By Myles Brown
‘Aint it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet?
I couldn’t concentrate at all during Randy Wittman’s post-game press conference and cursed myself upon exiting the building. I kept my eyes open for another opportunity, another chance to witness greatness, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. And as the door shut behind me, three words rung in my ear that will haunt me until I can redeem myself for an unforgivable lapse of attention.
“Adrianna was here.”
Larry told me in the media room. Opposite corner across from the visiting bench, where KG’s boys used to sit. Everything else after that was a blur. A Brazilian blur of beach bronzed skin, lace and satin. I saw her on the face of a hapless coach, an indifferent press and throngs of disappointed fans pouring out of the Target Center. I saw her on billboards, in passing vehicles and even on a couple traffic cops. She was everywhere, I couldn’t shake it. And these Visions of Adrianna kept me up past dawn.
Actually, that was the Doomtree show and copious amounts of Newcastle, but I was still thinking about her.
Oh, there was a game too. Guess I should get to that.
I have to admit, I may be taking something out on Wolves head coach Randy Wittman. He was a mid-season replacement last year and any semblance of momentum he may have established in those few months vanished in an eight player deal. Left with a young and inexperienced roster hampered by injuries, one can only expect so much. However, even as presently constituted, this team should still have more than three wins. When he arrived in the Twin Cities, much was made of Wittman’s reputation as a disciplinarian and in the wake of Minnesota’s athletes behaving badly, such an authoritative presence was welcomed with open arms. But the thing is, this team needs a teacher not a taskmaster, and Wittman isn’t particularly effective as either. His ranting during timeouts often seems to fall on deaf ears, attached to craned necks surveying the crowd for amusement, or perhaps some post-game ‘activities’. The team appeared to be more receptive to the calming influence of assistant coach Jerry Sichting during a three game stretch that Wittman missed due to a bad back and a win over Phoenix during that period only increased the grumbling. It would be short-sighted and mean-spirited to place the blame directly on Wittman’s shoulders, but the question still needs to be asked: Is he the right coach for this team? The Wolves are clearly in a rebuilding phase, but with a budding All-Star in Al Jefferson and the imminent return of Randy Foye, this team is further along in that process than has been acknowledged. Both are quite talented and equally loyal, so the cornerstones of this young franchise have already been established. There are respectable supplementary players around them and a top 5 pick will more than likely be added to the roster this summer. So now is the time to find someone capable of grooming them into winners. If Wittman isn’t that guy, then get rid of him while losing is not only acceptable, it’s expected.
I had a brief chat with Kevin Durant before the game and asked if he found anything easy about the lig this far into his rookie season. After acknowledging the speed and athleticism of the NBA game, he made it clear that “Nothing’s easy.” I almost expected such a response from such a humble guy, but it was interesting nonetheless. True to his answer, he struggled in transition in the first against relatively average players in Marko Lima and Sebastian Telfair, a bad crosscourt pass stolen by the former and a carrying violation forced by the latter. His jumper wasn’t falling and he had trouble getting to the bucket. His teammates wouldn’t provide much help. The Sonics allowed more penetration than a Taiwanese whorehouse and compounded their problems with a questionable shot selection (5-21) and more sloppy turnovers (6) that led to easy buckets for the home team. As documented here before, few things scare me like watching the Wolves take an early lead. But on this particular night, against the second worst team in the conference, a head start could actually lead to an easy win. Minnesota went to Big Al early and often in the first quarter and he quickly dispelled any concerns of whether he could be contained Seattle’s frontcourt. His six points and five boards (3 offensive) in the quarter helped the Wolves end the quarter with a fifteen point lead and it appeared that Minnesota might escape the shadow of their two game losing streak.
Then it happened. Again. The Wolves opened the second quarter with a lineup of Telfair, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Antoine Walker and Chris Richard that was incapable of scoring or defending. Chris Wilcox scored eight straight points, fueling an 11-4 Sonics run that would continue after Jefferson came off of the bench for Minnesota. Seattle had switched to a 3-2 zone that absolutely confounded the Wolves. Jefferson made the most of his limited touches (3-5, 9 points) but his teammates weren’t able to knock down the open jumpers that would’ve forced the defense back into man to man. The Sonics had turned the tables, forcing seven turnovers in the quarter along with a disheartening 38% from the field in the second that resulted in eleven fast break points which helped them find a rhythm on offense. Having failed to find a seam for dribble penetration or an open passing lane for a significant portion of the quarter, Minnesota briefly regained their composure and the lead by controlling the boards and attacking through transition before the zone could set up. Heading out of halftime with a slight 46-43 lead, the pressure was on the Wolves to sink those J’s they missed in the first half, as they knew Seattle would open the third with the same defensive strategy. But they looked just as bewildered as before-if not more-in an abysmal twelve minutes of basketball. They tried to force the issue with Big Al, only to turn the ball over eight times that Seattle converted into twelve easy points. The only Wolves player with the confidence to launch a jumper over the zone was Marko, and that was misplaced, as were five of his six attempts in the quarter that caromed off the rim. As a unit, Minnesota plummeted to 33% from the field and watched the visitors capitalize on their misfortunes as the Sonics ended the third with a 75-65 advantage. Even with Kevin Durant having such an off night (4-14, 5TO in 3 quarters) it was difficult to envision a Wolves comeback. In fact you’d have to be suffering from some pretty effin’ serious delirium to even try. Even I gave up. And I smoke a lot of cigarettes.