No franchise record losing streak, no league-high losing streak, no 0-for-March, no chance at tying the league's all-time worst record by losing out for the season. With their first win in 36 days the Wolves avoided all sorts of super embarrassments in an already embarrassing season. Can an actual victory be a moral victory too? It sure seemed like it.
The game started out with one of the most entertaining quarters of the year. It was back and forth action with solid shooting, good ball movement, and almost zero stoppages. It also featured some of Jonny Flynn's best play in a Wolves uniform. Flynn's secret? He realized his meal tickets are the big guys down low. He also seemed to be more concerned about setting up his teammates. In one of the best catches of the year, the TV crew isolated a play where Flynn kicked the ball out to Ryan Gomes for an foot jump shot. What was remarkable about the play was that Gomes had to be yelled at by Flynn to take the shot...a shot that Gomes just happens to be very, very good at (he's one of the best shooters from 15-23 feet in the league). Long story short, Flynn was getting the ball where it needed to go and he was vocal in directing traffic.
Unfortunately, after the wonderful first quarter he reverted to someone who gets paid by the dribble. Jonny Flomax was in full effect for the better part of the game. That being written, I suppose a baby step here and there is worth noting and his play in the 1st was right up there with anything that Ramon Sessions has done all year long.
The story of the game was Darko Milicic and Al Jefferson. The duo controlled the paint on both ends of the court, clogging things up and making it hard for the Kings' best player to do what he does best: get to the rim. Evans managed 20 points on 18 shots with only 7 trips to the line. Milicic and Al also combined for 16-25 from the floor with 10 blocks and 17 rebounds at the other end of the court.
Not too much else to say about tonight's game. It was entertaining and nice to see but something else caught my eye during the commercial breaks. I had never really paid attention to the David Kahn commercials with the moving sketches before. During one of them, Kahn made the claim that the team would be competing for a championship in 3-4 years. That reminded me of Kevin McHale's claim that the 2007/08 Wolves would be 42-40 in 2008/09. No further comment except this:
At 22-60 the Wolves are a .268 club with a fairly good chance of improving their record in the 2008-09 season. Unfortunately for the Iron Ranger, a 20 win improvement is nearly out of the question.
The probability of a 25-30% club improving their record in the following year is a hefty 73%. With a high draft pick and a full season of Al Jefferson and Randy Foye, the Wolves should be able to, at the very least, match their paltry victory total in 2007-08. Just how much they will improve is the question. The expected change in winning % for a 25-30% club is 9%, or about 7-8 wins (30-52 is a .366%). (Source: Basketball on Paper by Dean Oliver; p.111.)
In order to get to an even .500 (which is just below McHale's lofty projection), the Wolves would have to increase their winning percentage by an amazing 23.2%.
Needless to say, there aren't too many teams in the history of the league to sport such numbers right before a massive turnaround. The closest example I could find is the 97-98 Spurs…or, as the event is otherwise known as, When Duncan Came to Town. Barring the introduction of a historic, game changing rookie, there is nothing in the Wolves stats, roster or schedule to suggest that they are in any way, shape, or form capable of running off an additional 20 wins in the 2008-09 season. Unfortunately, as I have been saying for some time, the sudden appearance of Basketball Jesus appears to be a large part of the Blueprint. And then something magical happened...
Just to give you an idea of how rare a 20 game turnaround is, the 2003-04 Nuggets won 26 more games than the previous season, ending up with a 43-39 record. The reason why? They added Andre Miller, Carmelo Anthony, and Marcus Camby. This is the 8th greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history. (Jason Kidd and the Nets had an equal turnaround in the 2000-01 season.) The 72 win Bulls are also on this list, improving by 25 games from the year before.
The biggest turnaround in NBA history is the Boston Celtics' 36-game KG-fueled championship run (from 24 games to 60). That's pretty outrageous and if the Wolves were able to manage...well, let's not get crazy. Let's give them something still out-of-the-ordinary but not completely over the top (but very close to it). How about the Nugget turnaround? It's similar to what I think most Wolves fans would like to see: a stud draft pick + 2 starting additions. Were the Wolves to improve by 26 games next year, they're still a .500 team. It is far more likely that they improve in a slow incremental fashion (a'la Atlanta) for 3-5 years before they are ready to compete for a 1st round home court advantage.
One of the little drawings in one of the Kahn commercials was a pressure cooker. That's about right. Kahn and his front office is pitching a bill of goods to the team's fans that is so above and beyond the norm that it falls somewhere in between a curiosity and outright farce. Compete for a playoff spot in a year, compete for a championship in 3-4. That's what we've heard lately from Chris Wright and David Kahn. I think the Wolves are in a position to do some very good things this off-season. Really good things. The kicker is that I have no idea whether Kahn can execute on this excellent position. How do we get from this point to taking a pitch that is nearly without precedent seriously? If it happens, it is because of the great rule of NBA general managing: anything significantly above average is all about luck.
Anywho, I hope everyone enjoyed the victory. Until later.