Players squabbling with players and players squabbling with coaches – team chemistry gone by the wayside?
This is the question facing the Minnesota Timberwolves in this young NBA season.
The year started off on a sour note for the Timberwolves with veteran starting point guard Sam Cassell missing the first day of training camp because of his unhappiness about not being offered a contract extension.
Shortly afterwards, the other starting guard, Latrell Sprewell, also complained about his contract. He made it known that he was also unhappy and that he wanted an extension before the regular season started. He even threatened to demand a trade if the Wolves did not offer him a deal he liked. He further alluded to possibly not playing his hardest and was quoted in the St. Paul Pioneer Press as saying, “Why would I want to help them (the Timberwolves) win a title? They’re not doing anything for me. I’ve got a lot at risk here. I’ve got my family to feed.”
A third starter and former all-star Wally Szczerbiak added his own complaint. He made it known that he did not want to come off the bench like he did last year. He was hurt for much of last year, so when he was healthy he did not start. He started for the Wolves in previous seasons and wants to start again. Why should an all-star wanting to start create a problem? The problem is that the Wolves signed last year’s starter Trenton Hassell to a $27 million deal in the off-season. Szczerbiak also has a history of not getting along well with his teammates. A few years ago, it was rumored that Szczerbiak and reigning MVP of the league Kevin Garnett got into a fight in practice.
Cassell has also had a run-in with coach Flip Saunders. In the game against the Indiana Pacers a week ago, it was obvious that Cassell was not listening to Saunders as he tried to explain something to Cassell. Consequently, Cassell was benched for the remainder of the game.
A huge source of potential problems still exists. The Timberwolves have one of the deepest teams in the league. They will play 10 or 11 guys on any given night. Having depth is a good thing because it allows teams to stay competitive even if injuries occur. Having depth can be a bad thing if everybody is healthy because not every player will be able to play as many minutes as desired. If the team is winning, players are less likely to complain about playing time, but if the team is losing players could very well start complaining about their minutes. The Timberwolves face this possibility.
I think that the Timberwolves should look to make a trade. Szczerbiak’s name has been brought up in trade rumors for the past few seasons, and Sprewell’s name has been mentioned in trade talks as well. Trading one or both of them will benefit the team.
Sprewell is making $14.6 million this year and wants an extension close to the same salary. Sprewell is on the downside of his career and is a streaky player. He is not worth the money. He has also recently shown that he is not much of a team player. He should be traded to improve team chemistry and save money. The Wolves should trade him for a small forward and a draft pick or two as they were stripped of draft picks and have not been able to replenish their team.
It makes sense to trade Szczerbiak. He is a quality shooter, but so is Fred Hoiberg. The Wolves also have Hassel, a better defender than Szczerbiak who has shown that he has the scoring touch. The Wolves need a lock-down defender like Hassel. The Wolves should get a beefy big man for Szczerbiak. Garnett is a phenomenal player, but lacks bulk. The Western Conference is dominated by big men so the Wolves could use a big banger to help compete.
They do not need to make a trade, but it could be beneficial. A trade should only be made if the team can get quality players or draft picks in return.
The Timberwolves have the potential to win the NBA finals, but only if the team chemistry is improved by a trade or if the players stop their complaining.