Remember, Timberwolves fans, when Tom Thibodeau stalked the sideline, cursing at everyone on the court except for Jimmy Butler, who was ripping his teammates and pondering his escape, and the Wolves gave up 50 points in a quarter to the Rockets while getting blown out of their only playoff series since 2004?
Prepare to celebrate those as the good ol’ days.
After doing nothing before Thursday’s trade deadline, the Timberwolves are now thusly constructed:
The owner has produced one playoff victory in 15 years. Not series victory. Single-game victory.
The acting general manager was hired to be the consigliere of the now-fired coach, has given no indication he can be taken seriously when he says so little in public, and has no reason not to pack now that the trade deadline has passed.
The coach is a 32-year-old with the word “interim” attached to his title whose team, entering Thursday’s game at Orlando, had lost four of five, with the only victory coming in overtime against a Memphis team that might as well be tanking.
The roster features a maximum-contract player, Andrew Wiggins, who seems to suffer from Intensity Deficit Disorder; an expensive point guard, Jeff Teague, who can’t stay healthy; and a can’t-move contract attached to Gorgui Dieng.
If you thought the days of David Kahn and Kurt Rambis were bad … well, you were right. They were bad.
This is a different predicament. In their attempts to turn the corner, the Wolves ran into a wall. However this season ends, and it will likely end without a playoff berth, the Wolves will need to find a general manager who can properly assess Saunders, gain Glen Taylor’s confidence and make trades that will rid the Wolves of problematic players and contracts without precipitating another decadelong rebuilding project.
Once again, the Wolves will seek a miracle worker, even though their former attempts to find one have backfired.
Here’s where this gets tricky:
The public will beg Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, to dent his bank account and exhaust his options while seeking the best operator available. The public will beg him not to settle for hiring someone he knows, someone who makes him feel comfortable and doesn’t mind playing golf with the owner.
Sounds logical. But none of that has worked for Taylor.
He has produced one highly successful season, and it was orchestrated by Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders, two University of Minnesota guys he liked.
The best part of the current team — Karl-Anthony Towns — was drafted by Flip, after Taylor brought him back to resurrect the franchise.
It’s trendy to blame Taylor’s hire-who-you-know mentality as the downfall of the Wolves. It’s also true that his circle has produced his best moments.
When Taylor hired Rick Adelman, the Hall of Fame-caliber coach went 97-133 over three seasons without making the playoffs. Can’t blame Adelman for failing to work miracles. Can’t blame Taylor for hiring a great coach. When it comes to the Wolves, even that might not be enough.
When Taylor hired the most accomplished coach on the market, Thibodeau, and gave him personnel power, Thibodeau brought him to the playoffs in his second season and got fired in his third after Butler crushed his dreams. Can’t say that Taylor was cheap or controlling. Still didn’t work in the long run. Or the medium-short run.
Now Taylor has a great young player in Towns, and a problematic young player in Wiggins and a roster filled mostly with bad and mediocre contracts. He has a coach he likes who may not be ready for this kind of challenge. And he has a void at the general manager position, and a history of choosing poorly to fill it.
These are scary times for already-weary Wolves fans. They waited for Towns and Wiggins to develop, had their hopes lifted by the Butler trade, finally got to see a playoff series, and then were presented with this déjà vu dystopian hellscape of a season.
The Minnesota mantra is: “Could be worse,” and the Wolves seem to take that as a challenge.