Our gluttony for watching bad teams is well-documented to anyone who has read our missives about watching 100-plus games a season of the mid-to-late 1980s Atlanta Braves.
This current version of the Wolves is really testing that appetite. We watched off an on last night for most of the first half of what eventually would become Minnesota’s 12th consecutive loss. At 54-32, we were ready to give it up and turn it off, unsure if we could watch any more that night — or any night, really, until some of the team’s veterans return to good health.
But just as we were shutting it off, something deep inside made us hit the record button. “Just in case we want to watch the rest of it quickly later,” we told ourselves, knowing full well that we would.
Our fascination, we have decided, is not of the train wreck variety. We could look away, but we don’t want to. Rather, we have something in common with Steve McPherson, a local writer who recently penned a piece about Andrew Wiggins for Rolling Stone. He compared watching the development of Wiggins to watching the development of a small child. As a parent of a 9-month-old, I can relate. McPherson writes:
Turns out, the true source of wonderment isn’t found in their successes. It’s in the trying, the struggle, the way they recover from their failures. It’s not all that different from watching young players grow.
There are so many painful things about watching the Timberwolves right now, even from a purely objective standpoint. They are so young on the court. There is a lot of talk about a lack of energy in some games, but energy is learned, too. Sometimes you might think you are giving maximum energy because you really don’t know what that threshold is yet.
On defense, they are chronic ball-watchers. Everyone else is waiting for someone else to grab a rebound or snatch a loose ball. It’s a tentativeness that comes from a lack of repetitions. On offense, they are 10 times better off with Mo Williams running the point than Zach LaVine. But LaVine is the future, and as long as Ricky Rubio is out, he will go through the struggle whenever Williams is resting.
Anthony Bennett is lost. Shabazz Muhammad is improved but still flawed. Wiggins has reached 20 points in six of his past seven games, but he’s also had at least 37 minutes in each of those games. A good wing in the NBA given those minutes and Wiggins’ role can do what he is doing. It is encouraging that he, too, is doing it. But he has a long way to go.
But you see flashes in everyone. LaVine and Muhammad picked off corner passes with defensive anticipation Monday, the kinds of plays that come from seeing more and more halfcourt possessions. Wiggins isn’t there yet, but he shouldn’t be — and his confidence grows every day. Gorgui Dieng can play in this league. When the veterans are healthy, this team will go from being historically bad to better.
Until then, though, there is beauty in the mess — as painful as it is to watch a lot of times.