Found March 08, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
MINNEAPOLIS He's the kind of guy you want to cheer for. You really do. It's just been hard this season.He's got that quiet presence, that grinning mug shot that makes you want to tell him to maybe, man, just maybe try to look a little tougher. But recently it's been hard to make Wes Johnson smile, even harder to applaud when he comes off the court.This season, Johnson has averaged just 5.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, numbers that might have seen him booted from the starting lineup on a lot of teams. But with coach Rick Adelman's confidence behind him, Johnson's play has improved in recent games, culminating in a 19-point performance as the Timberwolves defeated Portland, 106-94, on Tuesday. It was a season high in scoring for Johnson, and performances like his are what the Timberwolves need to take their game to the next level."Great," Kevin Love said of Johnson's play. "Great. He really stepped up tonight. He on a couple possessions, he went and missed the layup and dunked it back in. That's typical Wes. We were happy with the way he played."Johnson opened the night with a big statement, a diving dunk to give the Timberwolves their first points of the night. From there, the shots kept falling. He shot 72.7 percent from the field, his highest mark of the season in any game in which he's attempted more than six shots, and he went three-for-four from beyond the arc. His performance not only contributed to the win, it also instilled confidence in a player who's struggled to find his shots all season.He's supposed to be a shooter, a good one at that. But all year, Johnson has struggled to take the open shots. He's faltered, and he's clung to his spot in the starting lineup due to his defense and Michael Beasley's being relegated to the bench. The Wes Johnson who's taken the court for most games this season hasn't been the player anyone expected, and that's dealt a blow to his confidence until the team's most recent games.In his past four games, Johnson has averaged 7.0 points, despite playing only nine minutes last Saturday. More telling is the fact that he's shot 45.0 percent from the field, a marked increase over the 38.5 percent he's averaging for the season as a whole. The shots are falling, and Johnson's confidence is on the rise."It feels good," Johnson said. "Shots start going in, and then you really get a bounce to your step, and then everything else will start opening up more on the court."Johnson's scoring burst came at perhaps the most charged game yet this season for the Timberwolves. With the win, the team claimed the eighth Western Conference playoff spot at least for a night. And as fleeting as that is, it's hard not to gain some measure of excitement from such a milestone. Having players like Johnson, Martell Webster, Derrick Williams and Luke Ridnour step up offensively will be crucial for the Timberwolves going forward, a means of pushing them to the next level. Just look at what happens when Johnson contributes: in games that he's scored nine or more points, the Timberwolves have gone 8-2 this season."I think if I step up and really can be consistent with my shot from here on out, we're going to be a pretty good team," Johnson said.Love said Johnson has looked more confident in practices lately, and it's starting to translate into games. Each shot that falls is a mental boost, an insurance policy on his own success and that of his team. Love is going to score upwards of 20, even 30 points each night, but that doesn't make it any less noteworthy when a player like Johnson finishes with 19. In fact, it's a welcome distraction, a change in the excitement from the hum-drum Kevin Love double-double. As what Love is doing becomes more and more normal, the theatrics and thrills will have to come from elsewhere.Look at the league's most successful teams. It's easy for a casual fan to name not just one or two of their players, but rather the entire starting lineup. The Lakers boast names like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace (who's maybe known most for his name). The Heat have the Big Three: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. The Timberwolves don't have that kind of star power, and that's unlikely to change in the near future. But what the team needs is for players other than the big names to step up, to be those third and fourth men, and what Johnson did on Wednesday was a step in that direction.There's no better coach than Adelman to foster that culture of personal responsibility and contribution at the highest level. He knows his roster isn't the best of the best, but he also knows how to make his guys play like they are. He's the kind of coach who gives his young players the freedom to play. He doesn't yank them from the lineup after one mistake or let a bad stretch define someone."You've got to put them in situations to succeed, but you've got to give them freedom," Adelman said. "You know the playmakers are going to make mistakes But you've just got to tell them to keep their head up and keep working at it."It's something he learned as a player, that he'd play better when he felt his coach had confidence in him. So in dealing with Johnson's struggles, Adelman has been patient. He's applauded what he could the defense, the rebounds but he's waited for the offense to materialize.Over the past three games, the first signs of that offense appeared, and it finally clicked on Wednesday. It was worth waiting for, not only because of what it added to the win, but also because of what it might hint at for the future. Because for Johnson to succeed, this can't be just a one-shot deal. This has to happen again and again, and he's not a legitimate threat just yet.With just over 3:32 remaining in Wednesday's game, the Trail Blazers pulled within five points, 92-87. The Timberwolves' offense was stalling, and Johnson remained on the bench. For the first time all season, that looked like a mistake. Although it didn't matter in the end, the fact that the team seemed to miss Johnson's offense late in the game is the biggest statement he's made all season.Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.

