Three in the Key is Chris Koza's column exploring a musician's life as a basketball fanatic. The Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter-composer leads the band Rogue Valley. Get him on the court, and he's trouble.
Not all rivalries are created equal. The Rolling Stones versus the Beatles has a different timbre than say, Styx versus Slayer, Gordon Lightfoot versus Art Garfunkel, or Nickel Creek versus Nickelback. I don't mean to suggest the aforementioned artists are all enemies or pals, but just because two entities are pitted against one another does not necessarily indicate the presence of a rivalry of historic measure.
In the case of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers, the rivalry is solely in the rhetoric of the Minnesota mind. L.A. has won every meaningful matchup between the two teams since Minnesota regained an expansion team in the form of the Timberwolves in 1989.
Much to the contrary of Kevin Garnett's powerful exclamation during the storybook 2003-04 season when the team advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first and only time, the Wolves could not "shock the world." I wanted so badly for that to happen, just like every other Gatorade-blooded Wolves fan out there. But there is simply not enough voltage in Art Garfunkel's heartfelt "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to match the demon-born dynamics of Slayer's "Hell Awaits." But that's a whole 'nother conversation.
Now, it's 2013. It's Sunday night and all threads of classic rock are buried in favor of a soul playlist courtesy of Pandora. The Minnesota Timberwolves are a good team, while the Los Angeles Lakers are a big question mark. Although this is a big measuring-stick game for the Wolves, there is no rivalry. Kobe Bryant is injured. Steve Nash has career-threatening nerve-damage in his leg. Today's Lakers are basically Pau Gasol and a team of NBA scrubs and castaways. (Former Timberwolf Wesley Johnson now wears purple and gold.) Tonight there is no history -- only a game of basketball to be played out.
Parliament's "We Got the Funk" swirls though Rye Delicatessen on Hennepin as Kevin Love and Kevin Martin of the T-Wolves combine to score 38 of the Wolves 67 first-half points. The effort from Lakers, in front of their Hollywood faithful ebbs and flows as they bookend a flurry of threes with turnovers and bad decisions. As the second half gets underway, Ricky Rubio steals the ball from Chris Kaman while James Brown screams and hustles "Get on up!" The fast break isn't just clicking tonight, its clamping down like a lockjaw bull-dog.
Another steal by Rubio this time on a bad pass from Gasol to Kaman as the Godfather of Funk fades into a groove-based jam called "Afro Soul" by Manu Dibangu. A graphic pops on the screen stating that the Timberwolves have lost 22 straight games against the Lakers. Rick Adelman's lips presumably describes the banality of this unfortunate statistic in remote-muted-silence. Flashing back to the game, Kevin Martin's heavily contested three-pointer finds the bottom of the bucket; his face unintentionally mimicking a trademark James Brown screech.
107-83, 4:13 left to play. The Lakers have their starters in for a reason I can't discern. Rubio just secured a triple-double. The Wolves are going to end their long losing streak. James Brown is playing through the speakers again. For a night, everything is as good as its ever been. Mr. Roboto and the Street Fighting Man are boarding the Edmund Fitzgerald and floating calmly on untroubled water.