How long is too long? And at what point do fans decide enough is enough? After 12 years of the Timberwolves missing the playoffs, I feel being patient and trusting have just about run their course.
Every organization experiences tough breaks, losing star players in free agency and injuries. Some teams fail because management and the coaching staff work against each other, both seeking more control over basketball decisions.
Three years ago, Flip Saunders was brought back by owner Glen Taylor to help rebuild this organization, which appeared to have lost its way. Two years ago, Saunders died after a sudden battle with cancer. Much of the work he put in motion kind of drifted through a season of mourning. Sam Mitchell was interim coach and led the team to 29 wins.
That was a big improvement over the previous one year under Saunders with only 16 wins. Still, Taylor decided he would not hang with Mitchell and the staff that Saunders hired. He virtually cleaned house and hired Tom Thibodeau as president of basketball operations and head coach.
Thibodeau is well respected and highly regarded and was very successful in Chicago for five years. He was five for five, making the playoffs each year. He is trusted with taking this young, talented core of carefully selected players to the next level.
Many expect the Timberwolves to be a playoff team this year, although some are disappointed already with the team’s 3-6 start in which several big leads have been blown. Thibodeau does not bite his tongue about his team — he’s called them out for at times lacking discipline and toughness.
When he has about 20 games in with these guys, you will start to see Thibodeau’s imprint — improved consistency and working together as a unit. His ability to make in-game adjustments is highly regarded.
Drafting point guard Kris Dunn number one to team with Ricky Rubio, Zach LeVine and Tyus Jones was a good move — he’s talented and a good defender. The talented Karl Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Gorgui Dieng and Ricky Rubio have had time together. I’m a big believer in Thibodeau staying the course and teaching his team the little things.
The Western Conference is so deep and loaded — Golden State, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Portland, Memphis, Utah — that everyone is good.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.