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3-pointer from Section 131 – Opening Night

Joann and I have tickets to 18 Wolves’ games this year. You might ask, “Why?” There is no answer to that. But we have them, and I’m going to post my impression of the team and each game right here on Bachblog. Lucky you.

Wednesday, October 27: Kings 118, Wolves 117

Steve and Joann opening nightWell, at least the Wolves didn’t start the season like they did last year. In last season’s opener, Damien Wilkins hit a buzzer-beater to lift the Wolves over the New Jersey Nets. We didn’t know then that the Wolves would lose their next fifteen games, and that the Nets would finish the season with the worst record in the league.

There was no buzzer-beater this time. True, rookie Wesley Johnson did tip-in Wayne Ellington’s miss at the buzzer. Unfortunately, the Wolves were three points down at the time, and a tip-in is only worth two points. So the Wolves fell to the Kings 117-118.

Sacramento played the game without their best player, last year’s Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans (who was serving a one-game suspension for speeding at over 100 MPH on I-5 north of Sacramento). Martell Webster—who underwent surgery last week and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks—and Jonny Flynn—out until early December with a hip injury—did not play for the Wolves.

Basketball point oneA big story coming into the game was Johnson versus Kings’ rookie Demarcus Cousins. The Wolves had a chance to draft Cousins, a center out of Kentucky who many think has a chance to be the next dominant big man in the game. A lot of Wolves fans were very disappointed when Minnesota opted for Syracuse small forward Johnson instead. Most have come around to the view that the combination of Cousins’ red flags (volatile temper and a history of conflict with his coaches), and Johnson’s fit for what the Wolves need (maturity, outside shooting, and the ability to run) made him the safer pick. But who really wants “safe”?

After seeing him during the preseason and in this game, though, I’m confident that Wesley Johnson is a special talent. His stroke from the outside is a thing of beauty, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Timberwolf with greater athletic ability. He jumps out of the gym. His combination of length, athleticism, and (it appears) hustle and “smarts” could make him an all-star someday. Cousins, on the other hand, is a beast. Big and strong, and he’s got a nice soft touch on his shot. He also showed the ability to pass (five assists). Unless his so-called “attitude problems” are quite a bit worse than they appeared to be at Kentucky, he’s going to be a very good player.

Basketball point twoTHE big story coming out of the game was why did Kurt Rambis bench the Wolves’ best player, Kevin Love, for the last nine minutes of a close game?! On opening night! Love was clearly unhappy last season when Rambis refused to start him or to play him at the end of games. The story was that Al Jefferson and Love didn’t fit together (as if Ryan Hollins fit better with Big Al). Well, Al’s gone.

All the talk in the preseason from Love was that he has matured and wants to be a leader on this team; from Rambis it was nothing but glowing praise for Love’s growth and committment. Now, game one of the season, and here we are again?

I listened to the Wolves’ post-game show on the way home from the arena. Rambis praised Anthony Tolliver’s defense and said it was “more of a positive thing toward A.T.” than anything else. But what disturbed me most was Rambis’ reply to a reporter who asked why the Wolves’ “arguably best player” was on the bench at the end of the game. Rambis’ reply was “Who’s arguing that? You are, not me.” That’s got to be great for Love to hear. Love is, of course, not arguably the Wolves’ best player, he’s clearly the Wolves’ best player, and everybody in the league—except Rambis, it seems—knows it.

It’s going to be a long year if Rambis continues to single out Love again by keeping him on a short leash. Which is something he didn’t do last year with Flynn, Corey Brewer, or Jefferson.

Basketball point threeI’ve got a running $5 per game bet with my Kings fan friend Jeff T. I’m not sure either once of us has ever paid off this bet, or where it really stands. Over the first few years of our bet during the KG versus C-Webb era, it was pretty much a push every year. Wolves would win two, Kings would win two. That’s what happened last year, but this year the teams only meet three times (barring the unlikely-to-the-extreme possibility that they meet in the playoffs) and so there will be no “push.” As of opening night, I’m down a five-spot.

Wolves v Kings opening night

The view from section 131, row W, seat 5.

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