What's On Tap
Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers (TNT, 9 p.m. ET)
What to Watch
A whirling collection of pivots, fakes and fade-away jump shots are what made Kevin McHale so dangerous in the post when he was part of the Boston Celtics' feared front line that also included Larry Bird and Robert Parish. Noted for his skill at getting to the basket, opponents often were awed by his uncanny sense of knowing what adjustments to make to free himself from a defender.
In nine years as general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, McHale's efforts to formulate the right set of moves that would turn the franchise into a champion have met with mixed results.
Tonight the Timberwolves face the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth game of the Western Conference finals and trail the Lakers in the best-of-seven series, 2-1. Not expected to advance to the championship, the Timberwolves are still savoring a season that has seen them advance past the first round for the first time.
Indeed, the Timberwolves may have well surpassed their own expectations. Following their victory over the Sacramento Kings in the conference semifinals, the team whooped it up as if they had won the championship. This might be expected considering how the team has struggled to break with its past, one filled with setbacks, mediocrity and monumental goofs.
At the center of it all has been McHale. He is the man who chose an unproven high school star named Kevin Garnett in the 1995 NBA draft. At the time, it was considered a risky move, but Garnett took less than a full season to prove McHale right. Garnett held his own in his rookie campaign, scoring 10.4 points and grabbing 6.3 rebounds and improved to 17 points and 8 rebounds in his second season. This season, Garnett was selected as the league's Most Valuable Player.
Counter to the way he played the game, McHale was inflexible at times as a general manager. Because he refused to allow agents to get involved in trade negotiations, he failed to agree to a trade that would have sent forward Tom Gugliotta to the Lakers in exchange for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell. Gugliotta, a popular player in the twin cities, later left Minnesota as a free agent.
McHale was criticized again in 1999 for trading Stephon Marbury in a three-way deal for Terrell Brandon, a player whose career was cut short by injury.
But each of those controversies pale compared to McHale's decision to covertly do a backroom deal with Joe Smith, agreeing to pay the player additional money in future years on top of his agreed upon salary in order to preserve salary cap space.
It was against the rules and the NBA fined the club $3.5 million and took away five first-round draft picks. McHale was suspended for seven months.
But true to form, he's adjusted. Last summer, McHale went on the offensive again by signing two aging stars in Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, who have rejuvenated their careers playing alongside Garnett. McHale picked up Trenton Hassell after the guard was cut by the Bulls and the player has proven himself to be one of the team's top defenders.
McHale's deal for former Los Angeles Clipper Michael Olowakandi has proven less successful. The 7-foot center averaged 6.5 points this season after finishing with 12.3 points with the Clippers a year ago.
And while the team has thrived this season, finishing with 58-24 record, best in the Western Conference, the club's future is less than sure. Just how long McHale can depend on Sprewell, 33, and Cassell 34?
Last Night's Big Winner (Team)
Detroit Pistons. Detroit continues to shut down Indiana's three-point shooters (26.3 percent), preventing the Pacers Ron Artest from getting into a rhythm on offense. Artest, who averaged 18 points during the regular season, finished last night with 13 and was 0-for-5 from the three-point arc.
Last Night's Big Loser (Team)
Indiana Pacers. It's tough enough to score on Detroit's defense. But the Pacers don't need a shooting slump as well. Shooting 34.7 percent and scoring 78 points are well below their season averages of 43.5 percent and 91.4 points.
Last Night's Big Winner (Player)
Rasheed Wallace. Last night's 20-point performance is what he should have come up with in Game 2, when he guaranteed a win but finished with 10 points. With all the talk about Wallace's defense, people have forgotten that he's an accurate perimeter shooter and savvy post scorer.
Last Night's Big Loser (Player)
Jamaal Tinsley. Finished with 4 points and 1 assist in 19 minutes. He has effectively steered offense this season and when he struggles, the team's offense usually does too.