Ghosts of Timberwolves past

Posted: November 19, 2012 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Quite the lineups the past few games for the Timberwolves, huh?

Ridnour, Stiemsma, Amundson, Lee, warm body, cold body, reanimated Josh Howard. Somehow the Wolves managed to hang in there despite losing two straight. Some of the lineups are frightening. But in a way they’re oddly comforting. These are the types of Timberwolves Minnesotans are used to. These are the types of lineups we grew up with.

The difference between now and all those other times? Change is coming. When players like Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, J.J. Barea and Nikola Pekovic get healthy and return to the lineup, the Timberwolves won’t just be one of the more entertaining teams in the league to watch — they’ll also be really good.

In the past horrific lineups represented a bleak present and a depressing future. The names changed, but the results never did.

The draft’s to blame for many of the teams who wore the white and blue over the years. The first 15 draft picks in franchise history:

Pooh Richardson, Gary Leonard, Doug West, Felton Spencer, Gerald Glass, Luc Longley, Myron Brown, Christian Laettner, Marlon Maxey, Chris Smith, Tim Burroughs, J.R. Rider, Sherron Mills, Donyell Marshall, Howard Eisley.

It wasn’t all terrible, even if Gary Leonard was. Pooh was a nice point guard for those expansion Wolves, averaging 8 assists per game during his time in Minnesota. Doug West is somehow still inexplicably the fourth-leading scorer in team history and did fine as a role player (no, role players should not have scored the fourth-most points in a team’s history). Howard Eisley enjoyed some nice years — as John Stockton’s backup. And I admit I liked Gerald Glass as a pick as I remembered watching him light it up in some SEC games during his time at Mississippi. So if I had been GM I might have made the same pick and would have deserved to be pilloried in the press and eventually fired.

The 16th player picked in team history? Kevin Garnett.

Give the Wolves credit, though. For most of their history the team messed up signings and trades as much as drafts. You have to be bad in all areas to put together the rosters that have polluted the Timberwolves media guides. Take 1993, when the Wolves went 19-63. Youngsters like Laettner joined forces with past-their-prime guys like Chuck Person to create unwatchable basketball, thanks to help from role players like Brad Sellers and free throw machine Michael Williams. A year later the Timberwolves managed to lose five times to a Dallas team that won 13 games all year, and it’s impossible to believe those games didn’t result in a congressional investigation into NBA point-shaving.

Under original coach Bill Musselman the Wolves at least had some tenacity, along with the novelty of playing in the Metrodome. Musselman went away and so did the Metrodome, along with the tenacity and novelty of the NBA returning to Minnesota. The losing? That stayed.

It remains remarkable that a franchise that entered the league in 1989 still has had one season when it won a playoff series. The Wolves have two playoff series victories, both of course in 2004. They’ve never even made it to the playoffs without Kevin Garnett on the roster, not in the years before his arrival and not since he took his screams to Boston.

The Wolves were always bad and boring to watch. Peopled tuned in more to listen to Kevin Harlan than watch Christian Laettner. What was worse in those early years of the franchise: The post or the perimeter?

Take that 1994 team. West, Rider and Williams were among the outside players, three names that weren’t quite up to the standard of, say, Hardaway-Mullin-Richmond. But inside? Laettner, Longley, Thurl Bailey, Stacey King, Mike Brown. Marlon Maxey.

Stiemsma would fit in with that group, even with all his hustle and occasional blocks. Malcolm Lee too, seems like a great guard for the 1993 Wolves. Fortunately these are different days. A great coach roams the sidelines now. And more importantly, great players will soon replace the fill-ins. Let’s hope none of them get hurt while running to the rescue.

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