The Twins started 2015 with a season-opening six-game road trip that caused me to muse that this incarnation of the team could be even worse than the sorry 2011-14 groups and could, in fact, easily lose 100 games. I wasn’t alone, which meant I wasn’t alone in being terribly wrong when the Twins rallied and went 82-73 after a 1-6 start.
The Vikings started 2015 with an awful performance in San Francisco. I was at a bar watching with friends, and my disgust level, as measured with drinks on the horizontal axis and Vikings blunders on the vertical access, was an exponential growth curve. One game in, all the positive offseason stories were under suspicion. And now the Vikings are 4-2, having played a relatively soft schedule, yes, but having looked very much like the team we all expected.
The Wild started the 2015 season with two dreadful periods in Colorado. An unnamed coworker who bailed on watching the game on TV when it was 4-1, came into the office the next morning and said, “Is it time to start the ‘Fire Yeo’ chants already?” He was unaware that the Wild had rallied to win 5-4, launching a 6-2-1 start to the season that has included some spotty play but has overall been effective.
The Wolves started the 2015 season last night, and my first tweet about this year’s team was to note, “I can’t think of 5 players less suited to play together than the 5 on the floor for the #twolves right now” in regards to their second unit of Nemanja Bjelica, Kevin Martin, Zach Lavine, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. It was the hottest of hot takes, lacking perspective and so many other things. Luckily, I had a chance to eat those words later when that very group helped spark a rally and an eventual one-point victory. (And luckily, as I had done with Wild, I had just enough faith to stick with the game through the end).
All four teams started on the road. All four looked like garbage for a VERY small sample size of their overall seasons. Three of them, so far, have proved that their very early sample was not a good predictor of things to come.
It’s impossible to know what is yet to come for the Wolves for the rest of this season, but this much is true: Wednesday night was another victory for the notion of having a little patience, and it was certainly a victory in honor of Flip Saunders.
Ricky Rubio (AP photo with KG above), who had his best game in as long as I can remember with 28 points, 14 assists and a startling command of both jump shots and drives, summed it up perfectly afterward: “We had a little help today. It’s been a tough week. It’s hard to explain. Everybody go through a lot of pain, but we came here to fight, compete and try to win the game…Even though he’s gone, he will stay with us forever.”
Flip’s invisible hand from beyond did not steer the last-second shot from going in. That’s not what Rubio is getting at here (at least that’s how I interpret the quote). The “help” from Flip came in the form of the lessons he taught the Wolves and their desire to honor his legacy — which perhaps caused players to give an extra ounce of effort on the key plays that determine most games, including the final play against the Lakers.
For a night, anyway, the Wolves were able to channel their energy from a nightmarish week into something positive. I won’t dare say how that translates to the next 81, but I will say being more patient and forgiving in Game 2 and beyond is something for which I will strive.