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Expectations can be tough to live up to, even when the original expectations aren’t as high as you’d want them to be. When the Timberwolves opened the 2014-15 season, the hopes of the front office were to sneak their way into a surprise playoff run. After a trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland was complete, the starting lineup (Pekovic/Young/Wiggins/Brewer/Rubio opened the year, as Kevin Martin sat with a groin injury) had promise for something decent, but nothing was guaranteed.

Ultimately, a slew of injuries, inexperience, and There were some fun moments this year, but it’s hard to look back on a 16-win season with much fondness. But it’s also impossible to cover a pro basketball team, even one as bad as the Wolves were this season, and not embrace the good things that happened throughout the year. It’s the same thing for fans of the Wolves.

If one simply focused on the losses, the inconsistent (mostly bad) play of Adriean Payne the second half of the year, the injuries, and the health of Nikola Pekovic, it wouldn’t be fun. That’s not why we watch sports. So, as bad as the Wolves were this year, I’m going to look at both the good and the bad, for the sake of everyone involved. Especially myself.

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Music: “Descending” by The Black Crowes
Video from NBA.com

RUSS

As the ball went up for the opening tip last night, the Thunder’s fate went with it. Part of their fate, anyway, if an abstract concept can be parceled out. The rest of it was in New Orleans, where the Pelicans battled the Spurs. If Anthony Davis could lead his team to victory, he’d get his first taste of the postseason. If he didn’t, Oklahoma City would reach the playoffs for the sixth consecutive time, because there was absolutely no way they were going to lose to the Minnesota Timberwolves. None.

Russell Westbrook took care of that. Continue Reading…

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For a good month and a half, the Timberwolves have played opponents with a different kind of mindset than they started with. Of course, while the term “tanking” has been thrown around more than “the Wolves could have drafted Steph Curry” chatter, the players on the floor aren’t out there trying to lose.

Tonight, we saw Andrew Wiggins, Lorenzo Brown, Zach LaVine, Jordan Hamilton, Chase Budinger, Adriean Payen, Robbie Hummel, and Arinze Onuaku working to beat the New Orleans Pelicans, whether there was actual tanking going on or not.

That said, the New Orleans Pelicans were playing, trying to win, with a completely different frame of mind. With the Oklahoma City Thunder begging for a New Orleans loss, the Pelicans weren’t just trying to win for the sake of keeping a basketball game competitive; they were out there trying to keep their season alive.

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As the camera panned over a dusk shot of Oracle Arena framed by shiny graphics promising a scintillating late-season matchup between the Western Conference’s best team and one of its worst, my wife helpfully pointed out that the records of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors were nearly a palindrome: 15-64, 65-14. Wolves fans tired of so-called “moral victories” would find no solace here; even an unlikely win would count as one with the Warriors firmly in command of the top seed and the Wolves more interested in securing their draft lottery position. Continue Reading…

Andrew Wiggins be dunking

President-coach-owner Flip Saunders has been under fire since his comments in Portland about not wanting 3-point shots to be a “main part” of Andrew Wiggins’ game. It’s led to yet another dissection of what Flip can mean for the ceiling of this latest rebuilding project for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the potential pitfalls of this organization and Flip as both shopper and cook when it comes to the grocery list. With a team that dropped to 47 games under .500 in their loss to the Lakers Friday night, development and future is all Wolves fans have to look forward to right now.

Wiggins is the biggest part of that hope for the future because he’s going to be a superstar in this league. If only one thing has been certain with this team in the 2014-15 campaign, it’s that the Wolves acquired one of the future stars of this league back in August (really July but the trade had to wait). The Canadian via Kansas has been a revelation most nights and you can see the confidence building, the skill set getting more diverse, and the approach to the game being one of the more impressive things you can imagine from a 19/20-year old player in the NBA.

I’ve written about Wiggins’ development this season and Steve McPherson had a great Q&A with David Thorpe on Thursday diving into making him the star he needs to become. In looking at what happened with the Wolves’ loss and more importantly Wiggins’ incredible play at Staples Center Friday night, it’s made me look at Flip’s comments in a new light. First, let’s take a look at the full quote, via Ben Golliver of SI.comContinue Reading…

Minnesota Timberwolves v Houston Rockets

 

Update: Since this post went up, Timberwolves PR has directed me to the full context of the quote below and pointed out that there’s a big difference between saying “a major part” and “a main part.” Fair enough. It still seems worth discussing exactly what that difference is, and that’s largely what this post is about.

In case you missed it last night, Flip Saunders dropped another gem of a quote in the pre-game media scrum in Portland about his vision for Andrew Wiggins’ development:

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Joyce

 

Editor’s note: Continuing his theme of bastardizing classic works of literature for Timberwolves recaps, William Bohl derives this entry from James Joyce’s Ulysses, particularly the final chapter, “Penelope.”

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China Basketball NBA Nets Kings (3)

The Timberwolves played the Kings tonight. The Kings started rebounding demon Reggie Evans in place of the injured DeMarcus Cousins. Zach LaVine, as he’s grown somewhat accustomed to, at least in terms of regularity, stood in as Ricky Rubio’s spot as starting point guard. On top of that, tonight had no Nikola Pekovic, Darren Collison, Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, or Carl Landry.

Both teams have seen lots of absences due to injury (or illness, in some cases), and both fanbases have come to expect some goofy outputs from players you wouldn’t expect. As per usual with losing teams at the end of the season, players who don’t normally get their time to shine seem more apt for finding looks.

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