Timberwolves season mercifully comes to end
Team closes with seven-game losing streak, keeps lottery pick
By Jon Krawcyznski
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — Holding onto a lottery pick did little to lift Minnesota Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman’s spirits.
"This team needs a shakeup," Wittman said after his Wolves were blown out by Memphis on Wednesday night, capping a long, frustrating season.
Pau Gasol had 25 points and 16 rebounds and Tarence Kinsey added 22 points to lead the Grizzlies to a 116-94 victory in the season finale, and assuring Minnesota will keep its lottery pick.
Randy Foye had 26 points and eight rebounds and Ricky Davis scored 23 for the Wolves, who dropped their final seven games of the season to help keep their pick.
The Wolves entered the game tied with New York and Portland for the sixth-worst record in the league. If they didn’t earn a top-10 pick in the NBA draft lottery, they would’ve had to give it to the Clippers as part of the Sam Cassell-Marko Jaric trade two years ago.
Maybe with that in mind, the Wolves didn’t play much defense in the second half, constantly bailing out of the lane to give Stromile Swift a clear lane to dunk.
Swift added 14 points for Memphis, which ended the season with a season-best three-game winning streak after clinching the worst record in the NBA last week.
The loss, coupled with the Knicks’ victory over Charlotte, guarantees Minnesota will finish in the bottom seven of the league. Lottery rules prevent them from falling out of the top 10 in the draft order.
Kevin Garnett wasn’t even in the building for Minnesota. With the Wolves out of the playoff race and looking to keep their pick, Garnett returned home to California five games ago to rest a sore right quadriceps.
It was fitting that these two teams faced each other on the final game of the season, given the dysfunction surrounding both franchises.
Memphis fired its coach in midseason, just learned that director of basketball operations Jerry West is leaving and heard Gasol voice his frustration for much of the season. No wonder owner Michael Heisley has put the team up for sale.
"In general, it was very frustrating and deceiving and disappointing in many ways," Gasol said. "But it’s past now, we’ve got to learn from it and hopefully we’re going to do a good job to prevent it from happening. It’s just not acceptable, personally."
Minnesota fired its coach midseason and still doesn’t know if its basketball boss (Kevin McHale), its current coach (Wittman) or its star player (Garnett) will be back next season after missing the playoffs for the third straight season.