To get in the mood to write about Thursday’s Wolves vs. Knicks game, I dug back into my college music archives for a little Ben Folds Five.
The savvy reader who knows his or her Ben Folds catalog might be thinking I’m heading for a quick one-liner and the ballad “Brick,” but the theme at play here is bigger than one bad shot. It’s about the race to the bottom in the NBA this year — the “Battle of Who Could Care Less.”
At the end of classic championship games or series, it is often said it was “a shame someone had to lose.” In this case, one might muse it was “a shame someone had to win.”
The Wolves (14-53) and Knicks (14-53) possess the two worst records in the NBA. The loser will have the inside track on the best odds in this year’s NBA draft lottery — and, at the very least, have the inside track on picking no worse than fourth in a top-heavy draft.
While it’s not fair to say either team has been outright tanking, it is fair to say that neither really minds losing right now.
The Wolves had their most competent stretch of basketball all year for three weeks in February. Bolstered by a brief return to health and the trade for Kevin Garnett, they actually went 5-3 during an eight-game span and made Target Center patrons remember that basketball could be fun.
It was not sustained. The truly cynical might say the Wolves decided they were jeopardizing their future. Whatever the case, they’ve lost 10 of 11 since, with various key players missing time lately. Among the ugliest of those losses was a 26-point drubbing at San Antonio on Sunday.
The Knicks, on the other hand, did the unthinkable Tuesday, beating the disinterested Spurs almost by accident as ex-Wolves guard Alexey Shved played a starring role. Shved started and played 36 minutes, scoring 21 points. Lou Amundson, another Wolves castoff accustomed to a handful of minutes here or there, started and played 31 minutes.
And yet New York won, setting up this clash. Who has the losing edge? You really have to go with the Wolves, who not only will be the road team but will be playing the second night of a back-to-back.
The Knicks might, too, be willing to sacrifice a victory Thursday for being too tired to win Friday — when they have the second of a back-to-back at Philadelphia, a team that has only 16 victories and can’t be counted out of the race to the bottom.
Regardless, there will be 14 games remaining after Thursday. Anything can happen because there is no rest in the Battle of Who Could Care Less.