When it comes to sports, I’m typically not picky. If any of the Minnesota home teams in the big four sports are on TV, I’m most likely watching the game. This has caused me to watch games regardless of the respective team’s place in the standings. I still remember the 1998 season for the Vikings (are there any Minnesotans that do not?), the playoff runs in the 2000s for the Twins, countered by suffering through this past season, and the constant mediocrity from the Wild over the past couple years. As I just demonstrated, there have been good seasons, and not so good seasons, and if there’s anything I pride myself on, it’s that I am not a bandwagon fan.
The biggest test of this “I’m not a bandwagon fan” label has easily been with the Timberwolves. Disaster trades and picks rendered the team an absolute mess, ever since shipping Kevin Garnett to the East. The revolving door of players since then were more flawed than polished. Al Jefferson, the centerpiece of the Garnett trade, was a black hole for the basketball. Mike Miller, acquired to be a scorer, started deferring to teammates instead. Rashad McCants wasn’t that great himself.* Oh, and there’s been David Kahn’s hilarious obsession with point guards. All which made me start secretly joining other Minnesotans in dubbing this team the Timberpuppies.
* That sentence alone is proof of why this blog is not primarily a basketball blog, considering that was the best I could do.
While the Twins tried to avoid a 100-loss season, the Vikings looked even worse than when they were playing on Tuesday nights and having near-beer sold in their “new” novelty outdoor stadium, and the Wild sustaining an eye-covering collapse over the past month, it is the Timberwolves that are suddenly bringing in the viewers. (Apologies to the Lynx and Swarm.) The wheeling-and-dealing that David Kahn has done over the past couple years is finally starting to pay some dividends. Kevin Love has turned into one of the NBA’s best players, and Ricky Rubio has shown that he’s not just hype. Darko Milicic actually appears to care more often than not, and productivity is being milked out of Anthony Randolph.
Yes, the team is only 3-7, but there is hope, and not just because this t-shirt says so. Prior to their last two losses (as part of a back-to-back-to-back, mind you) the Wolves were ranked at fifteenth in ESPN’s Power Rankings. It’s not crazy if you think this team has the chance to be decent this year. Clearly there are people around the country that feel the same way. I’m also willing to say that this team is now one or two players away from becoming a playoff contender. Granted, it might only be as a ~.500 8-seed, but that’s still a playoff team.
Unless the Wild are able to right their Titanic, it will be the Wolves that represent the best chance of a competitive team in Minnesota right now. Four of their losses have been by four points or less. They nearly knocked off the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. They came back from a 24-point deficit to tie the Bulls last night, although they did end up losing anyway. They’ve beaten Dallas and San Antonio, two of the better teams in the Western Conference.
These are not the same Timberwolves that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Nope, this team is once again watchable.