Events That Drastically Changed the Course of the Minnesota Timberwolves' Season
I rarely take the time to reflect on why I like my favorite sports teams because it seems so obvious: I’m from Minnesota, so I like the Timberwolves. Simple as that, right?
Well, I thought about it a little before writing this slideshow and realized there is a more to it. Beyond the fact that I can see these guys on television just about any night they play—and occasionally catch them live—or that they are exactly as old as I am (est. 1989), the primary reason why I like them is that they are always entertaining.
No, they haven’t won much recently (although I do remember the Kevin Garnett days), but there’s usually something funky going on with them.
It started this year with Kevin Love breaking his hand doing knuckle push-ups, continued when he opened up to Yahoo! about his concerns for the Wolves future and finished with Ricky Rubio charmingly telling Alexey Shved to change his face and be happy.
Regardless of if it is 50-32 or 32-50, this club always finds a way to get your attention.
Kevin Love Breaks His Hand Doing Knuckle Push-Ups
Date: October 17, 2012
When the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Love broke his hand doing knuckle push-ups, my initial reaction was: Why was he doing knuckle Push-ups?
I mean, what’s wrong with the regular, flat-handed style? Was he anticipating a fight this season?
Whatever his reason was, it was a costly decision for both the player and team.
Brandon Roy’s Knees Give Out
Date: November 9, 2012
There is a contingency of the Timberwolves fanbase that is upset with Roy because he played five games and made over $5 million this year, but I personally find it to be a sad ordeal.
He was an outstanding player in Portland who seemed all but finished after suffering knee injuries that forced him into retirement at age 26. The 'Wolves took a flier on a guy that they drafted, and then inexplicably traded, back in 2006 who fit a need on the team as a three-point shooter.
Unfortunately, the reunion was not meant to be. Roy played his last game this season in November against the Indiana Pacers.
Chase Budinger Tears His Meniscus
Date: November 10, 2012
With Love and Roy out, and Rubio not ready to return just yet, there was plenty of playing time to be had for Chase Budinger. It was a chance for the 24-year-old to lock down a job for himself as a member of a Timberwolves team that needed production from the shooting guard position.
Shved had yet to truly break out, that happened in December, and the shooting guard position was Budinger’s to lose.
Then he tore his meniscus.
The former Houston Rocket has returned recently, and his play at the beginning and end of the season has endeared him to the fans and had people asking the team lock him up long term.
It’s hard to know exactly what Budinger provides, given his minimal playing time this year, but it's safe to say that for the right price, he is a player this team should offer a contract to next season.
Kevin Love Opens Up to Yahoo! Sports
Date: December 11, 2012
In what was the most polarizing moment of the season, Love sits down to dinner with Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski and tells him that he is uncertain about the direction of the team under beleaguered general manager David Kahn’s leadership.
Not only did the story fuel the speculation that Love was destined to opt out of his contract and leave the Twin Cities for a larger, sunnier city like Los Angeles, but it also divided the fanbase’s opinion of the power forward.
One party felt that Love was in the wrong. They felt he had insulted his teammates, particularly veterans like Andrei Kirilenko and Luke Ridnour, by asking whether Kahn has a plan when it comes to roster decisions. Additionally, Love is 24 years old—who is he to call out a man more than twice his age?
The other party appreciated his honesty. After all, what is with the perennial roster makeover? Why were Jonny Flynn and Wesley Johnson drafted? Why wasn’t he given a max contract?
Regardless of which camp you’re in, both sides can agree that this was a monumental event that took place this season.
Ricky Rubio Returns From Injury
Date: December 15, 2012
Here is what I love about Ricky Rubio: Not only does he return from injury, which is in and of itself a big deal, but he makes an event out of it. In his debut, he threw a pass to Greg Stiemsma that went through his own legs and the legs of defender Elton Brand.
It was mind-blowing.
