The 2012 season is winding down. For many cities, this is when things start to get interesting as they eye the playoffs. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, the playoffs are once again far from anyone’s mind. This is when the season begins to wane in Minnesota. Despite winning the most games since Kevin Garnett’s last full season in Minnesota (2006-07), this season has an odd feeling to it. There’s a sense of success and a hope for what might be in store. But there’s also a lingering sense of disappointment. Just a short month ago, the Timberwolves had the smell of a playoff team, an experience that would have done wonders for the development of this young group. Now, we have the stench of, well, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
An honest assessment of this season can only result in a positive one. The franchise has been wallowing since the years of Kevin Garnett. Even then, despite being a perennial playoff participant, we only made it out of the first round once. It’s safe to say no one has ever really considered the Timberwolves to be a dominant franchise. So the Wolves performance this year was a huge step in the right direction. Despite playing significant time without six of our best players–Love (4 games missed), Rubio (20), Barea (22), Beasley (19), Pekovic (12), and Ridnour (6)–the Wolves have won 25 games, the most in six seasons. Not to mention, they have 21 losses by 7 points or less or Overtime. Just imagine if half of those 21 games swing in our favor. Minnesota would be fighting for a 5 seed right now. Hopefully those losses gave this young team the experience they need to take the next step next year.
How could it not be positive progress despite the disappointment? For the first time in a long time, the Wolves and the ‘P’ word were used in the same sentence. The Love-Rubio combo became one of the most exciting tickets on NBA League pass. The duo began to garner comparisons to Hall of Famers Stockton and Malone. Kevin Love made the leap this season, molding himself into the best power forward in the NBA and eyeing Kevin Garnett’s title as the greatest T-wolf of all time. Other teams were even looking at what we had this year longingly. On top of all that, GM David Kahn and his plan for Minnesota drew comparisons to OKC, who is vying for an NBA title this year. Not too shabby if Kahn is being compared to Sam Presti.
Sure, the disappointment will linger for another few weeks. The fear of Rubio’s ability to return to form will linger far longer than that. (Hopefully he heals quickly since he’s so young.) The turnovers were far too high and the defense took a major hit once Rubio went down. Despite all the disappointment from this year, though, the Timberwolves gave us one thing that we haven’t had for half a decade–Hope. If for no other reason than that, this season was positive.