Kevin Love’s Cleveland Cavaliers will visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday in what will be the only time all season the Cavs will be billed as “Kevin Love’s Cleveland Cavaliers.” This is because Love will be playing in the Target Center for the first time since being traded to Cleveland from Minnesota, the team that drafted him in 2008.
Minnesota’s promotional department, long noted for its sterling sense of humor, decided to release this video in anticipation:
Yes, that’s a clip celebrating the return of Cavalier reserve swingman Mike Miller, who played one eventful (for its unexpected uneventful-ness) season for the Wolves in 2008-09. Miller, who averages 16.4 minutes a game and is shooting just 35 percent from the floor this year with the Cavs, is best known as a Timberwolf for an exchange with NBA.com columnist Steve Aschburner, then writing for Sports Illustrated.
When asked why he was routinely passing up wide open looks, at times almost looking like he was attempting to throw the game, Miller came through with this bit of snippiness:
"We get in trouble when we don't move the ball,'' Miller said, offering what has become his boilerplate answer on the topic. "My job on this team is sometimes to pull up and sometimes to move the ball. We don't play well when we don't move the ball. If we just play on one side of the floor and take two, three dribbles and shoot, we're in a lot of trouble.''
As an explanation, it wasn't very helpful. No more than his response back in January when he said: "I take what's there. It's called basketball; James Naismith invented it a long time ago.''
Miller was dealt to Minnesota from Memphis on 2008’s NBA draft night in a move that sent Mike, Kevin Love, Jason Collins and Brian Cardinal to the Timberwolves for O.J. Mayo, Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric and Greg Buckner. Rare is the trade in which one team nets the top two players and the two best role players in the deal, as Minnesota really won that one in spite of Miller’s hesitance on the perimeter.
They also really won the deal that sent Miller to the Washington Wizards after his lone season, sending him to the Wizards with Randy Foye for a series of would-be expiring contract and the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA draft.
(The Wolves used that pick to select Ricky Rubio, and then their own pick was used on Jonny Flynn one spot ahead of Stephen Curry, but the Timberwolves made us all laugh today so let’s not bring their fans down too much.)
Love never made the playoffs in Minnesota, and it was his angling and the threat of a contract opt-out this summer that encouraged the Wolves to deal him to the Cavaliers last summer. Some aspects of the trade haven’t panned out – the needlessly acquired Thaddeus Young won’t be worth anywhere near the unprotected 2017 first-round pick the Wolves gave up for him, and Anthony Bennett still doesn’t look like a rotation player most nights – but Minnesota did secure likely Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins in return.
Love failed to create a winner in Minnesota, but he also fell victim to coaches that didn’t know what to do with him early on, an owner and bust of a general manager that didn’t know how to treat him, and scads of lacking teammates spread out over six seasons. He worked his tail off for a franchise set adrift, and in leaving he gave the Wolves the top tools they’ll need for a proper rebuilding project. Minnesota is 8-37 and working with the NBA’s worst record, but in Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, and hopefully Bennett and Rubio, the franchise has a series of future cornerstones to add to whatever lottery pick they’ll take in this June.
This is part of the reason why Love probably won’t be booed heartily in his return to Minnesota, even after forcing a trade and leaving the Wolves in the NBA cellar.
That, and because Minnesotans are just too darn nice:
(Hat tip: Super-nice Minnesotan Steve McPhereson.)
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