MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s finally over.
After 14 seasons, the Minnesota Timberwolves are back in the NBA Playoffs. It wasn’t easy and it often wasn’t pretty, but it wouldn’t be the Timberwolves way if it was any different.
But with the Western Conference playoff race being one of the most competitive in recent years, none of it matters. The Timberwolves are in. Yeah, they are the No. 8 seed and will be tremendous underdogs against the No. 1 seed Houston Rockets. Yeah, they lost games they should have won.
Players suffered through disappointing stretches and others got hurt, but none of it matters now. Players and fans celebrated Wednesday night after the Timberwolves beat the Denver Nuggets 112-106 in overtime, ending Denver’s season and propelling Minnesota to the postseason.
It’s been 14 seasons since we saw the Timberwolves in the playoffs. Not only that, but they haven’t even been competitive for the most part since the 2003-04 run to the Western Conference Finals. The trio of Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell probably should’ve won the NBA title, but Cassell’s back injury did the Timberwolves in.
The following season, the Timberwolves finished 44-38 and missed the playoffs. Then General Manager Kevin McHale fired Flip Saunders a little more than halfway through the season. Here are the Timberwolves’ regular season records since then, excluding this year.
Over those 13 seasons, that’s an average of 29.9 wins per season. That’s an average of finishing 22 games below .500. That’s hard to do.
It’s also why we should take a moment to embrace this season and celebrate that the playoff drought is over. The Timberwolves had Kurt Rambis as a head coach. Even worse, they had David Kahn as a front office leader. We passed on Stephen Curry not once, but twice.
That said, the Timberwolves gave roster spots to players like Marko Jaric, Michael Olowokandi, Rashad McCants, Ndudi Ebi, Craig Smith, Kirk Snyder, Sebastian Telfair, Antoine Walker, Mark Madsen, Brian Cardinal, Darko Milicic, Ramon Sessions, Jonny Flynn, Wayne Ellington, Kosta Koufos and Brad Miller.
You get the idea. This season, the core is Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. Yes, the Timberwolves likely won’t last past the first round. But they’re there. After 14 seasons of ineptitude, they’re one of eight teams left in the Western Conference.
Enjoy the ride, even if it’s short-lived.