The Timberwolves are making me look stupid.
I've been away for a fairly long time, so I figured I may as well do
a full-out front page post to gather my thoughts on the Wolves rather
than digging through hundreds of forums posts and scattering them all
over the place. It's probably been a solid month and a half that I've
been all but absent from this site, so there's a lot of ground to
cover. Perhaps the best place to start is this: I was wrong.
When this season started out, it was the first time that I was
genuinely excited about a Timberwolves season since 2005. I wasn't
predicitng playoffs by any means, but if you look back to my season preview,
you'll see that I did peg the T-Wolves for a 33-49 finish. I was
excited to see how Kevin Love's hustle and Mike Miller's outside
ability would open things up for Big Al. I also felt that our young
core would be much improved after having an entire season to gel.
After we won our first game vs. Sacramento, I was downright giddy. And
then the floor fell out from underneath us...
If there's one thing that I can't stand, it's being in "The Void".
That's when you love your team so much that you can't cheer for them to
lose, but at the same time you also can't root for them to win because
they're so screwed up that only the lottery can save them. The
Timberwolves had spent the latter half of the past three seasons firmly
entrenched in The Void. When it became painfully apparent that that
2008-09 Timberwolves had reached "Void-status" a mere nine games into
this season, I simply couldn't take it any more. The thought of having
to spend the next 73 games secretly hoping for my team to fail was more
than I could bear. After all, there's enough stress in real life, why
subject yourself to more over a basketball team?
I still followed the Wolves, but not anywhere as close as I used
to. I knew if they won or if they lost, but I really didn't care how
they did either. I spent most of my time in the forum cooking up trade
ideas, focusing on the draft, or scheming up ways to replace Randy
Wittman. When the last dream on that list actually became reality, I
allowed myself to get a little excited again. After all, since the day
he took over, I've said that Wittman was nothing more than an anchor
weighing this team down. I've always felt that our players were never
as good as they could've been because of the horrible coaching they'd
been subjected to in their formative years. I also liked McHale as a
coach, although not as much as a real coach like Jeff VanGundy,
and felt he had done an admirable job during his first stint in 2004.
Yet any excitement that I may have had disappeared rather quickly as a
brutal stretch of games helped K-Mac to an 0-8 beginning.
At this point, the Wolves were farther into The Void than perhaps
they had ever been. While the early schedule clearly didn't help
McHale, more than a few of those losses were downright huuuurrrrrible.
There was not a single player outside of Big Al who looked like a
legitimate NBA player, and even his double-doubles seemed pretty
shallow in light of all the losses. Face it, our so-called "alpha-dog"
was quickly acheiving Shareef Abdur-Rahim status. We had almost no
players worth trading for, Brewer blew out his ACL, the 2009 draft
appeared to be fairly weak, we had followed up the Foye/Roy swap with
the Love/Mayo trade, and our "genius" idea to clear cap space by 2010
had been replicated by so many other teams that there was no chance a
big name was landing in Minnesota two years from now. In other words,
we looked completely and utterly screwed.
I had "had it". Between being a doctor, running Bloguin, studying
for the boards, and having my computer crash, something had to go in my
life. At that point, making that "something" the Minnesota Timberwolves
was an easy decision. Before logging onto TWolves Blog today out of
curiosity, I hadn't paid attention to the Wolves in all of 2009. I had
heard rumblings about a good start, but being in The Void, that only
frustrated me more. I figured we had just done ourselve the disservice
of ruining our draft positioning. However, today, when I realized that
"good start" was actually an 8-2 run to start the year with wins over
some quality opponents, something changed. I read Sonia's news recaps,
I dabbled in the forum, and I began to realize that this team had
somehow clawed its way out of that terrible abyss.
Is the team royally screwing up its draft positioning? Yes. But I
don't care one bit. You see, I'd much rather have Randy Foye, Kevin
Love, Rodney Carney, Sebastian Telfair, and Craig Smith turn into
bonafide players who can either contribute or at least be traded in a
decent deal, over getting a high draft pick any day. The biggest
hurdle the Wolves have faced throughout these years of drought is that
nobody wants to take on our players. It's hard to build a winner when
you're stuck with a lot of redundant players that you can't move for
pieces that fit better. Nevermind the what simply having all your
players play better will do for your team.
I don't know, maybe it just took 10 games or so for the venom of
Randy Wittman's horrendous coaching to seep out of our locker room, but
from what I can tell by reading these game recaps, it appears that the
Timberwolves have decisively turned the corner. In fact, they appear
to be at least the "33-win-level" team I had thought they were, and
while it may be a bit premature to say this, the "42-win-level" team
McHale predicted might even be more accurate.
As the title of this article suggests, I definitely have some crow
to eat. I had a lot of valid reasons to do so, but I essentially threw
the towel in on this season and didn't expect much good to come from
it. Somehow, all that "potential" everyone had talked about so long
has finally decided to rear its head. With half a season to go, the
T-Wolves trail Utah by 11 games for that final playoff seed. Unless
they can keep up their torrid pace for another 40 games, the likely
outcome of 2008-09 appears to be just missing out of the post-season
and sending our 1st round pick to the Clippers. As deflating as that
may seem, if you're going to lose a draft pick, it may as well be in a
weak year when you've potentially got three other 1st rounders coming
your way. If nothing else, it goes to show that the 2009-2010
Timberwolves are primed and ready to make a run out of the lottery and
into the playoffs for what would be the first time in six years. Add
in some more maturity, the return of Brewer, a free-agent signing, a
trade or two, and somebody not named Wittman as the head coach for a
full 82 games, and you've got yourself a recipe for the post-season. I
would've never thought I'd be saying this a month ago.
Now if you'll hand me a fork and knife, I've got a pretty large meal to tackle.