HOUSTON – If you close your eyes and imagine the future, this is the stuff of fantasy – a shrewd, quick young point guard, a do-it-all All-Star forward on one wing, a redemptive scorer on the other and the kind of smart head coach who can make it all work.
If you opened your eyes at the Toyota Center on Monday night, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Rick Adelman were standing right in front of you.
If there is a team currently sitting at bottom of one of the league’s six divisions that could make the playoffs, it is the Timberwolves. Is it too early to beat the drum already for the post-season?
“No,” Love said after Minnesota whipped Houston for its sixth win in the last nine games. “This is the way we’ve thought we could play when we started putting things together. We had some tough early losses, but now I think you’re starting to see what we can become.”
What the Wolves are for the first time all season is healthy. Beasley, who pumped in 34 points, is finally fit after missing 11 games with a sprained right foot. Martell Webster is finding his stride after back surgery.
Of course, Love has continued on his All-Star arc from last season and Rubio is probably the early favorite for rookie of the year, already with nine double-doubles, including 18 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds against the Rockets.
But it would be the addition of a consistently producing Beasley who could help vault Minnesota into playoff contention this season, even in the deep Western Conference. They are currently just two games behind No. 8 seed Portland and would already be holding down the No. 7 if they were in the East.
“We think that we have some really nice pieces, but our problem is we’ve been so up and down,” Adelman said. “We’ve played a lot of good team and played them close, but we’ve always had periods that have just killed us.”
With a 10-11 record, five of the Wolves’ losses have come by five points or less, which shows that they’re not far away. What’s more, they have already won five road games, which equals their road totals from each of the past two seasons.
“We’re young and we’re learning about each other and how to play the game together,” Rubio said. “But we have guys who can play the game and who like to play together. What we’re trying to do is build something good for the future.”
Like April and May.