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State Rep. Pat Garofalo went on the apology tour on Monday, a day after his tweet heard 'round the world caused a stir, to say the least. In case you missed it, he tweeted:
"Let's be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/ possible exception of increase in streetcrime."
In spite of that warning regarding the nature of NBA players (sarcasm here), we ventured boldly over to Wolves practice Monday to see what players and coaches thought about the tweet. For the most part, they smartly tried to stay out of the fray.
"I'm not talking about that," head coach Rick Adelman said. "It's got nothing to do with us. ... I've never even heard of the guy or know who he is."
"I really don't care. I didn't see it, but they told me about it when I got here," Corey Brewer said. "It's his opinion, man. People out there have opinions. He said what he wanted to say. Who cares?"
But we assume you didn't agree with him, right?
"I don't agree. Of course, why would I agree? It's stupidity, but it's his opinion," Brewer said.
Said Shabazz Muhammad: "I don't pay attention to that," he said, before talking about how much he likes his teammates (and deftly avoiding the question).
All players appeared to leave the practice court of their own free will.
As if Wednesday's home loss to the Knicks wasn't damaging enough for the Wolves, a halftime interview over on the New York side added another layer of insult to the plot.
Tyson Chandler, interviewed by a sideline reporter in one of those seemingly harmless scenarios where players usually say absolutely nothing, took it upon himself to say that Kevin Love, "Can't play D" (video above).
That's the familiar old rap on Love. At times, it still very much rings true. But ...
A look inside the numbers shows that Love actually has improved quite a bit on that end of the floor. Offense will always be his number one contribution, but right now he has 3.1 defensive win shares -- 18th in the entire NBA and seventh among power forwards. He has the seventh-highest defensive rebounding percentage in the league (30.6). Both of those numbers are better than Chandler.
His defensive rating of 102 is not great, but it's not terrible. And again, it's better than Chandler's (105).
Sure, Chandler should not be anyone's defensive benchmark. But as critical as we all have been of Love's defense at times, it is legitimately better than it has been this year.
Basketball Reference still gives the Wolves an 18 percent chance of making the playoffs even after Wednesday night's debacle against the Knicks -- previously losers of 7 in a row -- at Target Center. Mathematically, we suppose that number is about right based on remaining schedules, et al.
But this Wolves team has been about incongruent math all season, so let's be real: for practical purposes, the season died last night. It died painfully, with a terrible start, a missed opportunity to reclaim momentum for good in the third quarter and a questionable decision to roll with the bench to start the fourth.
In other words, the season died how it lived. The Wolves gave themselves no margin for error by blowing winnable game after winnable game early in the season and then finished the job with one more particularly crushing defeat.
We will remember this as a team that could take a massive lead on just about anyone and looked dominant when shots were falling. We'll remember all of those losses by fewer than four points. We will note that the Wolves somehow still rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the league, numbers that suggest their record should be 38-22 instead of 30-30. We will remember this as a team, ultimately, where the sum of the parts added up to less than the whole.
So yes, there are winnable games ahead. The Wolves will probably still finish above .500 for the first time in nearly a decade. But even if the math says they could still get into the playoffs, the reality is that a team that can't be trusted to beat the Knicks certainly can't be expected to go on a sustained run to close the year.
Sixty games is a large enough sample size. This team isn't cursed by bad luck. This team is cursed by its own shortcomings.
The Wolves tried. They tried so hard. They did everything just perfectly to turn a 21 point lead with six minutes remaining into a game in which they needed every single one of Kevin Martin's six made free throws in the final 16 seconds. They made an effort to turn a certain win into the kind of loss that would have killed the season for good.
But they couldn't quite do it. They had just enough left in the tank to finish off the Nuggets 132-128 last night, even as they dangled precariously in a position where one missed free throw in the end would have given Denver a real chance to tie.
As such: a win is a win is a win.
More so, it was the team's sixth win in seventh games, it completed a 4-1 road trip and ... we know ,we know, why do we do this, but ... look out: this season isn't over yet.
The Wolves have five of the next six at home, and all six of the games are winnable. If they can put together a 5-1 stretch, which really isn't unreasonable, they would be 35-30 going into a game at Dallas in two weeks.
Golden State, Phoenix and Dallas are all within shouting distance. The Wolves still have to move past Memphis as well, but if Minnesota stays hot and two of those four teams falter, this thing is not over. Not by a long shot.
So check those smoke detector batteries. We're feeling optimistic again.
* Kevin Love, the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, finished his month of February averaging league-highs in both points (34.0 ppg) and rebounds (14.1 rpg). The last player to average 34+ pts and 14+ rebs in a month was Moses Malone in March 1982.
* Has recorded 30+ points and 10+ rebounds in six straight games, the third longest streak in the last 30 seasons (11 by O'Neal in 2001; 10 by Karl Malone in 1988).
* Love's 33-point, 13-rebound, 9-assist performance on Feb. 25 vs. Phoenix was his fifth straight 30+ pt/10+ reb game w/ 2+ 3FGM, the longest such streak in the NBA in at least 28 seasons.
* Love scored 22 points in the third quarter against Utah on Feb. 22, his highest scoring quarter ever and just shy of the club record for points in a quarter (Chauncey Billups, 24 in 3rd on Feb. 19, 2002); Love's 22-point third period in Utah wrapped up a three-game stretch in which he totaled 55 third-quarter points (15, Feb. 12 vs. Denver; 18, Feb. 19 vs. Indiana; 22, Feb. 22 at Utah).
The saddest number, not included in the stat pack sent out by the Wolves: 5-6. That was their record during Love's amazing month (and that was only after a 4-1 finish to the month, a string they bring into March).
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