Jim Souhan: A step backward might be the best move forward

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2007 - 10:34 PM

If you're going to lose in the NBA, lose with gusto (like the 2007-08 Timberwolves). There's no use going halfway.

Despite what you've heard, there was good news at Target Center on Wednesday night. We learned the basketball career of Golden State Warrior and former Wolves guard Troy Hudson is likely over, significantly reducing the chances of Wolves owner Glen Taylor signing him to a lifetime max contract.

Other than that, the news was predictably bad. The Timberwolves fell to 3-21, and you can't spin 3-21.

When you are 3-21, your ratings tank, your crowds evaporate, your coach's spine forms a slipknot, your players start auditioning for Will Smith's next zombie movie.

You can't get much worse than the 3-21 Timberwolves of 2007-2008 -- unless you're the two previous editions of the Timberwolves. They were worse. Those teams won more games but offered even less hope.

This year's Minnesota Timberwolves are awful. Meaning: The Plan is working.

If you are bound to lose, you should lose with gusto. That was the problem with previous Wolves teams -- they stunk without a purpose.

This team has a purpose. This losing, with any luck, will land the Wolves their choice of dynamic players in the next draft. And what else could matter for this team, other than landing a franchise player to pair with Al Jefferson?

We learned the previous two seasons that there is nothing worse in sports than false hope and empty victories. This season in Boston, Kevin Garnett's wonderful all-around game has become a speedboat. In Minnesota, it was a life raft -- just enough to keep you afloat, drifting aimlessly.

The new Wolves don't have an engine, but they have a rudder, and it should be pointed right at the 2008 NBA draft. If they are to turn this around, they will need to lose, luck into a top draft pick, and turn it into a franchise player.

Between now and the draft, the Wolves are required to play 58 more games, during which they need to figure out who's good enough to help them if and when they become competitive again.

Their keepers, as of today:

• Jefferson, who has replaced Garnett's productivity but not his defense.

• Corey Brewer, who needs to bulk up with the performance enhancers Roger Clemens didn't take, and who needs to take shooting lessons from someone other than Dick Cheney.

• Randy Foye: As Mick said to Rocky, "Stay down! Stay down!" A healthy Foye would immediately make this team better, but the Wolves have no reason to rush him back.

• Craig Smith: Starting him against a sizable front line creates matchup nightmares, but he's a skilled and intriguing player.

• Sebastian Telfair: May be quick and deft enough to be a backup point guard on a good team.

• Chris Richard: An off-the-bench banger who can rebound. Everybody needs one of those.

Rashad McCants scores in spurts, but will you ever trust him? Ryan Gomes has size and skills but disappears for weeks at a time.

Gerald Green has talent, so his inability to earn regular playing time is an indictment of his savvy and effort.

Antoine Walker's willingness to play hurt and engage with younger teammates is admirable, but he, Theo Ratliff, Greg Buckner and Michael Doleac are short-timers. Marko Jaric is signed through 2010 (which makes my head hurt). Mark Madsen is signed through 2009 (Advil or Tylenol?).

Despite the security of knowing Jaric and Madsen can't be signed away by the Albany Patroons, this team is 3-21.

The Plan is in place. What the Wolves need now are more losses and a rare dose of luck.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. jsouhan@startribune.com

  • WOLVES

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