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News » Tom Powers: Timberwolves in full retreat to bad old days

Tom Powers: Timberwolves in full retreat to bad old days

Tom Powers: Timberwolves in full retreat to bad old days We're No. 1! We're No. 1!

Actually, I think the fact that the Timberwolves set a remarkable franchise record Wednesday night means they're No. 21. But what a record! It appeared to be one of those revered marks that never would be broken, like Babe Ruth's 60 home runs and O.J. Simpson's 2,003 rushing yards in a single season.

But these Timberwolves apparently have no regard for history as they have doggedly pursued the franchise mark for worst start ever. The 1994-95 Wolves went 1-13 and held that record for 15 years. Now they must move over and make room for the newcomers.

Somewhere, Isaiah Rider is laughing.

"For the most part," Al Jefferson said quietly, "we're doing the best we can."

Yes, this team isn't very good. And now it's official. In 21 seasons of Timberwolves Basketball, this year's squad has gotten off to the worst start ever, 1-14, after Wednesday's 124-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Target Center.

"Obviously, we're cognizant of it," Kurt Rambis said of the epic stretch.

It should be noted, however, that '94-'95 team and the current Wolves squad are remarkably different. That '94-'95 team featured an interesting bunch of hooligans and crybabies. Rider was the head wacko. Christian Laettner, another beauty, was the second-leading scorer. Bill Blair was the zookeeper.

Rambis has a bunch of solid citizens: humble, polite, friendly and not particularly talented.

That '94-'95 team not only went 1-13 to start the season but also finished the campaign on a 2-14 skid. In between, those guys went 18-34 en route to a 21-61 final record. Twenty-one victories appear well beyond the reach of Rambis' crew.

"We just keep working," said center Ryan Hollins, one of the few Wolves to put in a solid effort against the Nuggets. "We have new coaches. More than half the guys are new. Once we get this thing going, we'll be all right."

Back on Dec. 1, 1994, Blair's Beauties got off the schneid with a 96-94 victory over a good Jazz team in Utah. Duly motivated, they went on to win again two nights later in Los Angeles against the Clippers. Then they turned back into the Timberwolves , losing four in a row.

After a 6-14 start the following season, Blair was gone -- replaced by Flip Saunders. Bill simply wasn't appreciated. His '94-'95 team improved by a full game over the previous year's team coached by Sid Lowe. Blair's players were remarkably consistent, too. They were 26th (out of 27) in offense and 26th in defense. I'd call that a steady effort.

When Saunders' team began its streak of consecutive playoff appearances in 1996-97, it was without the likes of Rider and Laettner, both of whom were jettisoned for the good of humanity in the Upper Midwest. Also gone were Greg Foster, Andres Guibert, Winston Garland, Sean Rooks, Askia Jones and the great Charles Shackleford, to name just a few.

Blair's 1994-95 team was considered a bunch of oddball losers. The difference between that group and this group is that the current guys aren't particularly odd. Their mothers don't walk onto the court during a game, the way Rider's did. They don't throw hissy fits on the bench like Laettner did. Rambis' crew loses much less colorfully.

There are technical differences between the squads, too. Rambis' team has no adequate outside shooters. Blair's team had too many outside shooters. In addition, Blair's team had a bunch of guys who thought they were leaders but weren't. Rambis' team has no leaders and no one who is even remotely interested in the job.

As for the coaches, Rambis is ultra patient and low-key. He has never, as far as I know, lost his temper or raised his voice in public. By midseason, Blair was candid about wanting to open fire on several members of his team. I always admired him for that.

The current Wolves are supposed to be finding their inner Basketball selves, walking the long road to respectability. Blair's players appeared to be wandering aimlessly. And that was through no fault of the coach. Much more was expected of that team. It was supposed to be close to turning the corner. But those fellows had the chemistry of a Molotov cocktail.

Well, all records eventually fall, I guess. But I'll bet it's going to be at least another 15 years before the record for futility at the start of the season is eclipsed again.

Tom Powers can be reached at .

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 28, 2009


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