NBA: T-Wolves’ secret: potential, potential, more potential
A 17th century philosopher once noted: “Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles.”
No matter, we’ll all be served another healthy dose of potential this winter when the Timberwolves take to the court. I’m OK with it. It’s better than having no potential, and God knows there have been times when the on-court product has appeared devoid of hope.
It’s not much of a philosophical shift, either. Instead of being asked to consider the Ricky Rubio-Kevin Love possibilities, we will be asked to focus on the Ricky Rubio-Andrew Wiggins possibilities. And then there is Zach Lavine, who has gone from a so-so UCLA Bruin to an ultra-athletic, potential mega star — all since he was drafted in June.
At his current rate of progression he should be a hall of famer by October. So Wolves fans should rejoice.
Of course, you can’t eat potential. You can’t bottle it and trade it in for durable goods, either. Yet it seems better to have it than not. And the Timberwolves have existed on “potential” for a very long time. They sell “what might be” instead of “what is.” They are very good at it, too. I’m excited for the season to start even though, deep down, I’m sure they can’t be any better than they were last season. And last season they weren’t good enough.
Clearly this year’s version of the Timberwolves will be young, exciting and not particularly good. This is way better than several previous versions of the team, which were older, less exciting and not particularly good.
In fact, there have been all sorts of combinations with regards to age and entertainment value. Those things tend to fluctuate wildly at Target Center. The only constant over the past decade has been that last trait: not particularly good.
Obviously there is a learning curve for young players. Supposedly, Love and Rubio had made enough progress along that curve to lead the team to the playoffs last season. It didn’t happen, and now Love has been replaced with less experienced players. Furthermore, the organization still is trying to get rid of some of its high-priced veterans.
So this feels an awful lot like Square One in terms of the development chain.
Don’t misunderstand me because Love left the team with no choice but to trade him. And under the circumstances, Flip Saunders did pretty well. Basically, we are awaiting official announcement of Love’s trade to Cleveland after word leaked out all over the place Thursday that the details of the deal had been worked out.
We knew it was coming, of course, especially since owner Glen Taylor pretty much made it official over the weekend and put us all on alert for an announcement coming later this month. So there is more of a sense of closure than anything, although I’d have enjoyed seeing Love report to the Wolves training camp, even for just a while.
Now there will be plenty of “potential” to contemplate as we get closer to tip-off. With the Timberwolves, as always, it’s good to focus on what might be.
Sometimes these big trades go screwy, although I have more faith in Saunders than in any of his recent predecessors. For example, it was seven years ago that the Timberwolves engineered the biggest blockbuster in franchise history when they sent Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics.
To make a long story short, of the five players who came to Minnesota in that transaction, the only one worth mentioning is Al Jefferson. And after three good seasons here Jefferson was traded to Utah for Kosta Koufas and two draft picks. The Wolves screwed up the draft picks, and Koufas, well, suffice it to say most people reading this don’t remember him.
Any potential attached to the Garnett deal evaporated quickly. But over the past three years, the Wolves have hit the potential jackpot with players such as Rubio and Love. Now they’re just tweaking things a little bit.
The franchise did what it had to do. Saunders did what he had to do. Love may be gone, but there is a fresh, heaping plate of potential about to be served. Dig in, everybody.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.