Timberwolves Happy to Receive Playoff Participation Trophy

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez – Star Tribune

The Minnesota Timberwolves are better basketball team than the Memphis Grizzlies but that’s not how history will remember the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Instead, the record books will forever note that the Grizzlies won this first round series 4-2 over the Wolves and finished them off at Target Center.

This, despite Minnesota leading for most of game 6, just like they had for 70% of the series, going in. But the final matchup of the series followed the same script. Like a nightmare they couldn’t wake up from. They led for most of three quarters, then opened the choke on the 4th quarter floodgates of doom. In celebration, the two worst Grizzlies starters of the series danced on the Timberwolves logo at half-court.

Participation Trophies for Everyone

But you wouldn’t know the Minnesota Timberwolves had just been beaten by a lesser team and that their season had ended as a result. Players, media and many fans were in full-blown celebration mode. The postgame festivities were full of smiles, laughs, backslaps and participation trophies.

Karl-Anthony Towns shrunk under the postseason pressure. He got so short, in fact, that Dillon Brooks was too overwhelming for KAT to post up, by series end. But Towns could be found bowing and curtseying for cheering fans after the game 6 loss. He must’ve been accepting the MVP (Most Valuable Participator).

Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels talked about how talented they are and how bright the team’s future is. Pointed to the Grizzlies losing to the Jazz last year, in the same type of fashion, as if blowing big leads throughout a playoff series is some sort of initiation process.

Apparently, players were congratulating each other in the locker room and had already deemed the season a full-blown success. Even Patrick Beverley got in on the backslaps. Because at the Wolves postgame party on Friday night, ice cream wasn’t exclusive to winners. Participating was good enough.

Losing Should Suck

I get it. Playoff appearances have been few and far between for the Minnesota Timberwolves, over the last two decades. Any taste of success is bound to get many fans in the feels. But what happened to the hunger these players claimed to have.

Towns didn’t sound like someone who was desperate to change the “soft” narratives that have followed him throughout his career. Ant didn’t seem upset that he couldn’t follow through on his game 6 promises. Everyone who hit the podium played for a team just happy to be in the tournament. And possibly, happy that it was over. As if they had seen war and were relieved to come out alive on the other end.

Chris Finch hopes this will make the Wolves hungrier next season. They’ll all say it has. But I don’t see it.

“I hope we are a bit angry and a bit disappointed. I hope that fuels us. That alone should be a positive thing. That’s what being a competitor is all about.”

Chris Finch

Self Defeating

Sure, excuses were built into this playoff run. The Wolves are young and had never “been there before”. The Grizzlies had. It was the Wolves who went in as the 7-seed. Memphis was the 2nd best team in the West. There’s a learning curve to winning. But if the team buys into all of those excuses then the contest is already over.

Losing sucks, even if it’s after a successful season. Grief should hit before retrospective positivity. Last night and into Saturday, the Wolves skipped the grieving step of the game 6 loss that ended their season.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan