HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

May 7, 2007

Why don’t we care about the NBA playoffs?

By Jesse Menden

We’ve all heard the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it really make noise?”

The same could be said about the National Basketball Association playoffs. With all of the interesting things going on, and with Minnesotans not watching, does it mean we don’t care?

NBA playoff ratings in the metropolitan area have ranked at or near the bottom among all markets in the country, so far, this postseason. Is that a sign that Minnesotans just don’t care about the NBA anymore, or are we just so disgusted with the Timberwolves that we are temporarily removing ourselves from the whole sport?

It appears that the latter has a lot to do with it. Other than the 2003-04 season when the Wolves went to the Western Conference finals, they have never been a serious contender. And since this past season ended, no news has given us any reason to believe the Timber puppies will contend next season and give us a reason to pay attention to the NBA.

Just days after the painful 2006-07 season ended, Kevin McHale announced that Timberwolves exclusive country-club member Randy Wittman would be back to coach again next year.

Days after that announcement, owner Glen Taylor said he would be taking a more active role in the team. You could hear the collective sigh of relief from the basketball community when they learned the man who has led this sinking ship will now be taking the wheel.

Last week’s news just added salt to the wounds of the Timberwolves faithful. The NBA rookie of the year award winner was announced, and predictably, it just added to the list of blunders this team has committed recently.

The ROY winner was Brandon Roy. As you probably remember, the Wolves drafted him. But of course, they had to screw that up. He was promptly traded to Portland. Roy was a T’Wolf for about as long as it takes to say “fire Kevin McHale already!”

It just seems like it is one mistake or missed opportunity after another with this team. We are so tired of the ineptitude of the Wolves that it is tough to watch the success of others.

Those are the reasons why we aren’t watching the NBA. The interest is still there, it’s just hibernating.

The Wolves had several good crowds at the end of the season, and people bothered enough to make anti-McHale signs for the last game. Of course those signs were confiscated by Target Center security, but it’s the effort that counts.

It’s not like the playoffs haven’t been interesting. Golden State made history when they became the first eight-seed to upset the top seed since the NBA went to a seven-game format. Also, several of the Eastern Conference matchups have been intriguing.

It doesn’t help that there is barely a mention of the playoffs in the local media. It hardly garners a half of a segment on sports radio, or more than 15 seconds on television sportscasts.

The NBA is still a part of the four major sports, but not here, not now. When the Wolves bring themselves back to legitimacy in the sport, the interest in the entire league will return.

And let’s be honest, that might not be for a while.