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Postseason wins overdue for Wolves

No longer is the Garnett magic enough for this franchise

The innocence of his boyish grin is no more. The expiration date on the novelty of his refreshing approach to the game has come and gone. Strangely, the absolute certainty of nothing less than 120 percent effort no longer is enough.

Seven years ago, Kevin Garnett made the gargantuan leap from high school to the National Basketball Association. Since then, we have watched and been astonished by how a wiry 7-foot, 2-inch beanpole can run, rebound, dunk and dish.

His resume certainly carries credibility.

Before his arrival, no Timberwolves team had qualified for the postseason. In Garnett's second season in Minnesota, 1997, the Wolves made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Wolves haven't missed the playoffs since. Tomorrow night, Garnett enters the eighth year of his NBA career.

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Yet, here we are: Oct. 29, 2002. The statute of limitations on Garnett's remarkable feats has passed. We're looking for more from the Wolves. We're looking for more from him.

The way last season ended made the finality of the Blair Witch Project seem like the ending from a Love Boat episode. The Wolves, who were 30-10 at last season's midpoint and anticipating home-court advantage for the playoffs, began to quietly pound their chests, virtually inviting Shaq and Kobe to bring it on.

Instead, the Wolves had exposed chinks in their armor by February. March came in like a lion and left like Godzilla. Once the playoffs arrived, the Wolves dropped three straight to Dallas and were swept out of the playoffs quicker than leaves off your doorstep.

As Halloween approaches, the most frightening tale is this: The Timberwolves have been swept in the first round of the playoffs in six consecutive seasons. Only once have they taken the series to a fifth game.

Want to start fright night off right? On the eve of the season opener, look at this roster.

Starting point guard Terrell Brandon might never be healthy again. The remaining point guards will be Troy Hudson (once cut by the Wolves), Rod Strickland (if he and Randy Moss get stuck in traffic, look out Minneapolis police) and Igor Rakocevic (Wolves' European experiment No. 13).

Wally Szczerbiak is at shooting guard, but is due to make huge bank next season. Will he be around much longer? The Wolves shopped him around in the offseason demanding nothing more than Gatorade cups and gauze pads, but Anthony Peeler is still here. And now, so is an aging Kendall Gill.

Next to Garnett, the front court is full of blue-collar workers, but in the NBA, effort alone doesn't lead to wins. In terms of the Wolves' financial return, Joe Smith is a poor man's Shawn Kemp. Rasho Nesterovic is entering his fifth season as Kevin McHale's project. Saddam Hussein might create a nuclear weapon in a shorter time than it takes for the evolution of Rasho "The Project" to Rasho "The Player." Gary Trent, Reggie Slater and a slimmer Marc Jackson are back, but their disappearing acts in playoff games would baffle Siegfried and Roy.

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For six straight seasons, the Wolves were improving, appearing to be close to the cusp of something grand. But now, we're unsure which direction the organizational compass is pointing.

The customers at Target Center have hung in long enough.

The days of marketing KG as the lone attraction at 600 First Avenue North are gone.

The patrons want playoff wins. Unfortunately, the only Minneapolis postseason victories might have already happened, about a mile down the road earlier this month inside the Metrodome.

Troy Young is a sports writer for the Post-Bulletin. He can be reached at tyoung@postbulletin.com.

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