T-Wolves season preview: International men of mystery

By Jesse Yourish

It seems like just yesterday the Minnesota Timberwolves were an exciting young team on the cusp of a major breakthrough. This squad may still reach that potential, but first it will have to overcome a load of adversity. Last season, the T-Wolves were given the highly unofficial designation of being the NBA’s “League Pass Team.” Sportswriters generally agreed that they, while not a threat to win a championship anytime soon, were one of the most fun teams to watch day in and day out. For a time last year, they lived up to this billing. Behind the gasp-inducing passing of the electric young Spaniard Ricky Rubio and the rebounding and shooting prowess of UCLA product Kevin Love, the T-Wolves seemed destined for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, a devastating ACL injury to Rubio followed by a concussion for Love saw the team limp to the finish. The coming of a new season won’t give this squad a clean slate. Rubio is still sidelined by his torn ACL, and although Love has since recovered from his concussion, he now finds himself rehabbing from a broken hand. By the second half of the season, the T-Wolves hope to be back to the full strength, but the success of this season will largely depend on how General Manager David Kahn’s new additions are able to keep the team in contention while these two stars recover. Brandon Roy is a former superstar attempting to return from a brief retirement forced by balky knees. At his best, he is a silky scorer that is able to carry a team. Unfortunately, the health of his legs means the T-Wolves are just praying for a few solid minutes per game from him. He is joined by Andrei Kirilenko, a Russian defensive stopper who can also score when called upon, Nikola Pekovic, a big-bodied Serb who will be relied upon to rebound and clog the middle, and Luke Ridnour, a steady backup point guard who will get a chance to start while Rubio recovers. As you may have noticed from the names above, this is a team with an international flavor, featuring five players from overseas. They are also a team with many question marks. The 2012 Western Conference is deep, with 12 teams capable of making the playoffs and only six spots really looking wrapped up. If things fall right for the T-Wolves, they are fully capable of making a run at one of the remaining spots and challenging one of the higher seeded teams in the first round. This is a team with a high ceiling. However injury questions hover and depth will be tested for the first month or two of the season. If the role players are unable to step up, Roy’s knees don’t cooperate, or Love and Rubio’s recoveries don’t go as planned, the Timberwolves could be looking at a long season of mediocrity and struggling to stay competitive. Either way, this promises to once again be a fun team to watch. Kevin Love, a member of the absurdly talented 2012 USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team, has developed into one of the best players in the league. He is a historically good rebounder capable of scoring 20 points every night. If the Wolves are unable to build a solid enough supporting cast around him, he could be off to a bigger market soon, so enjoy him while you can. And speaking of enjoyment, if Rubio returns at full speed, he’ll instantly slot in as one of the most dynamic players in the NBA, capable of making passes ordinary humans couldn’t even visualize. This is a team facing a lot of “ifs” with little to rely on, but considering the NBA regular season has become one of the most predictable and meaningless in all of sports, that may be a blessing. No, they won’t win a championship, but once their stars return the T-Wolves should once again be one of the most interesting teams to watch in the NBA, full of intriguing story lines, highlight reel players and finally no more Michael Beasley. refresh –>