By Lorenzo Tanos
And here's another relatively new NBA team, although 24 years in the NBA hardly qualifies as new. The Minnesota Timberwolves have had it tough this season, with injuries to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio throwing the proverbial spanner in the works to what could have potentially been the team's best season since the Kevin Garnett era. Here we look back on the Wolves' 24-year NBA run, from those early days as NBA doormats to the still-promising present day with Love and Rubio as franchise players.
1. Which former Pistons and Lakers benchwarmer led the Timberwolves in scoring in their inaugural season?
6'7" forward Tony Campbell was sparingly used in most of his first five NBA seasons before he became a classic example of how expansion could create a breakout star. Campbell averaged 23.2 ppg for the Wolves in their debut season, although he was back to a reserve role when he joined the far deeper, far more talented New York Knicks in 1992-93.
2. Which NBA championship-winning assistant coach and general manager tried, yet failed to make the Timberwolves break out of their expansion funk in the early '90s?
Jimmy Rodgers won NBA titles as a Boston Celtics assistant (and didn't do quite as well later on as their head coach), but as T-Wolves coach in 1991-92, he could only manage a 15-67 record. And “Trader" Jack McCloskey, the architect of the championship-winning Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys" lineups as the team's general manager, failed to change the Wolves' fortunes when he took over as GM in 1992-93.
3. What year did the Minnesota Timberwolves make their first NBA Playoffs appearance?
The Wolves finally made the NBA Playoffs in their eighth season, finishing 40-42 in 1996-97 behind rising sophomore Kevin Garnett and rookie point guard Stephon Marbury. That year, Garnett and combo forward Tom Gugliotta became the first Timberwolves in franchise history to be named to the All-Star team. The Wolves were gone after the first round, getting swept 3-0 by the Houston Rockets, who then featured Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley as their “Big Three."
4. And when did the Wolves register their first winning season?
1997-98. Gugliotta was out for most of the year, but Garnett (18.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and Marbury (17.7 ppg, 8.6 apg) established themselves as two of the NBA's hottest young players in Googs' absence. The Wolves finished 45-37 that year, yet had another quick Playoffs exit, this time at the hands of the Seattle Supersonics. At least they did get to win one game in that best-of-five series.
5. The Timberwolves have officially retired only one number in the team's history. Which T-Wolves wingman has his #2 hanging from the Target Center rafters?
The late Malik Sealy was only 30 when he was killed by a drunk driver in an off-season traffic accident. A 6'8" forward/guard out of St. John's, Sealy was coming off one of his better NBA seasons (11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 apg) at the time of his death.
6. How many first-round draft picks did the Wolves forfeit as a result of the illegal Joe Smith free agent signing from 1998?
Talk about much ado about nothing, because Smith was little more than an “average Joe" of a big man at this point in his career. Originally, the Timberwolves were supposed to forfeit their first-round draft picks from 2001 to 2005, but the NBA reduced this punishment to first-round picks in the 2001, 2002 and 2004 Drafts. Unfortunately, the Wolves' first-round picks in 2003 and 2005 – NdudiEbi and RashadMcCants – didn't add up to one Joe Smith, even during those days of his as a middling power forward.
7. True or False – The comebacking Brandon Roy was drafted in the first round by the Timberwolves.
True. Roy was the sixth overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, though Minnesota immediately traded his draft rights to Portland in exchange for the rights of seventh pick Randy Foye. After retiring from the NBA at the age of 27 due to nagging knee injuries, Roy was signed by the T-Wolves for the 2012-13 season, though he's only played five games this year, averaging a measly 5.8 ppg and 4.6 apg in 24.4 mpg.
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