J.J. Barea was not happy he was pulled in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's loss to the Suns.
Mark D. Smith/Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
MINNEAPOLIS — For the second time in two weeks, Kevin Love expressed via the media his displeasure with certain teammates’ actions.
And for the second time in two weeks, J.J. Barea wishes it could’ve been handled differently.
"A little disappointing, you know?" said Barea, who along with Dante Cunningham received Love’s criticism for allegedly sulking at the end of the Timberwolves bench on Wednesday. "I wish Kevin would’ve just came up to me, face-to-face, man-to-man, and said it, but it’s no big deal. We’re over it. We’re done with that."
Coach Rick Adelman agreed with his backup point man. Love needs to lead, but there’s a right way to go about doing so.
"This day and age, you have to figure out how you say it," Adelman said, "because it’s gonna be there forever."
After a one-point loss to the Suns, Love called out Barea and Cunningham for remaining seated on the bench during timeouts. Last week following another close defeat, this one to Dallas, Love told reporters the entire set of reserves needed to pick things up.
Barea wasn’t pleased with Love’s comments on either occasion, but has said he understands where they came from, too. The second unit has indeed been inconsistent — ranking near the bottom of the NBA in scoring — and Barea acknowledged his late-game demeanor Wednesday may not have been the most professional.
"No question," Barea said Friday after the team’s morning shootaround. "I think it looks a little bit bad that we were at the end of the bench, but it’s something that we’ve got to get better at. I think it won’t happen again."
Cunningham wasn’t as open after waiting until about an hour before Friday’s game against Charlotte to address the media.
"Honestly, that’s a team issue," Cunningham said. "I don’t really have anything to say about that. We’re here to play ball. That’s an in-house, locker room thing."
Love also insisted the topic has been broached — Adelman said the team talked about it Thursday — and he and his teammates simply need to press forward from it.
"We’ve been on the same page," Love said Friday in the first of several short, terse statements regarding his comments Wednesday. "Everything that happened is now internal. We’ve moved on from it."
Later, he reticently added "everybody likes each other."
Yet frustration has mounted lately in the wake of several close losses. Heading into Friday night’s home matchup with Charlotte, Minnesota is 0-10 in games decided by four points or less and winless in its last eight chances to eclipse the .500 mark.
Three of those setbacks — 100-98 against Dallas, 115-111 to Oklahoma City, 104-103 versus Phoenix — have occurred in the past 10 days.
Barea admitted he was perturbed Wednesday that Adelman pulled him with 8 minutes, 7 seconds to go. After having a word with Adelman, he stormed toward the end of the bench, throwing down his towel and cursing before taking a seat.
Cunningham, one of the Timberwolves’ other top reserves, was yanked at the 5:13 mark and sat near Barea. They rarely left that spot the rest of the game.
Barea averages 18.6 minutes per game and played 13:05 against the Suns. Cunningham averages 19.1 and was on the floor for a season-low 11:03.
Adelman continues to mix and match with his bench rotation, especially with the return of Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf from injury this week. That can make it tough on a backup who’d rather have and be aware of a clearly-defined role.
"It’s definitely a lot easier when you know every night, ‘this is what you’re gonna do, this is where you’re gonna be,’" Cunningham said, "but you have to be a professional about it and just understand that Coach is doing his best."
An eight-year NBA veteran, Barea said he settles himself down at the end of the bench when a sub comes in for him, especially if he didn’t wish to be taken out. "I’m a competitor. I love to play the game. That’s me. Sometimes, I’m gonna be mad. Sometimes, when I get mad, I like to go to the end of the bench and cool down for a little bit.
"If I don’t get mad, it’s not gonna be me."
But Love sure didn’t like it Wednesday.
"We can’t have two guys sitting at the end of the bench that played good minutes just sitting there and not getting up during 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 wasn’t at his best Wednesday, either, going 4-for-20 from the floor, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
But his sometimes transcendent talent level makes him a leader, Barea said, and it’s OK for him to speak out — just in the proper context.
"He’s an All-Star on this team, so he’s got to be the leader," Barea said. "He’s got to be a voice, and everybody’s got to follow the All-Star."
That voice wasn’t too keen on discussing the matter before Friday’s contest. He wouldn’t elaborate on any conversations he’s had with Barea or Cunningham since the Suns game.
And when asked if he regretted anything he said regarding those two, Love’s only response was "come on man, I mean –" then trailing off.
That was the last question Love took Wednesday morning.