I believed in David Kahn, new head of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but eleven consecutive losses later, and its getting really hard to not fault the guy for the team's lack of depth and passion.
Not only did they lose again last night by 13 points in a very uncompetitive game, but only 11,137 (allegedly) even bothered to show up. NBA attendance" target="_blank">Minnesota actually ranks twenty-first in the league in attendance for now, but that number is actually inflated due to early season visits by the Boston Celtics led by former Timberwolf Kevin Garnett and the Cleveland "LeBrons," not to mention the near sellout on opening night.
Not surprisingly, this putrid team is bad in all areas-1-6 at home, 0-5 on the road, and 0-8 in conference. At the end of the season, expect this team that doesn't appear to give a damn to be 30th in the league—right where it wants to be.
Thank God for the Nets, otherwise it would be the Wolves who would be 0-12, given their only win was their season opener against the soon-to-be Brooklyn inhabitants on a very inspiring but now obviously fluky night.
All-World point guard Johnny Flynn is coming off his worst game as a professional having scored only nine points while big man Al Jefferson is coming off his best.
Wolves fans and media will tell you that they are implementing Phil Jackson's triangle offense , thanks to Jackson's protege Kurt Rambis being installed as the new head coach.
Fans prepare for the worst
Wolves fans are already speculating that their best player Al Jefferson will soon be traded since he doesn't fit the system. At this point, who cares? They'll get a first round pick for sure and a few malcontents that will likely refuse to report, thus facilitating another trade to a real NBA franchise and city.
At this point, who could blame them?
This team has already lost to the previously 0-4 (at the time of their meeting) Los Angeles Clippers, fellow bottom-feeders Golden State, and at Memphis who has an identical 3-8 record—with one win coming courtesy of Minnesota.
At this point, if any teams need a win (Knicks, Nets, and Bobcats, this means you), be sure to schedule this excuse of a team on your schedule. They'll be happy to oblige.
Why do I sound so bitter? I don't care that they are losing. We were told to expect that as fans, remember?
It's the fact that they are losing by an average fourteen-point margin , 89.7-103.4, on any given night. It's the fact that after some early battles, losing 112-120 at Phoenix, 90-93 to the Clippers, and 90-92 to the then 5-0 Boston Celtics, they've basically given up and I don't understand why.
Its not like we haven't seen this before, though. Last year, the team started out 1-8 and I officially called the season over .
This year, it was dead obvious by that point. I predicted them to win thirty games, which I felt was fair.
Now I question whether they can even win back-to-back games just once this season. I don't see it happening.
Twenty-eight game losing streak coming?
There are already fans predicting when the next win will come with the latest one coming around Christmas time, which would not only put the Wolves on a 1-28 record overall, but on an unheard of twenty-eight game losing streak.
That's something not only entirely possibler, but likely. So prepare for that.
At this point, there isn't a team I know for a fact they can beat or are better than, for their lone win came on an impressive sixteen point comeback with less than seven minutes to go. Again, they've already lost to the Clippers, Warriors and Grizzlies.
Losing twenty-eight games straight would also be an NBA record. Do you remember in 1996, when Blue Edwards of the then Vancouver Grizzlies hit a game-winning three point basket to end a remarkable twenty-three game losing streak?
I do, I saw the game. It came against the Timberwolves.
That is the kind of "luck" these Wolves are going to need if they want to avoid making history. That is the only thing I think can save them at this point.
So what exactly went wrong?
Yes, Kevin Love is down but he's not the whole team. They made nice moves in Ramon Sessions, Flynn, and Ryan Hollins. They aren't supposed to be this bad—at least not on paper.
It's got to be that damn triangle offense that they can't figure out and implement. I see "too much change, too soon" as the final verdict yet to come.
I saw a lot of good-effort games. A fun little roster with a new scoring leader stepping up each night. One night it's Flynn with 18, the next Hollins with 15, Jefferson with 20 and so on—but of course with wins mixed in.
I saw growth coming and winning streaks with lots of smaller long losing streaks but with a team that cared, something no one sees now or in the future, for that matter.
Kahn keeps saying to be patient and it's all about 2010. However, if you win five games all season, which would be an NBA record for futility easily beating the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers 9-73, why would any free agent even consider coming there, much less actually take your money?
Kahn may not have to worry much longer, since operating only on a three-year contract, he would likely be fired long before then.
Futility predicted, but not this bad
People have predicted this futility but we expected them to at least try.
Last year, the Wolves started 5-27 amidst a coaching change and finished 22-60. At this point, I'd give anything for 22 wins which aren't going to happen.
We've also seen this kind of futility with the 2008-09 Oklahoma City Thunder, who began last year 1-12 only to finish 23-59.
Last year on an episode of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, hosts Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser did their segment on over/under with the question being fifteen wins for the team. Kornheiser went under, predicting twelve, if memory serves me right, saying, "Fifteen wins, that's a lot."
This isn't a plea for Rambis or Kahn to get fired. Far from it. Unlike some who think Kahn is over his head and "now its obvious why he couldn't get an NBA job for seven years," I support them both.
We just want effort and to avoid history.
