I’m Pledging Allegiance to the Minnesota Timberwolves

The No. 1 reason I'm becoming a Timberwolves fan? Kevin Love. Have you seen him outlet pass?

I’ve been an Orlando Magic fan now for 18 years, dating back to Shaquille O’Neal’s rookie season. Growing up, I had a mural of Shaq on my wall featuring him flying over Florida palm tree with a Superman cape on. I owned all of his rap albums. I owned his video game, Shaq-Fu. I had his No. 32 Magic jersey in blue. I went to Kazaam in theaters the nigh it opened. When he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, I bawled. I hated Shaq and remained a Magic fan.

I’m still a Magic fan, but I’m wondering what it takes to transfer your allegiance to another team. That’s generally considered jumping on another bandwagon, but so be it. I never liked the Magic based on proximity and frankly, I feel like I should be supporting the local ball club. They have no bandwagon.

I watched the entire Minnesota Timberwolves game last night — the first time I’ve watched a full T-Wolves game when they weren’t playing the Magic. They’re awful, but in the cutest way possible. Last night, they lost at home despite scoring 116 points against a team playing without their two best players. Kevin Love, probably the best player on the Timberwolves, played just 23 minutes and sat the last eight despite earning a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) by halftime. This is one hot mess of a team that you can pay just a few bucks to see in person.

Last night got me thinking about Bill Simmons, the closest thing the sportswriting world has to a rock star. Simmons writes long-winded columns for ESPN.com, often riddled with obscure pop culture references as glue for his fragmented rants. Still, he’s managed to make a 700-some page book about basketball a best-seller. He must be doing something right.

Simmons and I suffer a similar affliction. He’s based in Boston where he makes no bones about his pro sports leanings. He’s a Red Sox and Patriots fan to the core, but when it comes to basketball, he actually chooses the putrid Los Angeles Clippers over the vaunted Boston Celtics. What gives?

On Dec. 1, 2004, Bill Simmons declared himself a Clippers fan for the good of the franchise. He wrote,

“After the Patriots and Red Sox won titles within a nine-month span, I found myself without any remaining challenges as a fan. I had climbed every mountain. I was like Garry Shandling after the final “Larry Sanders” show, at a complete loss for how to top what just happened. So I decided to go the Jack Morris route. I became a hired gun. I brought my winning résumé to a franchise that always loses. That’s right … I became a Clippers season-ticket holder. Only one outcome would be more improbable than the Sox winning the Series: The Clips winning a series.”

Simmons actually has the fan equivalent of dual citizenship. He’s a Clippers and Celtics fan. In fact, last spring, he started a new Twitter account — @CelticsChants — for the sole purpose of leading the Celtics crowd at TD Garden in heckling.

I won’t paint switching to a lesser team martyrdom like Simmons did. Sorry Orlando, but I’m doing it. Maybe not all at once, but I’m becoming a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. That means reeling through seasons of futility — like this one — and getting to know exciting young players, like Anthony Tolliver and Nikola Pekovic. It means calling for the coach’s head — watch it, Rambis — and plastering message boards with anti-David Kahn sentiment. It means tempering the shit out of expectations, which is second nature for fans of any Minnesota pro sports franchise.

I can do this.

Unlike Simmons, I bring no “winning resume” as a fan. I was barely eating solid foods when the Twins won their last World Series and the Vikings — well, you know. I did stay a Florida Gators fan after Mitchell, S.D.-native Mike Miller played there, so I get their back-to-back college basketball titles in 2006 and 2007. I was a Tiger Woods fan. The Michigan Wolverines split a title with Nebraska in 1997. That’s my track record and it’s not about to get any better.

I’m no Bill Simmons, but I want to be a voice for the Minnesota Timberwolves fan base. (All 13 of us.) Pro sports are about entertainment. Last night, I couldn’t look away from a squad that went 15-67 last year. This is going to be a fun ride.

Tough Sell? Timberwolves Use Groupon for Season-Opener

The Minnesota Timberwolves kick off their 2010-2011 season next Wednesday, and though many expect this year’s team to double their win total from the previous season, tickets sales are low. Like, really low.

So low that today, the Timberwolves offered a limited number of discounted tickets through Groupon. Fans can get tickets for the Oct. 27 home-opener against the Sacramento Kings or the Oct. 29 tilt against the Milwaukee Bucks for as much as 61 percent off face value. Awesome if you’re a fan, but really, really bad news if you work in the Timberwolves’ front office.