Rubio took a while to return to form. He came off the bench for a while, and his playing time was heavily monitored. His defense was shoddy at first, and his shooting took a while to come back.
It wasn’t until the end of the season that we saw it all come together for Rubio, but that is to be expected from a player who begins the year on the disabled list.
Kevin Love Breaks His Hand Again
Date: January 3, 2013
Love returned from injury on November 21, and there was a period of time after Love and Rubio played together this season.
It was over before it started, though.
Love broke his hand in Denver against the Nuggets and is in jeopardy of missing the rest of the 2012-13 season.
This happened well before Rubio really hit his stride, and Timberwolves fans never really saw what the team could do if it was fully healthy.
Terry Porter Coaches Team in Rick Adelman’s Absence
Date: January 8-26, 2013
When Mary Kay Adelman fell ill in January, Rick Adelman took a leave of absence, assistant coach Terry Porter took over his duties as head coach of the Timberwolves. He was returning a favor of sorts, as Adelman had coached him in Portland when both of Porter’s parents died.
“Rick was good about calling every day to check on me,” he told Ray Richardson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “He's been there for me when I've had issues with my family. I'm just thankful to be there for him.”
It was no easy task: Minnesota played seven of the 11 games Porter coached on the road and was already missing many of its players.
Porter went 2-9 while Adelman attended to his wife’s seizures.
Chris Johnson Gets M-V-P Chants
Date: January 19, 2013
With the roster depleted by injury, Minnesota went out and signed Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson to 10-day contracts. The duo scored 23 of the team’s 29 points in the fourth quarter of a 92-79 win over the Houston Rockets.
Johnson finished the game with a career-high 15 points and received MVP chants from the crowd when stepped to the free-throw line late in the game.
Gelabale ended up receiving more minutes than Johnson throughout the year, however, and neither are guaranteed to return next season, but they played well when called upon during an injury-plagued season for the Wolves.
Derrick Williams Drops 24 on the Utah Jazz
Date: February 13, 2013
People were ready to declare Derrick Williams a bust at the beginning of the season.
It appeared that the No. 2 overall pick was unable to take advantage of the extended playing time he was receiving on an injury-riddled team and ended up relinquishing his minutes to players like Lou Amundson, who was eventually waived, Dante Cunningham and even Gelabale.
Suddenly, he was beginning to look like the player he was at the University of Arizona.
There is still work to be done, but after that game in Utah, it became hard to call him a bust.
Ricky Rubio Consoles Alexey Shved
Date: February 28, 2013
Rubio became a leader this season.
You could see it in the way he played: He passed the ball almost to a fault. He continued to be an elite defender. He improved his shooting and laid out for loose balls. From a distance, you could tell he was animated in the huddle, but the video of Rubio telling Shved, a slumping player, to change his face and be happy told us everything we needed to know about him.
He wants to lead this team, and he wants to have fun doing so.
Rick Adelman Becomes 8th Coach in NBA History to Win 1,000 Games
Date: April 6, 2013
The number speaks for itself, but what makes it really special, at least in regard to this season, is that the team had every reason to mail it in. With all the injuries it had and the subsequent losses it endured, it would have been easy for the team to have just tanked it and hope for the No. 1 overall pick.
Instead, the Timberwolves soldiered through and continued to win, allowing Adelman to get his milestone win this season.
In a tribute to the coach, Joan Niesen of FoxSportsNorth.com wrote:
Adelman is not a man who'll put stock in a number—or if he does, he'll never admit it. But for a coach who's too often judged for having never won a championship, for having coached great teams and fallen short, 1,000 wins is something. It's a validation of his work, attesting to the fact that he's stuck in the league for this long when a lesser man or a lesser mind might have been forced out a decade ago.
Considering all that happened to this team—the Love injury, the Roy injury, Mary Kay’s illness, Williams’ rough start, Rubio’s rough start, Shved’s tough finish—it was one hell of a season for Adelman, regardless of what his record is.