Timberwolves a disappointment 1st season under Thibodeau

Published 7:53 am Friday, April 14, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — With Tom Thibodeau taking over a roster filled with young talent, the Minnesota Timberwolves finally seemed poised to show real progress toward ending the longest active playoff drought in the league.

Instead, they are headed to the lottery for the 13th straight season after winning just two more games (31) than they did last season. And as young as they are, it still marked a big disappointment for a franchise desperate for success.

In five years as coach of the Chicago Bulls, Thibodeau presided over two regular-season losing streaks of four games, both happening in 2013-14. In his first year as president and coach in Minnesota, the young Wolves had four four-game skids and two six-gamers, including an ugly one to end the season that sapped any sense of momentum going into a crucial summer for the franchise. The Wolves went 3-13 over the final 16 games, including two losses to the Lakers, one to Oklahoma City when the Thunder sat Russell Westbrook, Taj Gibson and Andre Roberson, and one to the free-falling Sacramento Kings at home.

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“It’s been 13 years of losing,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the season finale in Houston. “I’m sick of it after one.”

Thibodeau tried to manage expectations from the start, emphasizing how much work had to be done to mold a team led by 22-year-olds Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine and 21-year-old Karl-Anthony Towns into a team that was built to last. He and GM Scott Layden were intentionally conservative in free agency last summer, preferring to throw the pups into the fire, play them big minutes and amass the data needed to make big decisions this summer.

“I came in with eyes wide open,” Thibodeau said. “The important thing was to build a foundation and have Andrew and Karl develop a voice. … The best thing for us was to take the long view. We probably could’ve added some different type of players. But I think this was the best plan for us.”