Sunday , Feb , 13 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Trash Talk: Volume XI

Hi, all. What is this garbage? I flipped out when they ousted Flip, and for good reason. Have they gone quite mad in Minnesota? They must have forgotten that he, the second-longest tenured coach in the league, played a major part in transforming them from the cellar-dwellers they were in ’95 to the 58-24 squad they were last year. Think it was all up to the Big Ticket? People forget that nine years ago he was still Da Kid. Ask the man himself which individual catalysed his growth from prep punk to league MVP, and he’d give you a brief answer. Can you guess what it is yet? I’ll give you a clue: It rhymes with Slip.

I’m surprised that Kevin McHale (who, conveniently, will be the man to take over the vacant coaching spot) played the blame game and decided that Saunders was the loser. It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that the current trend is to fire the coach when things fall apart, rather than to consider what the source of the problems may really be.

In Minnesota, you needn’t look far to uncover the root of their, ahem, issues. As far as most insiders are concerned, the Wolves’ woes can be attributed to two sources: Sammy and Spree. Before the start of the season, the pair cried to the media about the status of their respective contracts, in doing so sowing the seeds of discontent among the team.

Sprewell’s whining did, however, lead to one of the quotes of the year, when he claimed, “I’ve got my family to feed,” with regards to the three-year, thirty-million contract he was offered. Similarly, the thirty-four-year-old Cassell played the spoilt child, refusing to attend the team’s media day and the opening day of training camp in response to the organisation’s refusal to extend his contract.

They returned this year to play at a considerably diminished level and without the energy and enthusiasm that had taken the Wolves further than they had managed in the previous seven postseasons. The numbers speak for themselves here:

Sprewell ’03-’04 : 16.8 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.07 spg
Sprewell ’04-’05 : 12.5 ppg, 2.2 apg, 2.5 rpg, 0.67 spg

Cassell ’03-’04 : 19.8 ppg, 7.3 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.26 spg
Cassell ’04-’05 : 14.3 ppg, 5.8 apg, 2.8 rpg, 0.56 spg

Of course, as it’s often said, players take wins and coaches take losses. That means that, with a 25-26 record at this point, it’s unsurprising that Flip was shown the door, even if it is unfair. Now all there is to do is wait and see if McHale can whip the unruly crew into shape and remind them that they were one of the toughest teams in the league last year.

We also recently discovered that two of the game’s all-time greats, Reggie Miller and Karl Malone, are to retire at the end of this season. Both are closing out long, record-breaking careers and both are undoubtedly only the obligatory six-year waiting period away from induction into the Hall of Fame.

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