Kevin Schnepf, Published October 10 2012
Schnepf: Timberwolves have a buzz for the first time in years
“I think I would’ve been an eighth-grader … no wait a minute … I was a freshman,” Love said.
Remember the spring of 2004? That’s when Kevin Garnett had an MVP season in leading the Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals. That’s when guard Sam Cassell celebrated a playoff win with an R-rated dance.
“That sticks out in my mind,” Love said with a chuckle. “Then I do remember that year.”
Love was indeed a freshman back in 2004, starting for the varsity high school basketball team in Oswego, Ore.
On Wednesday night in the Fargodome, the 24-year-old Love scored 12 points to help the new-look Timberwolves to an 84-70 exhibition win over the Indiana Pacers.
With 9,163 fans filling the north end of the Fargodome – some paying nearly $100 to sit courtside – there is definitely a new buzz for a franchise that has missed the NBA playoffs for eight straight years.
When Love came to the Wolves in 2008, wins and fans were hard to come by. Then last year, a Spaniard by the name of Ricky Rubio arrived, and suddenly Wolves fans were excited again.
Rubio’s point-guard wizardry had Wolves fans talking playoffs. That was until he tore his ACL and the Wolves went 5-20 without him.
The Wolves came to Fargo with only six players from last year’s team on the roster. Absent was Rubio, who isn’t expected to play until December.
When asked if the Wolves are biding time until Rubio’s return, head coach Rick Adelman responded: “You don’t bide time in this league. You’ll get buried. We can’t worry about Ricky and where he is and when he’s coming back.”
So Mr. Adelman, are the playoffs a realistic expectation for his Wolves?
“Going into the first exhibition game? It’s a long ways away,” Adelman said. “It’s always a goal for everybody but there is a lot of work to be done.”
Especially in a Western Conference where 10 teams are legitimate contenders for the eight playoff spots. Like the Wolves, those teams feel they have reloaded enough to make a run.
“Time will tell,” Adelman said.
That takes us back to the time when the Timberwolves last made the playoffs in 2004.
Rubio was a 14-year-old about to become the youngest player to ever play in the Spanish ACB League. Now, 21, he is the youngest player on the Timberwolves.
Newcomer Andrei Kirilenko is the second oldest on the Timberwolves at age 31, which bumped up the team’s average age to 26. Point guard Luke Ridnour, who didn’t make the trip to Fargo, is five days older than Kirilenko.
Back in 2004, about the time the Wolves were losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, Kirilenko was a 24-year-old All-Star for the Utah Jazz.
“You remember better than I do,” Kirilenko said. “I think it’s a long time without playoffs. And I think the Wolves are ready to take that next step. It’s a bright future.”
Considering the past eight years, anything looks bright for the Timberwolves.
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Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549
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found at www.areavoices.com