Everyone knows Kevin Love was traded by the Wolves to the Cavaliers this past summer, and almost every Wolves fan knows the exact date of Cleveland’s only trip to Target Center this year — Jan. 31, which loomed in the distance for months but is now better known as Saturday.
That’s the starting premise for a Timberwolves promotional video that appeared in-game Wednesday when Minnesota defeated Boston and burned through the Internet like a brush fire Thursday.
The video, made by the Wolves’ Live Programming and Entertainment group and labeled “The Return,” starts out with dramatic music and the words, “This Saturday, it’s all been building up to this,” before transitioning into shots of several Cavaliers players — foremost among them LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. It continues to a crescendo before the words “and the return of ...” appear.
The expectation is that Love is the player in question. Instead, the Wolves tout the return of Mike Miller — yes, also a former Minnesota player who is now with the Cavaliers. Love is never mentioned in the course of the one-minute video.
I viewed it as a smart way and funny way to promote the game, since the joke is fairly obvious after being revealed. Of course Love is the real player everyone is waiting to see.
But there is also a subtext to the fun and games. Love’s departure from Minnesota was not without acrimony, and a certain percentage of the local fan base — we’ll see just how much based on the reception he gets Saturday — either dislikes Love, the way he handled leaving Minnesota, or both.
Before the Wolves played in Cleveland last month, Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said of Love, “Minnesota people are pretty loyal. You turn on Minnesota, they don’t forgive you.”
In deciding against playing it straight in their promo video, the Wolves opened themselves up to interpretation as to their intent. The SportsCenter Twitter feed — with more than 13 million followers — suggested the Wolves were “throwing shade” at Love (insulting or talking trash, basically). The ESPN.com story called the video, “Cold, even for Minnesota in January.”
Being mean wasn’t the intent, said the Wolves’ VP of Communications, Brad Ruiter. He said the idea was to “poke a little fun at the hype surrounding the return and not necessarily toward Kevin directly. ... He has a sense of humor. Chances are he got a good laugh out of it as well.”
We’ll see who gets the last laugh Saturday: Love, Miller or the Wolves.