Nothing ever goes right for the Timberwolves.
Bob Stein, team president in the early days, used to ask, without a smile, whether Target Center was built on a burial ground, so horrific was the Wolves’ luck.
Jeff Munneke, a vice president and original employee, blames the bad luck on the hex a sketchy performer named Joey Two Step cast on the franchise upon being fired for unwanted fraternization with female employees.
Augmenting the horrible luck has been horrible decisions — the hiring of David Kahn, the innumerable misguided draft picks, the illicit signing of Joe Smith, the dismissal of Dwane Casey.
Today, as Ricky Rubio energizes the remaining fan base, Andrew Wiggins surges toward rookie of the year honors and Kevin Garnett prepares to return to, as he calls it, ’Sota, let’s contemplate what could happen if, for once, everything went right for the local NBA franchise.
Here’s the dream from which the Wolves hope not to awake:
1. Garnett returns not as the next version of Willie Mays wearing a Mets uniform, but as a new-age, perhaps unprecedented combination of player, coach, executive and future owner. He takes a holistic and selfless view of his role, investing himself in the development of young players and the long-term health of the franchise, with an eye toward owner part or all of a model franchise.
He avoids casting himself as a personnel expert, and instead becomes a mentor and figurehead whose raging competitiveness defines the franchise, much as Nolan Ryan’s did when, as team president, he helped turn the long-woeful Texas Rangers into a World Series team.
2. With Garnett helping Wiggins learn the nuances and demands of NBA stardom, Wiggins becomes at least the second-best player in franchise history, and Garnett persuades him to build his career in Minnesota instead of leaving in free agency.
3. The Wolves benefit from a rare stroke of luck, landing either Jahlil Okafor or D’Angelo Russell in the upcoming draft. Okafor is a potential franchise player who would team with Wiggins in an inside-outside dynamic remindful of young Garnett and Stephon Marbury. Russell, alongside Rubio and Wiggins, would give the Wolves the ability to win and entertain like the current Golden State Warriors.
4. The Wolves’ brain trust and front office becomes more clearly defined, and more logically structured. Flip Saunders, who has shown foresight in the draft, finds a bright young coach to run the team — keep offering the job to Dave Joerger every offseason until he takes it? — so Saunders can concentrate on personnel decisions.
Garnett becomes a liaison between players, the front office an ownership, in whatever role he wants — player/coach, coach, assistant general manager, vice president, part owner.
Wiggins becomes the next Steph Curry instead of the next Carmelo Anthony — becomes a skilled-yet-grounded star who elevates his team, not just his statistical profile.
5. The Wolves become, as they were in Garnett’s prime, a perennial playoff team, filling Target Center with noise and emotion, and this time around, Wolves fans appreciate the spectacle instead of whining about playoff losses.
6. The next time the Wolves are on the verge of making it to the NBA Finals, a key player doesn’t hurt himself performing a ridiculous celebratory dance.
7. Having avoided that potential crisis, the Wolves someday make it all the way to the NBA Finals, get to read odes to their small-market success, and watch Wiggins lead them to a championship in a way that would have made the old Minneapolis Lakers proud.
8. Kevin Love, unable to find any NBA teams willing to put up with him or friends to watch with him, catches those finals on his phone while sitting in the parking lot of a burger joint in his 1984 Honda Accord.
9. Wolves owner Glen Taylor lifts the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy while Adam Silver praises his wisdom and willingness to delegate authority in what has become a model franchise.
10. Employees of Taylor’s other Minneapolis businesses receive championship bonuses.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at souhanunfiltered.com. On