Commentary

McHale, Wittman unhappy after 0-3 trip

Updated: December 6, 2008, 4:29 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

Kevin McHaleDavid Sherman/Getty ImagesWolves GM Kevin McHale's team isn't doing well, but he's No. 1 in draft-pick stockpiling.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Grumpy and grim-faced, Kevin McHale didn't have a lot to say after the Minnesota Timberwolves absorbed what was by far their worst loss of the season Friday night to finish 0-3 on their five-day Eastern Conference road trip.

McHale was on the road with the team the entire time -- for a 10-point loss at Charlotte, an 11-point loss at Orlando and a 29-point drubbing at the hands of the New Jersey Nets that dropped their record to 4-14.

"We're not playing good basketball right now," McHale said after the 113-84 loss to the Nets, clearly uncomfortable discussing the state of his team. "We need to play better," he added before gruffly cutting off the briefest of interviews and heading for the team bus.

The Timberwolves, who opened the season 1-8 before winning three of five, have now lost four in a row but are still one game ahead of the pace they were on last season when they opened the season with 15 losses in their first 18 games.

The 29-point margin of defeat was 12 points worse than the Wolves' previous worst loss, at Boston on Nov. 21, although a contributing factor was the absence of Mike Miller (ankle). Randy Wittman's coaching record since taking over for Dwane Casey -- who was fired (or unfairly dumped, some might argue) on Jan. 22, 2007, when the Wolves were 20-20 -- dropped to 38-104, a winning percentage of less than 27 percent.

Wittman did not fault his team's effort against the Nets. But asked what positives, if any, he could take from this trip, Wittman could only answer, "We play again tomorrow."

But Wittman's take on the Wolves' effort was at odds with the assessment of Randy Foye, who said: "We could have beaten them if we had just given the effort; you have to play hard for 48 minutes as a team. When we didn't want them to score, they didn't score."

Rebuilding is never easy, and starting over after trading away a franchise cornerstone like Kevin Garnett is even more difficult, but one has to wonder how much patience owner Glen Taylor has remaining as his franchise founders among the dregs of the West. The jury is still out on whether McHale made the right move in June when he dealt the draft rights to O.J. Mayo, along with the burdensome contracts of Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker, to the Memphis Grizzlies for Miller, Kevin Love and the burdensome contract of Brian Cardinal, who is on the books for one more season after this one at $6.75 million.

Love is averaging 9.0 points, and Miller was shooting 38 percent from 3-point range before turning his ankle, whereas Mayo leads all rookies in scoring.

Another of McHale's offseason moves -- signing Sebastian Telfair to a three-year deal -- has not paid dividends, as Telfair has come off the bench behind 35-year-old Kevin Ollie the past two games, playing only 13 minutes against Orlando before logging 41 against the Nets but handing off only three assists.

McHale has acquired enough future draft picks -- the Wolves could have as many as four No. 1s in the 2009 draft, and McHale has also acquired three future second-round picks in other deals -- to continue the rebuilding effort, but what he might be remembered for, once his front-office days are over, is being the Minnesotan who traded away the best player the franchise ever had, setting the Wolves on the long, difficult path on which they currently find themselves.

How much longer Wittman continues to lead the team down that path remains to be seen, but McHale's body language and facial expression spoke volumes Friday night. Remember, Minnesota was a .500 team with a true superstar and emotional leader back on the January morning in 2007 when Casey was blindsided by his firing and Wittman took over.

The Wolves haven't been over .500 since -- except for those wondrous, heady days earlier this season when they emerged from October with a glistening 1-0 mark -- and even as McHale decides whether Wittman is the right man to coach them, Taylor must eventually decide whether McHale remains the best person to run them.

And a strong case can be made that McHale and Wittman have run the franchise into the ground.

As the two of them -- is it OK to call them Glum and Glummer? -- exited the Meadowlands on Friday night, it was hard to envision a long-term future that'll include both of them.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.

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