Sooner or later, you have to think players returning from injuries will help Minnesota.
By JOAN NIESENFS North
MINNEAPOLIS – Well, the
Timberwolves are halfway through what's looking more and more like the road trip that might turn into a hole, having dropped two games in Portland and Golden State after losing at home to Denver on Wednesday.
After the team's buzzer-beater win over Indiana on Nov. 9, I tweeted something to the effect of “this team is completely flummoxing,” and more than two weeks later, I'm going to stick to my guns, though this time around that flummoxing is not quite so positive. This is a team that, with mounting injuries and a posse of benchwarmers playing superstar minutes, managed to mount massive comebacks in back-to-back games, the kind where you figure if they'd had a minute or two more they'd have won.
And now with Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and J.J. Barea back, a new pattern is developing, exactly the opposite of what would make sense. In their past three games, the Timberwolves have gotten out to leads, some double-digit, before blowing them in the third and fourth quarters and losing. Don't get me wrong, this is no indictment of Love – or Pekovic or Barea – and it's completely understandable that the team would lose the power forward's first three games. Love barely practiced, after all, before mounting a surprise comeback and then heading out on the road. No, it's not the losses that are really the issue (although they don't help) but rather the means by which they've come about.
How is it that a team with plenty of personnel and the momentum and confidence that comes with its star player's return blows these leads? Where has the urgency gone, the underdog mentality? That's what the Timberwolves need, because even with Love (and eventually Ricky Rubio), they're still the underdogs, still the team with the league's longest playoff drought, still with so much to prove. They need to tap into that again for the rest of this road trip and the rest of the month, rather than resting on their laurels as the game progresses and eventually slips away.
They now have two chances, tomorrow in Sacramento (which would seem a must-win) and Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Clippers, to come home with a .500 trip.
Ricky to Vail: Rubio is headed to Vail, Colo., on Monday for a three-day visit with his knee surgeon in order to get final clearance to return to the practice court. Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn told me last week that with the pace of Rubio's recovery, he and the team feel optimistic about this final visit, but he's still unwilling to give any more clarity to the vague December return date for the point guard.
Regardless, Rubio won't be an instant savior for a team that has lost five straight games. He knows when he returns it'll be an easing-in process, with his minutes gradually ticking up from about 10 to start.
Ticket prices in Brooklyn: This has zero to do with the Timberwolves – the New York market could not be more different than Minnesota – but it's interesting nonetheless. Monday night marks the rescheduled Knicks-Nets game in Brooklyn that was supposed to tip off both teams' seasons on Nov. 1 but was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. You've got to think the game will be even more exciting now, nearly a month later, with the teams sitting atop the Atlantic Division and the Knicks looking like something approaching contenders, when a month ago it would have been little more than a cross-city rivalry.
Here's where it really gets interesting, though. According to Bloomberg News, tickets to the game are being resold on secondary markets for an average price of $584 – and that's actually down from $913 for the original opener. Nov. 23 Nets-Clippers matchup at the Barclay's Center saw secondary market tickets averaging $465, so this is actually nothing too new for the arena.