Wolves Friday: Portland connections plentiful

Playing in Portland gives many Timberwolves a chance to visit a home away from home.

Looking at their schedule, you’d think the Timberwolves had some kind of in with whomever in the NBA is responsible for laying out the slate of games. First the convenient five-day break at the peak of their injuries, and now this post-Thanksgiving game in Portland, the city to which so many players and coaches are connected.

First and foremost, there’s Rick Adelman, who played in Portland from 1970-73 and then coached the Trail Blazers from 1989-94. He still calls the area home. Same with Kevin Love, who attended high school in the Portland area, even playing alongside one of Adelman’s sons at Lake Oswego High School. Brandon Roy, who didn’t make the trip after knee surgery Monday, spent the first five years of his career playing for the Trail Blazers, and he grew up in nearby Seattle. In addition, Luke Ridnour is from Blaine, Wash., and attended college at the University of Oregon.

The Timberwolves’ staff also boasts its fair share of connections to the Portland area. Terry Porter played for the Trail Blazers from 1985-95 (including all of Adelman’s tenure), and Bill Bayno served two stints as a Trail Blazers assistant. T.R. Dunn was picked 41st in the 1977 NBA draft by the Trail Blazers, and he played there until 1980. Adelman’s two sons who work with the team, R.J. and David, also have connections to the area.

Love-ing this offense: I had to laugh Friday morning when, as I stuffed my face with leftover cheesecake (appropriate breakfast, right?), I read this tweet from ESPN’s Chris Palmer:

@ESPNChrisPalmer: Kevin Love leads the NBA in scoring and rebounding. So what he’s only played one game.

Both true, but in the case of at least the scoring, it’s not likely to last, and right now, the Timberwolves and Love need to work to get the star power forward fully integrated back into Adelman’s system.

In his first game back with the Timberwolves, Love had 34 points on 34 shots in 35 minutes, and the team took 117 total shots, a season high. (It took 108 shots in its 22-point comeback in Brooklyn.) Before Love’s performance, the most shots a player took in a game this season was 25 by Alexey Shved on Nov. 16 against Golden State. He scored 22 points on those 25 shots in 32 minutes.

And yet, Minnesota lost.

It’s going to take work to re-integrate Love into the lineup – he’d barely practiced before debuting Wednesday night – and as usual, we need to look beyond the numbers to see where that improvement needs to come. Sure, Love had a double-double, but he was 8-of-14 from the free throw line and 2-of-9 from long range. There’s no denying that his 34-point, 14-rebound night was impressive, but it’s not too hard to see that he should be able to improve upon that.

Another telling stat: Love had the highest plus-minus of any Timberwolf in the game: plus-7. The next best were Ridnour and Malcolm Lee, with plus-1 each. Of course, the team is better with Love on the floor, but he’s nowhere near fully a part of its schemes, and that number should improve. His teammates need to get better, too.

Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.

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