Kevin Love played just under nine minutes in the second half of the Timberwolves season opener. He came out at the 8:38 mark of the fourth quarter never to return.
Love, the one guy on the Timberwolves part of USA Basketball this summer, the guy considered the face of the franchise and the future by many, sat through the key part of the game.
After the game a reporter asked T-Wolves coach Kurt Rambis a blunt question according to the Star Tribune: Why did you sit your best player?
“That’s your opinion,” he said. “I thought Anthony (Tolliver) was doing the things defensively that we need. It was nothing against Kevin. I thought A.T. was doing a good job. I thought that he was moving his feet well. He challenged shots. He blocked shots.
“Rather than turning it into a derogatory thing with Kevin, it’s a complimentary thing toward A.T.”
Love didn’t take it that way. He was gone before reporters were allowed in the locker room.
Tolliver was blocking shots, he had four of them, and he was providing better weakside defensive help (as pointed out at A Wolves Fan Among Wolves). Yes, when Love sat the Wolves went on a little run to tie the game. But that run faltered and you could feel the need for scoring and better rebounding. Love sat.
Nobody on Minnesota was playing good defense against a Kings team without Tyreke Evans (serving a suspension) — they scored 114.7 points per 100 possessions for the game, which over the course of last season would have been second best in the league. The Kings scored at will and it was a team-wide issue.
Going with the hot hand is a good practice for a coach. Rambis mentor Phil Jackson did it opening night — Derek Fisher sat at the end of the game so that a hot Steve Blake could stay in. And you get a game winner. But Blake and Fisher are role players, you don’t see Jackson sitting Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Kevin Love is the Timberwolves best player. Bar none. His defense isn’t great but neither is Darko’s or Beasley’s, and they were out there. Love is the best scorer and rebounder they have. You didn’t see Jerry Sloan benching Carlos Boozer or George Karl benching Carmelo Anthony because of their defense. Love needs to be on the court at the end of games. He should be a leader and go-to guy on this team, but it’s hard to become that when the coach cuts you off at the knees.