Kevin Garnett shed an immeasurable amount of tears during his 12 years wearing a Minnesota uniform, growing from kid to man, his character molded by one disappointment after another.
|Coach Randy Wittman will have chances to experiment with a young lineup. (Getty Images)|
The Timberwolves fans who will maintain their allegiance to the team despite his departure are definitely going to need them.
Save the tears for now, though. I come bearing gifts that will make this No. 30 ranking a little easier to swallow. C'mon, I wouldn't hang anyone out to dry with the "worst team in the NBA" label without a nice care package. Call up a Memphis fan and ask them how they liked last year's version. Some might even have a few Kleenex left over to hand down.
The first present is an appealing alternative. Timberwolves fans have basically been rooting on Garnett's solo act for most of the past decade, so they can continue that tradition by living vicariously through him for at least the next few seasons. That's the only way Minnesota basketball fans will get to support a winner anytime soon, because their own team has a long road back to respectability ahead of them.
It's common knowledge that you don't win in the NBA with young talent, and that's pretty much all Garnett's long-awaited pardon delivered in return. Vice president Kevin McHale picked up four players age 25 or younger who should find time in Randy Wittman's rotation, joining Randy Foye, Craig Smith, Rashad McCants and lottery pick Corey Brewer.
The calendar won't be able to move fast enough while this bunch grows up together, but considering what's done is done, it's time to move forward and put a positive spin on the beginning of this rebuilding project.
The majority of Minnesota's key cogs will be entering their first or second years with the organization, so it should be simple for fans to pick out a favorite and feel that familiarity of watching them grow up. There are many in Wolves nation who watched Garnett collect every one of his 19,000-plus points and more than 10,000 rebounds. Now they can do the same with a guy like Brewer. Al Jefferson and Gerald Green have still not reached their full potential, so the prospect exists that they'll be able to bloom for the Wolves given enhanced roles, extended minutes and the low-pressure environment that awaits both.
There's also the improved financial situation, which should allow Minnesota to become a player in free agency for a change. They're likely still stuck with Marko Jaric's bad contract, but might be able to find a taker for a veteran big man like Juwan Howard or productive wing Ricky Davis.
That's right, the carnage isn't quite over. McHale still has deals in the works that will further transform the Timberwolves. But unlike many of his decisions over the years, this is a good thing. If you're going to rebuild, you might as well go all the way.
Minnesota definitely doesn't appear to be cutting any corners, probably handing Foye and Sebastian Telfair on-the-job training at the point. Green, Brewer and Rashad McCants are expected to see tons of time on the wings, and Jefferson, Ryan Gomes and Smith will man the forward spots.
Wittman started trying to put things together the first chance he got, handing big minutes late to many of his key young players in a narrow exhibition win over Turkey's Efes Pilsen in Istanbul. The coach who just had his interim tag removed in May called it a learning experience, no doubt the first of many awaiting these new-look Timberwolves.
Practice patience and mix in a handkerchief every now and then. The ride gets a little bumpier from here.
|Power Ranking Rank: 30th|
|Projected Record: 18-64, 5th Northwest|
|Best case scenario: Randy Foye makes a Deron Williams-like leap in first season as a full-time starting point guard.|
|Worst case scenario: Al Jefferson regresses in his new surroundings and struggles in go-to role.|
|X-factor: Gerald Green is raw but has star potential. He'll have an opportunity to earn heavy minutes.|
|Early season schedule: Eight November home games provide an opportunity to get off to a decent start. K.G.'s return isn't until Feb. 8; and will be the Wolves' only nationally-televised game this season.|
|2007-08 NBA Team Previews|
|Boston Celtics||Chicago Bulls||Atlanta Hawks|
|New Jersey Nets||Cleveland Cavaliers||Charlotte Bobcats|
|New York Knicks||Detroit Pistons||Miami Heat|
|Philadelphia 76ers||Indiana Pacers||Orlando Magic|
|Toronto Raptors||Milwaukee Bucks||Washington Wizards|
|Denver Nuggets||Dallas Mavericks||Golden State Warriors|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||Houston Rockets||Los Angeles Clippers|
|Portland Trail Blazers||Memphis Grizzlies||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Seattle Supersonics||New Orleans Hornets||Phoenix Suns|
|Utah Jazz||San Antonio Spurs||Sacramento Kings|