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Dante Cunningham and Kevin Love did a victory dance earlier this season after a win.

Marlin Levison,

Wolves Kevin Love and Portland's Nicolas Batum went after a rebound during the second half at the Target Center in Minneapolis Wednesday, December 18, 2013. Wolves won over Portland 120-109. ] (KYNDELL HARKNESS/STAR TRIBUNE) kyndell.harkness@startribune.com

Kyndell Harkness, DML - Star Tribune Star Tribune

Souhan: Love can lead in stats, but can he lead the Wolves?

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • January 26, 2014 - 7:08 AM

Even when the Timberwolves have it good, they aren’t.

Thursday, our favorite cursed franchise enjoyed one of the best days in its quarter-century of existence. Kevin Love became the first Woofie since Kevin Garnett to be named a starter in an All-Star Game.

It’s an epic individual achievement. Because Love plays for the Wolves, context taints the honor.

Love has elevated himself without elevating his team. That’s not all his fault, but it demonstrates how complex winning can be, and just how cursed the Wolves have been.

For long stretches of Wolves history — pretty much any time Bill Musselman or Flip Saunders wasn’t running the sideline — the fan base has yearned for a quality coach. Now they have a potential Hall of Famer in Rick Adelman, and he often looks disgusted by the challenges this team presents.

For long stretches of Wolves history, the fan base yearned for a front office run with passion and expertise. Now they have NBA veteran Saunders at the helm, and his first draft and his team’s performance leave much to be desired.

Since the Garnett trade, the Wolves have yearned for a star of Garnett’s ilk. Now they have Love, a first-team All-Star, an elite scorer, an integral part of a gold medal-winning Olympic team, and his individual brilliance only raises questions.

Why can’t an alliance between Saunders, Adelman, Love and point guard Ricky Rubio produce a winner?

Why can’t the Wolves’ most talented roster since the Garnett years contend?

Why do at least some of Love’s teammates so obviously view him as an individualist rather than a leader?

Will Love’s achievements and suspected lingering anger over David Kahn’s contract snub lead him to leave Minnesota as soon as possible?

Saunders, Adelman, Love, Rubio … this should be seen as an embarrassment of riches for one of the least-successful franchises in America, and yet the Wolves are in danger of missing the playoffs again.

Love’s honors highlight the danger of depending on a star. While the Gophers basketball team is winning because of coaching and cohesion, Minnesota’s professional teams are all underachieving despite the presence of highly paid stars.

The Wolves feature an All-Star starter in Love — and a 20-21 record.

The Vikings have Adrian Peterson, the best running back of his era — and finished 5-10-1 last year.

The Wild spent fortunes on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter — and seem headed for another eighth seed and first-round playoff loss.

The Twins have Joe Mauer, who is one of the most accomplished catchers in baseball history — and haven’t had a winning record since 2010.

No Minnesota professional team has advanced in the playoffs since the Vikings, aided by Brett Favre, made it to the NFC title game in 2009.

Stars are supposed to transform franchises. These four have been weighed down by the gravitational forces of their teams’ struggles.

Basketball, more than any other sport, promotes the idea of the transformational star. Superstars are supposed to win titles, or at least vie for them.

Where does that leave Love? He has become one of the league’s most productive and celebrated players, but the Wolves’ best season since he arrived produced a paltry 31 victories last year while he was injured.

Entering the weekend, the Wolves were tied for 10th in a 16-team conference despite Love’s impressive numbers.

In a locker room where his accomplishments should make him the Alpha male if not the alpha and omega, he has feuded with veterans J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham.

It’s not Love’s fault that Rubio and Kevin Martin can’t shoot straight, that the roster is weaker than it appeared last summer, that the franchise that drafted him also drafted Flynn and Wes Johnson, but he will be judged by his team’s performance.

By the end of the weekend, Love will have 39 games remaining in which to prove he can carry a flawed team.

The Wolves know they can’t win without him. What’s more troubling is that they still aren’t sure whether they can win with him.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays

at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is

@SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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