Grizzlies 116, Timberwolves 94
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Holding onto a lottery pick did little to lift Minnesota Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman’s spirits.
“This team needs a shakeup,” Wittman said after his Wolves were blown out by Memphis on Wednesday night, capping a long, frustrating season.
The Wolves entered the game tied with New York and Portland for the sixth-worst record in the league. If they didn’t earn a top-10 pick in the NBA draft lottery, they would’ve had to give it to the Clippers as part of the Sam Cassell-Marko Jaric trade two years ago.
Maybe with that in mind, the Wolves didn’t play much defense in the second half, constantly bailing out of the lane to give Stromile Swift a clear lane to dunk.
Swift added 14 points for Memphis, which ended the season with a season-best three-game winning streak after clinching the worst record in the NBA last week.
The loss, coupled with the Knicks’ victory over Charlotte, guarantees Minnesota will finish in the bottom seven of the league. Lottery rules prevent them from falling out of the top 10 in the draft order.
“I’m not here thinking about draft picks when you’re playing games in the regular season,” Wittman said.
Kevin Garnett wasn’t even in the building for Minnesota. With the Wolves out of the playoff race and looking to keep their pick, Garnett returned home to California five games ago to rest a sore right quadriceps.
It was fitting that these two teams faced each other on the final game of the season, given the dysfunction surrounding both franchises.
Memphis fired its coach in midseason, just learned that director of basketball operations Jerry West is leaving and heard Gasol voice his frustration for much of the season. No wonder owner Michael Heisley has put the team up for sale.
“In general, it was very frustrating and deceiving and disappointing in many ways,” Gasol said. “But it’s past now, we’ve got to learn from it and hopefully we’re going to do a good job to prevent it from happening. It’s just not acceptable, personally.”
Minnesota fired its coach midseason and still doesn’t know if its basketball boss (Kevin McHale), its current coach (Wittman) or its star player (Garnett) will be back next season after missing the playoffs for the third straight season.
Grizzlies interim coach Tony Barone, who filled in after West fired Mike Fratello in December, will return to the front office while the team searches for a new coach and GM.
“I think people forget that this franchise has not all of a sudden come on the radar screen,” Barone said. “The franchise won 48, 45, 50 games. We had a bad season. It’s not the end of the world.”
He took over the coaching duties after the Grizzlies started the season 6-24.
They have seemingly had their eyes on Kevin Durant and Greg Oden ever since. Memphis went into a tailspin in late March and dropped six straight to lock up the worst record in the league, giving them the best chance to get the top pick.
“Definitely, a draft pick would help, but I don’t know to what level,” Gasol said. “It depends on the pick, of course, but it would help.”
Wittman took over for Dwane Casey in January after a 20-20 start, but only led the Wolves to 12 more victories the rest of the season.
And the Wolves could consider trading Garnett, the face of the franchise for the past 12 seasons, whose contract is up after next season.
Wittman said he definitely hopes Garnett returns, but wasn’t as kind when talking about the rest of his team. He has said selfishness and team chemistry are issues that need addressing.
“We have to find guys that are caring for one another, playing for one another,” Wittman said. “I don’t think we have that right now.”
McHale will hold a news conference on Thursday, when he is expected to announce whether he will return. … Memphis G Chucky Atkins had 16 assists. … Memphis F Rudy Gay (ankle) did not play after being listed as questionable.