Love and K-Love: A man and his octopus

MINNEAPOLIS In a season of firsts for Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves, this one tops them all.On Thursday, Love met his namesake for the first time -- an octopus named K-Love that he released into the waters of the SEA LIFE Aquarium at the Mall of America. Yes, an octopus.It was a strange idea, Love admitted, but at the same time a fun chance to do something different...

Love's weight loss further improves his game

MINNEAPOLIS In the USC practice gym, there's a giant photograph of Trojan forward Davon Jefferson dunking on a college-age Kevin Love. It wasn't Love's finest moment, and no doubt it stings a little more that it's been blown up and highlighted on the gym's wall. But when Love and his teammates practiced at USC on Feb. 27, the power forward was more amused than...

Video: Kevin Love meets K-Love the Octopus

On a rare day off Thursday from the grind of this lockout-shortened NBA season, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love was at the SEA LIFE Aquarium exhibit at the Mall of America to meet the guest of honor who was being introduced to its new habitat: a cephalopod mollusc that is his namesake: K-Love the Octopus. [...]

Porter is a natural fit as Adelman's assistant

MINNEAPOLIS It's deceiving, when he shoots free throws at practice and makes them all. From behind, all that's missing is a jersey, and he's just another player, a fourth point guard. It's when he turns around and starts talking that he gives himself away. The few flecks of gray in his stubble, the lines around his eyes Terry Porter is no player, not anymore. ...

Love doubtful vs. Lakers with back spasms

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love was scratched from the starting lineup against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night because of back spasms. The team said Love was doubtful for the game, but did not rule out him trying to play. Love is averaging 25.5 points and 13.8 rebounds per game for the Wolves and has been on a tear during their three-game winning streak. He had...

The Season Doesn’t End Today, But If It Did Kevin Love Would Be My MVP

Kevin Love has basically been a model of consistency since his historic streak of 52 consecutive double-doubles began on November 22nd of 2010.  While his current double-double streak stands at just three, never has Love played bigger than he has over these past three games… and he’s still Mr. Consistency. Whilst leading his Timberwolves to three straight victories, Love has...

Love cancels out the Clip Show once more

MINNEAPOLIS It could be fun. Really, it should be a lot more fun than this. Look at those lineups. Look at it all on paper. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul. These are some of the biggest young names in the NBA. This is Lob City come to Minnesota, which really should have it's own nickname by now. There should be dunks and those passes that look like special...

Trail Blazers pose a threat to the Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS When the Timberwolves went into Portland on Saturday and defeated the Trail Blazers, 122-110, it was the first Minnesota win at the Rose Garden since December 2005. That's momentous, to say the least, especially because the win was one of the team's most commanding this season. But it's no reason to get complacent, to believe that Wednesday night's game...

Trail Blazers vs. Timberwolves blog: love ’em & hate ’em

Another Loss to the T-Wolves For the second time in the past week the Minnesota Timberwolves put on an offensive clinic against the Portland Trail Blazers. BOXSCORE | My POST GAME NOTES Minnesota 106, Portland Trailblazers 94 When: 8:00 PM ET, Wednesday, March 7, 2012 Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota Officials: #19 James Capers, #36 David Jones, #31 Scott Wall Attendance...

Love-Griffin rivalry grows with Wolves-Clips

MINNEAPOLIS If you own a pro basketball team, particularly a moribund one, then players like Blake Griffin and Kevin Love are manna. Personable, each with a sly sense of humor, a unique game and not the least bit full of themselves, they are the cornerstones on and off the court of a resurrection in Los Angeles and a resurgence in the Twin Cities. No wonder they also happen to...

Wolves' Rubio, Love turn back the clock in pic

MINNEAPOLIS They don't really dress like that. Kevin Love promises. On Wednesday, the newest issue of SLAM Magazine appeared on newsstands, featuring the Timberwolves' Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio on its cover. The two, clad in a backwards visor (Love) and a large silver watch (Rubio), are posed in a way that's reminiscent of Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury on a cover...

Starting 5: Boneheaded endings, Kevin Love's greatness & Kobe's pissed off again

Every morning, we'll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day. 1:  Don't foul the 3 point shooter!! Last night's NBA action made fans of fundamental basketball cringe.  Over the course of about an hour, in three separate NBA games, I saw about four or five guys get fouled taking a 3.  The two biggies were in the Clippers/Timberwolves...

Johnson's boost early lifts Wolves over Blazers

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Wes Johnson scored 19 points to back Kevin Love's 29 points and 16 rebounds in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 106-94 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. Johnson went 3 of 4 on 3-pointers and Luke Ridnour added 22 points for the Timberwolves (22-20), who moved into the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race. They own the...

Here’s a Photoshopped animated GIF of T’Wolves players in ‘Zoolander’ jeep scene

Yeah, I know: that title is a bit wordy. And not really clear, either, but that’s about the only way I could explain this amusing image featuring the visages of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Anthony Tolliver. From the folks that brought us the Minnesota Timberwolves/Family Matters intro mashup comes this delightful animated [...]
NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.