Remember when Charles Barkley pulled Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury aside and told them they could rule the NBA if they'd just stick together?
What do you think Sir Charles would tell Al Jefferson and Randy Foye the way they're playing this month? Maybe something like, "Not only are you two pretty good, neither of you is a complete idiot like Steph.''
Barkley predicted championships for Garnett and Marbury, and he was half-right. Jefferson and Foye have miles to go before they celebrate, but they're turning into cornerstone players for what is, at least this month, the NBA's most surprising team.
Friday night at Target Center, Jefferson and Foye put on a show during the Wolves' 116-108 victory over a beat-up New Orleans team.
Jefferson scored 24 points, with 14 rebounds and one big assist. Foye scored 24 with five rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a blocked shot, didn't commit a turnover, played physical defense on Hornets stars Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic and hit the two biggest shots of the night.
In what might become a familiar victory ritual, Foye sought out Jefferson after his three-pointer with 1:29 ended the drama and buried his face in Jefferson's chest.
That play -- Jefferson drawing, then passing out of a double-team to a teammate who has learned to read his eyes and body language -- stood as testament not only to their development as dynamic young players but to the coaching of Kevin McHale.
"I was in a tough situation early on,'' Foye said. "There was a lot demanded of me in the beginning, let's just put it like that. And when it didn't happen, I was snatched off the court.
"Now I can make a mistake and still play my game. One hundred percent, all my success, recently, goes to Kevin McHale.''
That was a direct shot at former coach Randy Wittman. On the play that wrapped up the game, Jefferson and Foye described an evolution of teamwork and coaching.
"I came off Al's pinch-screen, and he posted up, and I threw it to him,'' Foye said. "If I was in the corner too deep, then the other [defender] would have gone to double-team, but I stayed up high, and when my man went to double-team, I slid down a little bit and Al saw me.
"So he baited my guy in and passed it to me and I knocked down the open jump shot.''
Jefferson put it this way: "Randy knew what I was doing. He's finally figuring me out. I kept baiting those guys to come. If his guy didn't come, I was going to go score. But I knew his guy was going to come and Randy was going to be butt-naked, right there.
"I baited him that one last time and he was ready to shoot, and he knocked it down one last time.''
Thus we were presented with the first positive reference to someone being buck-naked on a basketball court.
New Orleans called timeout, and Foye leapt in celebration with a couple of teammates, then found Jefferson and buried his head in Al's chest.
"He just said, 'There you go, boy -- way to knock down the shot,'" Foye said. "I told him, 'I told you I was going to do it.' It seems in the fourth quarter, they always look for me.''
To offer a bit of NBA sacrilege, there were times Friday when Foye looked as dynamic as Paul, one of the best point guards and young players in the league.
Foye is quick enough to play the point and defend dynamic scorers. He's strong enough to deal with bigger players' post games. He can finish at the rim -- although he just missed on a monster dunk Friday. His three-point shooting, particularly late in games, might be the biggest difference in the Wolves today and the pathetic group that wallowed through the first couple months of the season.
It is a change prompted by McHale's coaching, and it is difficult to describe the difference in atmosphere in the Wolves' locker room from November to now.
McHale walks through like a proud father, calling out nicknames and offering praise, and Jefferson and Foye exude confidence and pride.
"That was great,'' Foye said.
One locker over, Jefferson was in harmony with his teammate once more. "I think we've got something real good going on here,'' Jefferson said. "We've just got to keep it going.''
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. firstname.lastname@example.org