I did, but I don’t. See, a regular NBA season can get a little nutty, with the games and the travel and the laundry.  But this one of course has been more like Supermarket Sweep. Just racing through the aisles of the country cramming as many games as we can into a shopping cart until the four-month timer hits zero.

Now for me, throw in the Frozen Four next weekend in Tampa, my fantasy baseball draft (purposely scheduled I’m convinced now by my league in attempt to leave me unprepared and try to do something they haven’t been able to do with skill, and that’s end my UConn Women/Jimmy Johnson/Undertaker-at-Wrestlemania-like dynasty) and, of course, Wrestlemania itself on Sunday.

So yeah, a little over-scheduled right now.

And surprisingly, my five-month-old son and his sleep schedule seem to have no regard for this frenetic pace.

In any case, too many things happened Friday night at Target Center to not get at least a few words down on paper, or up on the screen as it were, and we fly a thousand miles east in the middle of the night for, hey what do you know, another big game Sunday afternoon against the Heat.

Especially as despite the fun and instant gratification of our favorite 140-character obsession with the blue bird has become, Twitter is amazing and getting the word out, but there often just aren’t enough words to say it right.

So first, here’s this.  Kevin Love is special.

I’m not going down this road of the Love-Garnett thing that seemed to be the topic of the 36-hour stay in the Twin Cities.  We covered it at length in the best pre-game guest segment we’ve had this year, with my former partner, and Max’s former teammate Jim Petersen.  (Here's the link:  So let's just say this.

Kevin Love is one of the top 15 players in the NBA.

Kevin Garnett is one of the top 15 players in the history of the NBA.

That’s all we need to cover for now. 

And Friday night, if you have Kevin Love on your fantasy team you got some numbers, but that was a Round One-UFC tap-out win for Minnesota’s original Kevin.

It was also his best game against his former team since the trade, and not the first time we’ve used a sentence like that about Garnett in 2012, all part of one of the most remarkable seasons in his hall-of-fame career with the position change and his 36th birthday next month.

Now, let’s put it out there because this needs to be fixed. Not tonight, but over the next few months and years because there is a latent, and mutual hostility that exists between Garnett and the franchise he carried for a dozen years. Not the fans, not the city, but with some key members of the Wolves’ front office.

And while we’ll save the reasons for now (check out that audio link if you want to hear some of them), the point is that in a few years, there simply must be a Kevin Garnett Night in that building.  I don’t mean a game, with a five-minute halftime ceremony. I mean a night, a sold-put, stand-alone night that’s a celebration of a city’s team, and the 19-year-old kid who lit it up and evolved into the player and the man that carried it on his shoulders for twelve years.

A man who, by the way, didn’t want to leave.  A man, who when it was apparent the franchise couldn’t carry his weight and needed to move on, didn’t rub anyone's face in it, didn’t get Jim Gray to show up at the YMCA to announce it, and didn’t dance with his new teammates after he made it.

It’s not hard to find people KG made enemies of in Minnesota, or anywhere really, and a portion of the criticism and the vitriol can be easily justified.  But it’s time now.

It’s time to move on from it, on every level. Garnett got his ring, the Wolves have their mojo back. Next year, with a healthy Rubio, Love, Derrick Williams and a full year for Rick Adelman, the Wolves are back in the NBA, they’re back from the relegation pool of teams that don’t get on ABC or TNT.  And they’re probably back in the playoffs.  It was a cold five years, but they’re over.

For two days we’ve been listening to this Kevin Love-Kevin Garnett comparison debate, and forget for a minute what happened Friday night, here’s the thing.  When you position comparisons that way, you’re setting it up to tear one or the other down.  It’s unavoidable. Trust me, Skip Bayless makes a very good living doing it brilliantly.

The tale of Minnesota’s two Kevin’s is a win-win. You can celebrate the Garnett Era without casting a shadow on Kevin Love. You can celebrate the present and future that the Wolves finally have, without tarnishing the legacy of their greatest player.

