October 30, 2007

It Has Begun

I write this as I sit in class, checking the boxscore of the Blazers-Spurs game. I didn't think I'd be this excited to see the actual beginning of the NBA season.

Thank God you're here!

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.

More On: Sebastian Telfair

He certainly wasn't the worst 13th overall pick in the last 10 years of the NBA draft(Marcus Banks, Courtney Alexander) and we all know he wasn't the best either(Kobe Bryant, Corey Maggette). So where does that leave the little point guard that could from Brooklyn, NY? It's hard to say.

As far as skills go, he's got the speed, quickness, and physical abilities that most good point guards possess. He certainly has the confidence to play the position and he's shown flashes of that game so highly hyped coming out of highschool. But for every physical skill he has, there seems to be an equal part missing from the metal aspect of his game. But it's not his on-court game that concerns me the most. It's his off-court attitude.

As far as Bassy goes, strictly on the basketball court, he's a nice change of pace guard who, still very young, has some potential to become more of an impact player. His attitude is stunting his growth as a player and will negatively affect a young team. I can't say he negatively affected Portland because there were so many cancerous players there, but he certainly didn't pick up any good habits "growing up" on that team. I don't want that on my team. I don't need a guy who trys to take guns onto airplanes without letting security know, when it's made very clear that that specific action is a crime. And this coming after he's already been in trouble relating to having unregisted guns. I don't want a guy who's role model growing up was Stephon Marbury.

Can people change? Sure they can, I am a firm believer in that. Is it hard? Unlikely? Absolutely. I know people who've been to jail, for a large part of their lives, who come out shouting to the world that they've changed but continue to make the sames types of decisions that landed them in prison in the first place. So what's to say a highly paid, high profile athlete is going to be any different? Hopefully seeing what is an opportunity to have a solid NBA career, to do what you love, and make millions doing it - what everyone dreams of.

I don't wish anything bad on Telfair and, for all I know, he's a really nice guy who does a lot of great things that don't show up in the paper or on the internet. I hope that he does. All I see is the attitude that seems to follow him wherever he goes and that's something I don't want on my team. I hope he can turn himself around - I really do - because I do think he has the skills to be an NBA-caliber point guard, and that is something this franchise needs right now.

So, while Bassy is here, I will cheer for his success, but don't expect me to be quiet when - okay, if - he gets arrested for making bad decisions. Again.

October 17, 2007

Hey Witt, Point Guard Is An Important Position...

I don't think he gets it.

I'm fairly certain he doesn't understand.

He started Marko Jaric at point guard the other night because Randy and Bassy were hurt. Okay, that's fine, I get it, both your lead guards are hurt so you have to go with the best option. Then he said Marko played OK. What? 3 assists and 5 turnovers is not OK for a starting point guard in the NBA. Then, to make matters worse, he actually called Marko a point guard. Don't feed his already fragile psychy with utter lies - just because you tell me I'm rich doesn't make it true.

Marko is infact NOT A POINT GUARD. He never has been, he never will be. It's time, Randy, to make sure he knows that. To take that further, the Guy Who Brings Guns Into Airports shouldn't be your backup point guard. He should be fired. So that leaves us with zero true point guards on this team. Not one. Foye is close, but he's in the mold of a poor mans D-Wade. Why wouldn't you make a move for a starting lead guard? They have three in Seattle, one of which I bet they'd be willing to let go of. Hey Delonte, you wanna play with your old mates? Even a guy like Mike Wilks makes sense. They need a veteran playmaker on the bench atleast, otherwise we're just a poor man's Atlanta Hawks.

October 10, 2007

So When I Drink A Brew For You I Pour Some On The Block Son, You Might Be Gone But You Damn Sure Ain't Forgotton

Here's what this feels like:

Basketball has been bludgeoned. What was once one of the most exciting times of the year to me is filled with hollow days as I avoid all information. I see news reports of KG in Boston gear, and it sickens me. I see a picture of Telfair in a Wolves jersey and I honestly give up. It burns inside of me, gassing what little enjoyment I got from this sport.

I can't find myself being a fan of the NBA anymore.

I tried, honest to god, I tried. I tried to look at the rosters of who is going to be making noise this year, getting behind the Warriors, checking out Durant, waiting for the inevitable Knicks collapse. These things used to be very very fun for me. Once upon a time I considered myself a student of the NBA and I liked to think that I came at it from a rare approach... I tried to evaluate moves that a franchise made based entirely outside of any media pressure or hack philosophy. I tried to trust my eyes to tell me what was happening in a game and in a season, instead of reading headlines and talking points. And I think for the most part I was successful. I cultivated a love for the game that kept me connected and constantly entertained.

But I had no idea how much I loved KG.

See, I always sang his praises. ALWAYS. You never saw me post anything about the Wolves as a team without mentioning that he is the greatest there ever was. So I don't feel like he slipped by without acknowledgment. On the contrary, we all probably hyped him too much, in the end.

