At some point, the disastrous nightmare that has been the Minnesota Timberwolves season will come to an end.
Not literally -- unfortunately they still must finish the full string of games -- but a playoff spot becomes unattainable for last season's Western Conference runner-ups with their next defeat or Memphis victory.
|Kevin Garnett has been forced to carry the 'Wolves all season. (AP)|
Suffice to say Flip Saunders was never the issue, just the first fall guy in a dire last-gasp attempt to shake things up. As difficult as it must have been for Kevin McHale, he did what he had to and nearly saw it work.
Consider that if one Cassell 3-pointer goes down in the final minute of last week's 107-104 loss to Denver, we might be talking about one of the great comebacks of the season. But the shots didn't fall, however, and the 'Wolves laid down the next night in Atlanta. Hung over with disappointment, they handed the Hawks what will likely end up as the last victory of what could be a 70-loss season. Cassell, Sprewell and Troy Hudson hit just 10 of 33 shots, while Tyronn Lue scored 23 on 9-of-12 shooting.
How does that happen when you're frantically chasing the playoffs?
"It was effort plays that cost us in those two losses," McHale said. "If we're going to have any chance at all of making it past the regular season, we're going to have to play four games like we did (in Wednesday's victory over Golden State). We get back in transition, we don't allow easy baskets, we execute offensively and we play hard. I fully expect us to do that."
Expectations are one thing; realism is another. McHale chastised his team for being selfish after the loss to the Hawks, and clarified his stance to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
"When I say selfishness, I'm talking the whole thing," he said. "I'm talking defensive selfishness, not rotating when you should, boxing out guys, not getting back on defense and helping your teammates. All those things. It's not just not making passes, even though we had some guys open that we didn't hit. ... If you don't really know what you're looking at, you don't see a lot."
McHale clearly does know what he's looking at, having been a part of so many winning teams in his career. By that rationale, though, his expectations that the 'Wolves will bounce back and all of a sudden start doing things the right way, particularly in the same week when owner Glen Taylor called the acquisitions of Spree and Cassell two years ago a "failed experiment," has to be wishful thinking.
Based on what we've seen in the writing on the wall, you know the tents will be folded up the second any playoff aspirations end, potentially in mid-dribble. It's time to start concentrating on rounding up Garnett's next supporting cast. Taylor's comments, uttered with Sprewell's contract up and Cassell's with just one year remaining, guarantees that.
"He told me right there he don't want me back," Cassell said. "You experiment with something, and it doesn't work. Would you try it again?"