Updated: January 9th, 2014 5:17pm
Zulgad: Even with close losses, my Wolves glass remains half full

Zulgad: Even with close losses, my Wolves glass remains half full

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The glass-half empty types would be quick to judge the Minnesota Timberwolves as a disappointment 35 games into the season.

They would have a point.

The Wolves are 17-18 and sit in 10th place in the Western Conference, two spots out of the playoffs and 2.5 games behind eighth-place Dallas.

Minnesota has blown its past seven opportunities to move above .500 and is 0-10 in games decided by four or fewer points after bumbling away a 104-103 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night at Target Center.

But the feeling from here is the glass-half empty crew is missing the bigger picture, not to mention all the fun that goes along with the 2013-14 Timberwolves.  These Wolves might be disappointing but so far they are proving to be great fun to follow.

The Wolves have put together a run of nine consecutive seasons without a playoff berth. This run of futility has included more than one season in which it was best to forget the franchise existed by the start of the year. For a few years, the television ratings indicated that they were almost completely forgotten.

Not this time.

The Wolves again provided great drama in defeat on Wednesday both during and after the loss to Phoenix.

Whether it was being outscored 9-1 in the final two minutes, 38 seconds, turning the ball over three times in the final four minutes, including a brutal miscue by Rubio with 25 seconds left, or having Kevin Martin miss what should have been an easy shot to win it in the final seconds.

And that's not even addressing the fact that while Martin had a very makeable shot, Kevin Love, the team's top player (right?), didn't have the basketball in his hands. Again.

Then there was the matter of Love's decision to call out two teammates - J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham - afterward for sitting on the bench and not joining the huddle during fourth quarter timeouts.

"We can't have two guys sitting at the end of the bench, who play good minutes, just sitting there and not getting up at timeouts," Love said. "We all need to be in this together. That kind of pisses me off. We're supposed to be a team."

Love's criticism came just more than a week after he questioned the bench for its lack of production in a two-point loss to Dallas. That was the same game in which Love clearly was fouled on a last-second shot but failed to get the call.

A week before that, Love scored 45 points but again did not get the last-second shot in the fourth quarter in a four-point overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

Love did have the ball in his hands at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter last Saturday at Target Center, but missed all four shots he took in the final 27 seconds in a 115-111 loss to Oklahoma City.

Rubio, meanwhile, isn't performing like a point guard who comes close to deserving the max contract that so many thought was headed his way when Love did not get that deal a few years back.

The Rubio defenders point to the fact that it was well known he wasn't a great shooter when he entered the NBA and no one should be surprised that he's hitting at a 35-percent clip from the field.

It's one thing to acknowledge Rubio isn't a great shooter, but it's another to realize that opponents right now don't have to worry about him as a threat.

This is the NBA.

Shrugging your shoulders, closing your eyes, plugging your ears and refusing to acknowledge Rubio needs to improve his shot isn't a good approach.

The other issue, and perhaps more important, is that too many nights Rubio isn't passing the eye test in other areas. He leads the Wolves with an average of 8.3 assists per game, but his panic-stricken attempt to save the ball on the baseline Wednesday and fling it back into play was irresponsible at best and Christian Ponder-like at worst.

A point guard needs to be able to calm his team when chaos is going on around him. Instead, Rubio raced to the panic button and hit it with all his force.

Unfortunately, because president of basketball operations Flip Saunders decided to trade away point guard Trey Burke to Utah on draft night last June, the Wolves don't have a great option behind Rubio. (Just a tought: Imagine if David Kahn had made this move instead of Saunders.)

Barea is the backup point guard but here's guessing that Saunders might be looking for a replacement considering Love's feelings toward his teammate.

The Wolves canceled practice on Thursday and decided to focus on watching film and doing some light shooting. It's also likely coach Rick Adelman attempted to create some peace in the locker room between Love and Barea.

Otherwise things could turn toxic for the Wolves.

That likely would have a bad ending for the team, but at least it would keep things interesting. And, one could argue, keep the glass half full when it comes to the drama meter.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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