COMMENTARY | Kevin Love was right to call out two unnamed teammates -- whom we all know are J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham -- for sitting on the end of the bench instead of huddling with the team in a late-game timeout during their 104-103 loss to the upstart Phoenix Suns.
Love, who made those comments unsolicited, should have taken things a step further, calling out the bench again for its lack of production throughout the season and questioning why the team is not playing defense.
There is no way this team will make the playoffs if it continues to allow teams to score against it at will. There is a reason it is 0-10 in contests decided by less than four points: This team cannot get stops at key points in the game.
Love is asking the Timberwolves to be a team, rather than a collection of individuals, something they have never been during his tenure in Minnesota. Ever since Love was dealt for in the 2008 draft, the Wolves have been K-Love and a band of misfits and draft busts. His former teammates include such esteemed players as Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Rashad McCants, Jonny Flynn, Wesley Johnson, and Derrick Williams. He has had to deal with an arrogant, incompetent former GM in David Kahn and an owner, Glen Taylor, that doesn't think he's a superstar.
All Love is asking is that the Wolves come together as a team. Last year was the first time that Minnesota resembled a club that could make the playoffs, but a rash of injuries hindered them and now newly minted GM Flip Saunders has gone all-in with this year's squad.
At the same time, leadership requires accountability, and Love needs to look at himself and realize that he needs to improve his defense in order for Minnesota to make the playoffs for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era. While he is the most complete player on the team -- and arguably the most complete stretch-4 in the league -- his defense leaves a lot to be desired.
Every player on the Wolves has a serious fault. Ricky Rubio, for example, is an elite passer and plays excellent defense but is an awful shooter. Kevin Martin is a great fit in Adelman's system but struggles mentally, creating off nights for the shooter, and is a poor defensive player. Corey Brewer is a good perimeter defender and can score in transition, but also does not shoot well. Nikola Pekovic is an immovable object near the basket and has improved his play around the rim, allowing him to score second-chance points, but he's a plodder that does not protect the rim.
And the bench; well, the bench has been a mess. On the league's second-highest scoring team -- the Wolves score an average of 107.3 points per game -- the bench only produces 23.8 of those points per game, according to HoopStats.com. That makes Minnesota's bench No. 28 in the league, placing them behind the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, and Chicago Bulls.
The return of Ronny Turiaf, an energy player and a good defender, should help the issue, but he is not going to offer much offensively. Same goes for Dante Cunningham. Alexey Shved is supposed to be a dynamic scorer, but he has been vanilla so far this season. Robbie Hummel has shown signs of life, but receives little playing time and is basically a poor man's Chase Budinger. Budinger has returned and will provide offense but is a defensive liability.
J.J. Barea has been productive in pick-and-roll situations and is supposed to offer some guidance because of his age, 29, and his experience winning a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. But now he appears to be part of the problem. Like Love, he is one of the least culpable members of the team in terms of production, but he's at the wrong end of the fight. He needs to use his feisty personality to light a fire underneath the rest of the bench, but he does not want to accept blame and was seen pouting with Cunningham instead of joining the team in the huddle.
It looks like the Wolves are about to explode. Those 10 last-second losses have done a toll on a team that, lacking defense, has to run every opponent out of the gym on any given night in order to win and because the bench is not producing, it puts a lot of stress on the starters.
The Wolves are on the edge of disaster. They have plenty of players under long-term contracts -- notably Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin -- and cannot just blow this thing up and tank for a star college player. They have created this predicament and need to fix it.
Except for Love, of course, he can leave for California and improve his defensive game while wearing a Lakers uniform and pretend that he was never a part of this mess to begin with.
Tom Schreier writes about the Twins, Wild, and Wolves for Yahoo Contributor Network. He previously covered Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and can be heard on 105 The Ticket in the Twin Cities. Followed him on Twitter @tschreier3.
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