The Minnesota Timberwolves are terrible again, and again their front office and head coach are under fire, and this sentence could have been written in so many years that you are forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu, or simple dread.
But this is 2021, the year that will forever be known as 2020's hangover, and that changes everything, whether you like it or not.
Ryan Saunders' winning percentage after 118 games as Wolves head coach is .331. That's worse than Sam Mitchell's when Mitchell was fired after one season (.354), although not as bad as Kurt "Mendoza Line" Rambis', whose "winning" percentage in 164 Wolves games was .195.
Saunders' 2021 Wolves are last in the Western Conference and have lost nine of 10 games while proving they are noncompetitive when Karl-Anthony Towns is not available.
There is no mathematical reason to keep Saunders on the job, unless you consider the numbers 2, 0, 2, and 1.
Gersson Rosas has built a roster without a power forward or quality depth, and his two first-round picks, Jarrett Culver and Anthony Edwards, look more like projects than players. It's hard to find reason to believe in his plan at the moment, but this is 2021, and the NBA is playing through a pandemic, and three of Rosas' top seven players were unavailable against Atlanta on Monday.
In a player-first league, there is no reason to cut this group any slack. D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley have been productive but not close to transformational, and this roster seems incapable of competing without Towns. Towns continues to be an unfortunate symbol of both Wolves misfortune and the times in which we live, having tested positive for COVID-19 in the wake of losing his mother and other family members to the virus.
The rest of the roster is composed of players who wouldn't start or play for a good team, and their inability to play team defense and unwillingness on many occasions to sprint back on defense robs them of the sentimental value of NBA long shots.
In a normal season, the Wolves' 3-9 record might be justification for making changes. In 2021, this would be the wrong time to bow to fan anger and fire Saunders, and the wrong time to make a hasty decision on Rosas' attempt at a rebuild, and the wrong time to make personnel moves that probably won't make much of a difference.
When the Wolves hired Saunders, now 34, they knew he was inexperienced, and they put him in a difficult position. If his presence was causing a drop in ticket sales or TV ratings, the organization might be forced to move on, but there are no ticket sales and many Wolves fans have not opted for the television packages that carry Wolves games, so there is no outside pressure right now that matters.
The Wolves might as well give Saunders a chance at coaching a stretch of games with Towns healthy before making a decision. Not for Saunders' sake, but because they don't want to find out five or 10 years from now that Saunders was worth keeping.
As for Rosas, it's time for him to do something that gives this team a chance to contend. His acquisition of Ricky Rubio has been a negative, and Russell has not been the franchise player the Wolves hoped he would be.
He needs to keep trying to find an answer, and his next target should be Rockets forward P.J. Tucker.
Tucker plays defense. He can shoot three-pointers. Although just 6-5, he's strong enough to play interior defense and rebound.
He's been a winning player and is known for his toughness. On a roster that looks like it's filled with SlimFast endorsers, he could change the way the Wolves play.
Put Tucker next to Towns, hope that they can play together for a while, then make your decisions on Saunders and the roster.
That's one way to use a lost season during a trying year.