For their entire franchise history, the Timberwolves had to feel the same way about the NBA lottery as Americans feel about the actual lottery. You have about as much chance to win whether you’re eligible or not.
That changed Tuesday night when the Wolves landed the first pick in the 2015 draft, an event that felt momentous not necessarily because of what it means for the roster as what it symbolizes for the franchise.
The fifth player in this year’s draft might be every bit as good as the first player. The Wolves might have landed a superstar had they acquired the worst-possible pick they were eligible to receive, at No. 4.
Flip Saunders and Glen Taylor didn’t tear up because their fortunes changed dramatically, but because they no longer feel as if they’re trapped in a funhouse of broken mirrors.
Faced with trading their only good player last summer, they flipped Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins, and Wiggins won the Rookie of the Year award.
Faced with a lost season, Saunders decided to lose as many games as possible while developing Wiggins and Zach LaVine, turning another unwatchable slog into a chance at a high pick.
Faced with the possibility for another lottery disappointment, the Wolves for the first time put Taylor on stage for the lottery and landed the first pick for the first time.
When they take the court this fall, the Wolves should have two potential superstars.
This won’t be the Wolves hoping that Bill Musselman can whip them to 30 wins. This won’t be a lost franchise hoping that J.R. Rider will clean up his act, or that Kevin McHale can save the team from the sideline or that Kevin Garnett can win it all in his one playoff run with short-term mercenaries.
This isn’t trading Garnett for a Cobb salad of mediocrity, or David Kahn asking for a show of hands, or Love spending a few years eyeballing his next destination.
This is what real hope looks like, and forgive the long-suffering Wolves fans for high-fiving and hugging the stuffing out of Crunch.
They don’t care that the fifth pick in this draft might produce the best player.
They care only that the curse has been exorcised.
“The curse of Joey Two-Step is dead,” Wolves vice president Jeff Munneke said.
Munneke is a rare original Timberwolves employee. He was standing behind the seated fans when the crowd erupted at Target Center on Tuesday night, and he immediately invoked the little-known legend of Joey Two-Step.
In the Wolves’ early days, Munneke and his cohorts heard of an elderly man who would frequent local bars, walking to the middle of dance floors and shocking customers by break-dancing.
The Wolves hired him to surprise fans with a similar act during timeouts. When Joey became too amorous with female employees, they fired him, and he told them, “Nobody fires Joey Two-Step. I place a hex on the Timberwolves.”
At least the Cubs can blame their woes on a billy goat. There’s some charm in a billy goat. The Timberwolves got cursed by a guy who could have gotten arrested for sexual harassment.
Former Wolves President Bob Stein would ask employees if Target Center had been built on ancient burial grounds. Tuesday night, the fear of curses and specters was lifted.
I asked Flipper whether he was choked up because the first pick was that important, or because it signaled a change of fortune.
“We thought of this as a five- or six-player draft,” he said. “We thought we would be better whichever way we went. What happens is it gives you more flexibility. I think the other thing is, listen, in Minnesota, we’ve had some bad luck … .”
Bad luck, bad hires, bad drafts, bad signings, bad contracts, bad management, bad voodoo … the two steps that matter now for the Wolves are the trade for Wiggins and the selection of the first player in the 2015 draft.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at souhanunfiltered.com. On