The NBA Finals are done and we’re officially headed into draft season. I suppose this means I can come back out of my cocoon.
Over the past several seasons, I’ve been incredibly loyal to this team. I’m also overly optimistic. This brand of fandom borders on the delusional, but hey, it’s how I roll. Remember the 15 game losing streak? (Which one?) I found myself clinging to plus/minus stats, double-double streaks, and moral victories. Remember the repeated fourth quarter collapses? I saw them as learning opportunities that would pay off in the future.
Frankly, I’m good at dealing with losing. I can handle it. After all, I’m a Timberwolves fan.
But I just could not deal with Ricky Rubio’s season-ending ACL injury. Nope. That was the last straw.
And so, like so many other Timberwolves fans this season, I checked out. I’m not proud of it, but I just couldn’t bare to watch a season filled with so much promise go down in flames.
That being said, this season was truly an amazing one for both Timberwolves fans and NBA fans in general. Below are 8 reasons this season turned out to be amazing…
8 Reasons This Season Was Amazing:
1. Ricky Rubio
Perhaps the most highly anticipated player in Timberwolves history, Ricky Rubio was exactly what we had hoped he would be, and perhaps even more. Rubio captured our hearts from the very first preseason game, where he finished with a Rubio-esque 6 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. He dazzled us with his passing, but even more impressive was his elite defense and his impressive leadership abilities.
In just one shortened season, Ricky Rubio became my favorite player of all time. No joke. I know that’s crazy, but I’ve never enjoyed watching the game of basketball as much as I do when Ricky Rubio is running an offense, and for that matter, a defense. He’s just great to watch, and I can’t wait to see his game evolve over the next several years.
2. Kevin Love
“New is always better.”
Have you heard that phrase? It applies here. Ricky Rubio is new, his game is flashy, and we were all enamored with his play this season. But even more impressive than Rubio was Kevin Love’s evolution from a borderline all-star to an NBA superstar.
That’s what happened this season, folks. It goes beyond numbers. Love showed an ability to take over an offense when necessary. He showed an ability to excel in the game’s waning moments. He can absolutely be a top five player in this league. He’s a freaking stud.
3. LeBron James
I love mocking LeBron James. I really do. He brought it on himself with the ridiculous way he dumped Cleveland, with his attitude of entitlement, and because we all enjoy watching famous people fail.
But the jokes can be put to bed. LeBron James is the best player in the league and the next several years are his and his alone. He figured it out in the playoffs, justified his 3 MVP awards, and finally got the ring. He’s been an absolute treat to watch for the past nine years, and I’m happy for him that he’s finally tasted true success. It’ll be interesting to see what type of gene he has… will he continue to get better and just destroy the league over the next several years, a la Jordan? Or will he find satisfaction in his championship and lose his urgency to win more? We’ll find out, but I bet he’ll have at least four or five championships before he calls it quits. He’s that good.
4. The Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are our blueprint. It’s what we hope to be, and maybe someday will be. In just three short years, they went from the bottom of the lottery to the NBA Finals. That’s damn impressive.
And really, they’re a joy to watch. Kevin Durant is probably the most likeable superstar in American sports. Russell Westbrook is both overrated and underrated at the same time, and he inspires more trolling on online NBA forums than any player not named LeBron James. Nearly everyone was rooting for these guys to beat the Heat simply because they play the hero role so naturally. What’s not to love about the Thunder?
(David Stern paid me handsomely to say all of those nice things without a Seattle Supersonics reference. Thanks Commish!)
5. We’re America’s Team!
Okay, maybe not quite. But we’re getting there!
Sportswriters across the country were touting the Timberwolves as this season’s “NBA League Pass” team, all but assuring us more nationally televised games next season. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams kept making “rookie connections” that topped Sportscenter on a nightly basis. Kevin Love became a national icon. This was a great season in public relations for a team that hadn’t seen a positive headline in almost a decade.
6. The shortened schedule
The injuries were rough. The fatigue was, at times, painfully obvious. But let’s be honest — this was one of the most exciting regular seasons we’ve had in a long time.
Players and analysts have been clamoring for a shorter season for quite some time. I was initially opposed, but after seeing how this season played out, it’s clear that a 66 game season with a couple extra weeks for rest would really help make the regular season more meaningful. It’d be great to see this change happen permanently.
7. Nikola Pekovic
Back to the Timberwolves for a second. Who saw THIS coming?
This is a guy who could barely get minutes under Kurt Rambis, but clearly Rick Adelman knew how to use him. Pekovic is easily one of the strongest players in the NBA, and he’s pretty tough within 5 feet of the rim. He went from a fringe rotation player to perhaps our third best player in one season, earning him plenty of talk for the Most Improved Player award. Hopefully he’ll have a great offseason and make another leap next season.
8. The marquee NBA Finals match-up
Let’s be honest, this NBA Finals was pretty exciting. LeBron vs. Durant. The villain vs. the hero. The Decision vs. a guy who loves his fans and loves playing in a small market.
We saw two teams that are STILL figuring out how good they can both be. This was not the best iteration we’ll see of LeBron James’ Miami Heat, and this was certainly not the best OKC Thunder team. Both teams have a lot of room to grow, and I’m positive we’ll see this Finals match-up over and over again.
Wait, scratch that. The Timberwolves are making the NBA Finals next year. And probably the year after that, too. OKC’s window is closed. The Rubio/Love’s are taking over the West!