From the look upon his face when asked, you can tell Portland coach Terry Stotts hates comparing one player to another. And yet it's almost unavoidable when it comes to his LaMarcus Aldridge and the Timberwolves' Kevin Love because they share something so fundamental and yet go about their business so differently.
"The only comparison to me is they play the same position," Stotts said. "I don't know. It's difficult. LaMarcus does what he does for us and Kevin does what he does for them. They're both great players. They're both All-Stars. And they're both playing at a high level."
That being said, Stotts then offered his own biased opinion before the Trail Blazers' game at Target Center on Wednesday, before Love went out and nearly produced a triple-double before halftime on a night when the Wolves led by 32 points in the second quarter and just held on to win.
"I would say LaMarcus is the best power forward in the league," Stotts said. "With all due respect to Kevin, I like what he does for our team. I think they're the best power forwards in the game."
That is, as long as you consider a guy named LeBron James a small forward, point guard or any of the positions other than the same one Aldridge and Love play.
Aldridge's improved play helped elevate the Trail Blazers to a 22-5 season start — the NBA's best record — while Love nightly puts up astounding statistics for a Wolves team fighting to get over .500.
"Who said that?" Wolves coach Rick Adelman asked when told before Wednesday's game that Stotts called Aldridge the game's best at his position. "Well, he's going to say that. I'll say Kevin Love is the best power forward. Who's the tiebreaker?"
On Wednesday, it was — if only until the two teams meet again in Portland in January — Love with his 29-point, 15-rebound, nine-assist game that flirted with his first career triple-double.
"Longevity and consistency," Love said afterward when asked if a single game determines anything. "I think between LaMarcus and myself, we've been very consistent this year. His team has had more success. We're still getting a lot better. We haven't played as long as they've been together. We're going to get better."
Aldridge is one of the early leaders in the league MVP discussion because of the Blazers' surprising record and games like the 31-point, 25-rebound night he had in a victory over Houston two weeks ago. He still has a polished midrange shooting game — unusual for such a big man — but now is rebounding more, as well.
At age 28, Aldridge's averages of 23.3 points and 11.1 rebounds are the best of his eight-year NBA career. At age 25, Love is averaging 25.5 points and 13.7 rebounds.
"We make our impact on the game in different ways but almost equally effective," Love said. "I respect what he does, at 6-11 and so long and athletic. I know it's a very tough cover for both of us.
"We're very different matchups. I respect him because he has such a great skill set. He's playing a great brand of basketball."
Second-guessing the Burke deal?
Second-guessing their team's draft decisions has become a favorite pastime for Timberwolves fans, who again wonder why the Wolves didn't just take Michigan point guard Trey Burke when he dropped to them with the ninth pick last summer.
Instead, the Wolves worked a two-for-one deal with Utah for picks Nos. 14 and 21 that became Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, and the Jazz got Burke with that ninth pick.
Jazz fans are wondering about Burke, too: Like, would Utah's season have turned out differently so far if Burke hadn't broken his finger in October and if the Jazz hadn't started the season 1-11 without him. Utah went 6-10 in his first 16 games back and he followed a 1-for-8 shooting night in Miami last week by scoring a career-high 30 points in Orlando two nights later.
He scored those 30 against a Magic team that includes fellow rookie Victor Oladipo, who was drafted second overall. "It gives me a little motivation going into those games," Burke told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Barkley: Sit him down
Kobe Bryant's latest injury, a fractured bone in his knee, will keep him out the next six weeks. TNT analyst Charles Barkley thinks it should be much longer for a 35-year-old player who missed this season's start because of a torn Achilles' tendon that ended his season last spring.
"Kobe Bryant shouldn't play any more this year," Barkley said on Thursday's NBA doubleheader telecast. The Lakers "should shut him down. He is never going to be the same again. … He can be a good, solid player, but age has nothing to do with willpower."