Timberwolves tucking tail toward mid-season

Categories: Sports
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Amidst a cloud of frustration, Love's 20/20 night vs. the Spurs was a non-story.
After three years of having the privilege to cover Minnesota Twins baseball, I've tried to pepper my first year writing about the Timberwolves with a balanced mix of hope and reality.

But after the team's Tuesday night loss to the Spurs (their 16th-consectuive defeat to that staple of NBA success), I departed Target Center struggling not to attach a "less" suffix to the "hope" measure.

Next week I'll provide a more in-depth analysis of the Wolves' struggles to re-establish NBA respectability as they reach the true half-point of this 2010-11 campaign -- but herein you'll find more numbness than numbers. At 9-30, the Wolves entered Thursday with the league's third-worst record. With a lowly win clip of .231, only barren Cleveland (8-30) and sanguine/suspect Sacramento (8-28) owned poorer percentages and fewer wins.

As I've noted throughout these last months, the Wolves' organization deserves genuine applause for the following reasons: admitting with unveiled candor that their record would be poor; creating cost-efficient reasons for folks to trudge to downtown Minneapolis in the dead of winter; and offering truly entertaining in-arena and new-media spots and videos.

And it's not as though a sub-.500 record was unexpected for this crew. With the league's youngest team and (another) revamped roster, there was no expectation entering this season that the Wolves could win more than 30 games after finishing with a mere 15 last season.

Back in mid-November, I had the pleasure of watching Kevin Love's historic 31 point/31 rebound night in the Wolves' 112-103 win over the Knicks. The victory gave the Wolves back-to-back wins and improved their record to 3-7. Love's maniacal effort made him a national hoop figure, an esteem he has sustained with a spectacular season that finds him leading the league in rebounding (15.8 per) by a wide margin while also scoring over 21 points per game.

During that contest and after the win -- there was an unquestionable vibe in both the arena and the locker room; something near-tangible that echoed of true hope, progress, growth, and, again, an untouchable but very real and potent vibe.

Yet on Tuesday night, as the Wolves hosted the NBA's top team before an announced 11,209

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fans (maybe), there was nary a whisper of Love's 20 point/20 board effort. Rather, the storyline that evolved was the five technical fouls called in a 10-second span of third-quarter clock time by St. Paul native Ken Mauer.

The techs (and coach Kurt Rambis's ejection) were surely notable because of their flurry, yet after the smoke cleared and the Wolves lost for the sixth time in seven games, all that really remained in Target Center was a greasy frustration. Adding to the dejection: an atypically gloomy Michael Beasley limped into the locker room after having re-injured his already hobbled left ankle and appeared closer to attending a wake than playing in Thursday's set against Washington.

A few weeks back, when comparing the differences between losing with a young team in Portland and experiencing the same recipe here, Wolves forward Martell Webster told me:

"A lot of emotions. There's been a lot of losing, and there's been a lot of emotion about it. It hasn't been like we've rolled over, like, 'Oh, we've got another game.' Guys have been mad; guys have been upset at losses. Especially with the key, close losses that we've had. We've learned from those things."

But there's an emotional difference between "frustration" and "anger," and Tuesday eve offered more of the former. And a real danger exists there: Anger can evolve toward a rallying point, while frustration can descend into just pure muck.

Looking at the Wolves' schedule in March and April, there looks to be a host of games that they can win against young teams with similar growing pains or versus older squads that they should outrun in late season. Yet at their present pace, the Wolves will finish the season with a mere 19 wins.

"They know who they are; we're still trying to figure out who we are," Rambis said at Tuesday's postgame presser, referencing the Spurs/Wolves contrast through clenched teeth.

At this rate, coach, we all are.

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11 comments
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Steph Marbury
Steph Marbury

Watching the wolves on saturday night against the magic, probably a better crowd because its the wekend.But people are into it- we just need more reasons to cheer and get up from the seets.

Hank5
Hank5

I was at the game and left their with the same feeling. Any chance Flynn sticks around?

Judd
Judd

The trade deadline of 2/24 nears, and at this stage I'd say, yes, Flynn will be gone. The guy has the bravado to play in the league but has yet to back it up with consistency or prove that's he's a true point guard. I like Ridnour and actually belive that Rubio will be here next year, but I don;t think Jonny will be here to see it.

Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris

"And a real danger exists there: Anger can evolve toward a rallying point, while frustration can descend into just pure muck."

Friggen great line, and you nailed it right on the head. Draft pick anyone?

TrickyNc
TrickyNc

As much as I appreciate the efforts we've made to rebuild and be cost conscious, I am concerned about the losing culture we are creating through these efforts. I think we are in desperate need of players who can help us close out games - not just through their skills, but experience - and find it troubling that a player like Webster, who played big minutes for Portland in last year's playoffs, finds himself watching the end of games from the bench, as inexperienced players like Johnson and Brewer take his place.

myles
myles

Some good things, but many missing pieces if this team is ever to get out of the doldrums. I agree, Rambis has to show some improvement between now and season end if he is tor return. And their recruiting and trades have mostly been chaotic - consider management changes as well.

Judd
Judd

I wouldn't expect any management change anytime soon, either. "Mostly chaotic"? Well, the jury is still out on some of the transactions although, as "Paul" notes, Jonny Flynn has a ways to go to prove an asset. Beyond that, the trade for Beasley was a steal and the contratcs of both Milicic and Ridnour are proving better than most thought. The selection of Wes Johnson over D. Cousins looked better a month ago, but I personally belive that Wesley will prove a steady scorer in this league.

Pittsburgh Norm
Pittsburgh Norm

One positive about the Wolves season is reading Judd's columns.You have a way of putting things into perspective, even when it's not the vista we might want to be seeing. Although the fat lady has not yet sung her song, I do hear the echo of "we gotta go now" from the Kingsmen - Louie Louie :-) Go Steelers.

Paul
Paul

If Rambis can't turn this around a little bit in the second half of the season he needs to go. He needs to determine who this team is. Flynn has been a disappointment, Telfair plays better.I don't think they are learning anything from losing.oh and yes the refs do suck.

Judd
Judd

Well, even if Rambis finishes with under 25 wins this year, I think he stays. There's no doubt that his play-drawing ability (especially late-game) and defensive leadership is now in huge question, but given the youth of this bunch and all the new (and oft-injured) players I think he gets a pass to next year.

And yes, Telfair is better than Flynn, although the former has been a healthy (and classy) scratch for five straight games now. He'll be traded to backup a contender with weeks.

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