Jacob Greenberg: Guys, I can't remember a funner game. I was rooting for the Wolves so hard. It felt like an epic game, perhaps a franchise-defining game. The Wolves made their triumphant return to national television, maybe for the first time since KG got traded in 2007. And you couldn't have asked for a better game. The nation learned so much about this team last night. And really, there are so many storylines to choose from and focus on.
Alex Maki: Terrific game. As a Wolves fan I was up until 2:30 am reading all the recaps and blog posts I could get my hands on. And then I fell asleep, dreaming of playoff relevance.
Jacob Greenberg: I know that feeling. So, what is the major storyline of this awesome, awesome game? K-Love's cementation as a top five NBA player? Ricky Rubio's national debut? The redemption of Darko Milicic? Something else?
Alex Maki: It might be the Wolves arrival on a national stage. I would like to think that Clippers fans, though heartbroken after their loss, would be happy for the Timberwolves franchise after this game. They can identify, as they have had some woeful teams and terrible front office management throughout the years. But the empathy should stop there, as the Wolves previously got no respect or attention from the national media. That is, until the last couple of weeks with national coverage of Love and Rubio after nearly every game, SI articles, and ESPN specials. Strange days for our Wolves. So, seeing Love drain a game-winning three as the buzzer sounded, all on national television, and over the media darlings in Lob City, was a rare moment of Timberbliss.
Jacob Greenberg: To me, it sounds like you should be sending Kevin Love an e-card.
Luke Hasskamp: Exactly. Obviously, Alex, you make several excellent points. But the story of the night is Kevin Love. Even though Darko was the best player on the floor last night.
Jacob Greenberg: Come again?
Luke Hasskamp: Well, okay. Darko was arguably the best player on the court last night. I'm not saying it's an argument that I will win, but it's an argument I can make with a straight face, which is saying a lot. I think it's a little early for the coronation, but it is exciting to get a glimmer of his potential. No Wolves fan would be expecting a performance like that (22 points and 7 rebounds) every night, but he at least possesses the ability to make an impact day in and day out.
Jacob Greenberg: Bold statement, Hasskamp. Thoughts?
Hans Peterson: Yep, I got thoughts. I think Luke is wrong in that Mo Williams was the best player on the floor in the vacuum of last night's game, but Darko was a close second. The problem is, I still think Darko is broken and probably will remain so for the rest of his career. Last year, when he had this game, I thought it was a turning point and he could legitimately become, at the very least, an impact player at a position that lacks serious competition (outside of Dwight Howard, and to a much lesser extent Marc Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Andrew Bogut, NBA centers are terrible right now). I easily thought Darko could put himself into the Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert tier of above-average-but-not-quite-all-star centers who could easily matter on a competitive team. I no longer think he will on a consistent basis, but it is still really fun to watch him show off the lost potential once every twelve games or so.
Jacob Greenberg: If by fun, you mean, "depressing."
Alex Maki: Yeah, Christ, man. Darko had a great game, but he has some serious psychological hurdles that will almost certainly keep him from being a consistent starter in the league, this game be damned. The Wolves cannot rely on their centers to jumpstart their offense.
Jacob Greenberg: Luckily, they got Kevin Love.
Luke Hasskamp: Seriously. Again, the story is Kevin Love. What a baller! The three was special, but mostly, he did what he does every single night, which is play like an absolute man. It annoys me that he doesn't get more press and respect. I made the argument last year that Love was a legitimate MVP candidate, but no one was buying it.
Jacob Greenberg: I think it had something to do with the fact that his team won 17 games.
Luke Hasskamp: Again, it's an argument I may not win, but I definitely could make it with a straight face. And I absolutely can make the same argument again this year. And additionally, I can certainly make a decent argument that he's the best player not named LeBron James.
Jacob Greenberg: Kevin Durant on line one, Mr. Hasskamp. He'd like a word with you.
Alex Maki: Yeah. Love wasn't even perfect last night. He continues to struggle with both producing high quality shots from the post, as well as consistently hitting open jumpers from the elbow.
Hans Peterson: Agreed. Despite the final shot, and my own hyping of Love, I thought he looked pretty bad last night.
