The Other Side: Minnesota Timberwolves
Al Jefferson's season-ending knee injury on Feb. 8 has truly put the TimBER!!! in Timberwolves, as Minnesota has completely collapsed without its leading scorer and rebounder. The Timberwolves have gone 1-11 since Jefferson went down -- including a 111-103 loss to the Washington on Feb. 17. And, since upsetting the Miami Heat on Feb. 18, Minnesota has lost nine in a row. The situation was pretty bleak when Jefferson was around, as the team has lost 17 of 19 overall.
Fans in Minnesota are still bitter over the Kevin Garnett trade, which has sent the franchise into a free fall, and with the economy tanking, the Timberwolves have tried to appease their fans by lowering ticket prices on 95 percent of their season ticket picket packages and freezing prices on the remaining 5 percent. The team is even offering refunds to people who lose their jobs before Jan. 1, 2010. The Timberwolves have to do something, because the team ranks in the bottom third in attendance, which is down almost 400 fans per game from last season.
Minnesota is hoping to build off a 95-93 loss in Portland in which Randy Foye missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. That loss followed a 10-point loss to the Lakers and an embarrassing 26-point loss to the Golden State Warriors that Coach Kevin McHale called the worst performance he's seen since taking over as coach. With a home stand against four teams with losing records -- Washington, Memphis, New York and Charlotte -- Foye said the Timberwolves had to "step it up now."
Here's what else you should know about the Timberwolves as they prepare to host the Washington Wizards tonight at Target Center:
1. Kevin McHale Will Either Coach Or He Won't Return
Timberwolves Owner Glen Taylor confirmed last week that Kevin McHale will only return to the franchise next season as the head coach. McHale was the team's vice president of basketball operations for 13 seasons before he was stripped of that title three months ago when Taylor fired Randy Wittman. McHale has gone 14-29 as coach of the Timberwolves this season, but he had a promising stretch prior to Jefferson's injury when the team won 12 of 16 games. When asked about his future with the team, McHale still refuses to commit one way or another. One thing is certain: After a tongue-lashing from Commissioner David Stern, neither McHale nor Taylor will talk about the troubled economy and the league's collective bargaining agreement.
2. Mike Miller Has Been Baffling
When McHale traded O.J. Mayo to Memphis for Kevin Love and Mike Miller, the thought was that Miller would provide a sharpshooter to complement Jefferson and open up driving lanes for Randy Foye. Miller shot approximately 40 percent from beyond the three-point line over his career and knocked down a career-high 43.2 percent last season. But this season, the player McHale described as a "world class shooter" all of a sudden can't shoot. Miller, who hails from nearby Mitchell, S.D., is having the worst season of his career, averaging lows in points (9.6), and three-point percentage (36). At least he is trying to help the Timberwolves' young players deal with the losing.
3. The Brandon Roy Trade Continues To Haunt McHale
The Timberwolves visit to Portland last Saturday provided rookie Kevin Love with the opportunity to show his hometown how much he's grown since making his professional debut at Rose Garden four months ago. But it also served as a reminder of the player that got away -- Brandon Roy. Roy scored 31 points in the win, including the decisive points on a short running jumper with 62 seconds remaining. It was made worse with Foye's missed jumper at the buzzer. A week earlier, Roy scored 19 led Portland to a 20-point victory. McHale traded Roy for Foye on draft night in 2006, but while Foye is averaging a career-high 16.9 points this season, Roy has already made two trips to the all-star game.
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