The One-Pointer: Wolves Disgrace Themselves
If you thought the 2005-06 Minnesota Timberwolves couldn't sink any lower, well, the franchise saved the worst for last in tonight's game, purposefully losing to the Memphis Grizzlies in order to secure a draft pick rather than risk having it sent to Los Angeles because of the ineptitude of their braintrust.
That's right, I said PURPOSEFULLY lost. The Wolves tanked this game as blatantly as I've ever seen a professional sports team perform with premeditated incompetence, to the point where Glen Taylor owes everyone who paid to get in a refund down to the last penny and Commissioner David Stern needs to launch an investigation and assess fines and penalties. I'm dead serious. And time will tell how others react, but I don't think I'm exaggerating.
Why do I say this? Remember when the rationale for "resting" Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis with the "injuries" they incurred was in order to get a look at the young players to see how they developed? Well, the Wolves were up by six points heading into the 4th quarter. How many minutes do you think Marcus Banks, Rashad McCants and Justin Reed played in that period? Answer: zippo. No, the five iron men in that quarter were Mark Madsen, Eddie Griffin, Trenton Hassell, Ronnie Dupree and Bracey Wright. Remarkably enough, the Wolves were still up 5 with 45 seconds left to play. Time for some tough D, right? Nope. A Grizzy scrub named Anthony Roberson is allowed to waltz in for a layup within five seconds. Time to bring in your free throw shooters, inbounds the ball and wait for the foul, right? Nope. First you make the inbounds to Madsen (45% from the line this year), who gets fouled, but alas, Memphis still isn't over the limit. So the ball in brought in again and Madsen launches a three-pointer with 6 seconds still on the shot clock. Brian Cardinal's trey ties it with 18.5 secs left, and Wright turns it over dribbling into a double team but Memphis can't get a shot off. Overtime.
Okay, so far it is very fishy but not quite in the realm of scandalous. Oh, you want to leave absolutely no doubt that you are flushing your integrity down the toilet? Well then, let's let Mad Dog launch two more threes in overtime, with ten and eleven seconds left on the shot clock. Not good enough--already resting Pau Gasol and Eddie Jones for the playoffs (they're in street clothes) Memphis is playing five guys from the absolute bottom of their bench and the game remains tied at the end of the first overtime.
Second overtime, the Wolves trot out the same quintet that have been on the court since the beginning of the 4th quarter. Mad Dog launches five more three-pointers--needless to say, not even half of them even grazed the rim and none of them went it. At the other end, the Wolves allow Brian Cardinal to keep chucking uncontested three-pointers, and Memphis finally gives Minnesota what it so obviously craved--defeat.
With it came disgrace. This wasn't subtle, folks. The Wolves played to lose, and when it looked like they might win regardless, they played more and more blatantly to lose. I mean, Mad Dog hadn't attempted a trey all year and was 1-9 from beyond the arc in his five-year career before chucking up 7 of them (officially; anyway, the scorer didn't register the one he launched at the end of the 4th quarter) in ten minutes of overtime, none of them occurring because the shot clock was about the sound.
Coach Dwane Casey should be ashamed of himself. And if and when the shitstorm comes down, Casey should come completely clean about whether he was given marching orders from above to tank this game--it is no time for the coach to fall on his sword.
Am I being too moralistic? I don't know--I'm interested to see how others react. I would have asked Casey and the players if they realized how obvious they were being, but as the gruesome irony would have it, it was Fan Appreciation Night and there was the traditional ceremoney afterwards where selected fans get a jersey from each of the players. When Mad Dog grabbed the microphone and started thanking the fans for their support (at first the mic went dead on him--that was karma talking), I frankly couldn't stomach it anymore and came home.
Here's my take: No amount of ping-pong balls and draft pick placement is worth this big of a blot on your integrity as an organization. It might be comical if it weren't so pathetic. And it might be pathetic if it weren't so corrosive to the very concept of competition and sportsmanship. Believe me, one of my pet peeves is journalists getting on their high horse about one thing or another. Most of the time, I'd simply rather write about the game. But I honestly feel like I have no choice this time. More than a sad day, it is a bad day in the history of the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise.