HoopsHype.com Columns

You could see this coming
by Eddie Johnson / January 12, 2005



Played 17 years in the NBA for the Kings, Suns, SuperSonics, Hornets, Pacers, Nuggets and Rockets.
Won the 1988-89 NBA Sixth Man Award averaging 21.5 ppg.
NBA all-time leading scorer among players with no All-Star appearances.
He is in his sixth year as the color analyst for the Phoenix Suns broadcasts.
You can visit his website at www.jumpshotclub.com

Who would have thought that the Minnesota Timberwolves would be eight games behind the Seattle SuperSonics in the Northwest Division at this point of the season? Well, I'm not surprised because I saw it coming.

When a team has a successful season, players will react in two different ways.

1. Look forward to the next year and work hard in the offseason.
2. Start to think the team was successful because of "ME" and ask to be rewarded right now even though they did not reach the goal of a championship.

Although Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell have been publicly quiet about their contract demands in the last few weeks, you can bet that they have not been quiet behind closed doors. And because I have been there and done that, I know that it can permeate your locker room and destroy team chemistry.

Also, with trade rumors about Wally Szczerbiak popping up every day, one
has to wonder what his state of mind is as well.

The Timberwolves are just another example that when you have a chance to win it all, you must do everything in your power to get it done because nothing is promised to you next time around – and most times it has to do with money or hurt feelings. Once you clothe yourself in negativity, it becomes extremely difficult to shed it.

Who are the major culprits in this slow start? Well, I think everybody should look in the mirror, but these guys lead the pack.

- Latrell Sprewell: Spree is averaging 11.8 points and shooting 42 percent from the field. These stats should not surprise you because his numbers have slowly declined over the last four years anyway. But what should surprise you is his inability to defend on a consistent basis. He is only averaging two rebounds and less than one steal per game. The most glaring stat is a number that only defensive-minded guys seem to accumulate and that is fouls. He only fouls once a game.

- Michael Olowokandi: The former Clipper could very well replace Larue Martin as the worst No. 1 pick in the history of the NBA. He has not lived up to anything the Wolves thought they had when they signed him last year after losing Rasho Nesterovic to the San Antonio Spurs. He averages four rebounds and less than one block per game in 17 minutes of action. When he is on the court, it looks like he wouldn't mind being somewhere else.

- Sam Cassell: He has picked up play as of late, but he needs to be more of a leader on and off the court because he is the only one who can honestly say how it feels to win a championship while playing a huge role.

- Flip Saunders: The public perception is that he's too nice. I am quite sure he screams and hollers at times behind closed doors, but he should start calling some people out publicly. Saunders is one of the best bench coaches in the game, but he seems to be letting the players run the asylum and that can get him fired.

- Kevin McHale: He should have seen problems coming after the Wolves' success last year and maybe pulled the trigger on a couple of deals. Wally Szczerbiak could have brought them some much-needed muscle inside. He overpaid to keep Trenton Hassell and Troy Hudson and their numbers are proving it.

- Kevin Garnett: KG is having another great season. But if he is to reach the levels of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan and win a championship, he must be willing to challenge his teammates on a consistent basis. I am sure he knows that they would never challenge him because they would look foolish and selfish. The great ones didn't care about your feelings. All they wanted to do was win.

Now, do the Wolves have what it takes to band together and make a serious run? Yes, they do. But not with the roster they have right now. They must make a trade or two involving key players if they are to become the team we saw last year.

Eddie Johnson is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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