As local sports talk radio personality Dan “Common Man” Cole would say, the Timberwolves are a terrible team with terrible players and terrible coaches and a terrible front office that play in a terrible league in a terrible facility with a terrible fan base in a terrible city. OK, the Twin Cities are cool, but the Timberwolves are trailing at a distant fourth among the local pro sports teams and the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA can’t be far behind them. As for the rest of the tangent:

Terrible team — This isn’t an opinion, but a fact. Let’s look at the team’s recent history. (Note: I feel bad calling the current squad terrible because there’s been so much turnover each season the past five years. Seriously, college programs see more continuity.)

2005-06 – 33 wins, 49 loss (4th in Northwest Division; 14th in Western Conference)
2006-07 – 32-50 (4th in Northwest; T-12th in Western)
2007-08 – 22-60 (4th in Northwest; 13th in Western)
2008-09 – 24-58 (4th in Northwest; 10th in Western)
2009-10 – 15-67 (5th in Northwest; 15th in Western)

Not to knock anyone’s five-year plan, but even if the T-Wolves double last year’s win total as fans and pundits so optimistically hope, they’ll still fall behind the 2005-06 squad. Ouch.

Terrible players – OK, that’s harsh. The T-Wolves will have the league’s youngest team, led by – gulp – former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley. Beasley’s been disciplined for off-the-court behavior and spent time in rehab. I’m hard-pressed to imagine the parent who wants their eight-year-old wearing a Beasley jersey to school.

There’s not a single player with All-Star experience on the roster. However, Darko Milicic and Kevin Love could make up one of the more intriguing front courts in the NBA. Darko, the No. 2 pick in the vaunted 2003 NBA Draft, has one last chance to save his career. Love helped Team USA earn gold at the Pan-Am Games over the summer and has the personality to be loved, Kevin Garnett-style, by the fan base.

Terrible coaches – Great group of coaches … if this was 1988 … and they were still players:

Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis won four NBA titles. As a player.

Assistant coach Bill Laimbeer won two NBA titles. As a player.

Assistant coach Reggie Theus never won an NBA title, but he did wear a bitchin’ mustache. As a player.

Fun fact that won’t necessarily lead to success: All three of the above-listed coaches have extensive comedic acting experience. So, clearly they’re qualified to coach the T-Wolves. Theus was most memorable:

Terrible front office – I hate to throw the whole front office under the bus. So, Terrible general manager. David Kahn’s been comically bad since taking over personnel decisions:

Terrible league – I could go 35 different ways with this one, but I’ll resort to one simple fact: Since 1980, 30 NBA titles have been shared by just eight teams. Seven times, the title has been won by the same team in consecutive years. Compare that the most successful pro sports league, the NFL, where 15 teams have shared the last 30 Super Bowl championships, only four teams have won consecutive titles and no team ever won three in a row. Parity, people. The NFL has it. The NBA does not.

Terrible facility – The Target Center is just 20 years old and its relatively cozy at 20,500 seats. But, sit anywhere outside of the $100 seats and you’d confuse Shaquille O’Neal for Earl Boykins. The place lacks intimacy and it’s way too spread out:

Barring another Groupon deal, that’s probably what the place will look like on game night come February.

Terrible fan base – There’s just one thing you’ve got to realize, devout Timberwolves fans. (That’s you, Eric and Steve.) Minneapolis is cold in the winter. You know that. So, if I’m Big Name Free Agent Guy and I’ve got the choice between South Beach or Minneapolis for roughly the same pay, I’m taking the climate and tax shelter and going to Miami. That we had a player of Kevin Garnett’s ability was a miracle. The fact we conned him (Kahned him?) into a second contract is one of the finest deals a pro sports franchise has ever pulled off.

We drafted Kevin Garnett. We drafted a shit ton of other terrible players before and after that. We’re never going to sign Big Name Free Agent Guys unless they’re getting the chance to play alongside a Kevin Garnett. (Not a Kevin Love.) So, loyal fan base of two, quit your bickering about poor trades and never signing the big catch, because the reality is the Timberwolves will live and die by the NBA Draft as long as Minnesota winters are cold and quit lamenting the Kevin Garnett era. He gone!

Terrible city – Again, that’s not true. Twin Cities, we have every reason to be skeptical of this ball club. We suffer enough heartbreak between the Vikings, Twins and Wild. Maybe that’s all the more reason to jump on the Timberwolves bandwagon. We know to keep our expectations low and hell, it’s one of the cheapest tickets in town.

So, hop on Groupon today and get your Timberwolves tickets on the cheap. And besides, catch game one or two and you might just get the rare chance to see the home team with a winning record. For once.