Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our 2012-13 guide to the upcoming NBA season in which SportsGrid’s acid-tounged writers identify the reason why your team should probably start looking forward to 2013-2014.
Knees – and the ligaments that hold them together – are important to everyone, but they’re especially important to basketball players. Functioning knees allow the world’s most freakishly gifted run-jump athletes to run and jump as freakishly as they do, and the 2012-13 Minnesota Timberwolves don’t have enough of them. Also, David Kahn is involved. David Kahn is not to be trusted in any situation until proven otherwise.
First, the knees. As anyone who’s rooted for a player and/or team affected by a knee injury can tell you, they are terrifying. As far along as treatment of these injuries has come, when a guy falls in a heap on the floor, usually resulting in him missing the rest of the season, it’s hard not to wonder if he’ll be as explosive as he was before when he gets back.
Just ask, say, Timberwolves fans. Ricky Rubio was exceeding most expectations during the 2011-12 season. He was helping make the T’Wolves a young, exciting, fun-to-watch – and also way better – team. After going 15-67 and 17-65 over the previous two seasons, the T’Wolves were 21-19 in early March of this past season, in the hunt for a playoff spot. Then, Rubio went down during a loss to the Lakers. Fans were crushed. Opponents were even crushed. And considering they went 5-20 for the rest of the season, the Wolves were crushed, too – and their franchise player was losing patience.
The good news: while it’ll be impossible to know how well he’s recovered from his injury until he sees game action again, Rubio is back. The bad news: the Wolves doubled down on the “guys with bad knees” strategy. Namely, they added Brandon Roy. Roy’s a good player, sure. Of course, he also retired from basketball less than a year ago thanks to doctors telling him that if he kept playing basketball, he might not be able to walk. Oh, and the Wolves also drafted Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, who tore his ACL twice in college (though he’ll play in Spain this season). The T’Wolves aren’t just a basketball team- they’re a knee injury support group.
And that gets us back to the matter of David Kahn. Stockpiling guys with bad knees might be a questionable strategy, but Kahn’s the guy who took two point guards with back-to-back picks in the 2009 draft. One of them, Rubio, didn’t play in Minnesota for two years. The other, Jonny Flynn, was gone from Minnesota after two years. Oh, and the fourth overall pick in 2010, Wesley Johnson? Kahn gave up on him after two years, too. “But he hired Rick Adelman, an accomplished coach,” you say. “The guy’s not a total loss.” Well, yeah, except Adelman came to Minnesota in spite of Kahn and has no respect for him. Kahn catches a lot of flak, but it hasn’t been without reason.
And the especially sad part of all this: the T’Wolves have themselves a pretty interesting team. You’ve got Kevin Love and his insane stat lines. There’s Nikola Pekovic helping him anchor the frontcourt. And there are new additions all over the place: Andrei Kirilenko wasn’t in the NBA last season but won Euroleague MVP honors; he should help out. Chase Budinger gives the team an added shooter. Louis Amundson and Dante Cunningham provide depth, and Greg Stiemsma proved last year with the Celtics that he’s a solid defensive option as a backup. And let’s not forget 2011 No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams, who should be primed for a second-year improvement, too. This team has options.
And then, the backcourt. Rubio’s back. So are Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea. If Roy can be even close to the player he was in his Portland prime – if he can even be the player he was in 2010-11, when his role was scaled back due to injury – he’ll be a valuable addition. If newcomer Alexey Shved can flash as much potential in the NBA as he did for Russia in the Olympics, he’ll be a valuable addition. If Rubio’s back to his old self, he’ll be the joy to watch he normally is. If all these things happen, this could be an exciting time to be a T’Wolves fan.
It’s a lot of “if”s, though, isn’t it? Here’s another: if the T’Wolves become the first team in NBA history to have every player’s knees explode simultaneously…
Actual season prediction: They’ll be good enough to hang around the playoff race for much of the year – and injured enough to fall just out of it by the end.
Getty photo, by Christian Petersen