Now he's gone, and there's this huge hole, a gigantic festering sore that keeps consuming my love of the NBA. I hate the Wolves, refuse to acknowledge their existence, want the owner, GM, coach and nearly every player besides Mad Dog and Foye to go away and never ever ever come back. I want the team to leave. I want Target Center to only do concerts and Lynx games. I want basketball to collapse upon itself in this state, memories of Ticket and George Mikan flushed down the toilet.

Look, the bottom line is this trade was unprecedented in sports history. Possibly, the only thing that can come close to it is Gretzky. Moves made for different reasons, sure, but similar in that they both involved a small market who thought that that guy was "their guy" getting traded to a huge city where he would be another in a long line of heroes.

Let me try to explain what KG was to me, and maybe this is true for a lot of Wolves fans:

KG was, for the honest to god first time, a true hero that didn't grow up here, yet was utterly committed to the team, the fans and the city. We haven't had that in this area since Kirby Puckett. Speaking of that comparison, I put KG a tad higher than Kirby in the hero category because Kirby, before the 1993 season, basically had completely committed to signing with Boston before the Twins reeled him back in at the last hour. Also, Kirby was never forced out. The reason he wanted to go to Boston was that they simply had more money and a slightly better-run franchise (remember this was pre-Terry Ryan). It was a choice of home being pretty cool, but the other team being even better. KG is much different.

Back on point, simply put, he was ours. KG was ours. There was only one of him in the entire NBA, the entire world, and he belonged here. He wore the Timberwolves jersey into every stadium in the land, and once said that he "bleeds blue and green". How can you possibly repay that kind of devotion? Well, we as fans gave our screams and yells for everything he ever did. We applauded him unconditionally in times of good and bad. We worshiped him as he deserved. It was so reciprocal it downright felt magical sometimes. In this state, we've been conditioned somewhat to be wary of superstars and successful teams. I think it's rooted somewhere in our upbringing of just being naturally skeptical people. Garrison Keillor could put it a lot better than I could, but I think there's something about the midwest that just says "Easy now, let's see what happens before we make any judgments". Also, the strong religious sense that people have around here contributes to the feeling that eventually, everything is going to go catastrophically wrong, and you better hope you have your sins in order when it does. So no, we don't usually have the opportunity to worship the career of such a great hero, and when we do, in some corner of our mind, we always wait for the other shoe to drop.

But again, I can't say it enough, KG was different.

There was never any question that he wanted to be here. NONE. He never said he wanted to leave, he never hinted that he might be happier playing somewhere else, and even as he was put through the absolute wringer by his incompetent coaches and GM, he still professed his desire to stay here and build back up the house that he had created.

Then, in one swift move of total incompetence, the GM panicked and traded him away for garbage.

It was like he died. In ways, that would've been easier. I would've had a model for what to feel. This feels so wrong, so completely backwards, that I don't know how to act or how to move forward. I'm so confused by it all, that Kevin Fucking McHale would have the power to make me feel like this.

The worst thing, the absolute kicker, is that KG didn't want to go. He didn't cry at the press conference like Gretzky, but he didn't want to go. I know this. I know it like I know that I didn't want him to go. If it was up to him, he would stay here and play until he was 50, building up a great franchise by himself. Oh, I'm sure he was consulted beforehand. He had to, in order to waive his no-trade clause. But that is completely understandable. Hey, I don't want to leave my girlfriend, but if she comes to me and tells me that she doesn't want me around anymore, I'm going to want to at least go somewhere nice. It's not like I'm going to retire, or stay with someone that doesn't want me.

The fire consumes whatever is around it, and soon, not only can I not watch the Wolves, but I can't watch the Celtics, because it hurts too much just to SEE him. And then I can't even see old pictures of him in Wolves garb. And then I can't even watch a basketball game because I am reminded of how he played. And then I can't even look at a fucking roster because I JUST DON'T CARE.

It's a stupid world that exists where this happens. It's a stupid world where I let it affect me so much, where one man who I don't even know can ruin 20-odd years of following a great sport.

I cheered like hell for Michael and Scottie in the 90s, and then we got our own Michael. And I cheered even louder for him.

Epictetus believed, rightly so, I suppose, that all you can ever control is what your reactions to events will be, as you cannot control the events themselves. All you can do is retreat to within yourself and govern your thoughts accordingly. We can't get KG back. He's gone and he's not coming back, besides maybe signing a one day contract in 10 years to retire as a Wolf. And maybe he goes into the hall of fame wearing the green and blue. Probably. And that's great, and I've got great memories, and nothing can take those away. But I have to control what I feel. I have to control how I react. And my reaction is withdrawal. It is not letting this team or this league exert any more influence over me for a long time.

But I can't get back into the game right now. It's dead to me, gone. It flew east and landed at Logan, bringing championship hopes to a town that needs no more media coverage. And I hope Boston wins, honestly I do. I hope KG hoists the trophy, he deserves it. He deserves everything he's ever received, and I hope he continues to dominate well into the late stages of his career. Believe that.

But I don't like the NBA anymore. It smells bad, the whole thing reeks. Maybe I'll come around, maybe seeing him in person with the Celtics jersey on will fix it, maybe I'll accept this as part of rooting for a loser franchise.

But not yet. For now, I'm out.