Luke Hasskamp: And that's the thing! I think the last play of the game is a great analogy for the way Love is treated by the national audience: no once covered him, and yet he went along and did what he does. And the greatest thing about him burying that 3 was how he absolutely knew he was going to make that shot. Ridnour knew he was going to make that shot. Love's reaction immediately afterwards was priceless. And I think the reason Love is succeeding in Minnesota is because he doesn't give a damn about the national audience, which I think may explain why former Timberwolves (like Stephon Marbury) failed here. Love simply loves to play the game, and people in Minnesota love him for that.
Jacob Greenberg: That's a fairly sunny outlook.
Alex Maki: Too sunny. This team is not consistently good. Rubio had a very rough shooting night, and though his fourth quarter was terrific in a lot of ways, he still could have played much better.
Hans Peterson: Agreed, but I DO think that Rubio-Love is a 1-2 combination that, with a year to grow, and with less incompetence at the 2-guard spot, is god enough to lead a team into the playoffs next year.
Alex Maki: Something of a tall order, isn't it? Can Wayne Ellington continue to #letitwayne? And that's not the only issue. How is Beasley going to affect the lineup and flow of the offense and defense when he returns? Will Webster or Brad Miller be able to offer support where it is desperately needed for the Wolves, mainly on the wing and in the post? Will Derrick Williams ever be a consistent shooter from distance, and will he learn how to control his body while driving to the hoop? And will Wes Johnson ever be a serviceable player?
Jacob Greenberg: Good questions. I guess time will tell. So, was this game a watershed moment for the Timberwolves?
Alex Maki: I'm not convinced. The Wolves are a resilient team, one that could legitimately win every game it plays. As last night showed, they can even come from behind in the second half to beat a good team. They keep doing it. But let's not forget that the Wolves put out a bad product for most of the game. We played great basketball against a solid team for one quarter. I loved all the excitement and drama, especially beating a media darling on their home court, live on ESPN. But I am not interested in a watershed moment. I want a consistently good product, and the Wolves are starting to get there. Starting. There's still a ton of questions that need answering.
Luke Hasskamp: I think Alex is right. It's important to temper our expectations. The Wolves aren't quite there yet. I do not expect them to make the playoffs this year, but they're close. I like to compare this year's squad to the Oklahoma City Thunder of 3-4 years ago. A lot of young, talented guys who believe in each other and appear destined for great things. I don't even care if they win that many games this season. It's just exciting to see these guys play, which is the first I could say that about the Timberwolves in quite awhile.
Hans Peterson: Yes sirs. If they could pick up some legitimate wing scorer somehow (Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala, Gerald Henderson) or if Derrick Williams can become that player at the 3 sooner rather than later, I think they can be among the 4-5ish seed in the West in a couple of years. Pretty exciting!
Brian Swann: Sup, guys.
Jacob Greenberg: Swanny! Didn't know you were here. Have you thoughts on the game?
Brian Swann: Nope. Didn't see the game.
Jacob Greenberg: Oh. Well, what's up?
Brian Swann: Just checking: did you say that Kevin Love is a top five NBA player? Dude, please. As much as I heart Kevin Love, he is NOT a top five NBA player. I'd rather start a team with (in no particular order) either Durant, Rose, LBJ, Howard or CP3. Is he in the next tier of players? Definitely.
Jacob Greenberg: You're entitled to your opinion. Real talk, guys. Real talk.
Hans Peterson: So, who wants to see a game sometime?
Brian Swann: I do.
Luke Hasskamp: BARTELS! I'm down.
Alex Maki: Oh, me too! I'd ever so love it.
Jacob Greenberg: Jeez. Thanks, assholes.
Brian Swann: What?
Hans Peterson: Yeah, you can come. Swanny's black too, and we're inviting him.
Luke Hasskamp: Yeah, baby. OBAMA!
Jacob Greenberg: Gee, thanks. Too bad I don't live in Minneapolis.
Alex Maki: What, really? Since when?
Jacob Greenberg: Since 2008, silly goose, when I moved to Seattle.
Brian Swann: Oh. You moved? I thought you had just been busy these last three and a half years.
Jacob Greenberg: Gotta love my friends.