With 2 games left in January and the Wolves currently sitting at 2-12 for the month, last January seems much more distant than 12 months. Coming into the season, fans expected a bad record given the new front office, coaching staff, on-court schemes and players. But this bad? My personal prediction of 35 wins is now laughable. 30 +/- 5 games accounted for about 95% of the preseason predictions. Now, mustering just 20 wins will seem like an accomplishment come May.
The slipping optimism isn't exclusive to fans, though. Beat writers' quotes from the team this summer featured very optimistic players and cautiously optimistic coaches. Energy and effort were the mantras, and the record came second. Game wraps, however, seem to feature more and more admissions that the team lacks precisely the energy and effort they so aspired to.
Whenever they hit a stretch of sharing the ball, hitting shots and playing team defense, the players look like they actually enjoy playing together. But the sinking heads, me-first dribbling by more than one player and the long, disappointed "What the hell?" gazes that follow haven't dwindled as the seasons progressed. In fact, they've increased.
So whenever we play teams featuring former Wolves, I like to think about what goes through their mind. Sebastian Telfair and Craig Smith's new squad is also sub-.500 but they've got more than twice as many wins as the Wolves. Players say that the first time you get traded it hurts. If you get dumped for a guy that has been asked to stay away from your former team, I would imagine it hurts that much more.
With Blake Griffin shelved all year, the Rhino has had some opportunities to show the Clippers what they've got and the Wolves what they're missing. Like his ex-teammate Corey Brewer, January has been a career month for Craiggeres, averaging 12 points and 5 boards on 63% shooting in only 21 minutes. Even the Wolves-haters at Hardwood Paroxysm haven't let Smith's former association tarnish their opinion of him (Hi Matt!). Craig Smith's low-post scoring, reboundingand ball-handling was fun to watch and, at times, effective. Unfortunately, with Kevin Love and Al Jefferson around he didn't make sense on the Wolves.
So here we sit, waiting for a sign from anyone in a beautiful throwback that moving Smith and Telfair and Foye and Miller and, hell, Garnett was the right thing to do. My head, both at the time of each transaction and now, says it was good to move on from each of them. But 80.8510638% of the time, my heart's not so sure.
For slightly less depressing rambling visit Clips Nation. Enjoy the game.