The Timberwolves are entering a 30th season in the NBA and are trying to market that round number. Tom Gugliotta, an All-Star for the team in 1997, was here this past week for a corporate event and made the rounds for media appearances at the State Fair.
Gugliotta came to the Wolves from Golden State in a trade for Donyell Marshall on Feb. 18, 1995, and was here through the 1997-98 season. “Googs” was a teammate with players full of talent and with a franchise in full chaos.
When Gugliotta arrived, the stars were Christian Laettner and J.R. Rider, the hope was point Micheal Williams soon would be back from a mysterious foot ailment called plantar fasciitis, and that everyone could just get along.
When Gugliotta left, Laettner and Rider had departed in giveaway trades, a long owners lockout had ended, there was a three-day window for free agents to sign contracts, and Kevin Garnett had his money and Stephon Marbury wanted the same (even though new contract restrictions gained by owners made that impossible).
The Timberwolves made an offer that Gugliotta declined, so they brought in Garnett’s buddy Joe Smith for cheap as a free agent on Jan. 22, 1999, and Gugliotta signed an excellent deal with Phoenix the next day.
“Looking back, it would have been a good decision to stay here,” Gugliotta said on Thursday. “I liked Minnesota, and I would have had a chance to keep playing with KG. We were All-Stars together once . We played well together.”
Certainly, it would have been much better for the Wolves had Gugliotta stayed. It would have meant no under-the-table deal with Smith that eventually cost them three first-round draft choices.
Gugliotta was here for the Wolves’ first playoff series in 1997 — a 3-0 loss to Houston. He missed the second half of 1997-98 because of an ankle injury, and the injury problems continued for Gugliotta in Phoenix. Quite a talent, though — 6-foot-10, a shooter and rebounder. And Googs saw it all here: from the odd couple, Laettner and Rider, to what could have been with KG and Steph.
More Wolves and Gugliotta:
• Gugliotta on Marbury as a point guard: “Steph looked at Allen Iverson as his rival, even if no one else did. Some nights, Steph passed. Other nights, he tried to be Iverson.”
• Talk about crusty: When Seattle beat the Wolves in Game 4 in 1998, the eight players it used were Gary Payton, Vin Baker, Detlef Schrempf, Hersey Hawkins, Dale Ellis, Sam Perkins, Jerome Kersey and Nate McMillan.
• Gugliotta: “I do some work with Dale Ellis in Atlanta. What is he, 60 ? And he still doesn’t miss from 26 feet.”