The NBA lockout is depriving us all of many things. It will continue to do so for a while, it seems, based on the news that the first two weeks of the regular season have been canceled. The Wolves are losing momentum from their best off-season in recent memory, one they could have built upon with cross-promotion during the run to the WNBA title by the Lynx. The Wolves, in fact, would have made their home preseason debut tonight at Target Center if not for the labor mess. So it goes.

But while the lockout is messing up a lot of plans, we feel it shouldn't interfere with you, the reader, and your ability to read high-quality preseason feature stories about your favorite NBA team. As such, today we present the first of what could become a series of OBVIOUSLY FAKE  features and possibly even game stories representing happenings that COULD be pushed forward right now. Here we go:


It was a simple drill, really -- a two-on-two scrimmage at the end of practice designed to see which of the fatigued Timberwolves players were still playing at a high level. One one team: Luke Ridnour and Darko Milicic. On the other: The Future.

Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, two precocious players on an already young team, had the ball. Next basket would win. Rubio took a slow dribble right as Love -- using a newfound quickness he attributes to a summer workout regimen that shed 20 pounds -- made a quick dash to screen Ridnour.

Rubio saw it coming, as has been the case often with these two early on. He crossed over his dribble to use the screen, drove hard to the hoop and made Milicic commit to him. Love cut hard to the hole, not knowing exactly to expect but knowing he should always keep his hands and head up. Rubio got Milicic in the air and flipped the ball to Love, who finished with a two-handed slam as Ridnour watched helplessly.

Ballgame. And a sight the Wolves hope to see often this season.

"It's amazing," Love said. "I've never seen anybody like Ricky, with his vision. It's like we both already know exactly what the other one is going to do on the court. This could be really special."

Rubio, standing next to his teammate as Love spoke, grinned.

"I just like to pass the ball," he said. "That's what I do."

A couple seconds went by, and he added, pointing at Love: "And I like this guy, here."

The feeling is mutual. Rubio and Love have been almost inseparable since camp started, but on and off the court. On it, they're working together on the nuances of new head coach Rick Adelman's offense while also getting a feel for the flair that each brings to the game.

Off the court, the two of them along with rookie Derrick Williams and fellow youngster Wes Johnson have been at the core of several team-building events: a bowling night, a trip to the movies and even go-kart races.

"Seeing Darko in one of those little cars was worth the price of admission alone," Williams said.

A huge night out -- details are being kept top-secret -- is being planned for Rubio's 21st birthday, which comes in just 10 days.

"We'll probably be in Fargo," Love said, noting the team has a preseason game at the Fargodome the night after Rubio turns 21. "So let this be a warning to the ladies of Fargo: Watch out for the Spanish Sensation. That's all I can say."

When told of the big plans, Adelman, 65, chuckled.

"These guys make me feel young again," he said. "Their enthusiasm is contagious. And more importantly, they can play."

Skeptics would note this is only the preseason, and the two have just a handful of practices together. So far, though, so good.

"This is the most excited I've been for a season," Love said. "This could really be our year."

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