A running joke in one of my group texts — when everyone isn't still bad-mouthing me for getting something other than an iPhone six months ago, thus changing our messages from blue to green (the horror) — is my one-time infatuation with getting the Timberwolves moved to the NBA's Eastern Conference.
The genesis of my writing about the subject goes back several years, and what seems to have been a turning point in the group text rumblings arrived in late 2018 when I wrote about NHL expansion ... only to pivot quickly to possible NBA expansion ... which led to thoughts of the Wolves in the East.
At that time, the NBA's Western Conference was a bear. The Wolves had made the playoffs the previous season as the No. 8 seed with 47 wins. Plus travel in the West means a lot of late games (Pacific time) with non-obvious rivals. The Wolves belong with Milwaukee, Chicago, Indiana, Detroit and Memphis.
But the NBA dragged its feet despite my repeated attempts to shine a light on the injustice. And now? Maybe it's just as well that they did. For the Wolves and the Wild, the West — at least competitively — has become the preferred conference, something Patrick Reusse and I talked about on Monday's Daily Delivery podcast.
The Wolves and Wild are hot. That's subject to change based on what we have seen this season. But what's not up for debate is that a potential playoff path in the Western Conference for both teams is a lot easier to navigate than it will be for teams in the East.
For the Wolves, who moved up to the No. 6 seed with three impressive road wins, it means a conference with a top three of Denver, Memphis and Sacramento. None of those teams should scare anyone, even if they are talented. Denver is the only team in the West projected to win more than 50 games; there are four such teams in the East. There's no dynasty-in-the-making. If the Wolves can get in — either as a top-six seed or by surviving the play-in they can compete against anyone in the first round.
The Wild, as Reusse noted, still have a chance to win the entire Western Conference. They are a near-lock to make the playoffs, and even if they don't win the West (a long shot), having home-ice advantage in a first-round series is very much in play. Just like in the NBA, there are no great teams in the NHL's West. Four teams in the East have more points than the top team in the West (Vegas, 82 points).
Maybe I need to fire off a new missive in the group text: Keep the Wolves and Wild in the West for as long as possible.