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The Timberwolves’ Turbulent Two Decade Transition

Can we still call this growing pains?

Original illustration by Jennifer Universe. All rights reserved.
Original illustration by Jennifer Universe. All rights reserved.

The other night the TNT crew offered some choice words on the Wolves. An assessment, I feel, that’s deserved. And while I agree that this team needs to play with more heart and intent, I’m gonna offer a softer commentary on how this squad has ended up rather listless and uninspired. (Or at least why I have.)

This season has been so dramatic and not the exciting kind - more like the clinch your teeth and view from peripheral kind. It’s like that fly that gets in your house on a beautiful summer Sunday and you spend far too long dealing with it. You think you’ve killed it, smile and settle in for an afternoon nap, and it buzzes by. There’s a lot of those flies in this organization.

It’s been a little over two weeks since Tom Thibodeau was fired. One less fly if we wish to keep the analogy going (but I don’t, so we’ll end that here). I’m happy Thibs is out. He was in a word, or how about two, unbearable and archaic. Watching Thibs coach was a lot like the movie Groundhog Day, but with no redemption at the end. He never learned. He constantly repeated the same mistakes – poor rotations, poor defensive strategy, poor leadership and poor minute allocation top the list for me.

The thing is, if this whole excision and reorganization ‘isn’t just about wins and losses,’ but rather a systemic issue, well then the biggest problem still lingers – Glen Taylor. And maybe that’s actually the reason I haven’t been watching: because if there’s anything consistent about the Minnesota Timberwolves it’s despondency. And I hate that feeling. It’s exhausting. But is it fixable? Certainly ownership has tried, right?

The Timberwolves love a short term fix, and by Timberwolves, I mean Taylor and his circle.

Since 2000 the Wolves have had 11 different head coaches - that’s a new coach every two seasons. We haven’t been able to retain drafted talent and surely have had our blunders with trades. This isn’t news to anyone still reading, but it is a reminder that under Taylor’s ownership, we’ve rarely experienced lasting joy, instead we’ve been distracted with shiny moments: a game winning shot against the Thunder, number one overall draft pick, Jimmy Butler, the first winning season in over a decade, Derrick Rose going for 50. But all those moments fade and we’re left with a lot of rotating puzzle pieces and no real consistency or strategy on how to put them together.

This certainly doesn’t excuse the lack of heart this team, or Wolves team’s over the past decade, have played with, but I guess what I’m saying I get it. I get it if the reason is Glen Taylor. No one enjoys performing for a musty and unyielding boss.

I usually err on the side of optimism and I like that. For two decades I’ve remained optimistic about the Wolves, and I plan to continue with that mindset. But optimism doesn’t equate to naivety. I know in order to see through my hopefulness an actual systemic change involving Glen Taylor is necessary. He has been the only consistent piece in a consistently disheartening organization.

As cathartic as it was to write this piece – it’s so much more discouraging that I’ve been moved to the place that I *finally* had to do it. I feel like a real, hardened Wolves fan. And I feel like I’ve been ready for Kevin Garnett to own this team.