Tonight after what seemed like six years off, the Wolves take it to Target Center in Ricky Rubio's would-have-been season debut. The Nuggets, long thought to be Western Conference contenders, are quietly right on par with the Wolves at an underwhelming 11-11 despite the team being generally injury-free for most of the season. This game marks a bit of a deja vu game, as the last time the two rivals faced off the Wolves benefited from a similar vacation followed by a game vs. Denver at home. Tonight's situation would have been even more eerie had Rubio decided to suit up, as Love miraculously came back from injury the last time the two teams squared off, but it is not to be. Rubio will be gazing onward yet again, hopefully debuting Saturday against the Mavericks. If he doesn't, well, that would stink.
1, The Love Comments. But let's tackle this elephant first. Unless you live under a rock/Pekovic, you know that yesterday Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a rhetoric-laden account interlaced with some rather shocking (or not, really) quotes from Kevin Love questioning David Kahn and, to a smaller, more implied degree, Glen Taylor. As one who loves to poke around quietly and see what the fanbase generally thinks about current issues, the response to this has been all across the board. Some were quick to blame Love, calling him a Diva. Others were quick to remember just how terrible Kahn has performed as a GM despite a successful offseason. A few blamed Woj for writing an obviously one-sided article that contained mostly his opinion and stance with little-to-no source material other than conveniently guiding Kevin Love's off-color comments towards an obvious personal disdain for the Wolves' front office on behalf of his agent source. Whatever the answer may be, none of this is particularly good for the franchise. But despite this, let's put on our earmuffs and briefly analyze this situation.
a. The media is a tool for athletes, as well as agents. One of the more often misperceived or under thought aspects of sports media today, is that fans and followers don't often grasp that most messaging and rumors are sent with a strategic agenda in mind. Furthermore, rumors and speculation are often, but not always, driven by those who are excellent at controlling the media: sports agents. Now of course there are plenty of examples where FO staffers speak under condition of anonymity, but trade rumors, free agent rumors, and other stories are generally leaked through agents. This is why Woj is so good at breaking stories. He has a national platform with perhaps a little bit more editorial freedom than his competition over at 4-letter or whichever outlet, and as such has become the ultimate PR tool for sports agents to sway public opinion towards or against a particular client and his respective organization. This then elicits action on behalf of a client. And thus the game of chess continues.
That being said, it is not a coincidence that Kevin Love shares the same agent as Al Jefferson, or Michael Beasley for that matter. Consider Love spent an odd amount of time addressing Kahn's decision to trade Al Jefferson over two years ago for pennies on the dollar. Consider Kahn flamed Michael Beasley publicly early on. Consider that good old Jeff Schwartz has not been able to get the better of Kahn in any contract negotiation to date. Consider Kahn has responded by making questionable roster decisions and thus lowering the value of one of his marquee clients. You see, as much as this is really about Love....it is more about the suddenly quiet David Kahn. Why Love was the talking head in the situation instead of Schwartz (under anonymity of course) remains to be seen. But one thing is clear, this wasn't some accidental set of circumstances. Love didn't just wander into an upscale Philadelphia restaurant and happen to run into Woj, known for basically dousing every word he writes in gasoline and setting it on fire, and decide "hey pal, let's talk!" Regardless of the true agenda, this was a calculated decision, whether right or wrong, by Love and his agent to sway opinion in some way. Love, growing more and more unlikable, clearly has beef with Kahn and this was another move on his part to sway the tides against him after Kahn did his best to cover up his liquid cesspool of ineptitude of a roster with a box of Band-Aids (whatever their premium item is! let's not discredit AK47.) this offseason.
b. So What is the Agenda? As implied above, this is not about Kevin Love. What is done is done. He feels mistreated, he feels mismanaged, he feels like he is in a bad situation and he is, only because of the POBO. I could be dead wrong here, but this issue seems to quietly be about Kahn more than Love himself. And this is, in a twisted way, a good thing. It says to me that Love would rather stay here than leave. Woj tweeted out as much this afternoon. It says Love feels he has a home here, but also that Kahn is not the best guy to lead the ship. And if he and his agent, another guy with a clear agenda and vendetta against Kahn who has had Woj's ear for years, have anything to say about it, they will. It is all a game. MPR Columnist Bob Collins had a great comment on this matter. "You have to be part PR-agent to be a sportwriter." And this is another case of another agenda in action. Just like the next big agent-driven trade rumor you hear (currently happening with Pau Gasol). As much as we think FO's control the league, agents are the quiet deities of the league in many cases. One only needs to remember Stephon Marbury's departure years ago when David Falk basically ran the entire league.
What is important to think about in this situation is not "what" Love said, but "why." The "what" portion has been obvious the second Love started playing at a star level, making all-star and Olympic teams, and watching his inferior peers get 5-year max deals from their respective front offices. But the "why" is really quite obvious if you dig at each carefully (yes, carefully and calculated) crafted comment he makes. He all but said, "I will play in Minnesota; I like this fanbase and community, but Kahn has treated me like scum and I won't tolerate it again." And in a situation where Love will hold every piece of leverage imaginable in three years, he made a good move for a professional exit strategy should no change be made in the front office. Once again, it all boils down to the infamous David Kahn. Anything beyond that is mere speculation. As if he went into the meeting with Woj ignorant of his negative editorial style and masterful rhetorical use of quotes? Give me a break.
And that is about as deep of an analysis as you will get until Love starts commenting about it again.
2. Oh yes, the game. No Rubio as mentioned above, and a grudge match for an over .500 record. Denver played, and defeated, Detroit last night so they will be coming in a little bit tired while the Wolves will be coming off a 4 day trip to the spa. For a team in such bad health, any rest is great rest. Iggy and Gallinari are your x-factors, thus Malcolm Lee and AK47 will have a big challenge tonight. Look for Ty Lawson, coming on after a slow start, to murder Ridnour off the dribble. It will likely come down to what it always has this season: getting to the line and making the shots, and at least trying not to shoot a historically terrible clip from 3.
Prediction: Wolves win at home 101-92. #embracehomerism