Even if Kevin McHale continues to coach, the Minnesota Timberwolves might not see much improvement without a healthy Al Jefferson. A full season from Kevin Martin would certainly be welcome for the Sacramento Kings.
With McHale mulling his options, the Timberwolves put an end to a terrible season Wednesday night against the league-worst Kings in a matchup of teams each missing one of the league’s premier scorers.
McHale, the Timberwolves’ vice president of basketball operations, took over as coach after Randy Wittman was fired on Dec. 8, guiding Minnesota (24-57) to a 10-4 record in January. Jefferson was outstanding during that stretch as the Timberwolves had their best month since going 10-5 in March 2005.
The Timberwolves, though, lost Jefferson to a season-ending knee injury in early February and have gone 7-24 without their star big man. Minnesota would like to see what McHale could do with Jefferson healthy for a whole season.
McHale is expected to decide on his role shortly following the season finale.
“It’s like being a player but not getting to play, which is the only fun part about being a player,” McHale said of being a coach. “It’s all that without the fun.”
The Wolves have clearly missed Jefferson, who averaged 23.1 points and 11.0 rebounds. Jefferson has played 69 games or fewer three of the past four seasons due to various injuries.
“Just not to be able to be out there fighting with my teammates when I know they need me most, just as much as I need them,” Jefferson said. “It was very, very hard times for me, but I got through it.”
He’s flourished into one of the league’s most dominating post players after being selected 15th overall in the 2004 draft. Martin, who was the No. 26 pick that year, has also been prone to injuries.
The Kings star averaged a career-high 24.6 points this season but played just 51 games after appearing in 61 last season.
Wednesday’s contest will be the eighth straight Martin has missed due to a sore left ankle. The guard sat out 22 of 24 games earlier this season due to the same injury.
Martin was one of three injured Sacramento starters in a 118-98 loss at Denver on Monday night. Point guard Beno Udrih sat out with a sore ankle and center Spencer Hawes injured his left knee in the first quarter as the Kings (16-65) lost their ninth straight.
“It is tough to play without our starting point guard, without Spencer,” Sacramento coach Kenny Natt said. “What we are looking for from this team is to continue to play hard and compete through the end of the season here.”
The Kings, who will finish at least two games below than any other team in the league, have been held under 100 points in four straight games after averaging 115.3 in their previous six.
Minnesota’s starters combined to shoot 35.0 percent (21-for-60) in a 96-94 loss to Dallas on Monday night, with Mavericks guard Jason Terry making an 18-footer with 0.2 seconds left.
The Wolves have lost two straight after winning four of six, and they have dropped two of three against the Kings this season.