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Rambis says defense reason Kevin Love got benched. But Beasley and Darko stayed in?

Oct 28, 2010, 10:54 AM EDT


Kevin Love played just under nine minutes in the second half of the Timberwolves season opener. He came out at the 8:38 mark of the fourth quarter never to return.

Love, the one guy on the Timberwolves part of USA Basketball this summer, the guy considered the face of the franchise and the future by many, sat through the key part of the game.

After the game a reporter asked T-Wolves coach Kurt Rambis a blunt question according to the Star Tribune: Why did you sit your best player?

“That’s your opinion,” he said. “I thought Anthony (Tolliver) was doing the things defensively that we need. It was nothing against Kevin. I thought A.T. was doing a good job. I thought that he was moving his feet well. He challenged shots. He blocked shots.

“Rather than turning it into a derogatory thing with Kevin, it’s a complimentary thing toward A.T.”

Love didn’t take it that way. He was gone before reporters were allowed in the locker room.

Tolliver was blocking shots, he had four of them, and he was providing better weakside defensive help (as pointed out at A Wolves Fan Among Wolves). Yes, when Love sat the Wolves went on a little run to tie the game. But that run faltered and you could feel the need for scoring and better rebounding. Love sat.

Nobody on Minnesota was playing good defense against a Kings team without Tyreke Evans (serving a suspension) — they scored 114.7 points per 100 possessions for the game, which over the course of last season would have been second best in the league. The Kings scored at will and it was a team-wide issue.

Going with the hot hand is a good practice for a coach. Rambis mentor Phil Jackson did it opening night — Derek Fisher sat at the end of the game so that a hot Steve Blake could stay in. And you get a game winner. But Blake and Fisher are role players, you don’t see Jackson sitting Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

Kevin Love is the Timberwolves best player. Bar none. His defense isn’t great but neither is Darko’s or Beasley’s, and they were out there. Love is the best scorer and rebounder they have. You didn’t see Jerry Sloan benching Carlos Boozer or George Karl benching Carmelo Anthony because of their defense. Love needs to be on the court at the end of games. He should be a leader and go-to guy on this team, but it’s hard to become that when the coach cuts you off at the knees.

  1. richmondboy - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Have the Wolves picked up Love’s option??? I have no idea what Kahn and Rambis are doing up there, but if they continue to undervalue one of the league’s top rising stars, either another team will propose a trade, or Love will hit the free market

  2. lebronsinsecurity - Oct 28, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    I’m starting to wonder if Kurt even watches the games he writes about, or if he just get’s that big of a kick out of ragging on the Wolves.. Love’s defense last night was awful, not just bad.. Every other player was at least giving effort.. I actually agree with Rambis on this one, he’s not letting anyone off the hook regardless of how good a player thinks they are.. Don’t get me wrong, Love is good, he’s just not great yet.When you win only 15 games in a season, nobody should be guaranteed minutes, especially if they are lacking effort..

    • Kurt Helin - Oct 28, 2010 at 1:55 PM

      I watch the games. We can agree to disagree on if the man who replaced Love on defense was good enough to make up for the offense and rebounding drop that came with the move. But I don’t doubt that what Love really needs is a center who can erase mistakes next to him, like Boozer has in Chicago now. Of course, the Wolves have Darko.

      • jstrizzle - Oct 28, 2010 at 3:28 PM

        Oh nice burn Kurt. I mostly agree on your assessment overall and thought Love should be playing way more. I was bummed because of 2 points I thought you should have brought up. I think insulting Rambis for playing Telfair way too much would make sense. I thought he lost us the game more than Love could have won it. Another point is you made so much of Blake Griffin’s first points being a Dunk. How about Wesley Johnson! I believe I have already called you out on this blog for calling him a shooter. Look what he just did with a bad Hammy.

      • petermcd88 - Oct 28, 2010 at 3:42 PM

        He may be the Wolves’ best player but that says more about how bad the wolves are than how good Kevin Love is. As a generally knowledgeable basketball guy I can’t believe you would even compare sitting Kevin Love to sitting Kobe, Gasol, Boozer, or Melo. He is not even close to that level. At best he is a nice complement player on a good team with solid perimeter defenders and a great shot blocker next to him. If his defense is not what you expect then as a coach it is your responsibility to sit him down. The reason bad teams stay bad is because coaches refuse to get “tough” with the “best” player. You mentioned a day ago how Coach Hollins response to Allen Iverson let his team know he was in charge and they started to buy in. Rambis letting his guys know that even the media’s “golden boy” has to put forth effort on defense should serve as a wake up call to his team.

  3. zblott - Oct 28, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    Here’s a write-up of Minnesota’s loss and other note-worthy happenings from Wednesday.

  4. vulcangw - Oct 28, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    You’ve got to take the bad with the good. As one blogger once noted, rather than focus on Love’s weakness (individual defense), the team needs to take advantage of his strengths. Either that, or trade him to a team that can use him. To bench him at crunch time in favor of a back-up player is the supreme insult, and stupid coaching. Don’t give me this bull about defense. The game lasts 48 minutes. If the coach feels the back-up player will help the team better than Love in the fourth quarter, then he would have helped the team better during the whole game.

