Ryan Saunders Shouldn’t Be Fired Just Because The Wolves Suck Without KAT

Another blowout loss went in the record books for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, when they fell to the Washington Wizards at Target Center 130-109. It made for their 3rd-straight loss of 20+ points. That’s also the number of games they’ve gone without Karl-Anthony Towns, after he dislocated his wrist late vs the Jazz in game 2 of the season.

Fans are understandably frustrated with this team, who has gone from 2-0 with KAT, to another cinch lottery team without him. Because the trust for Gersson Rosas is so high around town and the top-end of this roster is all but set in stone, the fan animosity has to land somewhere.

On Friday night and into Saturday morning, it’s been aimed at Ryan Saunders.

Scapegoat Saunders

Look, I understand the need to blame somebody for the sorry excuse that the Minnesota Timberwolves currently call “basketball”. But if you were on the Ryan Saunders bandwagon before this stretch of three games, then I wouldn’t jump off until KAT returns.

Remember, this isn’t an organization that’s going to make Ryan Saunders the shot-caller on playing time and game plan decisions. He and Rosas clearly have a lot of the same visions, when it comes to the future of this franchise.

Operating the Minnesota Timberwolves is now a group effort, to the point of making “collaboration” a buzz word among fans and media. If you think Ryan Saunders had full control of anything, then you aren’t listening when they talk.

I’m not saying that Saunders is a puppet for Rosas. I’m saying that playing time, strategies and game-management are all discussed and worked out long before the Wolves hit hardwood. Ryan’s only job is to execute for 2.5 hours, what the entire organization has put together in the days/weeks/months leading up to tip-off.

Too soon to tell.

In fact, Ryan has gotten the short end of KAT’s injury stick, since getting the permanent head coaching gig before the 2019-20 season. After coaching 42 games as interim HC during the 2018-19 season, Saunders has coached the Wolves for exactly 69 games (nice) on a permanent basis.

KAT has played in just 37 of them and almost all of those games were played without D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and obviously Anthony Edwards. I’m not saying that Saunders will be a great NBA head coach.

But clearly, it’s way too soon to tell… especially after a canceled 2019 season and the year-long COVID offseason.

KAT might be even better than we thought

Have you seen how bad this basketball team has been without Karl-Anthony Towns playing center? KAT frustrates me at times and I have clearly allowed that to cloud my judgement on what he brings to this team.

If all I had watched of this Timberwolves team, was the last three games, I’d tell you that God was the only thing that could bring them wins. So the fact that they were 2-0 with Karl, should tell you everything you need to know about just how good that man is and what he means to this lineup.

I might never again tweet something this stupid. The Minnesota Timberwolves need Karl-Anthony Towns as much as Christmas needs the first two Home Alone movies.

We will find out how good of a coach Ryan Saunders is, if Karl can get back in time for the Wolves to put together a run at this season’s expanded playoff bracket. If KAT doesn’t come back in time for that, then we’ll be looking at another year where the NBA draft lottery is the best part of the season.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan