Kevin Love, J.J. Barea on 'same page,' downplay any lingering tension
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The tension that had risen dramatically around the Timberwolves Wednesday after another gut-wrenching close loss and Kevin Love's barbed postgame comments seemed to have dissipated to a slow burn Friday morning.
Love spoke to reporters for the first time since he called out teammates J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham for not getting up from the bench in the waning minutes of the Wolves' late collapse against the Suns on Wednesday.
Those postgame remarks created a large stir across the Internet, social media and talk-radio, centered on the signs of unrest that appeared to be forming within the Wolves locker room.
Love was subdued and short with his responses Friday but he deflected talk of any lingering issues, repeatedly answering that the situation was under control.
"We've been on the same page," Love said at shootaround prior the Wolves' matchup with Charlotte (7 p.m.). "Everything that happened is now internal. We've moved on from it. And we have a big game tonight."
Barea on the other hand was open and straightforward in echoing a similar outlook as Love. While admitting he wasn't pleased with the way Love handled his initial comments, Barea insisted they had already talked to each other and had resolved the issue.
"A little disappointing, you know? I wish Kevin would've just came up to me, face-to-face, man-to-man, and said it, but it's no big deal," Barea said. "We're over it. We're done with that. We learned from it, and if we want to win, we've got to play as a team and stay together as a team, so we're done with that, and we've got a game tonight. We'll just keep it going.
Even so, Barea willingly confessed he should have handled himself differently during the game. Brought to the bench at the 8:07 mark in the fourth quarter, Barea walked to his seat, visibly frustrated. He stayed rooted to his seat for the rest of the game.
"No question. I think it looks a little bit bad, that we were at the end of the bench, but it's something that we've got to get better at. I think it won't happen again," Barea said.
"I'm a competitor. I love to play the game. That's me. Sometimes, I'm gonna be mad. Sometimes, when I get mad, I like to go to the end of the bench and cool down for a little bit ... That's just me. If I don't get mad, it's not gonna be me. I've just got to do what got me here as a basketball player."
Cunningham declined to meet with reporters
When asked if he was happy with the team's current chemsity, Love said simply: "Everybody likes each other, everybody likes each other."
Whether it was justified or not, it wasn't hard to see that Love's previous frustrations were spawned out of Minnesota's struggles to find the consistency needed to make a run firmly into playoff contention. After the loss to Phoenix, the Wolves dropped to 0-10 in games decided by four points or less and stayed winless in their last eight attempts at moving their record above .500.
Nearing the midpoint of the season, the Wolves are still within striking range of a coveted playoff spot. They won't get there unless they find a cure to their late-game woes, and especially not if there are growing fractures among teammates.
But by all indications Friday, the Wolves had moved on for now.
"It's the dog days of January, but we still have a number of games left," Love said. "We're past, I guess, the first trimester. And we just need to knock out as many games as we can before the All-Star break and give ourselves a chance. Because we're right there."