On Sunday night, in what was touted by many as the “biggest game for Minnesota professional hoops in over a decade,” the Timberwolves were thoroughly dissected for forty-eight minutes, primarily at the hands of a certain Spanish Unicorn you may be familiar with.
Whether you attended the game in-person, watched the game on TV, and/or simultaneously followed along via Twitter, a major subplot that has been brewing with this team (and this fan base) all season finally boiled over:
Rubio hits a corner 3 -- his 5th of the game -- and the boos come down.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) April 2, 2018
Wolves just fell 121-97.— jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) April 2, 2018
boos were audible. That was not a great performance..
The Minnesota Timberwolves (44-34) were getting loudly booed on their home court, despite posting their best record since Anchorman was released in theatres back in 2004.
Yes, the Wolves were without two starters. Yes, the game got away from the Wolves because of another disastrous defensive performance. And yes, as a Rubio loyalist, it was soul-crushing to see a player commonly referred to as “Jesus” by his teammates rise up from the Target Center hardwood to publicly embarrass his former employer and former head coach with three after three after three.
I get it. If you paid hard-earned money to attend that game on Easter Sunday, you have all the right in the world to express your frustration the only way a fan really can – via loud, emphatic booing. The on-court product did not meet what you were initially promised (the biggest game for Minnesota professional hoops in over a decade) and you were rightfully frustrated. But that frustration is really what I want to talk about, not the public outburst that finally spilled over on Sunday night.
Despite the final outcome being far less than desirable, the Minnesota Timberwolves played their first meaningful basketball game in April since Google introduced Gmail. How are we (myself included) not enjoying this more? Why is every win tarnished with “yeah but…” while every loss feels like we just watched our franchise move overnight to a new city?
For example, after a tremendously entertaining victory against the Dallas Mavericks last weekend, the common narrative on Twitter was still a sour mixture of “why does a franchise with two young superstars need to be bailed out by 38-year old Jamal Crawford” and “why are the Wolves giving Wiggins a max extension if he only shoots 4-of-17?” The pessimism surrounding Wolves fans on Twitter finally struck a chord with the great Britt Robson, who countered:
When Andrew Wiggins used to average 20 points a game, his critics complained about his one-dimensional game. Last night he plays wing stopper, gets 4 rb, 3 assists, 3 steals + 2 blocks + is a game-best +6 in 42 minutes and people are ripping his shooting.— brittrobson (@brittrobson) March 31, 2018
The crazy part is… that pushback from Britt was after a win! After losses, Twitter timelines are often engulfed with scorching takes ranging from “would you rather have Andrew Wiggins at his price or DeMarre Carroll at his” to my personal favorite “would the Wolves be better off missing the playoffs so they can have more draft picks?”
Really? More bleeping draft picks? You mean more players who may or may not make their regular season debut until game 78? Listen, I’m just as frustrated as the next Wolves fan, but let’s at least adhere to common sense as to WHY we cheer for a professional sports franchise (winning competitions).
So I go back to my original question: how are we not enjoying this more?
I’ll admit, it’s hard at times to root for a coach who displays very little humility/accountability in the face of adversity. It’s hard to root for a front office that has shown very little forward-thinking or creativity in a league that is constantly evolving. It’s hard to watch other teams (Houston, Portland, Boston, etc.) display such free-flowing, poetic basketball on both ends of the court despite having just as much (if not less) talent than Minnesota does.
But guess what… every NBA fan base right now is having serious issues with their favorite team. Toronto fans, despite having the best record in the Eastern Conference, are starting to (yet again) feel the pressure of continuously no-showing in the playoffs. Cleveland fans, despite having been to the NBA Finals for three straight years, are sensing the grim reality that their beloved homegrown superstar is about to flee in free agency. San Antonio fans, despite having the highest all-time win-loss record percentage in NBA history (62.4%), are beginning to embrace the idea that Kawhi Leonard may have played his last game in a Spurs uniform. Hell, the defending champions themselves are facing the strong possibility of an end to their dynasty as they continue to pile up injuries almost as fast as Kevin Durant accrues ejections (s/o all my other #BlogBoys).
What’s the key difference here between those fan bases and the one in Minnesota? All those teams have won a bleep ton of basketball games recently. Maybe they haven’t won at the highest level (looking at you Drakes), but they have won a plethora of games nonetheless. You know who HASN’T done a lot of winning recently? The team with the LOWEST all-time win-loss record percentage in NBA history, the Minnesota Timberwolves (39.1%).
Much like Britt Robson, Zach Harper, another long-time Wolves follower, summed up the current state of Wolves fandom last night in two simple tweets:
Fast-forward to this season. They put out a winner. Fire the coach.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) April 3, 2018
Zach’s sentiment is simple: winning in the NBA isn’t easy, as the Wolves have demonstrated for nearly their entire existence. Growing pains in the Association are a real thing. Franchises don’t flip a switch and go from constant bottom-dweller to perennial contender. Prolonged success usually takes time, and lots of it. However, at the end of the day, this is the best on-court product fans have seen in over a decade, and while thats not everything, it sure is something.
So where do we go from here? Well, in the short-term, hopefully the playoffs. I know it hasn’t always been easy, and it definitely hasn’t always been pretty. But if you can’t enjoy this team now that they’re winning, when will you? Do you REALLY want to go back to being the Bulls? Or the Magic? Or the Hornets? Or the Kings? Or the Knicks? Or the Hawks? Or the Grizzlies?
Winning isn’t always easy. Winning isn’t always pretty. Hell, sometimes winning isn’t even all that enjoyable. But despite all of that, winning isn’t losing. And for me personally, I’m so, so tired of losing.