One day Kevin Love may change the following sentence, but he hasn’t yet. There is no franchise in professional sports where the gap between the team’s best, and second-best player is bigger than it is with the Timberwolves.  Not after Sidney Crosby won a Cup in Pittsburgh, not as long as the Colts had Unitas, the Oilers had Messier and the Bulls had Pippen.  Go on, try it in baseball, can’t be done.

Let’s bury the bad feelings, and bury the comparisons the way Kevin Garnett buried his fourth quarter shots on Friday night. Maybe the best way to enjoy Kevin Love’s future, is by making peace with Kevin Garnett’s past.

OK, if you’ll forgive me, the unforgiving to-do list beckons. I’m going to try multi-tasking by listening to Simmons’ fantasy baseball pod with Matthew Berry while watching tape on the Frozen Four teams at the same time.  Could be a brilliant use of limited time, or result in me trying to draft Edwin Encarnacion sometime during the second period of the national semi-final on Thursday night, one of the two.

But first, some kind of wacky numbers from Friday…

  •            The Celtics are now 14-7 in 21 Target Center games, easily best record in any building where they’ve played 15 or more games. American Airlines Arena is Miami is next at 12-11 (not including 1-4 in the playoffs)

  •         It was the first double-digit road win of the year, the first since one year ago today (March 31, 2011) in San Antonio and the biggest road win since a 22-point win at Golden State last February, which was (draw your own conclusions) Kendrick Perkins’  last game as a Celtic.

  •    *   The Celtics were outscored Friday by 13 (21-8) from the free throw line, and still won by 21 on the road. 

  •             Here’s the big one, let’s go boldface. The Celtics were out-rebounded by 151 in 17 March games (8.9/game) and still went 12-5. I mean, really?  That’s pretty hard to do.

  •             The Celtics have now won 13 straight win when not getting out-rebounded (16-2 on the year)

  •             Kevin Love, who averages 14 a game, had only 11 rebounds against the NBA’s worst rebounding team, just the  32nd highest total against the Celtics this year in 51 games.  What were the odds of that? Some of the luminaries who’ve had more rebounds against Boston than Kevin Love this year?  Nikola Vucevic, Amir Johnson, Trevor Booker and Jason Thompson, not to mention Samuel Dalembert’s 17.

  •        The Celtics are now 9-1 without Ray Allen, 6-4 without Rondo. But 0-3 without Paul Pierce and 0-3 without Kevin Garnett.

  •            The Celtics lost the first three games this year in which they scored 100 points (including the only meeting with Miami on December 27), they’ve now won 11 in a arrow.

And speaking of Miami…

…since many of you have asked, my completely uninformed, off the top of my head picks for Wrestlemania in Sunday…

A valiant effort by HHH falls short, and the Undertaker’s streak continues. The last time Shawn Michaels refereed a match this big, by the way, he was brilliant and nearly stole the show anyway (SummerSlam 1997 in Taker’s WWF Title loss to Bret Hart (the same night the business’ history almost changed forever on the late Owen Hart’s missed tombstone piledriver that nearly ended the Stone Cold Era before it began).

Chris Jericho wins the WWE Title from CM Punk in a phenomenal match. We get a couple of months of tremendous rematches before the Best in the World gets the belt back late in the spring.

Then John Cena and Rock, after everyone is picking Punk-Jericho to steal the show, tear the house down in the match of the show, if not the match of the year. Both cement their legacy as Cena wins clean in the middle, prompting Rock to show up on Raw Monday night and shake his hand…before delivering a rock bottom with the tag line; “See you next year…bitch.”

He won’t have to write it on his wrist, that’s for sure. * 


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  2. Bill Russell retired after the '68-'69 season. Three decades later "Bill Russell Night" happened. A decade after that Russell got the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Presidential push for a statue... have we seen that statue yet?

    Man plans and the basketball gods laugh -- 0dysseus