But why is there such a desire to put a Maris-ian asterisk next to a great performance or season if it came on a losing team?
Kevin Love had more than his fair share of detractors when he won the Most Improved Player award last season. He’s putting up those numbers on a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad team! Clearly, they shouldn’t count!
Context matters a great deal in the issue of empty statistics. In the case of Kevin Love, the notion that his numbers were “empty” because of his team’s record ignores the fact that his numbers were the only reason the Timberwolves even won a game last season. Love led the league in Win Shares last season with 16.91. None of his teammates even surpassed 5.The Timberwolves guard rotation, those responsible for getting the ball to Love, was a veritable pu-pu platter of draft busts and non-starters. The cherry on top was Kurt Rambis, the head coach who insisted on running an offensive system that didn’t fit a single player on the roster save for, oddly enough, Love. If anything, Love’s performance last season is even more impressive than what he’s currently producing.
Now, some may argue that these players ask for the blame, that if they want to be the star, they need to win like a star. Certainly, there’s something to be said for a star player’s contribution to a win, but it’s a mistake to think they alone win the games. They may make the game winning shot, but more often than not, it was the work of the team that put him in the position to do so. Zach Harper said it best in his most recent power rankings: “we get too caught up in fantasy basketball and too caught up in this mythical folklore that a player should be able to carry any team to wins and the playoffs, instead of realizing how much of a team game the NBA has always been and will always be. There is no such thing as doing it all yourself.”
Does a triple-double look better in a victory than in a defeat? Maybe, but a loss doesn’t make it any less impressive (unless, of course, you’re Ricky Davis). Still, it’s not as if those numbers didn’t happen. The argument that one player alone is responsible for his team’s success is a square peg-round hole argument; it doesn’t fit. To say a performance is hollow because it didn’t result in a win is to discount the other numerous factors that contribute to victory. NBA players’ superhuman displays of athleticism and talent belie their all too-human origins. Try as he might, Kevin Love can’t win games by himself, and it’s wrong of us to expect him to do so.