Lakers beat the Wolves 106-98; Kevin Love talks about next season
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The good news is the Minnesota Timberwolves did something they failed to do the first two games of their three game road trip: They actually showed some effort and put up a fight.
The bad news? It wasn't enough to outduel the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in a 106-98 loss Friday night.
Although any Wolves fan with their head not completely buried in the sand has had their eyes set on next season for a while now, with 11 games remaining in this train wreck of a season, it is now time to set sights firmly on the 2011-12 season.
This was supposed to be the season that the Wolves took a step forward. The rebuilding was said to be complete and president of basketball operations David Kahn had the roster full of young talent he wanted. But through 70 games, the Wolves have just two more wins than they did last season with a roster that has been completely overhauled.
Despite the lack of success in the wins column, the players and coaches have maintained they have the core group of players necessary to compete in this league.
"Regardless of what some people say, I think we are in a very good spot," Kevin Love said on 'The Phunn House' with Joe Anderson this week. "I have been saying that we have a lot of things going for us. We are the youngest team in the NBA so we are only going to get older, turn into more veteran guys, get better over the summer and that's only going to help us."
"We have a ton of cap space so we can spend money either sign guys in free agency or get guys through trade. Obviously we have to draft well, there is a draft every June and you have to draft well, add new players, add new prospects and a lot can happen in a year."
The youth of the team was hailed as a positive over the summer and throughout training camp but it quickly turned into a detriment. Coach Kurt Rambis has bemoaned the fact he has no veteran voice in the locker room or presence on the court to settle things down in late game situations.
Rambis has spoken at great lengths about the need for more veterans on the roster and Love echoes the sentiment.
"If we added a veteran guy or two that will come in and teach the younger guys the ropes day in and day out," he said. "You sometimes take for granted how influential that is for younger players. For me, Big Al came in and did that for my rookie year, was a guy I look up to on the court, a guy that would work with me everyday before and after practice.
"Just veterans like that are what I can put on my finger on what we definitely add a few veteran guys to maybe help us out."
A season after dealing Al Jefferson to get younger and faster, the Wolves are now talking about their need to get older. But such is life in the NBA when you are a team without a true superstar and, although Love has taken a giant leap this season, he isn't there yet.
But after a season that's included the league's first 30 point, 30 rebound game in 30 years and the franchises' first All-Star appearance since 2007, Love's opinion will likely carry more weight behind the scenes with Kahn.
"I think David respects everyone's opinion on the team. For me, I think when I go in there at the end of the season for our exit meeting, obviously I'll have my point of view and we'll go from there," Love said. "When the time comes I think there will be some stuff that each player will go in there and talk about that can kind of make this thing better.
As is the case with every team in a place as low as the Wolves, rumors have been circulating that Rambis may be on the seat, particularly because of his volatile relationship with Love. However, Love continues to maintain that the player/coach relationship has improved dramatically in their second season together.
"We have been all good all season," Love said. "I know we had our differences last year but since the season started, and even throughout the summer, sitting there at the Lakers games with him during the Finals, we have been good ever since. There have been no problems at all."
Love has shied away from questions about his future and if he wants to sign a long-term extension in Minnesota. His stance has always been that he wants to win, regardless of what team it is with.
And although Love is too nice to directly say it, you have to believe the patience of a guy who has lost more games in this calendar year than he did in his entire high school and college career combined is beginning to wear thin.