Shall we hop into the Way Back Machine?
Feb 8, 1999:
The T-Wolves wound up losing Gugliotta to the Suns, but they're hoping that Smith, whom they signed to a one-year, $1.75 million deal, can eliminate some of the sting. Nobody expects Smith to put up Gugliotta's numbers, but Minnesota will be satisfied if he can provide some interior baskets and be something that even Googs wasn't—a shot-blocking presence. At Maryland, Smith was known for his little jump hook and his ability to tip balls and keep plays alive. But in the past season with the Warriors and the 76ers, Smith seemed to wander farther and farther from the basket, relying too heavily on perimeter jumpers. Saunders's first order of business is to get him back on the blocks.
Smith has already made it clear that he relishes a chance at a new start, aongside Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury. "I just want to be someplace where guys play hard and guys want to win," says Smith, who will be slowed early in the season by a right ankle sprain suffered in training camp.
Garnett, who is entering his fourth NBA season, contends that he's ready for a breakout year. Marbury also wants to prove his mettle during this shortened season, particularly because he'll be a free agent this summer and has already informed the T-Wolves that he wants to test the market....
Yes, 1999 was an eventful season for our Wolves. By the next spring we were dreaming of how Terrell Brandon and Wally Szczerbiak would complement KG. Googs and Marbury were gone. Joe Smith was, fatefully, changing agents – and leaving behind his extra contracts with the old office.
All of that began with a severely abbreviated post-labor-strife offseason schedule, for which our humble Minnesota franchise seemed notably ill-prepared. For example, the team was so hamstrung by Gugliotta's situation that Terry Porter left for Miami despite both he and the team initially assuming he'd have remained here. It wasn't clear that the team had even communicated with Porter's agent.
Say the marathon negotiation sessions end today with a settlement. How might the run-up to NBA games look?
The calendar then:
Jan 6, 1999: Agreement reached between owners and players.
(The "drop dead" deadline Stern had given for cancelling the season was a day away.)
Jan 18, 1999: Teams began signing players and making trades.
Jan 20, 1999: Lockout officially ended.
Jan 24, 1999: Preseason started. Each team plays 2 games, as opposed to the normal 8.
Feb 5, 1999: 50-game regular season began.
Some teams didn't face each other. Most teams lost more than half their games with the other conference.
(The All Star Game in Philadelphia had already been cancelled.)
To review that: After a settlement was reached, it took 12 days to write up the fresh new 300-page CBA. Then there were literally 7 days in which teams could conduct all the player movement for a normal NBA offseason, including trades and free agency, before preseason games started.
What that meant for the Wolves:
During the big week,
Jan 21st: Traded Michael Williams, rights to Zeljko Rebraka, and a future 1st to Toronto for G Bobby Jackson and C Dean Garrett from Denver.
Re-signed Sam Mitchell.
Jan 22nd: Tom Gugliotta signs with Phoenix.
Signed Malik Sealy and Troy Hudson.
Jan 23rd: Signed free agent forward Joe Smith.
And then in March,
Mar 11th: Traded Stephon Marbury....
If things ended today, there would still be an All Star Game. Despite David Stern's gesture last week, it appear there would even be a slim chance of a full 82-game schedule. (If Timberwolves games were cancelled, though, I think we might expect them to be those with the Eastern Conference.) There would be more than 6 weeks of play before the trading deadline.
But would anyone play Tom Gugliotta this time around?
We didn't expect Tommy G. to leave us back then. He had been injured at the end of the previous year, but nobody expected to have seen his last game in a Minnesota jersey. The defection caught Kevin McHale flat-footed.
I guess I'm just saying, be ready for a bumpy ride out of the gate. I'd hope that the presence of Rick Adelman, an established face new to the organization, would hold everyone's attention and provide reason for optimism. Any skepticism Kevin Love felt about the organization would have at least that one answer to hand.
Anything can happen in a week, though. It did before.