Minnesota sports have had a rough year in 2016, to say the least.
In one of the most exciting WNBA Finals in the league’s history, the Lynx lost in game seven on a last-second shot to the Los Angeles Sparks. They had another remarkable season, but they were hoping for a little more.
I hate to bring up unpleasant memories from the past, but every Minnesotan and their dog know how last season ended for the Vikings in January. So let’s just block that memory out from now until forever (and then a little longer).
This year, with a more experienced roster and a coach as resilient as they come, the Vikings were looking for even greater success – and they were on the brink of achieving it, too. A debilitated quarterback, a hurt running back, a hampered defense, and a just plain broken offensive line later, the Vikings are finding that injuries have caught up with them, causing a 5-0 start to the season to fall to 6-4. Now, is there still hope that the Vikings can overcome the millions of dollars on the sidelines, defeat the doubters, and make an improbable run for the Super Bowl? It’s possible. A win against the Detroit Lions today would be quite helpful.
Then come the Twins, and due to a request from one of my friends who is a die-hard Twins fan, I will respect his wishes and not even delve into their horrendous season.
The Wild may be the lone bright spot in amongst the darker feelings Minnesota sports fans have had to experience. I am not much of a hockey fan myself, but I know the Wild have had a solid season so far and are primed to make a run this year.
Now, let the fun begin.
Perhaps the most interesting story (in my very biased opinion) in Minnesota sports right now is that of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Coming into the season, the Wolves were the talk of the West. The last time a Wolves team was as readily publicized was probably before the 2003/2004 season when Wally, Sam, Latrell, and, of course, The Big Ticket would go on to lead the Wolves to their first Western Conference Finals berth.
Unfortunately, too many Wolves fans were expecting the same result. That team was loaded with not only talent but also incredible knowledge stemming from the many experienced veterans on the roster. This team has every little bit of talent that the ‘03/’04 team had, but they lack an equally large piece – experience.
That brings me to the first thing that Timberwolves fans need to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving holiday. So, please, take a few minutes, put down the food, and consider the many things that you, as a Wolves fan, have to be thankful for on this wonderful day of giving thanks.
5 THINGS WOLVES FANS CAN BE THANKFUL FOR
Wolves fans can be thankful that…
1) …the three best players on the team are finally of “legal” age.
Obviously, no one cares whether or not their favorite players can go to a bar and get a drink. The part that matters is that the three best players on the Wolves are FINALLY 21-years-old. Think about that for a moment. How many poor decisions did you make at age 21? How much experience have you gained since that age? These questions should help you to realize just how difficult of a task winning games at the age of 21 is – in arguably the most competitive league on the planet.
NEWS FLASH: It’s tough.
Minnesota is the youngest team in the NBA right now. The second youngest, Philadelphia, got annihilated by the Wolves last week. This proves that the Wolves are light-years ahead of the league relative to their age. Except for Brandon Rush (who has seen very little court time himself), nobody in the Wolves’ regular lineup is over the age of 28.
We all want the Wolves to be able to win games regularly – something we have not had in over ten years – but please have faith and know that we are immeasurably ahead of the normal “process.”
2) …we haven’t had a breakdown and jeopardized the future.
Enough with the rumors, people. The Wolves are not trading Zach LaVine, and Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are untouchable. There have recently been rumors that Coach Thibideau has become so perturbed with the early season struggles that he is willing to trade a star to bring in a solid, veteran presence. While nothing is impossible in the sports world lately (as shown by two 3-1 championship series leads being blown this past year), I am a firm believer that Tom Thibideau is a smart enough man to realize he would be jeopardizing the future by trading away any of the Wolves’ “Big Three.”
Five years from now, do not be surprised when LaVine, Wiggins, and Towns are all top-20 players in the NBA. Here are some other teams in recent years that arguably had three top-20 players in the league all on one roster: 2008 Boston Celtics, 2011-2014 Miami Heat, current Golden State Warriors. Does that sound like a future worth risking? No, so let’s all be thankful that no drastic moves have been made and that none are likely to come in the near future.
3) …we have blown four 15-point leads this year.
I know what you are all thinking: “This guy must be crazy. How can we be thankful to have lost four 15-point leads?”
I would be the first to tell you how devastating these blown leads have been for the Timberwolves Organization. They have been demoralizing. However, as Wolves fans, we need to be thankful that we were able to build these 15-point leads in the first place. Social media has been teeming with people bashing the season so far, stating we have made no progress from last year and calling Sam Mitchell a better coach than Tom Thibideau. To the average person or casual fan who just reviews the box score after the game, this may look like the situation. Yet, the basketball-minded individual can watch these games and see the progress the team has made since last season.
Although it has not translated into wins, the Wolves have looked like one of the best teams in the league for various stretches this year. Offensively, we have seen huge improvements out of LaVine, Wiggins, and Towns. Even the casual basketball fan can see that. Defense is another story, as the Wolves are one of the worst defensive teams right now. However, I am willing to chalk up the poor defensive performance to the fact that this roster looks lost trying to figure out Thibideau’s system.
A quote that I firmly believe in is this:
“Offense is a God-given ability. Defense is the impenetrable difference maker that separates the winners from the losers. Pray God gives you the strength to play defense.”
There is plenty of time before this team enters its prime, so let’s hope the Wolves are seeking the power to learn this system before that point comes.
4) …we had the privilege to experience the greatest player in franchise history one last time.
Kevin Garnett, The Big Ticket, is the undisputed best player in franchise history. This past season we witnessed his final games not only with the Timberwolves but in the NBA. An athlete touted as one of the most motivated and passionate players in NBA history was also probably borderline insane – an attribute that defined his legacy.
To be as driven and committed to winning as he was, Garnett had to be a little crazy. If every player in the NBA craved winning as much as Garnett, the league would probably have to be discontinued because of all the blood, fights, and maybe even the occasional death here or there. So, maybe we should just be thankful that we had a guy like that on our side for so many years, right?
But in all reality, the Timberwolves franchise has been defined by Garnett. Wiggins and Towns have a serious chance to change the way the Wolves are perceived, but Garnett’s mark will be forever felt. The same goes for Flip Saunders, as just about everything in the organization has his mark on it. There are not enough words to express the gratitude Minnesotans should have for Flip Saunders – for reasons far beyond those involving basketball. Take a moment and be thankful we got to experience his presence for one last run with the Wolves.
Thank you, Flip Saunders and Kevin Garnett.
5) …there is much more to life than basketball.
When I was in middle school, I always wanted one of those Nike shirts with the slogan “Ball is Life” across the front. From first grade through high school my life was enveloped by sports, and I think I believed that, without basketball, I did not have a life.
My guess is that many of us have been that way at one point in time. We get so obsessed with one aspect of our lives that we may sometimes even fail in another part. For some, that obsession can be a sports team. If you are someone who lives or dies by the success of the Wolves, I am sorry. It has been hard to be a Wolves fan over the course of the last ten years, and a 4-10 start to this season has not made this year any better. There are so many more things to be thankful for in life.
Be thankful for where you are – hopefully either getting ready for a giant plate of turkey and mashed potatoes or resting having just eaten a large Thanksgiving dinner. Be thankful for the friends and family that God put in your life. Be thankful for the people who fight for us all on a daily basis and give their lives to defend this incredible country we live in. Just be thankful. In the grand scheme of life, basketball is only a tiny, diminutive part that can change in an instant.
Follow Evan Hagen (The Wolf Den) on Twitter: @Hagen_Wolves