Timberwolves' talk of progress debunked by losing
"If there is no struggle there is no progress."
-- Frederick Douglas
Perhaps Douglas was a Minnesota Timberwolves fan.
For a season that began with another revamped roster and early signs of hope as the Wolves began 4-9 (yes, that's "hope" at Target Center), the local hardwood bunch now owns the NBA's second-worst record (6-23) with the season more than a third gone.
A few lowlights: The Wolves have lost eight of the past nine dating to December 6th, sport a woeful 1-17 record on the road, and return home tonight (fresh off an 0-6 road trip) to face old pal Al Jefferson and his 20-9 Utah Jazz.
As my grandmother would say: "Juddie honey, that ain't good."
No, it's not. And while the Wolves brass informed us to anticipate as much (not that we needed reminding; but that candor was appreciated) prior to the season, the Wolves' pounces of progress and positivity make the new losing that much harder to take.
Consider that of the Wolves 23 losses, 11 have been by eight points or fewer and 15 have been versus teams with winning records. At home, they offer a respectable 5-6 mark, so it's worthy of note (and perhaps some hope) that they'll start winning a few of these closer games in the course of the next month. Through January, the Wolves have 18 games in the next 39 days with a dozen of those contests at Target Center. Of those 18, seven will come against teams that currently have losing records -- so while the schedule doesn't get markedly easier in the next five weeks, slightly better results may be on the horizon.
And said results are truly needed with these guys. Progress without wins is kinda like a beautifully-wrapped Christmas gift with nothing but air inside the box. There is no doubt an intriguing collection of young talent here, but at present the Wolves are pacing for a mere 17 win season; that's just two more than last year when they finished with the poorest mark in the West.
Kevin Love is having a stellar campaign. He has nearly 100 more rebounds than anybody in
the NBA and with a clip of 15.48 boards per game he's pacing for the league's best rebounding average since Dennis Rodman wormed his way to 16.05 back in 1996-97. At 20.8 point per game, Love is also among the NBA's top-20 scorers. The guy is absolutely deserving of an All-Star selection, but he won't get it because of the great wealth of "names" standing before him in line at the forward spot in the conference and also because the Wolves shabby record will drag him down.
In addition to Love's monster campaign, Michael Beasley is averaging over 21 points per and has scored 25 or more points on 11 occasions. Beasley surely needs to shore up his defense and become less foul-prone, but in short time his migration from Miami is clearly proving to be among the team's finest trades in the their 22-year history. Among further reasons to keep watching these guys: Darko Milicic, when healthy, has shown overt signs of no longer being, well, Darko Milicic; Martell Webster has come back to the roster with aplomb, averaging over 15 points in his five-game return while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc; and Wes Johnson has proven well-worthy of the No. 4 draft selection with 11 double-digit scoring efforts and a solid .452 shooting percentage.
For those that have made the trip down to Target Center this season -- the juice has oft been worth the squeeze and the organization's entertainment crew has created a series of truly entertaining and creative segments that run on the main scoreboard.
But soon, this young roster -- the league's youngest -- needs to find a way to coherently put together a few respectable stretches, lest a few heads and headbands (Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn and, yes, Kurt Rambis among them) begin to roll.
We're not looking for "Showtime" here. But a tighter opening Preview needs to get cut as we move into 2011.
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