WASHINGTON – Five years after he coached a rookie named Kevin Love, you almost could have sworn you heard Washington coach Randy Wittman yell the same thing as he did long ago every time the Timberwolves now two-time All Star attempted a three-pointer Tuesday night at a very quiet Verizon Center:
“I’m past that now,” Love said Tuesday. “That was a long time ago.”
Love made three of four three-point attempts and scored 16 points in Tuesday’s first quarter alone on his way to a 25-point, 11-rebound night in a 104-100 Wizards victory.
Love entered Tuesday’s game third in the NBA in scoring (26.8 ppg) and second in rebounding (13.6 rpg).
“You can’t ever predict the numbers like that,” said Wittman, who coached Love for his rookie year and the first six weeks of his second season. “But you knew the basketball IQ was there from the beginning. At this level, if you have the physical tools and then the mental part that goes with it, you can take that a long way. We’ve seen that with Kevin. He’s very adept at understanding how you’re playing him, and he adjusts to it. That’s what makes him so difficult.
“You can’t play him the same way all the time. You have to change up what you’re doing, keep him thinking or he’ll learn from what you’re doing and make you pay for it.”
Eight men out
Wolves coach Rick Adelman continued to play basically an eight-man rotation Tuesday, keeping at least one starter and often two on the floor when he subbed J.J. Barea, Dante Cunningham and Robbie Hummel into the game. Reserve Alexey Shved played six first-half minutes and third-year forward Derrick Williams didn’t play at all once again.
“Nobody’s playing more than 35 minutes,” Adelman said, referring to this starters.
“So it’s not like guys are playing 40 minutes, but I think over the course of a season — like this week with five games in seven nights, we’re going to have to get other guys into the game.”
Defining his role
Adelman clearly has decided he prefers the little things Hummel, a former second-round pick, does over former No. 2 overall pick Williams when he needs to give Corey Brewer a rest at small forward.
Hummel played 22 minutes Tuesday and made two three-pointers on his way to a 7-point, 6-rebound night and was on the floor late in the game.
“We’re just looking for him to come in and give us some stability,” Adelman said regarding Hummel. “He really knows how to play.”
A Wolves-Wizards game remains something of a family affair: Wolves basketball boss Flip Saunders coached the Wizards not that long ago, and his son Ryan remains a Washington assistant coach. Wolves GM Milt Newton last summer was hired away from the Wizards, where he had been a front-office executive for years.
Wizards assistants Don Zierden and Sam Cassell have Wolves/Saunders connections as well, and Wittman coached under Saunders in Minnesota and Washington and still lives in Minnesota in the summer.
“Once you’ve been in it 30 years, I lost that fuzzy feeling,” Wittman said about playing the Wolves. “I’ve been to a lot of different teams. Obviously, I have a home there and people I know.”
Former Wolves swingman Martell Webster started for the Wizards. He made five three-pointers, including a big one in the final minute, on his way to a 17-point night.
And Wolves reserve guard A.J. Price played for Washington last season and he thought he’d return this season, but the Wizards never made him an offer last summer.
“They never did, which is kind of surprising,” Price said. “What a GM does is his decision, you know what I mean?
“I control only the things I have control over.”
• Wolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad missed his third consecutive game Tuesday because of a sprained ankle. He has played little even when he has been healthy.