By Sam Ekstrom
For eleven years now, Timberwolves fans have had the task of finding a new favorite team every April. Minnesota has been the Washington Generals of earning playoff berths since Flip Saunders was fired in 2005, although the Generals probably put more pressure on the Globetrotters than the Wolves have put on the rest of the West.
There have been some intriguing conundrums over the years for Wolves fans looking to have a horse in the NBA playoff race: to cheer or not to cheer for Kevin Garnett as a Celtic, attempting to tolerate Brandon Roy’s incredible success with Portland after Minnesota traded him on draft night, hating the meteoric rise of Chauncey Billups after he left Minnesota to become one of the NBA’s savviest point guards, etc.
When you’re from Minnesota, it’s not betrayal to have a playoff mistress. The team opened the door for fan infidelity when they hired David Kahn as GM. Now, if you live in Oklahoma City, it might be different. Go ahead and follow the lead of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and don’t even think about watching the playoffs while your team has a one-year hiatus. But Minnesotans? Have a field day. In the words of LeBron, pick – not one, not two, not three, not four … — pick as many favorite teams as you want!
But at least attempt to be discerning. Here’s Cold Omaha’s guide to your playoff preferences.
Why you’d cheer for the Hawks: Atlanta is just a fun team to root for after so many years of mediocrity. They’ve also got St. Louis Park-native Mike Muscala, and their marketing department does incredible stuff for their fans like making clever Spotify playlists, holding a Tinder night and running the coolest Twitter account in the NBA. Plus, they gave the Wolves a nice piece in Adreian Payne at the trade deadline. Fans should be grateful.
Why you’d cheer for the Nets: Brooklyn calls Atlanta’s Mike Muscala and raises them Minnesotan Alan Anderson. They also have likeable former Timberwolf Thaddeus Young, who was dealt for Kevin Garnett. But with KG off their roster, who would have been fun to cheer for in the playoffs during the twilight of his career, there’s not a ton of intrigue with the Nets to sway Wolves fans in their direction.
Suggestion: Cheer for the Hawks.
Why you’d cheer for the Cavs: If you are a Mike Miller groupie.
Why you’d cheer for the Celtics: If you have any sense of NBA karma. DO YOU REALLY WANT KEVIN LOVE TO WIN A TITLE??? Love forced his way out of Minnesota into a dream situation in Cleveland that seemed impossible to screw up until LeBron starting tweeting cryptic things. Maybe it wasn’t all the losing in Minnesota that made Love so unhappy. Maybe he’s still bitter about having to ride in the luggage compartment of the team bus. No wonder he’s got back problems!
Suggestion: Cheer for the Celtics.
Why you’d cheer for the Bucks: They’re a young team that’s a couple steps ahead of where the Timberwolves hope to be going. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a star in the making. Michael Carter-Williams is a former Rookie of the Year that curiously got traded and is trying to make an impact in his new spot. And Jason Kidd is trying to survive more than a year in his second location as head coach. Watching the Bucks succeed could give hope to the young Wolves core. Plus, if the Bulls lose, Tom Thibodeau could be fired, and the Wolves could use a defensive-minded head coach if Flip wants to let go of the reins.
Why you’d cheer for the Bulls: Even though there’s no real rivalry between the Wolves and Bucks, it’s still Wisconsin, and it’s never easy to support fans who probably also support the Packers. It’s also worth mentioning that Chicago, for all their titles years ago with M.J., feel like they’ve been robbed of a dynasty because of Derrick Rose’s poor health. Their fanbase is extremely passionate and deserves a good payoff for the way they’ve stood by Rose. They’ve also got a better chance to defeat Cleveland and Mr. Love down the road.
Suggestion: Cheer for the Bulls.
Why you’d cheer for the Wizards: Did you have a special affinity for Ramon Sessions or Martell Webster during their, ahem, illustrious tenures in Minnesota? Then by all means, go Wiz!
Why you’d cheer for the Raptors: This is a no-brainer. First of all, Washington has blacklisted former Gopher Kris Humphries on their roster, which is already convincing enough evidence to cheer for our neighbors to the north. The Raptors also have Greg “Steamer” Stiemsma, a fan favorite in his short Wolves career. But most importantly, Minnesota fans want Toronto to do well the next few years so they don’t start getting any wise ideas about saving cap space for a certain Canadian on the Timberwolves’ roster – and I don’t mean Anthony Bennett.
Suggestion: Cheer for the Raptors.
Why you’d cheer for the Warriors: Simply put: If you want go with a frontrunner who has a very, very good chance to win the whole thing, cheer for Golden State. Granted, watching their fine-tuned, electrifying product may make you question what level of basketball you’ve been viewing at Target Center all these years, but if you can get past the fact that Minnesota passed on Steph Curry in the 2008 NBA Draft, you’d have a lot of fun rooting for the “Dubs.”
Why you’d cheer for the Pelicans: Other than ex-Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham, there aren’t many Minnesota connections in New Orleans. Anthony Davis is prepared to take the entire league by storm now that he’s on the national stage in his first playoff appearance. It would be best to get on New Orleans’ bandwagon now before it becomes claustrophobic. Unfortunately, the Pellies aren’t very deep beyond “The Brow.” Winning this series will be all but impossible.
Suggestion: Cheer for the Warriors.
Why you’d cheer for the Rockets: Lots to like about this Houston team: Hibbing’s Kevin McHale, who seems to be a much better head coach than a general manager, twice-former Timberwolf Corey Brewer has found a cool niche there, and Kostas Papanikolaou just has a fun name to say. Additionally, no Wolves fan wants to see malcontent point guard J.J. Barea win again in Dallas.
Why you’d cheer for the Mavericks: Are you an avid Shark Tank fan? Do you enjoy gangly Germans? How about point guards who don’t listen to their coaches? If you answered yes to all three questions, then by all means, root for Dallas.
Suggestion: Cheer for the Rockets.
Why you’d cheer for the Clippers: Maybe you’re sick of San Antonio’s dynasty. That’s fair. There’s a fascinating father-son dynamic between Doc and Austin Rivers. That’s intriguing. And you’ve got two of the most vicious dunkers in the league with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. That’s awesome. What’s weird is: Nobody in the NBA seems to like them.
Why you’d cheer for the Spurs: There’s an element of the Spurs’ greatness that you just don’t want to end. Like that one set of grandparents you have that stays youthful well into their 80s, you fear the day when they succumb to their old age. San Antonio continues fending it off with whatever elixir Gregg Popovich is feeding them. Could Duncan possibly make a run at a sixth title?
Suggestion: Cheer for the Spurs.
Why you’d cheer for the Trail Blazers: Perhaps it’s their rabid home fans, their “Rip City” nickname or just the overall cool factor of Damian Lillard, but the Blazers are incredibly likeable. They also shoot a zillion 3’s. Ideally, a team like that will make a deep playoff run and demonstrate to Flip Saunders that he doesn’t need to be afraid of the long-range shot.
Why you’d cheer for the Grizzlies: If you absolutely love low-scoring, blue-collar, half-court basketball. Otherwise, steer clear.
Suggestion: Cheer for the Trail Blazers.
Sam Ekstrom is a staff writer for Cold Omaha at 105 The Ticket and a play-by-play broadcaster in Burnsville, Minn. Hear him on 105 The Ticket Sunday mornings from 8-10 a.m. on “The Wake Up Call.” Follow him on Twitter @SamEkstrom for further insights.