Time for Wolves to sharpen their teeth

Originally Published: January 15, 2005
By Tim Legler | ESPN Insider
Timberwolves fans always will remember May 31, 2004, as more than just the final game of the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers. The Timberwolves had just been eliminated and were forced to watch the Lakers celebrate, on their court, the right to face the Pistons in the NBA Finals.

There was palpable sadness in the Target Center as the realization set in that the most successful season in Timberwolves history had ended. Mixed with the despair, however, was an optimism and excitement rising out of the ashes about the prospects for a championship parade in downtown Minneapolis sometime in June 2005.

Kevin Garnett
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty ImagesGarnett has to step up vocally and hope his team follows his lead.
Team president Kevin McHale and head coach Flip Saunders did their part to make it happen. They re-signed defensive specialist Trenton Hassell and also made sure to take care of three-point marksman Fred Hoiberg. Also, Kevin Garnett, the league's MVP, was coming back, as was Sam Cassell, Latrell Sprewell, Wally Szczerbiak and Troy Hudson.

To make matters even sweeter, the dysfunctional, yet highly-successful Lakers finally imploded. Shaquille O'Neal was sent to the Heat and Phil Jackson left to embark on a year-long tour to promote a new book containing his version of the L.A. meltdown. The Western Conference title path was cleared, now that the school bully had left town.

As the 2004-05 season got underway, everything seemed to be in place for a title run in the Twin Cities. I even bought it, as I picked the Wolves to win the NBA championship this season.

In case you haven't noticed, the Timberwolves (18-17, eighth in the West) are the biggest disappointment in the NBA through the first third of the season. What's gone wrong?

Tim Legler

NBA studio analyst
Former NBA player Tim Legler joined ESPN in 2000 as a studio analyst for ESPNEWS. Legler also appears regularly as an analyst of ESPN2's NBA Fastbreak. Legler played for five NBA teams -- the Suns, Jazz, Warriors, Mavericks and Wizards.