Will Kevin Love and his USA teammates suffer from an Olympic hangover?
By JOAN NIESENFS North
MINNEAPOLIS – Before Kevin Love's injury, he spoke a bit about being out of shape from the Olympics. He likely meant something closer to "tired" or "not at his peak training," but in the aftermath of his broken hand, it wasn't too farfetched to wonder whether knuckle push-ups were just an example of the power forward pushing himself too hard to get back in shape.
Love has a strenuous workout routine, which he's happy to talk about, and really, it's doubtful that he was all that worried about whether he'd be in shape for the upcoming season. Of course he would have been.
ESPN The Magazine this morning, I found an interesting blurb about Olympians crashing and burning in the season after the Games. Turns out, empirical studies of the 92 players who have played in the five Olympics since 1992 proves that assuming players fresh off the Games are going to struggle is fundamentally wrong. According to the study, 34 players posted better statistics the season after the Olympics than the season before, 39 players were worse and 19 were essentially the same. (The comparisons relied on use of player efficiency rating, which essentially boils down all of a player's numbers into one statistic.)
In addition, 60 of the 92 players sat out the same number of games or fewer than in the season before the Olympics. Only 32 players sat out more games the season after than the one before.
So yes, Love is out, likely until the end of November or early December, but at least past precedent might work in his favor when he returns. The only downside: The whole "not exhausted" argument also applies to LeBron, Kobe, Kevin Durant, etc.
Bold prediction: In the NBA world, this is season preview week. The regular season tips off next Tuesday, and the Timberwolves begin at home next Friday against the Sacramento Kings. We'll have more preview coverage up throughout the next week, but I thought I'd take a glance at the first month of the schedule and make a few guesses.
November record: 7-8
Toughest game: On the road, Nov. 28 against the Clippers. The Timberwolves beat the Clippers in three out of four games last year, and you've got to know they want to try for that again. Love could be back by this game, but winning on the road in Los Angeles is never easy.
Most intriguing game: At home, Nov. 16 against Golden State. The Warriors made some offseason improvements and should be better than they were last year, just like the Timberwolves. Seeing these two ascendant teams measure up to one another could provide an early glimpse at the murky middle and bottom of the Western Conference.
Easiest win: At home, Nov. 2 against Sacramento. The Kings are not good. On paper, the Timberwolves should beat them. It's the home opener. All this adds up to Minnesota's easiest shot at a win.
Most likely loss: At home, Nov. 21 against Denver. It's unlikely Love will be back, and the Nuggets could be very good this year. The Timberwolves lost three of four to Denver last year, and beating them without Love is going to be a long shot.