Remember back, like, a really long time ago, when Al Jefferson was the mainstay of the Kevin Garnett-to-Celtics deal? At the time, he was a highly skilled big man that brought a glimmer of hope that the NBA’s fruitful big men weren’t officially retired, and what was a somber move for the Timberwolves organization actually had some life and excitement to it.
The most unfortunate part of the deal was that the rest of Gang Green was sent packing alongside Big Al and the dooming spiral of depression that was the mid late 2000’s covered the Twin Cities like Hurricane Katrina.
Jefferson, now older, wiser but perhaps a tad slower, gave the Wolves a healthy dose of what could’ve been tonight by putting the Bobcats on his shoulders and sprinting them through to the finish line and a big win for Charlotte over the Wolves tonight. He finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, helping Charlotte win that battle by a tally of 54-35. Ouch. They actually held all Wolves players, including Love and Pekovic, from reaching double-digits in rebounds tonight. A very rare feat indeed.
Meanwhile, the Wolves’ bench played crappy and, conversely, the Bobcats’ bench didn’t. Gary Neal had 19 points and Chris Douglas-Roberts and Cody Zeller both pitched in 10 themselves.
At a time the Wolves oughta be desperate for the wins, losing to the Bobcats is a tough one to swallow. And despite how well they’ve been playing since the All-Star Break, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that a chance at the playoffs are moving further and further away each and every night. I’m not giving up hope, but these are the facts, people.
Think about it: 13 of the Wolves’ next 18 games are against the dreaded Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Suns take on seven Eastern Conference teams and the Grizzlies remaining schedule includes two games each against the Jazz and the 76ers. Based on what lies ahead, not just for the Wolves, but the others fighting for that final playoff spot, it doesn’t add up well for Minnesota.
That’s still no reason to quit. In fact, the final 18 games of the season could be the most important, regardless of the playoff race. Look up and down this roster and tell me that there will be major changes. Aside from the long shot odds that Flip Saunders moves Kevin Love, every key piece will return next season. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin are here on long term deals, Ricky Rubio will return on his rookie salary, and Corey Brewer will stay even if his role may be reduced to a reserve if they can find another small forward with a more well-rounded game. The Shved’s, Barea’s and even perhaps the Budinger’s of the squad could be in doubt, which could benefit next season greatly, given how drastically underwhelming the bench has been just about all season. But now you also have a chance to develop guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, who didn’t get much burn to start the season off (Figures). Rick Adelman could have a difficult time inserting those guys and developing them at this juncture, especially when someone like Muhammad magically posts a minus-18 in just 10 minutes of burn but you just have to do it. End of story.
Games like this are going to litter the end of the season and potentially spoil it, but as long as we don’t give up playoff hopes — because literally anything can happen — we’ll be just fine. As Minnesota sports fans, we’ve all learned to expect the worst but still desperately hope for the best. We can do it for the Wolves for just one more season, right?