October 29th, 2008. Wolves vs. Kings. This game, aside from the win, would prove to be a symbolic indication of how the Wolves’ twentieth season would play out. The second Ryan Gomes scored the first two points of the season, a wide open jump shot off of the left elbow, the writing was on the wall. “This year is going to be different” was the theme in Homer conversation, and the Haters were a minority for the first time in years. But which fan type prevailed this season?
With about 1 minute left in the first vs. the Kings, Kevin Love entered the game for his first ever NBA minutes. His first shot attempt came on an offensive rebound. Love had his shot swatted by Mikki Moore, only to recover it and quickly lay the ball in for his first points. The next play, Moore shoved the rookie out of the way and threw down a viscous two handed slam over the scared, would-be college sophomore. Al Jefferson was nowhere to be found on help defense.
However, Love would go on to have a great final 1/3rd of the year, and no hater can deny it. Homers: 1, Haters: 0
A few plays later Love tossed his first NBA outlet pass to Corey Brewer, who broke towards the basket in Usain Bolt fashion. While Brewer’s first shot attempt of the season was a wild layup that didn’t even graze iron, he made up for it here by throwing down a two handed slam. The optimism wavered, but out of control layup attempts and a knee injury would sum up Brewer’s second campaign. Haters: 1, Homers: 1.
Midway through the 2nd quarter, Rodney Carney attempted his first corner tray which harshly clanged off the back iron. The Target Center faithful had yet to realize maybe the biggest All-Star snub later in February may be the then-unknown Memphis product not getting a dunk contest invite. +1 for Homers. Haters: 1, Homers: 2
As Carney’s first three point shot attempt was sailing through the air, Randy Foye, the opening day starting point guard, looked on from the bench after struggling from the field early. A turnover machine, Foye would go on to lose the job to Wolves backups, instead being relied on as an undersized shooting guard whose fg% was as consistent as his games played. The Target Center faithful continues to revel in the fact that the million dollars in cash we acquired along with Foye in 2006 could perhaps be responsible for Wednesday Dollar Dog Night. Haters: 2, Homers, 2
Back in October, with promises of a new jump shot, Sebastian Telfair was serving a three game suspension for weapons charges. After a strong start, Bassy quickly fell off the radar during the first half of the season, being benched in favor of mustached veteran warrior Kevin Ollie. An injury (hip replacement?) to Ollie allowed Bassy to re-establish himself as a key to the Garnett trade, and a solid rotation player for the Wolves. Haters: 2, Homers: 3.
After a commercial break featuring former Wolves spokesperson/likely future backup center Don Overbeck yodeling from downtown Minneapolis rooftops, Jason Collins and Brian Cardinal could be seen in pinstripe suits on the sidelines, unaware of their imminent increased roles. While Collins would prove to be amongst the worst players in the NBA, Cardinal would go on to become a solid role player, annoying players such as Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Bosh on a nightly basis. But the terrible play of Collins gives both sides a point. Haters 3, Homers 4.
For the Kings that night, a burly big man would step to the line late in the 1st, former Duke standout Shelden Williams. Wolves fans should be thankful he was drafted 5th overall in 2006, because we all know the Iron Ranger would have nabbed him with our pick if he were available. A few months later, he is your backup big man. And Rashad McCants? Score one big for the haters here. Haters 4, Homers 4.
Al Jefferson’s injury cost him a career year. Despite his defensive liabilities, the big guy was a stud during some big games. His new “sidekick” Mike Miller scored his first bucket on a drive to the hoop, a spot where he would score his first several buckets as a Timberwolf. When the Wolves started 1-8, chatters of “wait until Miller comes around” were the Homer’s defense mechanism of the month for November. He never did. 1 point each. Haters 5, Homers 5.
The rest of the roster (Gomes, Smith, Ollie, Madsen and the crew) performed as expected during game 1 vs. the Kings, as well as the regular season. Gomes proved to be our most consistent player, but his effort faded down the stretch in 2010. Smith scored in bunches, but disappeared for games on end. Ollie is Ollie. Madsen is Madsen. 1 point each. Haters 6, Homers 6.
Overtime: After the Kings victory, things went downhill as the team plummeted to a 1-8 record. The next win came against an equally horrendous Oklahoma City team last November on only the 20th buzzer beater in franchise history (and I thought Mike James was supposed to be our “closer” of the future?). Had Mike Miller missed the baseline jumper off of an impressive pump fake, the Wolves would now be tied with Oklahoma City for the 4th worst record in the league. That shot could be the difference between James Harden or DeMar DeRozan. And let’s not even start with the whole Wittman/McHale debacle. Old news there. Plus 2 for the Haters.
Haters win 8 to 6. And they won from the opening tap, with a shorthanded roster. They saw it from the start. Us Homers should have known better. Injuries aside.
Who will take the cake next year, the Haters or the Homers? Both teams will surely see plenty of new faces.