What if ... Sam Cassell hadn't hurt his back?

  • Updated: August 8, 2011 - 11:49 PM
hide

Injured Wolves guard Sam Cassell could only cheer from the bench during Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference finals against the Lakers.

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Editor's note: This is an installment in a 10-part series asking "what if" certain major events in Twin Cities sports history had turned out differently. This is purely an exercise in amusement. Nobody at the Star Tribune -- least of all the author -- has a DeLorean that goes 88 mph and has the ability to go back to change the past. Send any feedback or suggestions to mrand@startribune.com.

THE GLORY DAYS

Remember the 2003-04 Timberwolves? Ah, those were the days. Minnesota finished the regular season 58-24 -- the best record in the Western Conference -- behind a trio lovingly dubbed "MV3." At the heart of it was Kevin Garnett, the MVP of the league that year and a man who was at the very top of his game. Complementing him were veterans Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, a couple of fearless players (particularly Cassell) who could take the late-game heat off of KG. But after a tense seven-game series victory over the Kings, Cassell's back seized up and rendered him almost completely useless during the conference finals.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

Had he been healthy, there would have been at least a fighting chance for the Wolves to defeat the Lakers. Los Angeles, you'll recall, was loaded up that year with Shaq, Kobe, Gary Payton and Karl Malone. But you'll also recall the Lakers floundered badly in the 2004 finals, losing quite convincingly in five games to Detroit.

A full-strength Wolves squad -- one with Cassell bringing the ball up the court and hitting his traditional clutch shots -- very well could have exposed the aging Lakers' flaws before Detroit got to them.

HISTORY REWRITTEN

If the Wolves at least make the NBA Finals, maybe they up the ante to Latrell Sprewell, who quietly signs a contract instead of uttering the infamous line about feeding his family. Maybe Cassell isn't quite as moody in his follow-up campaign and the Wolves don't trade him (and a No. 1 pick that they still owe the Clippers) for Marko Jaric.

The Wolves are probably good enough that Flip Saunders isn't fired in the middle of the 2004-05 season. Maybe without starting that revolving door of coaches, the Wolves don't start the spiral that leads to the KG trade and the various rebuilding projects that have followed.

AND, AS A BONUS...

It is even possible, had the Wolves not bottomed out and given the organization's tendency toward loyalty, that Kevin McHale would still be running the team. That means for the past two years we would not have been introduced to David Kahn's vocabulary or asset-building plan. Not saying that's particularly good or bad. But it's certainly different.

MICHAEL RAND

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati 0 Top 5th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Baltimore 0
NY Yankees 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Toronto 1
Philadelphia 0 Top 5th Inning
NY Mets 1
Boston 8 Bottom 2nd Inning
Tampa Bay 0
Miami 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Atlanta 0
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll
Texas - S. Baker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 14 2nd Qtr 10:34
Connecticut 0
(6) Jacksonville St 0 1st Qtr 3:28
(8) Michigan State 21
Bowling Green 0 1st Qtr 3:28
Western Ky 7
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 7:00 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa 3 1:00
Montreal 7
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many games will the Timberwolves win this season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close