December 15, 2005

It Doesn't Come Back To Us

Remember the day we found out that the Wolves would be making their first trip to the post season? I do. I hadn't been that excited about a sports team since the Twins took home the baseball crown in 1991. Finally, we had broken through, gained a little respect, and taken a step forward. They then got swept in the first round, but that was okay, they had finally gotten a taste of the playoffs.

There was a guy on that team that provided a hard-nosed presence off the bench. His line-drive jumper from the baseline seemed to always go in when we needed it most. He played gritty defense and always played well down the stretch in close games. He spent 10 years with the Wolves in all and was always a fan favorite for the way he played and the way he handled himself as a professional. He left for a couple years via trade, but came back when his contract was up. He was a big, physical guard who spent most of his time playing the small forward position, guarding the opponents best offensive option off the bench. Kevin Harlan gave him a name and that name was 'Sam I Am.'

Sam Mitchell was everything a team could want from a role player. He played tough D, wasn't a liability on offense, always played hard, and never ever complained about his role on the team. He was an early mentor for Kevin Garnett, helped him further develop his work ethic, and was a staple for many years on the court for our beloved Wolves.

So what happened? Where did that guy go? Where did the consumate professional disappear to? Because the man known as Sam I Am, who is now the head coach in Toronto, is not the same man who graced the Target Center floor for a decade. The Sam Mitchell in Toronto is a guy who places blame everyone except himself. He's the kind of person who holds his players accountable for things he doesn't hold himself accountable for. He's even become the guy who gets into physical altercations with his players in the locker room. The head coach is supposed to be a professional. He's the official spokesperson for the team. He answers all the questions reguarding the results of a specific game or player. He's also the biggest figure in the organization to the players. They see him everyday, listen - or hear - everything he has to say, and are putting their career development in his hands.

It's okay to get on your guys here and there because sometimes they need it, but to resort to throwing haymakers? Unacceptable.

Clearly the Raptors organization is a disaster. Their coach is not mature enough to lead his players and the GM doesn't know which end is up. I mean, when you mail it in before the season even starts, you know you've got some problems. Your problem is choosing your words. Sure, after Rob explained what he meant we all got it, but it was too late for the players. They heard what they heard and that team has played like it thus far. Sam Mitchell yelled at Charlie Villanueva for being soft on defense. That's fair, he's a rookie, he's got to learn, but maybe someone should try teaching him. Of course when you've turned your veteran leader even further away than his malcontent tendencies have already turned him, you can't expect anyone else to follow you. While we're on it, I can't imagine any player wanting to play for a guy who's so emotionally unstable that he'll resort to violence.

I'm not familiar with the assistant coaches and training staff in Toronto, but if Sam Mitchell and Rob Babcock are any indication, I'm sure they're awful. I mean, I guess atleast they got two guys that breath for Vince Carter, but that's about all that can be said about that trade. The Rafer Altson-for-Mike James trade was a good one, but it was forced because Sam I Am and Skip to My Lou got a little gangster in the locker room.

Point being, no one can put any blame on the Minnesota Timberwolves for the man Sam Mitchell has become, because he was never anything but a stand up player here. If Babcock was smart he'd dump Mitchell and go after Van Gundy - oh wait, I forgot, he "stepped down" to "spend time with his family." Oh well. Too bad.

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