Though there isn’t a lot of reason to believe the San Antonio Spurs won’t be able to repeat as NBA Champions, the toughest act can be following your own success; especially in a team game.
The Western Conference of the NBA is a gauntlet, was a gauntlet last year, and will remain so despite the fact that the Timberwolves are breaking-in a team of young minds, with young skills.
The season has begun as advertised for a rookie laden Wolves squad, but the recent contract extension for fourth-year point guard Ricky Rubio shows a commitment to develop the group of potential stars.
Rubio is an ideal point guard for a young team ready to run, and they have matched energy with their opening competitions. Yet while they are delivering soundly, the moral victories by way of tough losses, still add up in the loss column, which determines playoff qualifications. Or as Hall of Fame NFL head coach Bill Parcells says, “You are what your record says you are.”
It also may be too much to expect a rookie led team to get savvy in the tiring late stages of the season. The lessons of the season generally take the offseason to ingest.
Thus far, the exciting possibilities for the Wolves comes from veteran eight-year veteran forward Thaddeus Young, among the team leaders in points (17.7), though missing much of one game due to a concussion. Young’s assertiveness in this leadership opportunity is valuable, win or lose.
Young will need to have an all-star season to get the Wolves into the playoffs, but the team plays with great energy and athleticism, as advertised (in its season ticket commercials).
The San Antonio Spurs play disciplined, veteran basketball, and disciplined basketball wins championships. That is the bar that all the athletically, and offensively gifted teams in the Western Conference must surpass.
That list of exciting teams got momentarily shorter due to the loss of both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Nonetheless there are plenty of teams positioned to take their place atop the conference.
Quietly interesting has been the quick rebuilding of the Dallas Mavericks who have started the season undefeated. The franchise recently won its’ first championship in 2011, with a similar core group. Included in that group is former Timberwolves guard J.J. Barrea. His presence bodes well for the Mavericks, because the “leave Minnesota and win a championship” superstition is as rock solid as when your palm itches. I’m not a betting man, but I’m just saying to those that are … Dallas. Plus, teams like Dallas win the championship in years when the great franchises don’t have their stuff together (see Lakers, Pistons and 76ers).
It’s difficult to imagine the Golden State Warriors winning a championship but no duo of players in the league is as potent as the “Splash Brothers.” Guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, are both NBA-fathered children, and scoring buckets comes as natural as breathing oxygen. But it’s difficult to imagine the Warriors ever playing championship level defense when the team is too busy watching the same show everyone else is paying to see.
The Portland Trailblazers are the Portland Trailblazers. They are an exceptionally talented team that performs as well as the best teams in the league, and then somewhere along the line the trail stops blazing, and the defense can’t wait to get back on offense. The Houston Rockets have Dwight Howard, who scored 11 points the other night (repeat as needed for understanding).
I see good returns for the Wolves as the team grows, especially because they have willing defensive effort, which is better than I can say about most of the exciting Western Conference teams, and which is why Dallas should win the trophy and champagne or apple cider bath that comes with it next June.