Mike James has a surprising take on the struggling Timberwolves.
After the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the 76ers to pull their lackluster record to 7-9, the Wolves broadcast team conducted an interview with point guard Mike James. It was your typical post-game chat; nothing really special. But amongst the usual cliche's an congratulations, was a comment by Mike James that really stuck with me.
He said, "We really are a good team."
Now to most, if not all, of you reading this, that seems like a fairly benign comment. I mean, that's what players are supposed to say. Nobody that wants to keep out of their coach's dog house, would say they were a bad team, right? But it seemed to me like it was more than just a politically correct statement. It seemed like Mike James actually believed it.
He could have just said, "We're a good team". But he said "We really are a good team." And to be honest, for a moment, I thought he was delusional. Good teams just don't play the type of basketball we've seen from the Wolves over the past month and change. They don't dig themselves 20-point holes night after night. They don't blow 16-point leads to lottery teams. They don't step out on the court and look like they don't care. Good teams just don't do that.
But despite those thoughts, I couldn't get past the apparent sincerity of Mike James' words. And then I remembered that there was a time when I felt exactly the same way...
"With the exception of our legendary 03-04 squad, it’s safe to say that I’ve never been prouder to call a Timberwolves team my own." - DeROK, November 5th, 2006 on TWolvesBlog.com
Things went south very quickly after that post, and that pride morphed into frustration and despair. With Dwane Casey's inexplicable lineups, Mike James' nasty cold-streak, and night after night of heartless play the Wolves yo-yo'ed from 2-0, to 3-6, to 6-6, to 6-9. And somewhere along that rollercoaster ride, I forgot that less than a month ago, I would have been standing next to Mike James and saying the exact same thing.
So was I right then, or am I right now? Are the Timberwolves really a good team, or are we looking at a 35-win season? Did this team just need fifteen games to get some chemistry or are is this a group that will simply never click? I guess I really don't have the answer to those questions right now. Only time can tell. But as I looked at the sincerity in Mike James' eyes, I started to believe him.
We've got Kevin Garnett who, regardless of what anyone says or how poorly this team performs, is a bonafide Top 5 talent in the league. We've got Randy Foye, who's morphing before our eyes into the great player we knew he'd be. We've got Craig Smith, a total bonus since no one ever saw him coming when they made their pre-season picks. We've got Mark Blount who's been beyond just a "serviceable" big man this year. We've got Ricky Davis, who can be frustratingly inconsistent at times, but such an asset when he gets on a roll. And we've got Mike James - a player who has the ability to drop 20 on any given night, a player that many teams coveted just a few short months ago.
It's those last two who will ultimately validate Mike James' own words. When Mike and Ricky play with focus, hustle, and get their teammates involved, the Timberwolves can hang tough and beat 90% of the teams in the NBA. When they start to play "1-on-1" and take ill-advised shots, things fall apart quickly.
The potential to be a "really good team" is certainly there. Considering the myriad of injuries the 2003-2004 squad suffered, it's not a stretch by any means to say that this Wolves team features a far better supporting cast. What's lacking this year is a pair of teammates who complement KG was well as Cassell and Sprewell did. On paper, the similarity between the two duos is eerie. They each feature one fearless gunslinger and one athletic slasher. But on the court, the results just haven't been there consistently.
But despite the fact that no one in Minnesota is proclaiming James and Davis to be "the second coming" yet, there were certainly flashes of the MV3 the other night in Philly. Was it just another tease like the first two victories this season or the three-game winning streak that brought the team to 6-6? If I were more cynical, I might say yes. But I want to believe in this team. I've always wanted to believe in this team. And when Mike James uttered those words, it was if he was challenging me to believe in them again. So being the eternal optimist (or sucker, depending on your view) I'm going to do just that.
"We really are a good team." - DeROK, December 6th, 2006 on DeROK.Net