The only notable thing to talk about at this point in the season is that it seems like a jolting slap to the face every time Papa Glen's voice comes on the TV or radio telling us remaining fans that we should pony up some cash to watch a team that won't quit. Don't get me wrong, I think Glen is completely sincere in his desire to put a good product on the court. I admire his willingness to lower prices and guarantee a return of money should a new season ticket holder lose his or her job in the next year. I also think the team has quit. I don't blame them. After all, it is their job and no matter how well compensated they may be, a crummy job atmosphere is still a crummy atmosphere and if we learned anything at all from the Stanford Prison experiment it is that the situation has the power to outweigh the disposition.
Last night's game against the Hawks was the second straight game where I clicked off the dial midway through the 2nd quarter. It literally was not worth the time. It was horrible, no good, nothing-can-possibly-be-gained-from-it basketball.
What makes this game somewhat more notable than a typical run-of-the-mill BS NBA game is that it came on the heels of an embarrassing loss to as close of a peer the Wolves have: the Oklahoma Thunder. The Thunder are on the same time line as the Wolves. They have a similar amount of future assets. They are both in decent sized markets and they are Western Conference bottom dwellers.
For those fans who were able to stomach the entire Thunder game, they were treated to a display of a young team with a plan and a clear future. They were treated to a team that is athletic and long; a team with a developing offensive force; a team that can run out a significant grouping of plus defenders (Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, and Kyle Weaver); a team with a serviceable big man; most impressively, they are a team with an A + GM in Sam Presti.
This season the Thunder picked up one of the best players at the trade deadline for next to nothing (Sefolosha), a promising young big that despite injury concerns had a decent track record (Nenad Krstic), and they almost landed a 7 foot defender/rebounder in Tyson Chandler. They did all of this while retaining considerable future assets (they too have multiple 1st rounders this year). Young, solid on defense, massive amounts of potential on offense, long, athletic, and with cap space and draft picks. All of this is in the hands of a GM who clearly knows what he is doing. For all of us who pay attention to the draft, let me lay out a nightmare scenario for all non-Thunder teams: they land Cole Aldrich and/or DeJuan Blair. Let's not even think about their chances of landing Blake Griffin.
Meanwhile, the Wovles are in a blueprint holding pattern with an untested front office that still operates in the long shadow of Kevin McHale. Out of their last 4 draft picks, 1 is no longer with the team, 2 suffered significant injuries in their second season, and...well, they hit the jackpot with Kevin Love. Their main cornerstone, a 6'10" 275 lbs man who runs and jumps for a living, just blew his knee out. Looking forward, they have the possibility of four 1st rounders in what could shape up as one of the weakest drafts in the past 10-15 years. Make no bones about it, this is a one-man draft: Blake Griffin and everyone else. What or who in the Wolves' front office gives you optimism that this thing can work out for the best? I, for one, tend to believe that had Randy Foye, Craig Smith, and Corey Brewer laced it up in Dayton, Ohio (instead of at the Dome) during the NCAAs, we would be looking at 3 different players on the roster. I don't have a whole lot of optimism that the team's drafting process can rapidly change over the course of a sinlge non-McHale season, especially with him still at the end of the bench. Anywho...
Earlier this year I put up a post called Building a Winner. The basic front office assumption of the post was that the Wolves have done a fairly decent job of building the team in the post-KG era and that due to the massively important nature of this particular off season, they needed to stay the course with the current front office because there simply wouldn't be enough time to make a regime change between the end of the season and the draft. I also wrote that Kevin McHale was as good of a coach the team could hope for after firing Randy Wittman and that he deserved a full season with a healthy squad.
Let me step aside for a moment to bring up one of my favorite topics here on Hoopus: League Pass Broadband. Long time readers of this site know that I have had a running give and take with the folks at LPB because I live outside of the metro area and I am unable to watch the majority of the team's games on-line because of blackout restrictions. It doesn't matter that my local cable package has neither FSN or Channel 45, I can't watch the team without resorting to pirated streams or going to the gym to watch the action. What I can watch are out-of-market teams...like the Thunder.
It doesn't matter where the Thunder play (except here in Minny), I can watch them play. Over the past few months I have watched about as many Thunder games as the Wolves. I have seen them develop their existing talent while being clever and innovative in their front office. I have seen them gel on defense. I have seen Kevin Durant turn into an offensive force. In many ways, the NBA has made it easier for me to become a Thunder fan than a Wolves one. Maybe LPB does have its benefits.
Getting back to the main point of this post, I no longer think the Wolves can maintain the staus quo. I no longer think that they can operate with Kevin McHale in the operation. Yes, they played well for a month but they have also won over 3 games in a month only twice this season. They are playing as bad of ball as they have in a long, long while and it goes deeper than just missing Big Al Jefferson. They have a nice collection of young role players, a fantastic rookie, and a hurt borderline All Star. What they don't have is a fresh set of eyes with no attachment to the existing roster. What they don't have is someone in the front office who has shown he can operate in a rapidly changing NBA environment. What they don't have an owner who will once and for all cut his losses and take responsibility for the fact that the people who are still in charge of driving the car are the same ones who drove it into the ditch in the first place. Have the Wolves had a fair amount of bad luck over the years? Of course, but at the end of the day, and while I will always have sympathy for the crummy turns of events that plague this franchise, the bad luck is always accompanied by large doses of outright boobery.
Regardless of what happens over the next few months, I am with this team at least until next season's trade deadline. I do believe they have, for the most part, done some good things since the KG trade. I also believe that the situational aspects of this particular franchise are so large, and so deep, that they will continue to outweigh any dispositional qualities of whatever players they happen to bring in without some accompanying new blood in the front office. The inmates may be keeping things relatively quiet, but they are still running the asylum.
I don't want to hear any more they-don't-quit commercials or ticket pitches from Papa Glen. I want to hear him give a single press conference at the end of the year announcing that Kevin McHale will not be with the club next season. I want to hear him step up to the mic to announce that he has consulted with the best minds in the league to institute a search for a new GM or Basketball Operations VP. It doesn't have to be nasty and he doesn't need to throw anyone under the bus; after all, I'm sure the folks in the front office are honorable and professional. What it does have to be is a clear notice to fans that his loyalty lies more with them than it does to a group of people who have had their chance and whose time has passed.
This team is headed into the season that will be the axis upon which the KG and O.J. Mayo trades will tilt. It is their last best shot at becoming relevant in a league with the Portland Trailblazers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Fans don't need cheaper tickets to belive in this team. They need a fresh set of eyes, and so does Papa Glen.