Love has had to earn his way into super-establishing himself in the NBA, though players around the league recognized his potential from the beginning. After his 31-point rebound performance against the New York Knicks on November 12, everybody far and wide will have a new respect for Love. Whoever Love’s PR agent is, they have done a great job in promoting the pleasant young fella from the very beginning. I say this because there has certainly been a void with the Timberwolves since Kevin Garnett left in 2007. I said from the beginning that Kevin McHale’s “out the door” selection of Kevin Love balanced his General Managing tenure out with his “in the door” selection of Kevin Garnett. Somehow just for those two players I don’t think Wolves fans can grumble at McHale too much posthumously.
But there has certainly been a new day in Timberwolves team management since semi-new General Manager David Kahn has taken over. The sneakiest inclusion in Kahn’s “under construction” team roster is actually the most obvious. Rookie Wesley Johnson, from Syracuse University, got a “Minnesota Nice” welcome, but beneath those smiles were many people who had hoped the Wolves would have drafted big Demarcus Cousins from the shiny University of Kentucky hoop program. Cousins has certainly been pretty good during the first month or so of the season, but Johnson has worked his way – at least temporarily – into the starting line-up for the Wolves, and is matching Cousins’ output. More importantly, Johnson’s natural persona seems to have an uplifting effect on the Timberwolves’ internal and external presentation. Johnson knows where the camera is, though he doesn’t abuse it, and with a team coming off of a dismal season, personality counts a little more than usual. Thus, Johnson too, is an ideal player to fill in the long-standing void of Garnett.
The most pleasant surprise with regard to Johnson is that he has a silent competitive drive that comes out in the form of A) Not being scared to shoot, and B) Hustle. Some players (like Cousins, if you ask me) try hard, and then if the results don’t shake out right, they sulk or get frustrated. Johnson has shown to be the type of player that takes adversity and converts it into greater effort. The cherry on top with Johnson is that he can actually shoot pretty well, too.
The early comparisons between Johnson and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, of the Bulls & Michael Jordan Show, seem to have at least an ounce of validity. Most importantly, Johnson has the eye of a gladiator, and seems willing to fight until the very end. This quality shows that he at least has the mental ability to make himself great. Johnson’s array of dunks to open the season easily confirm his physical ability.
The Wolves seemed to be in early trouble after the NBA scheduler cruelly made the young team travel through Florida to face the retooled Miami Heat with LeBron James, as well as recent NBA Finalists, the Orlando Magic. With such a young team, it seemed like there may have been an element of awe that hurt them in playing those star studded NBA leaders, as they got summarily drilled by both teams. But the resiliency mentioned of rookie Wesley Johnson, along with the consistency of Kevin Love, and the enthusiasm of talented scorer Michael Beasley, are the keys to defeating the acceptance of losing. With second-year guard Jonny Flynn on his way back soon, and four victories already under their belt, the Wolves seem to be on a rising trend.