I didn’t have a real feel for the long-suffering nature of the Wolves until I began working there in 2011. I’ll never forget coming up to the office after hard losses and looking around at my coworkers, like, “damn, when is this going to stop?”
When Flip Saunders traded Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins in the summer of 2014, I finally felt like things were turning around. The Wolves had just acquired the best prospect in 10 years for a player whom they weren’t going to retain. I couldn’t believe that Flip pulled it off, and for a while afterwards, seeing Wiggins in Wolves gear was still a shock. Flip played hardball, stuck to his guns and came out with a franchise cornerstone.
The following year was difficult, but encouraging. LaVine became a highlight-reel darling and showed flashes of harnessing his extreme potential. Shabazz became a high-motor fan-favorite. The Wolves positioned themselves to pick Karl-Anthony Towns, a frighteningly coordinated big man whose ceiling seems limitless. The team almost could not look better on paper in terms of youthful potential.
I’ve barely spoken to Flip, so I won’t act like I knew him as a person. But he had a magnetic personality on Dan Barreiro’s Friday Funkadelic show. His honesty was extremely refreshing, especially after dealing with Kahn’s secretive nature for five years. The chemistry and camaraderie between Flip and Barreiro was tangible, and I am looking forward, in a way, to the undoubtedly thoughtful and articulated (and teary) on-air eulogy that Dan will assumedly deliver at some point.
The writing is now on the wall, and I hope more than ANYTHING that this is what’s coming: the Wolves will grow together and reach their potential, finally. Wiggins and/or Towns will become a superstar. LaVine, Shabazz, Dieng, Rubio will all be pieces. However far they get, the man who helped bring Minnesota the 2004 WCF run will again be remembered for resurrecting Timberwolves hoops. And teary tributes, videos on the megatron, and eventually a statue will all come.