Over the weekend, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Philadelphia 76ers finalized the trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland. The trade also included the rights to my fan hood, which went from Minnesota to Cleveland (in exchange for future considerations).
I'm more of a fan of players than of teams. I grew up in Minnesota, but I moved away long ago. By the time I left, I wasn't a fan at all, and I barely followed the team. It was only Kevin Garnett that roped me back in. And when that Kevin left, I transferred my fandom to Boston. It was fun to watch all the longtime Celtics fans realize that Bill Simmons was full of it. Remember this, Celtics fans?
Fifty years from now, some stat geek will crunch numbers from Duncan's era and come to the conclusion that Kevin Garnett was just as good. And he'll be wrong. No NBA team that featured a healthy Duncan would have missed the playoffs for three straight years. It's an impossibility.
That was, of course, before KG came to Boston, and all the Celtics fans realized how truly horrific KG's teammates had been those last few years. Suddenly, after watching him play every night, Celtic nation woke up and realized that this was not, in fact, KG's fault! A quick look at this travesty of a roster should have been enough. The current 76ers squad would destroy that team if you took away KG. Swapping in Tim Duncan for KG could have fixed that? Oh, please.
It was fun watching guys in Boston realize this, the way it is fun when you find that one friend who has not watched The Princess Bride, you force them to rent it with you, and you get to watch his or her joy. It even made listening to Tommy Heinsohn bearable. Those first 20 games, it seemed like every night I was having this conversation:
Random Boston Fan: Holy shit KG is amazing! I mean, we knew he was good but...holy shit!
Me: Yeah, I never noticed! Like in 2002 I was pretty sure Troy Hudson, Rasho Nesterovic, Anthony Peeler and Kendall Gill just carried KG into the playoffs. Seriously, did Bill Simmons ever look at these rosters!? Gary ****ing Trent was that team's next-best player, and the starters were awful.
WHAT'S THIS GOT TO DO WITH LOVE?
Why is this relevant? Well, because I am about to enjoy the same experience. You see, the only thing that roped me back into Timberwolves fandom again was the next Kevin. When I saw the Timberwolves draft O.J. Mayo, I thought "Damn, I am glad I am done with this shit show of a franchise!" When, a day or two later, Kevin McHale surprisingly managed to rob Memphis blind ("Hey, how about you give us that good big man prospect for our crappy dime-a-dozen wing prospect? Oh yeah, and could you thrown in your best player? Yeah? Ok, cool!), I was like:
And even though Randy Wittman tried really, really hard to ruin it for me, I stuck with them because there is a certain glory in being one of the few people to recognize greatness. Talking heads at ESPN conveniently have conveniently forgotten that they all ridiculed McHale for this trade while OJ Mayo put up 18 inefficient points a night and Kevin Love played a mystifying 15 minutes a night (this was before Al Jefferson's injury). The next year, Kurt Rambis managed to win about five games fewer than he should have, by limiting Love's minutes to 28 per night. At the time, nobody seemed to realize that Love was by far their best player.
Well, I'm about to relive some interesting conversations:
Random Cleveland Fan: Holy shit Kevin Love is amazing! I mean, we knew he was good but...holy shit!
Me: Sigh. Yeah, I bet you wondered why he couldn't make the playoffs with guys like Wes Johnson, Darko Milicic, and Michael Beasley. It turns out he is not, in fact, just playing fantasy basketball.
The meme for Kevin Garnett in Minnesota was: "couldn't get his team out of the first round for seven years." This is remarkably similar to the "couldn't get his team into the playoffs for six years" meme on Kevin Love. And like Boston did in 2008, folks in Cleveland are about to realize that it really wasn't Kevin's fault that his organization was so incompetent.
Now please, Flip, if you could do me a solid and trade Rubio so that I never have to go back to watching your team again? Yeah, thanks.