There is no doubt about it, this has been a crazy month. The month of March has its Madness, recently a ton of Manning and Tebow, trade deadlines and spring training. It’s also seen a stretch for the Wolves that has been rough and trying on Team Adelman and Wolves fans. This segment of March has seriously tested the team and the faithful as the Wolves embarked on that seven-game, 13 day road swing. Add to it the loss of rookie point guard Ricky Rubio and it has been a calendar run that’s tested but not leveled this team’s resilience.
Resilience. Important here because of how far this team has come in such a short amount of time. When Rick Adelman took over this team, he challenged his players. Players told me his message was one of remembering last year but letting it go, learning from mistakes and “finishing” what you start. Through all of that, get it done and this team will grow, remain competitive and reach new levels.
It’s happening. Yes it is even though some remain steadfast believers, doubt is creeping in for many and downright disbelief, or “I told you so” is the choice of others.
Ben in Austin wrote me after Rubio was injured on March 9 to say …“that pretty much does it. So much for the playoffs.” Alex in Minneapolis was singing the same song, …”season is toast with R2 injury.” A constant contributor to GameON! chat, Eric in Maple Grove wrote me saying …”trying to be upbeat but this is tough. Boy I’m bummed.” Jeremy in Lakeview added ….“crappy week, Vikes do nothing in FA (free agency), Wild awful, Rubio still stings and Wolves hurting on road.”
Good or bad, tough times or not, fans certainly are reconnected to the Wolves. You can tell that the emotional tie is why this team has been filling the building again at Target Center and fans are staying on top of this team. Team Adelman is succeeding. Just to underscore the improvement, allow me to quickly revisit this rise of the Wolves and remind all of us that this is not a flash in the pan.
After starting the season with three exciting games but all losses against OKC, Milwaukee and Miami, the Wolves won two straight. They began showing a new side: a tougher, clearly more exciting side and a part of their new personality that includes not folding in the fourth quarter.
In January, you could see the turnaround shaping up. At no point in the calendar month did the Wolves lose more than two straight. In fact, the Wolves reeled off three consecutive wins over Sacramento, Detroit and that thrilling Kevin Love buzzer beater “W” in LA against the Clippers at Staple Center on Jan. 20. It was a telling month for sure.
February would offer us a little more into the maturation and continued turnaround for Team Adelman. They’d kick off the month with another three game roll that included the Nets, Kevin McHale’s Houston Rockets and Sacramento again. A four game skid would quickly be replaced by another three game winning run. Up and down for sure but the team was adjusting and making believers of nearly everyone. That includes opposing teams. By the time the Wolves reached March, they were beating teams who used to have their way with Minnesota. No more. Case in point: Portland. After some 16 straight wins over the Wolves, Team Adelman put an exciting end to that losing streak in the Rose Garden and then just days later, repeated the gesture at Target Center. The back-to-back wins over Rip City would be some of the last games coached by now former Portland bench boss Nate McMillan, who was fired last week.
March has been tough, no question. The three straight wins (Portland twice and the Clips here) were followed up with a double whammy, a Lakers loss and more importantly, the loss of Rubio to injury. But just as the Wolves reeled against New Orleans, they opened the very difficult road run with a win in Phoenix (against a good Suns team). In the course of this swing, the losing streak ended w/ an impressive effort in Oakland against Golden State (and ruining the uniform retirement of Chris Mullin).
I mention all this because a year ago at this time, things couldn’t have been worse. The Wolves started the season losing six straight, 17 of 20 in fact from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Some holiday cheer, eh?! In January of last season, the Wolves added to the unbearable cold by losing 11 of 14 games. The exclamation point to that season of unbearable futility was the losing streak to end the year with 15 consecutive losses. The Wolves last win came on March 11 over Utah 122-101.
So while the team fights for playoff positioning remember that April offers a schedule with more home opportunities and this team is still in it. This isn’t a case of Rod’s glass being “half full.” It’s more about where we’ve been and what it is now. The Wolves can make this turnaround complete even without Rubio on the floor with them. They are doing as Coach Adelman asked when the seasons started. That growth is developing a new resilience that, once this 66 game shortened season runs its course, might just give us more than baseball in late April. We just could be enjoying playoff basketball for the first time in years. Resilience. If they are hanging tough we certainly can.
Give me the Gear:
You can finally find the Wolves duds for which you are looking. It’s back, the Timberwolves/Lynx Pro Shop has reopened at the skyway level of Target Center. The Pro Shop will be open on weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on all games days, two hours prior to tip and one hour upon the conclusion of the game. You might not have known this but Wolves merchandise is selling, up 200% over last year. "With everyone talking about the Timberwolves and the 2012 Lynx season right around the corner, we're very excited to offer our fans another convenient option for purchasing the latest Wolves and Lynx gear," said Ted Johnson, Timberwolves Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications and Chief Marketing Officer. You can find it all too, items in the Pro Shop include Timberwolves jerseys, sweatshirts, T-shirts and hats, as well as Lynx apparel, including 2011 WNBA Championship T-shirts and hats. Vintage Timberwolves attire featuring the original logo will also be sold and the store will also have a Hardwood Classic section of Minnesota Muskie and Pipers merchandise.
In case you missed it, Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio underwent successful surgery Wednesday to reconstruct a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and a torn LCL (lateral collateral ligament) in his left knee. The surgery was performed by Dr. Richard Steadman at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. Rubio's injury occurred with 16 seconds remaining in the Timberwolves game vs. the L.A. Lakers on Friday, March 9. Rubio appeared in 41 games (31 starts) for the Wolves this season, averaging 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.22 steals. The rookie compiled 12 point/assist double-doubles and dished out 10+ assists on 15 occasions. At the time of his injury, Rubio ranks 3rd in the NBA in steals and 5th in assists.
See you on TV:
You don’t want to miss GameON! powered by SEVEN Steakhouse/Sushi/Ultralounge & Skybar this Sunday morning on FOX’s My29 at 10:30AM. Our special show originates from Ft. Myers with a Twins baseball preview. All GameON! shows are broadcast in High Definition and recent shows with Wolves like Coach Adelman, JJ Barea, Wayne Ellington, Jack Sikma and Anthony Tolliver can be found on ITunes & online at www.gameontvmn.com.
GameON! powered by SEVEN allows you the opportunity to get up close and personal, to meet your favorite players and fellow fans @ our weekly tapings next door to Target Center at SEVEN (7th and Hennepin). GameON! is about in-depth interviews with the top players, great food, sports newsmakers and we get you inside your favorite teams (including the Wolves). You can friend us on Facebook at GameOnTvMN and drop me a note, Rod@GameOnTvMN.com. We reserve the right to use your e-mails here in SimonsSays at Timberwolves.com.
Keep your GameON!