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Free Love isn’t harmful…

Last year when Minnesota T-Wolves coach Kurt Rambis sat his best, or second best, player, it was largely viewed as a necessary evil, a function of having two players, in Love and forward Al Jefferson, who couldn’t defend my grandmother and thus couldn’t be paired together in the front court. So, it was assumed that after giving Jefferson away this offseason for a box of donuts and twenty-three cents, that Love would become the centerpiece of whatever game plan was materializing in Minnesota.

Instead, on opening night in a one point loss to Sacramento, Love played a sparse 23 minutes. I mean, I guess it was understandable, because the Wolves had all world talent Anthony Tolliver in the game’s closing minutes, so why play Love? From there, the madness only increased, as Love played 27, 24, 25, 30, 26, and 29 minutes over the next six games before seeing a reasonable 38 minutes of playing time in a 99-94 loss to the Lakers. That was the best game the 1-7 Wolves had played to that point and Love contributed 23 points and 24 rebounds. The next night Love played 28 minutes.

I don’t know what Rambis has against Love. Maybe he doesn’t value slick passing big men, or he likes giving away rebounds, or maybe a girl once broke his heart while Sloop John B played in the background? Who knows. Who cares. At some point the General Manager has to call Rambis in to his office, sit him down and say,

“Kurt, I like you. Your hair’s always meticulous, you smell terrific, and my team under you has a tremendous 18-74 record, but if you don’t play Kevin Love 38 minutes a night, I’m going to treat you like tuna.”

Of course, the Wolves’ GM is David Kahn, which just layers this theatre of the absurd with incomparable incompetence. It’s why Simmons has had a running freeLove twitter joke going. And it’s why opposing GMs all over the league have been eyeing Love and thinking about whether they can acquire him for a future first, cash considerations and Earl Clark. The strange part is that the Wolves aren’t exactly San Antonio north. They aren’t winning 50 games year after year. They don’t have assets coming down a perpetual pipeline. Under Kahn they’ve made one misstep after another: from the terrible 2009 draft where they drafted 28 points guards and completely botched the Ricky Rubio pick (and as a reward, have subsequently seen his value drop faster than President Obama’s approaval rating), to this year’s draft where they selected 28 small forwards, to the summer where Kahn gave Darko Millicic, yes DARKO Freaking MILLICIC 20 million dollars, to the day where Utah GM Kevin O’Connor drank Kahn under the table and convinced him to trade Jefferson for two heavily protected future first round picks and Kosta Freaking Koufos. At this point, the only piece that the Wolves have that has any value is Love. Yes, his defense is Lindsay Lohan babysitting your kids scary, but he’s an efficient scorer, an unselfish player, and a bull on the boards. You need to play the man as often as you can, both to help him develop and to give your team any chance of winning.

Which is what makes last night’s game against the New York Knicks so interesting, both amazing and disappointing. Kevin Love, whom Kurt Rambis refuses to acknowledge as the Wolves’ best player, did something that NO professional basketball player has done in 28 years. In 40 minutes of action, he dropped 31 points on the Knicks, while grabbing 31 rebounds. 30 and 30. Insane. The disappointing part for fans of Love (like Simmons and myself) is that surely this makes even Kahn and Rambis realize that they can’t trade the baby Beach Boy. Of course this is the same management that drafted three points guards two years ago, none of whom have played a game for the Wolves this year. So, maybe there’s still hope…

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