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News » Minnesota Timberwolves Getting Inside 2009-02-04

Minnesota Timberwolves Getting Inside 2009-02-04

Minnesota Timberwolves Getting Inside 2009-02-04
Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale never dreamed when they were young and wild and winning championships together in Boston that he, Larry Bird and Danny Ainge all someday would run NBA teams.

And yet here all of them are.

McHale swears the gray hairs in his head are breeding since he returned to coaching nearly two months ago, and Bird's facial features seemingly droop a little more before your very eyes. And yet -- with their playing legacies and financial futures long ago assured and their managerial acumen still open for lively debate -- they remain in the game on the other side of 50, because competition is in their blood and basketball is what they've always done.

"I know Kevin worked hard as a youngster, and I had all kinds of jobs," said Bird, the Indiana Pacers' president of basketball operations. "But when you get right down to it, this is what we know."

Ainge and McHale collaborated two summers ago on a seismic trade that completely reshaped two franchises: It brought the Celtics both Kevin Garnett and their 17th title and set the Wolves on a painful rebuilding process that inevitably sent McHale back to the sidelines.

On Sunday, Ainge's Celtics team beat the Wolves in Boston while Garnett was home with the flu. On Tuesday, McHale coached from one bench while Bird watched from behind the other when the Wolves beat the Indiana at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Leading an NBA team is a place McHale never thought he'd be, neither 25 years ago, when all three players watched how Red Auerbach built a team, nor three months ago.

"When I was really young, Bill Fitch was my coach and at that point, I was very anti-coaching," McHale said, referring to his first NBA coach. "Bill yelled at me, yelled at us all the time. I never really could see myself doing that."

After the Pacers' practice on Monday, Bird laughed at the memories.

"I never thought he'd coach because he was a pain in the butt to some of the coaches we had," Bird said. "It wasn't that he fought with him. Coach would be on him hard, and Kevin would do the opposite just to tick him off."

Bird retired in 1992 and returned home to Indiana. Five years later, he became the Pacers' head coach. Three seasons later, he quit after leading his team to two Eastern Conference finals and after being named the NBA's coach of the Year in 1998. And three years after that, he agreed to run the team.

"I was 35 when I retired, and I wanted to get away for a while," Bird said. "I never thought about it much, and the next thing you know, I'm coaching. After that, I took some more time off and decided I was too young to be doing what I was doing, which was nothing, whatever I wanted to do.

"You have children, and they have to tell their friends their dad doesn't work. It's kind of sad, really. So I came back and I'm involved in this now."

TIMBERWOLVES 116, PACERS 111: The Wolves ended a three-game losing streak on a night when they trailed by nine points with nine minutes left, led by six with less than 30 seconds left and then did everything possible to lose... and still won.

Al Jefferson attempted three shots and scored two points before halftime. The Wolves shot nearly 60 percent in the first half and somehow still trailed by three points at intermission. Randy Foye commited the most turnovers -- nine -- by a Minnesota player in nine years.

And they still won.

The Wolves needed seven players to score in double-figures to counter a Pacers team that took away Jefferson's scoring and made the Wolves turn to, among others, Brian Cardinal, for a telling performance.

"Every time Al touched the ball, there were people on him, including the refs," Foye said.

So Cardinal stepped forth. He introduced defense, provided a big steal, a crucial three-pointer and some much-needed fortitude with a second unit that included Kevin Love during a 13-2 fourth-quarter run that transformed the game.

Trailing 94-85, the Wolves tied the score with seven minutes remaining by scoring nine answered points. Trailing by a point with three minutes left, they scored seven more unanswered points to take a 112-106 lead with 30 seconds left during a sequence when Foye -- who until then had committed what he called "too many stupid turnovers" -- provided a startling block on Danny Granger's shot.

Granger's desperation three-point shot and two Timberwolves turnovers allowed the Pacers to get within 112-111 -- but no closer, because T.J. Ford missed two of four free throws within two seconds. After Sebastian Telfair made two free throws, Granger's three-point try for the tie missed with 5.8 seconds left.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: February 4, 2009


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