October 29, 2007

Where I Come From, Gettin' Visual Is Habitual

This is how you make up.

Eventually, after it has all collapsed upon itself, you realize that you're still alive and that death is no closer than it was, or ever will be. You breathe. You breathe again. And you lift your head to see a black cloud descended upon everything around you.

But you're alive, and even though you may wish you were dead, you're still here.

I guess with any traumatic experience, simple time and routine will overcome all. It's how we can keep going right on down through the generations. It's how we can live to struggle another day, against impossible odds, and for what? For procreation? I'd rather chop off a toe than have a child. For success? That train left long ago, and I lacked a ticket. For some fading dream, some sun-dappled beach like a mirage? I've been there, and I came back to this hell hole for a reason.

No, we keep going because it's built in. We have no other choice.

So when I say things like I'm going to be giving up the game of basketball after 20-some years of fandom, well, that's just the hate talking.

Time and Routine, that's the way to conquer trauma. And getting rid of Mark Blunt.

Yes, dear readers, I am now - finally - ready to talk about the KG trade, the offseason, and the future of this franchise. The hate will bubble to the surface like white-hot magma occasionally, but that's simple laws of thermodynamics in action. Nothing I can control. I'll try to keep it in check.


I'll say once again that I don't think we can accurately compare KG being traded to any other trade that's ever happened in sports history. There is no model for KG, and there is certainly no model for what a fanbase felt about him throughout his time here. As such, I can't project what is going to happen specifically, but I think there are some theories worth revisiting.

First, the idea that trading KG was beneficial at this stage in his career. Well, I tend towards a fairly simple theory regarding basketball, and that is that one player is very important, and his production is almost never equaled by two players who make up half of his stats. For example, if you have a guy who scores 20 and grabs 14 boards - like, oh, say, the guy who represented the Wolves in the all-star game 11 seasons in a row - trading for two guys who each score 10 and grab 7 isn't going to equal out. The law being simple mathematics that 1/5 does not equal 2/5. People either see this or they don't. I'm of the belief that in trading a great player like KG, you need to leverage him into a player that either is capable of getting those numbers now, or a pick for a guy that eventually will get you to those numbers. Trading a superstar for pieces never works, unless that is the implied intent of the team trading the star. An example of that would be Shaq being traded from LA.... the Lakers knew they weren't going to get anything close to his production, and the fact is that they didn't WANT it. They wanted complimentary guys for Kobe. As such, they were ripped off in the deal.

As I see it, the only player capable of putting up KG's numbers in the trade is Al Jefferson, and the odds of that happening are about 1 in a hundred. Good he may be, but KG-level? No. Almost nobody is, or is going to be for some time.

OK, so then we revisit the trade theory. You can't get back anyone capable of putting up his numbers (I don't think Duncan was on the block) and there's no draft picks for guys who are going to put up his numbers (both of the top picks don't project to be as good, stats-wise, as KG). So tell me again why he was traded?

The payroll theory is convenient, but it lacks teeth. This isn't baseball, where signing a guy to a retarded contract actually can impede your ability to compete (see: Rangers, Texas). The NBA teams all operate under the same cap, and they almost all have max guys and complimentary players. If anything, it's easier to work within the NBA system because you don't have to decide on guys that are really good. If someone is up to KG's level - hell if someone's up to Paul Pierce's level - you sign them to a max deal every time their contract is up and it's done. You keep them forever. They have the Larry Bird clause FOR GUYS EXACTLY LIKE KG. They practically wrote it for him.

You don't trade your top dog and then start rebuilding, because eventually you end up taking as much salary on as you traded away. You give away KG, but over the course of the summer you get guys like Juwan Howard and Theo Ratliff... guys who nearly add up to KG's money by themselves.

No, we all know the truth, he was traded because our GM is totally incompetent. That is not a surprise.

But that's over now, we don't need to go further into that. We're here because like everything else, we have to just keep going, play the hand we're dealt, and for christ's sake, have fun with it. If we're not having fun with this, why would we even follow the team? There has to be fun with this situation, right? Even in the face of total despair, there has to be something to hold our interest, right?

Fortunately, yes, there is.