Rambis was my choice for coach and I believe it can still work, once Love gets back and the players start to care again. It just sucks watching your team doing so bad, historically bad, knowing you can't do anything about it or their fate.
In fact, those who read my article archives will remember how excited I was when Kahn started doing moves. I said, and I still stand by, we could be the most exciting twenty-four win team ever since I expected flash and promise from Flynn and Rubio, among others.
What keeps me going is the fact Kahn could pull a big move or two at any time and turn this thing around, such as a Jefferson trade for a similarly young stud who better fits the system. Stay tuned on that.
At least we made moves this offseason and were constantly in the news which was fun. Now we just need the wins to come.
Think eight wins is impossible? Think again.
The 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks went 11-71 along with the 1997-98 Denver Nuggets. In particular, I remember that Nuggets team. There was a point when the record was possible but one win was against the Timberwolves.
That team, too, was guard heavy, like the undersized Timberwolves. That team however, had four players score at least fourteen or more points per game —LaPhonso Ellis, Johnny Newman, Cory Alexander, and Eric Williams, led by Williams' 19.8 PPG.
For the Wolves? Only Jefferson at 15.6, a number he had to rally to in order to reach, is above that mark . Flynn at 13.8 and Corey Brewer, 11.5 are going down quick. In Brewer and Jefferson's cases, health is always an issue, so expect these numbers to go down when each gets a phantom injury later this season when there truly is nothing left to play for but next year, minus the history making aspect.
We'll begin to hear chatter about bettering the team's draft position via tanking, but how exactly is it tanking when you suck, at a historic clip, right out of the gate? Besides, history isn't exactly on the Wolves' side, having never moved up their draft position from their slated spot.
Why not tank? 'Cause it won't work, that's why
If one team in history has gotten screwed over more by the NBA's closed-door lottery selection , its Minnesota, and with a stronger draft than last year, expect the Wolves to get shafted this way again. In fact, expect some freak playoff bubble team like Milwaukee or Charlotte to win the whole lottery despite having a Chicago Bulls-like 1.8 percent chance of winning like when they got Derrick Rose.
After all, its the Minnesota way.
Minnesota desperately needs a superstar to market around, much like they did with Kevin Garnett all those years.
The problem is, toward the end he was all they had, so they sleepwalked through many 31-win seasons.
Fans will tell you in the end the team will be better if they just say, "Screw it" for one or two years and get the best player they can get via the draft since, again, no free agents will get within Milwaukee's distance of the Twin Cities with their record that is coming.
Not only would Minnesota miss out on the top three, but they'd likely get royally shafted like the Kings this past June and end up picking fourth, thus just missing out on the real talent and settling for second best.
It would be 1993 and Christian Laettner all over again, although its yet to be determined who will play the roles of Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning in college basketball this year nor who will be the new Magic and Hornets respectively.
Brandon Jennings not exactly one that got away
Minnesota fans will tell you that they really missed the boat when they could have taken eventual Rookie of the Year Brandon Jennings twice out of Italy in this past draft. In fact, they even drafted the right position—point guard—twice in Flynn and Ricky Rubio but since Jennings remained even lower on their list, he was never a reasonable option.
I, however, am not bitter about this. Not only was Jennings seen as a reach with his supposed poor play overseas, but he had attitude problems with certain players, namely Rubio who he called overrated. I didn't want that kind of project or player on my team anyway, even before then as I saw him as a reach.
Sure, he's averaging 25.5 PPG for the small-market Bucks who, like the Wolves, need every bit of box-office flash they can get. However, also it makes them a playoff contender very quickly with two solid players in Andrew Bogut, whom Jennings calls "Bogan"— apparently not even getting his name of a teammate right—but Jennings looks like he'll be an Allen Iverson type star, both in big game potential and "Me-first" demeanor.
Don't get me wrong. I want Jennings to sign a long-term contract in Milwaukee, especially if he is as good as advertised. After all, the league is better with more teams that are good and not just in the same boring six markets of Detroit, L.A., Boston, San Antonio, Houston, and Chicago, you know 27 of the last 31 NBA Champions (look it up).
We can't all sign in New York/New Jersey. We can't all play for the Cavs, Lakers, Celtics, or Magic. Jennings will be good for Milwaukee and good for the league. As for the Wolves, is just their luck they missed him.
What about Rubio?
I still think Rubio can be that player—a LeBron James of his position, mesmerizing opponents with video game like passing. That is, if he ever shows up to play for them.
You cannot fault the Wolves for taking him, for if they had passed on what was seen as the second best player in the draft twice, analysts would have simply said, "See, this is why Minnesota will always be Minnesota. They are afraid to take a risk and draft a player, someone who has a chance to be a difference-maker."
Others would have said they deserve their fate if they don't draft someone based on how easily they'll get signed. They could have drafted him twice, twice!
Blah, blah, blah.
For now, the hard part is keeping the shrinking fan base and avoid history at all costs which won't be easy. Is 8-74 possible? Stay tuned but don't count it out. However, don't abandon the team that needs you. I'd rather have a historically bad team and be an NBA franchise city, than have no team at all.
This season is all about finding out who the real fans are. Who's with me?