  5. petermcd88 - Oct 28, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    I think it is a supreme insult to a team when you continue to play a guy who is not giving effort on defense. If Love wants to get better he can’t pout because of lack of playing time when he’s the media appointed “best player on the team”, he’ll man up and at least give an effort on defense the next night. Again Love is a good player but not good enough to ignore the coach’s defensive scheme. Much is being made about Love’s front line mates also playing bad defense, but if Love is the end all be all of the Twolves offense, how they hell did they score over 110 points when he didn’t play most of the game?

    • Kurt Helin - Oct 28, 2010 at 8:15 PM

      Media appointed? I will say it this way: If you don’t think Kevin Love is the best player on the Timberwolves, I question how well you understand basketball. And that includes Rambis. How many other Wolves got invited to Team USA tryouts? Let alone made the squad. That is a limited way of looking at it, but it speaks to basic levels of talent.

      Love is not a great defender, but he did try. If you think Tolliver did better, go look at the numbers from the end of the game again. Did Tolliver stop Landry in the fourth quarter? Did the Wolves hold it together? Did he make plays to win the team the game?

      • petermcd88 - Oct 28, 2010 at 10:12 PM

        If you think being the best player on the Timberwolves is anything to write home about then you don’t know basketball. You are really using the World Championship roster as an example? Really? Half of the guys on that team didn’t make the playoffs last year. And Eric Gordon was the only Clipper invited so obviously he is there best player. Also every coach in the NBA is totally going to take Tyson Chandler over Jason Terry and Caron Butler because Team USA did. Do you really honestly believe that or is the more likely scenario that those players fit the roles the coaching staff hand in mind for the team? Do you truly believe that Love is this future all star foward or a really good role player who excelled in a European style of play where his athleticism (or lack thereof) would not be exposed and his shooting and rebounding would be allowed to shine.
        Tolliver did not stop Landry at the end of the game we can both agree on that. But they played roughly the same amount of minutes and had similar stats for points and rebounds. As a coach if Tolliver was the guy who got you there and he was the guys you were playing an extended amount in the second half then you have every right to stick with him. I’m sorry Love isn’t even close to the level where you bring him back to finish a game no matter how he has played just because he is Kevin Love. I think that ultimately is a message that will be positive for him in his development as a player if he doesn’t pout that he’s the “franchise” player of one of the worst franchises in the league.

      • Kurt Helin - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:33 PM

        LeBroninsecurity, if you don’t like to defend and debate points, I’m sorry. I view the comments as a discussion.

        Petermcd88, I clearly am higher on Love than you. I think what the Team USA experience shows with Love (and Gordon and bunch of guys outside of Chandler, who was brought in after Amare, Lee and Lopez and everyone else big of note couldn’t or wouldn’t play; your mentioning of Caron/Terry is off base because the USA needed a big and Chandler may have been the best left standing, sadly) is that is is about how you use them. Also with team USA, this was a young team so a number of guys came from losing teams because that’s where they were drafted, and some have been given teammates to help turn that around, while some haven’t. Losing team does not make a bad player.

        Fit does matter, and Love did fit with Team USA, but I think that says something. The T-Wolves and Rambis have been very poor at fit across the board. I think fit and use matters and that is true of many NBA players outside of the Kobe/LeBron/Durant guys who can fit and work in any system. I think the Timberwolves do a poor job of using Love. I think he could be so much more, maybe an All-Star, and if the Timberwolves don’t use him better he will blossom somewhere else someday. You clearly see it differently, that’s fine.

        I also think to see if the players you are thinking of building around are really going to fit, you need to play them in key moments. You have to sink or swim with them. That is how you grow, let the guys prove they belong. If the Wolves are serious about Love as a building block, then you need to sink or swim with him in key moments.

  6. lebronsinsecurity - Oct 28, 2010 at 10:24 PM


    I think you summed it up pretty well.. I’m a little put off by Kurt jumping on here defending his opinion and question someone else’s basketball knowledge.. Seems a tad vain, but to each there own.

  7. petermcd88 - Oct 29, 2010 at 12:47 AM

    Kurt I think we both agree on Love’s potential but we disagree on how the situation should have been handled. When I made the point about Chandler being on team USA, I was merely trying to say that fit (and circumstance) had more to do with him being on that team than his talent as there are better players on the Mavs than Chandler. I think Love can really thrive on a good team but I can’t see him being the second best player on a championship contender unless the wings can really defend and he has an athletic center next to him.

    Still despite Love’s positive attributes, at this point in his career his response to benching because of his defense should not be to pout but to make up for his lack of athleticism in the next game with effort and being sound in the scheme. I agree at some points with a young team you have to let players make mistakes but there is a thin line between learning from your mistakes and learning losing habits. If Love was continually on the bench in the fourth quarter during the season I would also disagree with the coach’s decision. But now we are only 1 game into the season. Now is the best time to make a point that will resonate with your players so they know what is expected from this point on.

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