It has taken a long time. . .a very, very long time. . .but after years of being one of the NBA's laughingstocks, the Minnesota Timberwolves appear to have finally taken a step in a positive direction.
Behind new head coach Rick Adelman, the Timberwolves are riding a three-game winning streak for the first time in nearly two years. Seriously. The last time the Timberwolves won three consecutive games was a stretch from January 29, 2010 to February 6, 2010 when they rattled off a four-game winning streak. Of course, in typical Timberwolves' fashion, they followed that up by losing 29 of their final 31 games.
After their thrilling 101-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, the Timberwolves will move on to Salt Lake City to play the Utah Jazz. If the Timberwolves should win that one, the team will have a .500 record for the first time since October 29, 2010 when a victory over the Milwaukee Bucks raised their record to a lofty 1-1. The team hasn't been over .500 since defeating the New Jersey Nets in the opening game of the 2009-2010 NBA season. Such has been basketball futility in Minnesota these past few years.
The Timberwolves certainly have a couple of solid pieces for the future. If there's a better power forward in the league than Kevin Love, I really don't know who it would be. Love has notched a double-double in each of the Timberwolves' first 15 games, which is one shy of the NBA record for most consecutive double-doubles to start a season. He is also currently the only player in the NBA in the top five in scoring (fifth at 24.7 points/game) and rebounding (second at 14.5 boards/game). For good measure, he's also hitting nearly 40% of his three-point attempts.
The superlatives have also been flowing in for rookie point guard Ricky Rubio. La Pistola has been a revelation on both sides of the floor for the Timberwolves in his first year, proving to be every bit worth the wait to get him over here from Spain. Rubio has averaged 10.6 points and 8.1 assists per game so far this season, and is fourth in the NBA in steals. Most importantly, he has brought a level of confidence to this team that they haven't had in a very long time. . .witness his game-tying three-pointer against the Clippers that came after he missed his first ten field goal attempts to start the game.
Minnesota has done much of this without forward Michael Beasley, who has only played in seven games so far this season, and J.J. Barea, who has only suited up six times. But the Timberwolves are getting contributions from all over the roster. Luke Ridnour, who has to know that he's just sort of keeping the seat warm for Rubio at the point guard spot, is the team's third-leading scorer and has teamed with Rubio at times to form a very solid backcourt. Rookie Derrick Williams has shown a lot of potential as well as the team works him into the NBA game. Even Darko Milicic (or, as he is commonly referred to, "Darko!") has become a solid contributor. Without Darko's efforts against the Clippers on Friday night, the Timberwolves likely get blown out, but his 22 points and seven rebounds before fouling out put the Timberwolves in a position to win the game on Love's dramatic three-pointer.
With the sports year that Minnesota has had, with the failures of the Vikings and Twins and the ongoing collapse of the Wild, the Timberwolves were largely just expected to provide more of the same futility. However, it appears now that the team is finally headed out of the darkness of the past six seasons, and that they finally have the pieces in place to make themselves more than simply "respectable" for a long time.