The (Not) True Story of the Timberwolves: Mavs-Wolves Preview

There’s a secret involving the construction of the Target Center.

Where: American Airlines Center; Dallas, TX

When: 7:30pm

See It: FSN

Hear It: WCCO-AM 830

When Marv Wolfensen and Harvey Latner were awarded an expansion team, they were elated that their dream of owning an NBA team was finally going to come true. While they had a new site for an arena chosen for the team to play their home games, the building wouldn’t be complete until the ’90-’91 season. What they didn’t know, is that they never should’ve left the Metrodome (Did I just say that?)

Anyway, what they didn’t know was that a construction worker at the site discovered an Indian Burial Ground. Instead of doing the right thing, and leaving well enough alone, he removed a necklace from one of the remains. Now, most of us know that these are things you do not mess with, and that there are consequences for tampering with such a burial site.

Harv and Marv learned of this, and tried to track down the artifact, the worker, or both. However, despite their best efforts, they fell short. Still, they carried on, figuring it was silly to believe in such superstitions. Then, the team began to fare worse and worse in the standings, but they still refused to believe that the construction worker removing the necklace from the site was to blame.

Following a 15-win season that earned them the worst record in the league, they figured their luck was about to turn, but they fell to third in a two player draft. Therefore, in the ’92 draft, they took Christian Laettner; then Isaiah Rider in ’93, but still failed to win 20 games in the next two seasons, and Harv and Marv quickly realized there were greater forces at work here.

They looked to sell and run. No matter how many coaches or GM’s they tried, nobody could get this team off of the ground. Only if they could find that construction worker…

After the NBA blocked their move in ’94, local businessman Glen Taylor purchased the team to keep them in Minnesota, and brought in legendary NBAer Kevin McHale to run his team. With new leadership and decision makers in place, Taylor figured that the Wolves were due for a turnaround.  However, Harv and Marv never warned Taylor of the curse before the deal was complete and Taylor was revered as a local hero for saving the team as a result.

The Timberwolves had their peaks and valleys through 2003, but always wound middling as a team that was bounced annually in the first round. Considering the rash of injuries to once healthy players, boneheaded contracts by smart basketball people, and failed trades, Taylor took to Harv and Marv to ask why they could never get the team over the hump.

After a few minutes of prodding over the phone, the two former owners told Taylor everything. The burial ground. The construction worker. And even the necklace.

Taylor laughed, telling them he didn’t believe in ghosts. Maybe or maybe not motivated by his conversation with the two men, he met with McHale to hash a bold plan for the upcoming 2004 season. This was the season they got over the hump at all costs. In doing so, they brought in Sam Cassell, Latrell Sprewell, Ervin Johnson and Michael Olawokandi (No curse involved here; he was just bad at basketball).

And it almost worked.

They were the best team in the West that season, and the only semi-important injury was Wally Szczerbiak’s injury that forced him to the bench, and then later, more seriously, Cassel. Yet, they rolled through Denver, and took Sacramento in seven, but met their end against the Los Angeles Lakers after Sam Cassel was ruled out of the series. They were so close, yet so far from escaping the grasp of the curse of the construction worker.

Then the next 8 years were a blur. The Marko Jaric Trade, the bad contracts (T-Hud, Hassell, and Mike James), and poor drafting (Rashad McCants, Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson, Ndudi Ebi…etc), are all evidence of tampering with a sacred burial ground. If you need more, there is also Randy Wittman over Dwayne Casey and Kurt Rambis over…well, anybody.

Nothing else could really explain us having to endure both Darko Milicic and Ryan Hollins, either.

Now we look at this season, and how it must’ve sensed our hope and optimism. Consequently, it’s taken Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, and now Chase Budinger from us. And tonight, we go up against a team that figures to compete for the same playoff seeds. Yes, the Mavericks are missing Dirk, but they don’t have 1/5th of their roster in business suits instead of warmup suits!

The Mavs may not be a great defensive team – 25th in opponent points per game – but the Timberwolves have just about all their scorers on the injured list, making it tough to combat the Mavs’ 104.7ppg, second-best in the league.

The Mavs will be without Shawn Marion, so that will help, but who keeps OJ Mayo in check? Maybe Andrei Kirilenko, but hopefully he’s causing Vince Carter to settle for as many jumpers as possible. And if there were ever going to be a time for Derrick Williams to step up, that time is now. Injuries like this can serve as a good test of the depth and makeup of this team. Guys like Luke Ridnour, Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic, and even Malcolm Lee just became that much more important. If this is really a good, tough team, then they’ll do everything in their power to step up.

In the mean time, I’m wondering if we have a name or last known address on this construction worker.

Starting Fives: 

Luke Ridnour — PG — Darren Collison

Alexey Shved? — SG — OJ Mayo

Derrick Williams — SF — Jae Crowder

Andrei Kirilenko — PF — Elton Brand

Nikola Pekovic — C — Brendan Wright

About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.

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