The Timberwolves were 17-65 in 2010-11 to finish 30th among 30 NBA teams and first in draft lottery chances. They are 16-65 going into Wednesday’s last game vs. Oklahoma City and comforted in the knowledge that a 12th consecutive defeat will again secure a solo 30th in won-lost and first in pingpong balls.
It has been quite a journey for the Wolves over the past four years, as they have made the transition from The Kahn to The Con.
David Kahn was the outsider hired in May 2009 as the basketball president to try to rebuild the Wolves after five non-playoff seasons. He was fired four years later with the streak at nine non-playoff seasons.
His draft decisions were misplaced and he signed the lame (Brandon Roy) and the lifeless (Darko Milicic), but I don’t think that battered cluster of Timberwolves followers was ever misused as cynically as it has been in Flip Saunders’ first season carrying four titles:
Coach, president for basketball, minority partner and tank commander.
The return of Kevin Garnett to the lineup on Feb. 25 has gone from an epic celebration to an epic charade.
I don’t know how foolish is the feeling for the customers who jammed Target Center that night and cheered as if there was substance to this KG comeback. As a media member, I’m embarrassed for diving in head first on the wonder of KG’s return rather than reading the signs.
Right off the top, we should have seen this as a bunch of hoo-ha to get a few minutes of attention in another winter of empty sections of seats for Wolves home games.
The trade was made on Feb. 19. The Timberwolves were home the next night and then on the road to Houston. There wasn’t a real warning sign that they delayed Garnett’s reappearance until the 25th and the visit by Washington.
The first WTH (What the Heck) moment came two days later, when Garnett didn’t play at Chicago on Friday, even though he had played only 18½ minutes against Washington.
The Wolves were back home the next night and Saunders explained KG’s absence against the Bulls: “We’re not going to play him in back-to-backs.”
Who would have guessed that this would turn out to be back-to-back months — three games in March, none in April?
Garnett played the four-game homestand from Feb. 28 to March 7. In total, he played five home games in an 11-day period and the Wolves averaged 18,131.
He hasn’t played since. Assuming he sits Wednesday, that will be 21 consecutive games missed to end the season.
I’ve enjoyed reading Flip’s rationalizations for this. The best was his suggestion that Garnett could be more helpful to young players, particularly Andrew Wiggins, in practice than by actually playing in games.
Late-season practices in the NBA, especially for a skinny rookie who has played more minutes than any player in the league since Dec. 1 — yeah, I’m sure Wiggy and KG have been out there grinding through off-day practices.
Another explanation from inside the Wolves camp has been that Garnett’s career of fantastic durability and mighty minutes has worn out his knees. “Bone-on-bone” in one knee, I’ve heard.
If that’s the case, if KG had a knee problem that would make it advisable for him to miss 22 of 27 games after his Wolves debut, why did he pass the pre-trade physical?
It wouldn’t be to sell 90,000 tickets during a 1 ½-week stretch of five home games. I’d have to be crazy to suggest that … our noble NBA franchise following up Kahn with another con, right?
Flip was in full-fledged martyr mode after Monday’s loss to New Orleans, saying the Wolves would be desperate to come up with the NBA’s mandatory eight players for the season finale.
That’s because they finished with six “healthy” players on Monday. Of course, Kevin Martin wasn’t dressed because of illness, and Gary Neal and Shabazz Muhammad have been participating in workouts, so they could suit up.
And then there’s Garnett, who could play, except that Flip says that would make it look like he’s not going to play next season, so it’s a good thing if he doesn’t play, because that means he’ll probably come back next season.
OK, Flip, we’ll buy anything, as long as Wiggins, Zach LaVine and the strangers get the message before Wednesday’s tipoff that has carried the Wolves for weeks:
“Just lose, baby.”
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org