This title can be used for virtually all of Minnesota sports at any given time. That is just the life that we know as sports fans. However, for the first time in a while, we are talking about the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The fanbase was put through 13 playoff-less seasons. We (or more accurately just me and few others) had to watch players like Craig “The Rhino” Smith, Luke Ridnour, Alexey Shved, Michael Olowokandi, Ryan Gomes…. You get the idea. The Wolves weren’t exactly a fountain of talent in those 13 seasons.
Then came hope. Flip Saunders returned and he brought with him a couple 1st overall picks that gave this team a purpose. Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns represented something this fanbase hadn’t seen since the Western Conference Finals in 2004 with Kevin Garnett leading the way.
That hope blossomed, developed, and was nurtured by a coveted and respected coach in Tom Thibodeau. He was even able to parlay a work in progress of Zach LaVine into a top 15 NBA player in Jimmy Butler.
After finishing last season 47-35, making the playoffs, and seeing some real talent on the floor, things were looking up for the Wolves. There were still problems to work out, but for the first time since 2004, there was hope.
Unfortunately, Minnesota fans are used to what comes next. We have heard for a while that there has been some unrest among the players and coaching staff. Issues like Towns and Wiggins being upset with the coaching style, Butler questioning the work ethic of Towns and Wiggins, and Butler and Towns trying to get Kyrie Irving in a trade involving Wiggins, just to name a few. These aren’t exactly team chemistry building activities.
Things seemed to have settled down until the recent headline: “Jimmy Butler not willing to sign a contract extension with the Timberwolves. Seeking to join Kyrie on an Eastern Conference team.”
It is difficult to know to what extent that everyone in the organization is unhappy. However, reporters don’t just make these things up in their spare time and there are some clear issues that need resolving.
On top of this, the Golden State Warriors have now assembled the best roster in NBA history, LeBron joined the Lakers in the West, and the Rockets have mostly kept together a team that should have beat the Warriors had Chris Paul not gotten hurt (which is kind of an oxymoron. Chris Paul is always hurt).
Basically, the second that we think it is all coming together, it is all falling apart. Now it sounds like Thibs is going to spend the season trying to convince Butler to stay, which might work due to their strong relationship. We also can hope that Wiggins and Towns, who are only 23 and 22 respectively, will take positive steps this season that prove to Jimmy that they can win here in Minnesota.
I will still enjoy watching the Wolves play this season. In any given year in NBA history, there are only 3-5 teams that can realistically win the title and the Wolves were never going to be one of those teams this season.
It was the Celtics and Lakers in the 80’s, the Bulls and Rockets in the 90’s, the Lakers, Spurs and Pistons in the 2000’s, and the Heat and the Warriors in the 2010’s… Maybe someday it’ll be the Wolves turn. We are only two steps behind.