The best season in Timberwolves history comes to a close.
I never thought that I would be writing this article. The 2003-2004 section of the "The Den" was supposed to finish with an article about the Timberwolves' first championship. I guess things like an injury to Sam Cassell's hip, bad officiating, and an unfair date for Game One have a tendency to change things. However, in spite of the myriad of excuses the Wolves have to offer for their loss to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, none are needed. Over the course of those six games, the Minnesota Timberwolves became the consummate example of what a basketball team should be. Facing a nearly impossible task, the Wolves refused to stop believing in themselves and each other. Mired in a suffocating series of unfortunate circumstances, the Wolves would not fold. A team that was merely a shell of its full potential, took a team that was bred for the title to the fourth quarter of Game Six. Still, as fatigue set in and the makeshift screws holding the Timberwolves' season came loose, it took a habitual bench warmer having the night of his life to finally take the T-Wolves down. And though four future hall-of-famers stood on the court donning their Western Conference Championship gear, it was the team with the 7'1" point guard, the archaic center, the forward with the broken back, two Bulls cast-offs, and the Yakima Sun King whom the world stood up and cheered for.
The theme for the Timberwolves' 2004 Playoffs was "Can You Feel It?". After watching this team for the past three rounds, the answer is a resounding, "Yes". I may not be "feel'n" a championship like I did when this all began, but I do feel a lot of love for this Timberwolves team. Sure, I'm a little disappointed right now. But in all honesty, I'm feeling more joy for the fact that I got to watch this team for 100 games this year. What an amazing group of guys! From MVP, Kevin Garnett, to our "scapegoat", Michael Olowokandi, I have so much respect for every man who put on a jersey this season. And that is worth so much more than a trophy.
All I've ever asked from the Timberwolves is that they become the best. This was the year they finally gave it to me. You can't control injuries, referees, or the many other factors that lead to a title. But you can determine how much effort you put into attaining excellence. This season, the Wolves proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were the best team in the league. They won the Midwest Division, finished with the best record in the Western Conference, and had the MVP. They were consistent, never losing three consecutive games all season. They had an undeniable team chemistry, and carried themselves with dignity. I couldn't ask for any more.
The Lakers can be smug and gloat all they want. Let the media hype them up. The truth is that they only made it to the Finals because we were playing with two broken legs and an arm tied behind our back. And Lakers fans can live it up. They have another title. But they also have a group of guys that you can't look up to. I'll take 58 wins and a trip to the Conference finals over a championship with a lazy loud-mouth, two sell-outs, and a potential rapist. Some things are worth more than rings. In reality, it's all just a bunch of metal anyway. Trophies tarnish and titles are forgotten, but character lasts. The players on our team are quality individuals that we can look up to. Kobe Bryant may be an champion in the NBA. But Ervin Johnson, Mark Madsen, Flip Saunders, Fred Hoiberg, Wally Szczerbiak, Kevin Garnett, and the rest of our team - those guys are champions in life.
Every one of us, from our MVP to our towel boy, showed the character and heart that the Minnesota Timberwolves are all about. We've known what we were made of for years now, but over the past few days the world has found it out. I've seen a big change in a lot of people. They no longer see us as the chokers who couldn't get out of the first round. They've seen what we're about, and they admire us. So like everyone else, I'm disappointed. But more overwhelmingly, I'm proud. There may not be a trophy on the shelf to symbolize it. David Stern may not declare it in front of thousands of fans. But deep inside, we all know it. We are champions.
So "Can I Feel It?". Yeah. I feel a lot of things. Love. Pride. Admiration. Hope. Respect. Joy. Honor. Gratitude. That's just a few... And I wouldn't trade a single one of them for any trophy in the world.