Chapter 1: Too young to care
Minnesota was already an NBA state way before the Timberwolves existed. The Minneapolis Lakers called Minnesota their home until the team moved to its present home of Los Angeles in 1960, leaving Minnesota without an NBA team for almost thirty years.
Then in 1987, the NBA allowed four new expansion teams to enter the league: the Orlando Magic, the Charlotte Hornets, the Miami Heat, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Finally, basketball was back in Minnesota. But to be honest, I was two years old and too young to care. By all accounts, the first few years of the T-wolves were rough, finishing their inaugural 1988 season with a 22-60 standing. If you think it couldn’t get worse than that, they finished the 1994-95 season at 21-61. Christian Laettner and Isaiah Rider were decent players but it seemed like they were heading nowhere.
Then they drafted Kevin Garnett.
Chapter 2: Zero out of eight
The magic didn’t happen overnight. Yes, they made the playoffs only a year after they drafted Garnett, but only barely. But each year they made it, for eight years straight, and was knocked out early each and every time. Well, except for that 2004 run where they went all the way to the Western Conference Finals only to fall to the Lakers. But it was during those years that I became a fan. I wore Garnett’s signature shoes. I was in awe of Stephon Marbury’s game. I learned how to spell Wally Szczerbiak’s name. The clueless kid that I was even thought Anthony Peeler was the greatest shooter ever at one point (he isn’t). I mean, I adored Allen Iverson, but I never got behind the 76ers as a team because they were honestly a one-man show. The Timberwolves, though? Now they were a team. It felt like I sort of grew up with them during that eight-year run, and I was not giving up on my team no matter how many times they lost.
Chapter 3: Thirteen straight and another Kevin.
While I will always remember 2004 as the year the Wolves could have won the NBA championship, I will also remember it as a year of lasts. It was the year Friends aired their last episode. It was my last year of high school. It was also the last time anyone saw the T-Wolves in the playoffs. The team quickly fell into disarray after that year. They have had decent rosters since, but never enough to bring them over the hill. They had the likes of Sam Cassell and Al Jefferson at one point but also made questionable decisions (at that time at least) like trading away eventual Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy for Randy Foye.
Then in 2008, another Kevin came into town and for once, it looked like the Timberwolves were back on track. With Kevin Love and his impossibly long double-double streak (that came with a 31-point, 31-rebound game), and the eventual acquisition of point guard prodigy Ricky Rubio, it seemed like the Wolves had a solid, young core and were finally heading back to the playoffs.
It has been thirteen years and still no sign of Minnesota after the regular season.
Chapter 4: See you in May
That brings us to this year. Which, so far, has been a pretty exciting one. Here’s an overview of who the Wolves acquired:
Taj Gibson – 10.8 pts, 6.2 reb, 0.9 ast, 0.5 stl, 0.8 blk
Jeff Teague – 15.3 pts, 4 reb, 7,8 ast, 1.2 stl, 0.4 blk
Jimmy Butler – 23.9 pts, 6.2 reb, 5.5 ast, 1.9 stl, 0.4 blk
Jamal Crawford – 12.3 pts, 1.6 reb, 2.6 ast, 0.7 stl, 0.2 blk
and the personnel they’ve lost:
Ricky Rubio – 11.1 pts, 4.1 reb, 9.1 ast, 1.7 stl, 0.1 blk
Zach Lavine – 18.9 pts, 3.4 reb, 3 ast, 0.9 stl, 0.2 blk
Kris Dunn – 3.8 pts, 2.1 reb, 2.4 ast, 1 stl, 0.5 blk.
That nets the T-Wolves an across-the-board addition of 28.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1 block. Don’t get me wrong—there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. Can Andrew Wiggins learn how to play lockdown D consistently? Can Karl-Anthony Towns develop into the league’s number one big man? Can Butler continue getting buckets like he did with the Bulls? Can Crawford defy Father Time once again and get his fourth Sixth Man of the Year award?
It may be the fan in me talking but we’ll see the Wolves in the playoffs this year. I assume still be playing in May, during the conference semifinals. Unfortunately, they won’t have the experience and chemistry required to take down the juggernauts that are the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, and Cleveland Cavaliers. But even if they exit in the first round, I’ll take it. It’s been too long.