Wolves: The view was chilling; the waits were worse

  • Article by: Steve Aschburner
  • Star Tribune
  • February 25, 2007 - 8:15 PM

Given the Washington Wizards' crazy, weather-altered itinerary Saturday getting from Chicago to the Twin Cities, the question was a natural: What was coach Eddie Jordan's favorite Duluth moment?

"I had a view of the lake. I opened my window and I saw this vast darkness, this frozen ... tundra," Jordan said before his team faced the Timberwolves on Sunday afternoon at Target Center. "I didn't know exactly what it was, whether it was water. It was this eerie thing to see, very eerie."

And the Wizards, by that point, were very weary. They were scheduled to land at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport at about 12:30 p.m., but learned that the runways were closed because of icy conditions. They spent about two hours in the air, a team spokesman said, then were diverted to Duluth. They spent another couple of hours sitting on their charter flight there, waiting for clearance to try again. It didn't come.

By 6 p.m., they boarded a bus and checked into the Inn at Lake Superior -- for about 2 ½ hours. Then they bused back to the airport, eventually took off and arrived in the Twin Cities shortly before midnight.

The Wizards seemed to get burned by not sticking with standard NBA procedure, in which teams travel at night, immediately after a game. But Jordan said his club hadn't experienced weather snags in the past and, besides, it couldn't have gotten out of Chicago right after playing the Bulls on Friday if it had tried.

The Wizards' plane, the coach said, was stuck in Milwaukee that night.

An Auerbach trick

Gilbert Arenas, naked, pulled a bottle of water out of the beverage cooler in the visitors' locker room afterward and rinsed soap suds off him. He said it was warmer than the water flowing in the showers.

"If we would have got a rebound at the end, it might be a different outcome," Arenas said. "Maybe they wouldn't have cut our hot water off."

Back for more? Sure

When Kevin McHale coached the Wolves over the final two months of 2004-05, he made it clear he would be returning to the executive suite as vice president of basketball operations when that season ended.

With Randy Wittman taking over for the final three months this season, it seems clear that, barring a meltdown or tabloid-worthy incident, he will be back next fall. He has a three-year contract, although only this season's salary has been adjusted for head coaching duties. And it's pretty obvious that Wittman -- given his rapport with McHale and owner Glen Taylor -- never would have returned from Orlando if he was only going to be an interim guy in the top job.

As Kevin Garnett said: "If you're going to make a coach change, why make it, then keep changing? I don't think Witt would take the job if he wasn't expecting to be back here."

None of which matters to Wittman right now, by the way.

"Security takes care of itself," he said. "If you're going to coach or work on what you're worried is going to happen tomorrow, you're not going to be very good. If I had a 10-year contract, I'd be doing the same thing as if I had a one-month contract."

Madsen improves

Wittman acknowledged that forward Mark Madsen's sprained left ankle is improving. "He's made progress each day," the coach said. In Wittman's terminology, that means Madsen, who previously was listed as "day to day," has been upgraded to "day to day."

Steve Aschburner •

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