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Keeping the Timberwolves Caged

The Joe Smith fiasco has this Minnesota fan howling in disgust.

by Mark D. Johnson
November 1, 2000

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Keeping the Timberwolves Caged_Mark D. Johnson-The Joe Smith fiasco has this Minnesota fan howling in disgust. It was stupid, stupid, stupid! What were they thinking?! Quietly signing the average backup forward Joe Smith to an illegal contract worth up to $86 million over seven years. And they put it in writing! Stupid!

Last week, Commissioner David "Incredibly" Stern handed down the consequences: exclusion from the next five first-round draft picks, a $3.5 million fine, voiding of Smith's current contract, and likely suspensions for owner Glen Taylor, General Manager Kevin McHale, and possible Coach Flip Saunders. So long, guys. Thanks for everything.

Those involved with the secret contract deserve to have the book thrown at them, but the penalties to the team (and the fans) go too far and may ultimately spell the end of the franchise in Minnesota. With the loss of five straight first-round draft picks, there is little chance of improving the team, limited to free agents who don't want to go to a team without first-round draft picks. With superstar Kevin Garnett and Terrell Brandon soaking up much of the salary cap, the team's goal of making it past the first round playoffs will remain a fantasy. Glen Taylor may have no choice but to trade Garnett, and possibly sell or move the team.

It's been a long haul for the die-hards. Just when we were finally proud to be T-Wolves fans, we're forced back into despair. It seemed to take forever to go from expansion team in 1990 to their first playoffs run a few years ago. We had to endure perennial bad luck in the draft lottery, whiny Christian Laettner, and the juvenile J.R. Rider. Things started looking up when they signed Kevin Garnett as a teenager, traded for Tom Gugliotta, then drafted Stephon Marbury. Then Googs and Steph left the team high and dry, but somehow the team managed to hang on with the addition of Brandon at point guard. These were the glory days, and now they are gone. A dark cloud hangs over Target Center on the heels of the embarrassing situation with the University of Minnesota basketball program.

At least Minnesotans now have pro hockey back in town to cheer for. Gotta love those early years as an expansion team. And of course there's the beloved Vikings, off to a great year and perhaps another colossal choke in the playoffs. And remember when the Twins won the World Series back in '87 and '91, before Kirby Puckett's eyes went bad and they threatened to leave town? Those were the days...

Say it ain't so, Joe.

You, too, Commissioner. Say it ain't so.

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