The professional basketball team in Minnesota, the Minnesota Timberwolves, concluded their season on April 15 with a 138-113 loss to Oklahoma City Thunder. The defeat wrapped up the Wolves’ season with a twelve game losing streak, their last win was against Utah Jazz almost a month ago. The bottom position meant the Wolves missed out on post-season participation for the twelfth year straight.
The hopes were that the trade of Kevin Garnett, the same man who won the league MVP award for bringing the Wolves to the playoffs during that 2002-03 season, would come back and support the Wolves. However, with 16 wins and 66 losses, the Wolves finished the regular season with the worst winning percentage in the league.
“We didn’t bring him here to sell tickets. If I had to do the deal over again, I’d do it in a second. His mentoring, that’s why we brought him in here,” Timberwolves Head Coach Flip Saunders said to ESPN.
The coach was under intense pressure after the Kevin Garnett trade did not bring a desired outcome. As a response, Saunders appealed for a long-term view to the missing results.
“I don’t want to get to the playoffs. I want to build a team that can win in the playoffs. That’s what we’re trying to do. If you’re going to try to do quick fixes just to get there, you might get there, but you might be back out of it soon. That’s not what our goal is,” Saunders said.
Although he might not have the impact he had when he represented the Wolves first time around, Garnett still provides the team with important leadership abilities off the court.
“I’m not just telling them but showing them how. I think when you have this raw talent like you have here, it’s important to give instruction and demonstrate. These kids have a skill level that got them here, and I’m just trying to give them the little things, the small things that only basketball players or players who have been in the league only know,” Kevin Garnett told FoxSports.
One beneficiary of Garnett’s guidance is Andrew Wiggins. The twenty year-old Canadian was in the running for Rookie-of-the-year, but the title was snagged by Portland Trail Blazers Tim Frazier.
“He brings a different type of energy to the team. He had a huge impact on everybody here. Not only the players; people that are working, staff, everything. Even when he’s not there on the court… you still feel his presence,” Wiggins said about Garnett.
Despite turning 39 in May and struggling with injuries, Saunders hopes that Garnett will play one more year.
“He’s given an indication he’d like to play another year. If he does, we hope it’d be here. If he didn’t want to play, I thought he would’ve played some games down the stretch. Where his leg was at and just the soreness, I believe he didn’t want to take any chance, and the reason he didn’t is because he indicated he wants to get his body right. If he gets his body right, he wants to play. I think that’s the avenue that he’s trying to go towards,” Saunders said.
In July, Garnett will be back on the free agent market. Garnett is expected to sign for one more year, furthering his investment in the Wolves. With Garnett reimbursing the younger players, Saunders believes the Wolves can be a team to count on.
“If we get those guys healthy and get them back, we can be a team that can compete in the West. It’s going to be difficult. We’ve got to be lucky, you’ve got to be healthy and a lot of things. But from a talent pool standpoint, our talent pool should be able to compete at that level,” Saunders said.