The carousel keeps turning in Minnesota. This time, the Lakers were witnesses. A poor performance in a matinee game by the Lakers kids created unintended drama, absent from the game and outcome.
In the game, the Lakers were manhandled pretty easily by Minnesota but not because of Minnesota. The Lakers aren’t very good without a superstar to blind the light.
Brandon Ingram has not developed a jump shot. Lonzo Ball plays bored and please don’t get him on the free throw line where he lobs air balls. Josh Hart plays hard but is limited. And Kyle Kuzma, the only skilled millennial, is out injured. So naturally, when the Lakers were humiliated in the afternoon, it was not a big deal except for what it meant for Minnesota, who needs as many of these kinds of wins as they can get.
The last five games before L.A. came to town Minnesota max player Andrew Wiggins has been, well, himself. 16 points (Orlando). 31 points (Boston). 20 points (New Orleans). 13 points (Miami). 16 points (Atlanta). Wiggins inconsistency is his consistency. But queue up Los Angeles and Wiggins forgets he is mediocre. He had 28 points but it took him 23 shots to get there. He shot a miserable 39% and 30% from three. Karl-Anthony Towns, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague were 56% and 40% from three.
The Wolves had more rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, fast break points, points in the paint and shot the ball better than the Lakers. You would think all would be good.
Tom Thibodeau was fired after a rare feel good moment for the Wolves. Without LeBron, crushing the Lakers still matters, even if its mostly perception and nothing substantial like crushing the Warriors, Rockets, Raptors, Bucks- you know teams that are title contenders.
But the game was irrelevant to the consequence. Thibodeau, wherever he lands next, and it will be somewhere, maybe after Luke Walton is history or after Scottie Brooks is history, will still have the Thibodeau rep preceding him. He works players too hard. He is too intense for these new crop of entitled kids. He tough loves it.
However true, that is not why he is unemployed in 2019, the first Sunday.
Blindsided after the victory with a Trumpian you’re fired the Wolves obviously think they were professional doing Thibs that way. However, there is no coach ready to fill in to shepherd the disappearing Wiggins and the sensitive Towns. Who do the Wolves like?
Fired Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was a player for Minnesota back in the day. Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned Chauncey Billups as a GM. The son of the late Flip Saunders, Ryan Saunders, will take over in the interim.
The timing, though, is questionable. The Wolves had a great win, something to build on. Whoever fills the coaching vacancy will have his system which the players will have to learn and more growing pains again. The playoffs look like a distant dream.
The Wolves trotted out their p.r. statement about how appreciative they were for Thibodeau and all he had done, yada yada. We know the script. We have heard it before in PR 101. The question lingers: why? Why now?
Sure they were ticked about Jimmy Butler. Thibs traded lottery pick Lauri Markkanen for the edgy and often irascible sharp shooter Butler and it was Thibs who couldn’t keep Butler from going rogue. He held on to him too long, not wanting to trade him, when everyone knew Butler wasn’t going to placate his old coach. He wanted what he wanted in a temper tantrum way. The Butler saga shook the Wolves and, really, they haven’t recovered. But this is the bitter pill they don’t want to own up to. Jimmy Butler was the only reason the Wolves made the playoffs last season. Wiggins and Towns play soft at times, Wiggins more than Towns, and are wildly inconsistent. Neither defend. Though both have the kind of talent many other players dream of. But talent is nothing without commitment and maturity.
As an organization, the Wolves haven’t been stable since trading Kevin Love to Cleveland and acquiring Andrew Wiggins. They don’t know what kind of team they want to build, they have zero identity, and their young stars bear the burden of an incompetent organizational structure.
Thibs didn’t matter. Not in the long run. Not in the short run. He was disposable. As is the next Wolves coach, and the next after that. In 10 years, the Wolves have had 5 coaches.
The carousel keeps turning.