Remember the 1991 season? I remember being so excited for that year. We had just taken Luc Longley, an athletic big man who starred for Australia and then at New Mexico. We had drafted an athletic leaper from Slippery Rock who was tagged “the next Jordan.” Doug West and Pooh Richardson, with a couple years experience under their belts, were showing signs of becoming good players. We had a new coach who wasn’t afraid of playing the younger guys and a couple of savvy veterans in Ty Corbin and Tony Campell to bring it all together. We were a young up and coming team who might, just might, contend for a playoff spot in a fairly weak Western Conference.
Or so I thought….
In the first two months of the season the team suffered through losing streak of 6 and 9 games. Ty Corbin was traded two weeks into the season and Myron Brown was waived after 21 games – only playing in four of those games. They won back-to-back games once, losing 20 games of 24 games to start the season. They finished a 6 game losing streak in January and lost a franchise worst 11 straight later that month, winning 5 and losing 19. They followed that up with a new franchise worst 16-game losing streak spanning the entire month of March. Somehow they managed to win 3 games in a row to begin April, but dumped the next seven, stumbling to a 15-67 record.
This was the second season I was a ball boy for the team and definitely one of the toughest. To watch a team full of guys who want to win but just don’t have the talent to do so was painful to watch. Six losing streaks of six games or more, with two double-digit streaks is hard to be around. The day that 16-game losing streak ended was the highlight of the season. When the end of something bad is the best thing that happens, you know you’re in a bad place. The hope of a franchise in its infancy, coming off an unlikely 29-win season, with a lottery pick and a couple young, developing players, brought crashing down by a winning percentage lower than the Mendoza line.
Take all the pain and suffering endured through that full season, cram it all into a 72-hour period, and that’s where we stand now.
It started with a large portion of T-Wolves nation relieved that the KG trade talks had gone quiet and Glen Taylor stated that he would prefer not to deal The Big Ticket. Randy Foye and Craig Smith, two young players who made a place for themselves in the league last season and rookie Corey Brewer bringing a winning attitude to the Land of 10,000 Lakes was catching on with fans. Hope that KG would embrace his role as teacher and leader and be able to possibly take them back to the playoffs, was growing. The chance that maybe Glen Taylor and Co. could pull off a couple of deals and make the Wolves a little more relevant, seeming more like a possibility – the Mike James deal being the precursor to other deals.
And then the rumors began. Again.
The first time around, I didn’t really believe that the Wolves would trade KG. The rumors about Phoenix, the Lakers, and the Warriors never really seemed like they were anything more than that. And after his agent came out and said he would not sign an extension if he were sent to Boston, the only scenario that seemed to have any steam behind it, I thought the possibility of starting the season without KG was dead. But when the talks resumed, even though they were saying the same kinds of things, the way they were said, they had a different feel to them. That was the first time I had any real fear that KG may no longer be a Timber wolf. At first it was only Mark Stein and I wasn’t too worried, because he likes to jump the gun. But then the other sports websites began reporting that a deal had been put on the table and it was being discussed. I knew then it was over. I held out hope that McHale and Ainge, two of the worst executives in the NBA, would some how screw this up, but I didn’t really believe the deal wouldn’t happen – they’re too good of pals.
So once again, we’re sitting on the brink of the 1992 season. We’ve got a great number of young, developing players, a promising big man, a fairly new coach, and a number of veteran role players. This time around, instead of Doug West, Pooh Richardson, and Christian Laettner, it’s Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, and Al Jefferson. And instead of Jimmy Rodgers, it’s Randy Wittman. We didn’t get Shaq or Zo but we didn’t have to give up our draft pick either.
I believe this season will play out much like the 1992 season. Randy Wittman will not coach the whole year, most everyone will be miserable because of all the losing which won’t help team chemistry at all. There will be infighting and another handful of multi-game losing streaks. The last game of the season will be our chance to reach the 20-win plateau. But we won’t get there. And we’ll be rewarded with another trip to the lottery, fortunate that we weren’t good enough to be required to send our pick to the Clippers.
It’s going to be another five years before the Wolves are relevant again and a lot of that depends on whether or not Kevin McHale is allowed to attempt this rebuild of the team. He had 12 years to build a team around a franchise player and it resulted in one good run into the playoffs followed by 3 disappointing seasons and finally, the exit of said franchise player. I don’t want to wait another 10 years for a shot at a title and I don’t have faith that McHale has learned from his mistakes or that he can make the changes and decisions necessary to build a contender. I know on this blog, we harp on the fact that McHale needs to be fired, but I just don’t see how it seems feasible to keep him on the job now that his team has come full circle. The fans are against him even more now that he’s traded away the only reason to pay any attention to this franchise – who also had lost faith in him.
I want to keep going on this but I can’t, I haven’t the strength to keep this up. Kevin Garnett will be missed here in ‘Sota and the Celts will be fun to watch, but it’s going to be hard to keep cheering for the franchise who won’t get rid of the only person left responsible for all of the shortcomings of the last decade. I’m going to try and get through it, but until McHale is gone, it’s going to be hard.