I have a lover,
A lover like no other,
She's got soul, soul, soul, sweet soul,
She teaches me how to sing,
Shows me colors when there's none to see,
Gives me hope when I can't believe,
But for the first time -
I feel love...
"The First Time" - U2
I have a team, a team like no other,
They've got KG, Wally, and Rasho,
Hudson at point and Gill on the wing,
Never gotten higher than the fifth seed,
For six straight years have crushed my playoff dreams,
But for the first time -
I feel hope...
"The First Time" - DeROK
Turns out that my Intro to Poetry class paid off after all. Anyway, all parodies aside, I'd like to explain what's going on with the Timberwolves right now. On January 25th I had the privilege of witnessing the Timberwolves last game against Michael Jordan. I snapped that pic above while I was at the game. I figured it would be nice to have a photo of the last time the greatest player of the 90's and the greatest player of the 00's would be on the floor together.
Allow me one little tangent before I make my point. For the less educated Wolves fans, this guy below is Igor Rakocevic.
Well when we got to our seat in the MCI Center, Wally and Igor were doing some pre-game shooting around. We had seats behind the basket so when Igor was heading to the locker room, I made my way on over to the tunnel and I got to talk to him! My first conversation with a Timberwolf! Of course it only consisted of me yelling "IGOR!" and him looking my way and pumping his fist in the air at me. But it's a start, and I probably made his day since nobody else in the arena even knew who he was. So needless to say, that was incredible...
Anyway, back to the main point. I'm at the game and the Wolves start out horribly. They're turning the ball over left and right giving Washington at minimum 20 points off of fast breaks. It's quite possibly the ugliest half of basketball this team's ever played. Within the first minute and forty seconds they're down 10-2. By halftime they've dug themselves a 15 point hole. I was a tad dismayed to say the least, since I was hoping to improve on my then 2-4 record when watching the Wolves in person. However, despite the obnoxious cheers by these two pre-pubescent numbskulls next to me, I knew that the T-Wolves could be on top in no time. By simply playing normally, they could do fifteen points better than they did in the first half. Sure enough, Kendall Gill and the rest of the team came out firing in the third and it was 74-74 heading into the fourth. Within the first few seconds of the final quarter, they had secured the lead for good en route to a decisive eight point victory.
Here's the deal with this whole thing. I know it wasn't a feel good win, since they played so miserably to start off. And they had done it the night before by catching up from 16 points down against the Clippers. But the thing I can take from all this is that a month ago, they lose both those games. The Timberwolves team that took the floor for the first 41 games was as inconsistent as they come. They'd show up for the Kings and fall to the Raptors. They'd come out unbelievably cold and just play awful basketball for 48 minutes. And while this team is far from perfect, it's also far from running on all cylinders. After all this, they're still not healthy and they've still yet to have any solid core. I mean, with Wally finally back in the starting lineup against the Spurs last night, starting point guard Rod Strickland goes down with a groin pull and is out for at least three weeks. So Igor, I'm calling you out, bro. It's time for you to let everyone in the arena know who you are, cause we need you backing up Troy. But even though it seems like the Wolves can't get out of the woods, they're coming closer everyday. And despite all the trials and tribulations they've faced, the Timberwolves are a meager 1.5 games out of third in the Western Conference. All along they've been able to run with the big boys, and now that they're getting rid of the complacent attitude when facing the bottom feeders success is almost guaranteed.
And so for the first time, I feel hope. Because for the first time I'm not looking at this team with aspirations of making it to the second round. For the first time I'm looking at this team and thinking, if the chips fell our way, we could be the next NBA Champions. Those aren't words I utter lightly. I've never let that thought cross my mind before, because it was never a possibility. But as I saw how this team has developed while watching them take it to MJ one last time, and then once again against the Spurs two days later, for the first time I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this team does have a legitimate shot at an NBA title. I'm not saying that they'll do it. I'm not even saying that I think they will do it. But what I am saying is that if by some miraculous twist of fate, this team catches lightning in a bottle like those legendary New England Patriots, there's no reason why it can't be Kevin Garnett holding that golden basketball in June.
I guess they have their first opportunity to not make me look like the idiot you probably think I am when they face the Mavericks on Thursday. But the real test will be seeing how they perform when they aren't injured...for the first time.