The Timberwolves' 20th season opened in late October with a Sacramento visit to Target Center. This could have been a crowd walking into a Menard's for all the team gear that was in evidence.

Maybe one in 20 was wearing a Wolves jersey, and those were almost universally Kevin Garnett's No. 21. The options for a pregame update in apparel were reduced because The Gym, the merchandise store on the skyway level, was closed.

The Wolves won that night against Sacramento, and then three more times in the next 26 games. A coaching change from Randy Wittman to Kevin McHale on Dec. 8 took place in the midst of what would become a 13-game losing streak.

"It was hard during the losing streak," said Joy Hellen, a season ticket holder from Roseville. "My boyfriend thought I was crazy to go to every game. My boss thought I was crazy. But now they are coming around."

Meaning, Hellen now can make her regular appearance without facing ridicule, since her favorite team has followed the 13-game losing streak with a 12-5 run that includes Wednesday night's 98-89 loss to Detroit.

"I wasn't a Kevin McHale fan, but it looks like he's a much better coach than a general manager," she said.

Hellen takes her young sons, Travis and Trent, to all games. The lads were showing their loyalty with current jerseys -- Kevin Love's No. 42 and Mike Miller's No. 33 -- and wolf-head hats.

The Hellen youngsters remained in the minority. The percentage of attendees wearing jerseys remained low, particularly in comparison to a typical Wild crowd in St. Paul that appears to be 95 percent jersey-clad.

Yet, there are small signs that some pride is returning to Wolves Square Block. For instance: There was some pregame traffic in The Gym, which reopened in November on game day.

Jim Bastyr, who runs the merchandise store, said: "Early in the season, every jersey you saw in the hall was Kevin Garnett's. It drives me crazy, that people wouldn't get over that.

"It's finally starting to turn around. We're selling some jerseys -- especially Al Jefferson's [25] and Kevin Love's. Winning definitely helps."

The conversion to modern jerseys did not include brothers Derek and Danny Buck from Crystal. One was wearing Michael Olowokandi's No. 34 and the other Troy Hudson's No. 16.

"These are classics," Danny said.

How about an upgrade? "I'd like a Rodney Carney jersey," Derek said. "The best thing that happened to this team is when McHale started playing Carney and stopped playing Rashad McCants."

The ongoing lack of team toggery in Wednesday's audience might indicate there's still work to do to regain public appreciation. There's no might about it when it comes to the search for appreciation among NBA counterparts.

The nine-player rookie team for All-Star weekend was announced and Love was not on the roster. The young man has fooled many people -- none more than yours truly -- with his production in recent weeks.

Peter Osborn, a fan from Rochester, was asked at halftime what he thought of Love's absence from the rookie team.

"That's ridiculous," he said, with emotion. "He's another Shane Battier, another Drew Gooden. He'll be a 20-and-10 [points and rebounds] guy for his career. The way Love's been playing and not being in the rookie game ... that's nonsense."

Patrick Reusse can be heard 5:30 to 9 a.m. weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP.