Losing is a slippery slope
Honestly, I'd rather the Raptors win Thursday versus New Jersey than deal with this:
J.J. Barea has had enough. The Timberwolves walked onto the court at Target Center, took their medicine quietly and left with their 12th loss in 13 games.
"We've got problems here," Barea said. "We just got a lot of guys that don't care. When a basketball team got a bunch of players that don't care, it's tough to win games. It's going to happen until we get players in that care: care about winning, care about the team, care about the fans."
In a flashback to the Kurt Rambis Era, several of the Wolves clearly didn't give a flip. They coughed up a 21-point lead late in the first half to the woeful, banged-up Golden State Warriors in a game that reflected badly on coach Rick Adelman, the Wolves organization and, most of all, the players themselves.
The "who cares?" attitude was evident in the lack of defensive effort, the erratic shot selection and the sometimes selfish play. And when Barea made his postgame remarks, he wasn't hiding in a corner. He was sitting in front of his locker and within earshot of several of his teammates.
"They just come in here after the game like nothing happened," Barea said. "That's what happens to a losing team."
Barea, a member of the championship Dallas Mavericks last season, says he will try to keep yapping at them. With every other Wolves point guard injured or, in Malcolm Lee's case, throwing up, Barea played all 48 minutes against the Warriors. It wasn't his best game. But he appeared to be giving it his all.
"There's a bunch of us, too, that care and play hard," he said. "But there's a bunch that don't care, and we just got to change that.
"I've been noticing it. But today you can really notice it. It was a brutal second half. Nobody fighting, nobody getting mad at nobody. After a game like that you got to have problems. You got to argue with your teammates. But nobody cares so we've got to change that."
For the past three weeks the most interesting thing that has happened to the Timberwolves has been Kevin Love's haircut. Oh, and shave. That bit of grooming has resulted in more buzz than anything the team has done on the court since it came apart at the seams awhile back.
That's probably not a surprise because the past four weeks of any Wolves season always represents the team's personal Heartbreak Hill. Come April, the team collectively starts sucking wind and wobbling at the knees. The Wolves have run off some amazing losing streaks during this time of the season.
Now they are finishing with another dull thud. This has been a sorry three weeks. Yes, there have been injuries. But there's a difference between being short-handed and just playing bad basketball. An awful lot of early-season good work is being flushed here. A lot of hard-earned respect is slipping away.
Anthony Tolliver, a free agent after Thursday's season finale, didn't exactly agree with Barea. But he sounded pretty close.
"I would say that there's some guys in here that have been more worried about other things," Tolliver said. "It's not necessarily that they don't want to win. Sometimes the team concept just goes out of the window."
Adelman appeared disgusted after the game.
"It's the attitude, like I said. The game was easy in the first half, we were scoring and things were going good," he said. "Then in the second half we acted like it was going to be that way the whole game without working at it."
It's a sorry finish to a season that held so much promise for so long.
"Got a lead. Got comfortable. They got it going," Michael Beasley said.
Beasley is a restricted free agent after the season, and the Wolves have a big decision to make on him. His defense was awful Sunday. But it's like that a lot and probably isn't the result of a lack of effort. Asked if he agreed with Barea's assessment, Beasley said:
"It's always a problem. Do I agree with him? Maybe. But until you point those guys out one by one, it doesn't really matter."
I thought these guys were supposed to call themselves out in the locker room and not wait for someone to do it in print.
"I'm disappointed," Beasley said. "Especially about guys that don't care. But we got one more left. Those who don't care won't be here next year."
That was the most encouraging thing I'd seen or heard all day.
Adding talent to a toxic environment is hardly progress.