So let me begin with the necessary caveats: I'm a wolves fan living in Seattle, and I've only been able to see one game in person since moving out here. I've been able to catch a few games online and whatnot, but pretty much everything I get comes from this site, nba.com highlights, and the strib. Also, I'll take my moral victories, so count me in as a partaker of the Kahnool-Aid.
I can't remember a wolves team that has had the ability to both look so good and so bad over the span of 48 minutes. Let's be honest folks, this team really has something that Wally World and Terrell Brandon and not even a kevlar protected Joe Smith could bring: they're long, they can get above the rim, they can even do serious damage in the post at times (something I'll always be thankful to Al Jefferson for, even if it was only on one side of the key). I know there are many who don't see much of an upgrade from last year, but I think this is the first team I've seen in awhile with significant upside.
On the other hand, after taking a day trip down to Portland with my wife to watch what will likely be my one and only live wolves game of the season (gamecast is going to leave a nice little rectangle permanently burned into my laptop's display), I walked away bothered by something. It wasn't the fact that they lost yet another game that was within their grasp, it wasn't the fact that I didn't get to see Wes in action, and it wasn't even the fact that half the fans left once the Blazers passed the 100 point mark (Thank you Taco Bell!).
*But before I go any further, let me just say how amazed I was at the vibe they've got over there at the Rose Garden. You can tell that there are people over there who care about the entire fan experience. Especially the entire family fan experience: I can't tell you how many times the kids under 12 made it on to the main screen, and all of them looked so psyched to be there. I don't know how long they've been catering to families like this, but I wouldn't be surprised if their efforts today result in a strong and loyal fan base for ten to twenty years to come. I should know: my own twenty+ year fandom of the Wolves has a lot to do with the Joe Cool efforts of their inaugural year.
Alright, back to the free chalupas.
I think the thing that bothered me was Darko getting stripped easily in the post (and if my memory serves me correctly, this happened more than once against the blazers)...not to mention watching the wolves give up multiple wide open threes, even though that had been one of their more obvious problems for awhile leading up to that point...not to mention seeing them get destroyed in the 3rd quarter yet again...
The list could go on.
In other words, the thing that bothered me was that, when push came to shove, it looked like the team was more than willing to take their 11th win when it came to them on its own rather than fight for it.
Listen, I know that fans like me don't really know what it's like to be there, night after night, practice after practice, over the course of an 82 game season. I know how easy it is for us in the stands to say a team isn't playing with heart. But I also know the difference between the wolves and Tubby's gophers when I see it. Ever since Smith has gotten to the U (thank you ESPN 3 for the free video stream), I don't think I've ever seen a gopher team content to play a close game, show that they had talent, and then call it a night. The wolves, on the other hand, seemed more than willing to do that on MLK day. The turnovers, the defensive lapses, the missed free throws...these are things intense and competitive teams just don't do.
Remember the early years for this franchise? Remember 1990-91 when they scraped together 29 wins out of as little talent as they had? That was a team identity I could cheer for. This year's team has far more talent, and yet anybody out there disagree with me that if the two teams met 10 times, they'd probably split even?
PG Pooh Richardson
SG Tony Campbell
F Sam Mitchell
Subs: Scott Brooks, Gerald Glass, Randy Breuer, Doug West