Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Heat Stroked

(Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Yep, it's true. The juggernaut known as the Minnesota Timberwolves finally lost a game in 2009, losing to Miami 99-96. It's also true that if Mike Miller (1-7, 4 pts) and Al Jefferson (4-14, 9 pts) had better games, the result might have been different. Truth is a curious animal however, a door that swings both ways. For example, it could very well be true that good teams--especially playing at home and full of confidence--should find a way to win games like this. Unsound fundamentals--bad passes by Love and Telfair with under 3 minutes left, Michael Beasley stealing a rebound off of a free throw with 8 seconds left--helped the Wolves lose this game.

Will the guys learn from their mistakes?

"That's just the way we play now," Foye said. "We get the ball out quick. Obviously, sometimes there will be mistakes. [Wolves coach Kevin McHale] didn't say too much about it because that's the way we play." - Randy Foye, via the StarTribune.


"We're still confident," Wolves forward Rodney Carney said. "We won five in a row. We can start anew." - Rodney Carney, StarTribune

Okey-dokey. Enough said. Let's move on.

I won't get too negative was pointed out in Britt Robson's post today, especially with around 8:49 in the second quarter, we witnessed great ball movement and scoring, a model for how ideally the game of basketball should be played. The Wolves now play with purpose and an emerging identity, dynamics that Kevin McHale can clearly take credit for developing. Did he sabotage or prevent Casey or Wittman from developing those same dynamics? Maybe, but as the cliche goes, I'll give credit where credit is due.

My only caveat here is once again the fan base is too beaten down with the Wolves' incremental improvement to see the familiar warning signs on the frigid horizon. Witness this excerpt from Jerry Zgoda's supporting piece in today's StarTribune, with our Iron Ranger discussing bringing in other players:

"Somebody asked Wolves coach Kevin McHale before Tuesday's game if Minnesota's infamous cold might drive free agents away.

"I can tell you right now, if you go to Detroit, if you go to Chicago, it's cold there, too," McHale said. "If you win, they'll come."

Miami rookie Mario Chalmers, a Timberwolf for about two seconds on draft night, was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and he called Tuesday's cold worse -- "Not even close," he said -- than anything he experienced growing up.

"He's crazy," McHale said. "I just saw Fairbanks is minus-45. I don't care, it's cold in Alaska, it's cold in Minnesota, it's cold in Chicago, it's cold all over the Upper Midwest. I don't think that's a big deal."

Here's where an objective sort might go...WTF? We couldn't surround KG with talent when he was here; the one year we did was labeled a "failed experiment". In the history of this franchise, we haven't signed a truly huge free agent. Those are simply the facts; to ignore them, and the person who supposedly gave up his VP slot to coach, would be pretty foolish. It IS cold here, the tax environment is uninviting, and it's a small market where it's harder to get endorsements and visibility for any young knucklehead who thinks he's the next Lebron James. Kevin McHale is repeating the same sort of cluelessness that drove this franchise into the ditch in the first place.

In the same article, a quote from Dwayne Wade:

"It's unbelievable cold," said Heat star Dwyane Wade, a potential marquee free agent in 2010 who will be well out of the Wolves' reach. "It shows me that I love Miami, I know that."

That's a stance you can take to the free agent lottery bank of 2010. Playing better and reaching a 30 win plateau is one thing, developing a true NBA contender is another. I'm all for positivity, but a healthy dose of reality mixed in is the key to true success.

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