By being the only Twin-Cities reporter to cover the NBA Finals year in and year out, I must say you certainly gain perspective on how far the Timberwolves are from being relevant in the NBA. As if 32 wins and 130 losses is not enough proof over the last two years, it really takes covering a world championship to measure what Minnesota’s basketball guru David Kahn is up against.
Last year, the Timberwolves were dead last in defense in the NBA, allowing opponents 107 points per game. In three games against Dallas they lost 100-86,108-105 and 104-96; against Miami they were beaten 111-92 and 129-97. I read somewhere that defense wins championships?
Okay, they have signed point guard Ricky Rubio — hip-hip-hurray for that. I’m happy for you. The Kid can now play against the world’s best. Is he here to win games or sell tickets?
This week the Timberwolves have the number-two pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft; taking Arizona’s Derrick Williams is a no-brainier. If they pass on him, Kahn should go back to being a sports writer.
While I was covering the NBA Finals, four ex-Timberwolves were happy to see me and tell me lots of stuff about how poorly they were treated when they were in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Corey Brewer, Brian Cardinal and Dwane Casey of Dallas are being measured for rings. They are now world champions. Sharpshooter Mike Miller of Miami is trying to figure out what happened to LeBron James in the fourth quarter while Kahn plays mind games with Coach Kurt Rambis, who has two years left on his contract.
Remember this: Casey was fired by NBA Chairman of the Board of Governors Glen Taylor. Casey should have sued the Timberwolves for stupidity, among other things. When he was fired, the Timberwolves were 20-20. They were making their move up the steep ladder of the Western Conference.
Being unfair is kind of a Minnesota tradition, apparently. Who will ever forget how they treated play-by-play broadcaster Gus Johnson? Dallas would not be NBA Champions without Casey. They have always scored points, and NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki has had a great career and has been a dominant scorer for a long time. He’s no Johnny-come-lately, but not until Casey arrived in Dallas have they been able to stop people.
“I think back to all the college days when I was coaching at Kentucky,” said Casey, “when we won the championship at the University of Kentucky, and this tops it. Because I’m old enough to appreciate it and appreciate the trials and tribulations of life, the ups and downs of life, getting knocked down and getting back up. When you get older you begin to appreciate it more than when you’re an 18- or 19-year-old kid. It feels great. There’s no [other] feeling like it.”
How did Dallas come back against Miami trailing 1-0 and down 88-73 with just over four minutes left in game two? “Defensively, we put a stamp on the game,” said Casey. “I know everybody faults those guys for what they did and didn’t do, but I thought our guys collectively came together defensively and imposed their will on Miami.
“And that’s something that’s a credit to Jason, Dirk, and all those guys they brought into the system and stuck with it. People said you could not play zone defense in the NBA, and we’re a testament that you can. Because without our zone, we would not have beaten Portland, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and now Miami.”
Will Casey get another shot at being an NBA head coach? “I’d like to have one again,” he said. “You get knocked down and you get back up, and you find that people find different reasons why you can’t do this and you can’t do that. I’ll just have to keep on working. Hopefully this body of work is something that you can hang your hat on.”
Let’s face it folks: The Timberwolves are a joke. Kevin McHale is gone — he’s now coaching in Houston. The Timberwolves have gone deep south since they fired Casey. “It was their [the Timberwolves’] decision,” said Casey. “I thought we had the program going in the right direction. Again, some people didn’t think we did.
“I know what I was doing in Minnesota was working because we did it here [Dallas], because our defensive system is the same one we were using in Minnesota. It just took patience. It took us three years to get it going here, and now we took an offensive team and put that same system in and it worked.
“I’m proud of our guys right now today with the Dallas Mavericks,” said Casey. “We have the same defensive approach, and we’ll have to go from there.”
If Kahn dumps Rambis, who he hired two years ago, then Kahn should go as well. Taylor should dump Kahn — why is he treated better than Casey?
News Update: As we go to press, we learn that Dwane Casey has been hired as head coach of the Toronto Raptors.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.