In the wake of the KG trade, we find ourselves free of the following scumbags:

1. Troy Hudson (BANG OUT!)
2. Mark Blunt (I saw him try a grand total of TWICE in his entire tenure with the Wolves)
3. Mike James (Not his fault he's the most boring athlete in the state)

The only anchor swinging from the neck is Marko, and almost every team out there has a Marko on their team. Hell, they even bought Old Man Howard out, trimming the active roster down to its youngest ever.

There is a sense of optimism watching these young guys, and seeing if they can actually come together. The beauty of this thing (yes, it's true, I said it) is that the expectations have been completely blown up. 15 wins? Sure! That'd be great! A couple of guys flat out quitting basketball during the season? We've seen that before! Have you seen footage of Spree in 05? If the young guys even put together 3 wins in a row it's going to feel like 1991 in the Metrodome.

I like Al Jeff. Lost in the shuffle of this whole thing is the fact that, yes, for the very first time in all of Timberwolves history, it's true, we have a big man who can work in the paint. We thought we had it in Blunt. Wrong choice. Al Jeff is the real deal down low. I can't wait to see him in a live game. Just an up and under, for the love of god, just one, and it makes the trade worth it.

Ryan Gomes is built like a tank, as is Randy Foye and Greg Buckner. Gerald Green is a freak. Let's not forget McCants, who could surprise. And of course there are draft picks. By shedding the horrible contracts listed above, and ridding themselves of Buckets, the team has at least committed to allowing the youth to battle for position, and good things could come from that. Nothing is guaranteed, we're flying sans wings, wild rockets without radar, hell bent on movement and nothing else.


And of course, there is the curious case of Antoine Walker.

To say that he doesn't fit on this team is foolish: nobody fits on this team, and so everyone does. Our coach is Randy Fuck Wittman, for lord's sake. He couldn't coach me and Dave one on one down at Fire Station. The GM could make any move at any time, however illogical it is. He has the complete confidence of the failure owner, who has watched his investment decay like the arena that they play in. The fan base would rather watch the state high school hockey tournament than sit courtside (that's not a joke). Nothing fits here, there is no canvas.

I don't see why he can't be a productive member of this team. He can score, rebound, he's good with the ball. It seems as though every problem that he has had revolves around him not wanting to ever let anyone else on his team score. Well, welcome to Minnesota! If you can shoot the ball into the basket, you can take as many as you want. After 2 years of Buckets, we're sufficiently beaten down when it comes to selfish shooters.

And from a contract perspective, he makes a lot more sense than Buckets. He has an extra year, yes, but it's for more money, making it even more attractive next year. Look, this year swims in the sewers, so there's no need to pretend we're going to turn Ricky into anything but a low-level talent at the trade deadline who will probably end up hoisting them up for the Atlanta Krunk next year. By getting a guy like Antoine, you have two options:

1. He sucks the life out of your team and sulks for two years.

A distinct possibility, seeing as how we're looking at a 20 win season this year and possibly next. This option carries less gravity now, though, because he can't possibly pull this team down with his negativity. You think Randy Foye is going to get down on himself because Antoine is sulking at the end of the bench? BOTH HIS PARENTS WERE DEAD BY THE TIME HE WAS 6. I think he'll pull through.

2. He actually produces something, anything, there-by skyrocketing his value (expiring contract + production = a good draft pick/package from Spurs or Pistons). A team looking to make a push would love a guy like that - someone who is going to produce as they go into the playoffs, and that they hold a TEAM OPTION for in the offseason, so they can adequately judge his talent and decide whether to keep him. They would give up the goods to get a guy like that.

Even if he goes out this year and breaks his crotch, his contract value would be greater than his trade value, so you just hold on to him and in the summer of 09, you've got 10 extra million to play with. It's a win no matter how you slice it.


There's something liberating in attaching yourself to a team bound for the floor, something stimulating about a team that couldn't fail its way out of a paper bag. If the time was 3 years ago and we were a Sam Cassell back injury away from the Finals, then... fine. So what? We had our shot, took it, and I don't regret it. All the pain doesn't erase what we felt then, so why not hook this horse back up and see where it takes us?

They gave away the only good thing to ever happen to this team, and they got back spare parts who one day might form into something that resembles a basketball team. The sun sets on everyone, we can't stop it. We can't change this team, but we can come along for the ride. We don't have to invest a damn thing, we just have to remind ourselves to have fun and look for the bright side. Never trust McFail, never defend him, never forget KG.

But never give up.

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