“Nice job, rookie,” a stranger said mockingly as he slapped me on the back of my Kevin Love jersey. It was February 27th, 2009 and the Timberwolves just lost to the Blazers 102-82. Love managed just two points and three rebounds in 28 minutes making him a lightning rod for criticism that night. Though Love was far from the player he would become, I had a feeling there would be something special.
By the end of his rookie season, Love had boosted his point and rebound per game averages to nearly that of a double-double, vaguely hinting at what was to come. From there Love expanded his game every year, becoming a threat from anywhere on the floor, and his body, as well. And each year Love broke records that had been held for decades and put up numbers that had rarely been seen since the NBA-ABA merger. He became an Olympian, an all-star, and a legitimate star in the league.
And now that era is gone with the news that the Cavaliers and Timberwolves will make an agreement official on August 23rd to send Love to Cleveland for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first round pick.
Love was hardly ever the star that Timberwolves wanted. Fans wanted the team to keep OJ Mayo over Love on draft night, and always seemed to scrutinize his game and call him an empty stats guy despite the amount of work he put into improving himself. Then, when he finally won over the fanbase, the infamous Yahoo! interview came out that turned the fans on him yet again when all he simply said was that he wanted to win; which was all any Timberwolves person wanted. From there it was a lot of frustration and disappointment as misfortune struck the team and would continue their decade-plus playoff drought.
It’s a shame that what we’ve seen with Love will not be fully appreciated since it’s rare to see a player grow from a pudgy 19-year old into one of the most dangerous players in the game. To see a player continue to expand his skillset year after year and take his career to new heights has been a real joy, and I will miss Kevin Love.
Now, we’ll begin again with Wiggins and hopefully Bennett. It’s never fun to begin another rebuild, especially since it feels as if Minnesota has been rebuilding for 10 years, but now there’s hope and direction. It won’t be easy. The Timberwolves’ roster consists of Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Glen Robinson III, Gorgui Dieng– and now Bennett and Wiggins –who are all under 25 years old. Young teams rarely win immediately, but the potential to see another star rise again is certainly there, as is the potential to eventually return to the playoffs.
The Kevin Love era faded out quietly. There was no circus or sideshow, and Love instead kept to himself instead of making this a public spectacle. Now, this will be a new era, though we’re not sure of what. It could be of Wiggins and Bennett or it could be another number of years of wandering the desert– we don’t know. What we do know is there is still a reason to believe in these things after what we’ve seen with Love and Kevin Garnett before him.
We don’t know if Wiggins or Bennett are next, but we will be looking to find out.