It has been a rough year for Kevin Love and the Timberwolves in basketball terms. Love broke his right hand twice, first doing knuckle push-ups, and then during a game shortly after returning. Love wasn’t himself in those 18 games, shooting just 35 percent, and the Wolves never really had a chance to compete for a playoff spot as injuries claimed just about every rotation player at some point.
But Love’s off-court life has gone well. The NBA awarded him its Community Assist award in December, an honor that comes with $10,000 to the charity of Love’s choice. He selected St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which cares for pediatric cancer patients around the country and seeks a cure. Cancer has claimed a couple members of Love’s extended family, and that’s in part why he's involved year-round with St. Jude and formed his Spreadlove campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer. Love played a large part in the NBA’s St. Jude Week at the end of February, and he chatted with Grantland in an extensive one-on-one about his charity work, the Wolves’ lost season, the future of the franchise, and Nikola Pekovic’s “aura.”
1. David Lee’s unnecessary but appreciated post-fancy-pass spin away from the play.
2. The realization that Kevin Love’s return opens the door for both a T’Wolves whiteout and an all-bearded, zero-defense Minnesota frontcourt.
3. The suspicion that Andrew Bogut was a bit too inspired by Adrien Brody’s look in that Gillete ad.
4. Andris Biedrins. Everything about Andris Biedrins: that he’s the first one off the bench, that his celebration involves lifting one leg off the ground and a pelvic thrust, that there’s more joy in his towel-draped face than I’ve ever experienced.
5. The Barnes stare-down.
6. The chance to tell my Nikola Pekovic story. It goes like this. Apparently, last season, a group of reporters had gathered in the Minnesota locker room, and one inquired about the tattoo on Pekovic’s left arm — what looks to be a knight thrusting a large sword into a pile of skulls. Asked whom the tattoo was supposed to represent, Pekovic responded, “Oh, that’s just my friend.” It sure is.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio healthy, projected as a clear playoff team — and one that might have surprised folks by pushing something like 50 or even 55 wins. They were a .500 team when healthy last season, and they upgraded one of the two or three worst wing rotations in the league with Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved, Brandon Roy, and the jack-of-all-trades game of Andrei Kirilenko. Toss in some internal improvement and a full season of Nikola Pekovic producing during minutes in which Darko Milicic generally crapped the bed, and the Wolves looked like a playoff lock.