Patrick Reusse: Wolves fill scene's personality vacuum

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2012 - 12:00 AM

In addition to winning some games, Rick Adelman's lineup is bringing joy and delight to Twin Cities pro sports.

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As David Kahn, right, looked on, Wolves coach Rick Adelman congratulated Luke Ridnour on his game-winning basket Wednesday vs. Utah.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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There was some personality on our pro sports scene 25 months ago, when Brett Favre ended his first season in Minnesota with a big effort in an overtime loss at New Orleans.

Sidney Rice had emerged as a star receiver, Percy Harvin was a dynamic rookie and Adrian Peterson -- even with the fumbles -- remained a one-of-a-kind combination of speed and power at running back.

On defense, Jared Allen and Kevin Williams led a front four that could take over games, never more so than in a 34-3 playoff slaughter of Dallas in the Metrodome.

And then for the 2010 season, Favre was as lousy as he had been great, and the Vikings disintegrated on both sides of the ball. As of today, they have little to offer, other than Allen's sack numbers and Harvin's continuing excellence.

The Twins added significant personality to the operation in 2010, both by moving into Target Field and breaking out their own Favre-like character in Jim Thome.

Even with 94 wins and another AL Central title, ballpark paradise showed hints of trouble: a huge drop in Joe Mauer's production and a Justin Morneau concussion at midseason that destroyed a huge year for the first baseman.

Those hints became a disaster in 2011, and today, the Twins have no personality and no prospect for success.

In St. Paul, there were some characters to be found among Jacques Lemaire's heroes of a playoff run, but that was way back in 2003. The Wild has had only dullness to sell for several years.

When your best player is a dour, defense-first center, you're hurting in the personality department.

The current situations at Winter Park, Target Field and Xcel Energy Center have created a vacuum, both in winning and in personality.

And that's where the Timberwolves have arrived out of nowhere to rescue the local pros -- somewhat with victories and more so with an injection of personality.

The Wolves reached the Western Conference finals in 2004 and haven't been in the playoffs since. The hard fall reached bottom over the previous two seasons, when the discordant duo of David Kahn and Kurt Rambis combined to produce a 32-132 record.

It's probable the Wolves will miss the playoffs for an eighth consecutive year. Yet, when you look at a 17-17 record with 32 games remaining in this shortened season, and contrast it to the immediate past, you get this:

The exact same feel as the Twins' revival through the first 90 games of 2001, with a touch of Randy Moss coming to town (in the form of Ricky Rubio) in 1998 and a hint of Lemaire (in the form of Rick Adelman) suddenly popping up with that preshootout, 95-point team in 2003.

The best moment of the pre-All-Star portion of the season came in the final game Wednesday night. And it wasn't so much Luke Ridnour's game-winning runner vs. Utah as the reaction from the sideline.

Rubio was having a bad night, and Adelman finally went to J.J. Barea and Ridnour as his guard combination. The comeback ensued, and throughout, you could see Rubio filled with fire and with delight.

He was in a chair next to Michael Beasley, a player with less reason to be fully engaged than any -- considering his limited minutes these days. Yet, The Beasy seemed to be enjoying it, too, even wincing in feigned agony as Rubio swatted him late in the rally.

Rubio's numbers in Spanish pro ball were so modest that Minnesotans didn't know what we were getting in this kid, either as a player or as a personality. Two months into his NBA career, he's impressive as a player, obviously, and equally impressive as a teammate.

We've seen it repeatedly: Rubio's joy in another player's effort.

Also: The new, skinny Kevin Love has gone from a numbers machine to a genuine ironman of an All-Star on a competitive team. And if you're a Twin Cities sports fan who doesn't already love the Montenegrin mauler, Nikola Pekovic, you're not trying.

Plus, there's the caged lion, rookie Derrick Williams, the mercurial Barea and the unpredictable Beasley.

By several miles, the Wolves have the most intriguing collection of pro athletes in the Twin Cities.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. • preusse@startribune.com

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