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Many people know that being a Minnesota sports fan is difficult–to say the least. Lately, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been the main force in Minnesota sports negativity. To put it bluntly…they suck.

Somewhat recently, the Timberwolves fired former NBA great Kevin McHale and hired David Kahn as president of basketball operations. Since then, Kahn has been fairly transparent, laying out a plan to (slowly) re-establish the Timberwolves as a power in the Western Conference of the NBA. With less than one season under his belt, Kahn has done a pretty good job of shaking things up, but only time will tell how successful he truly is.

Most recently, the Timberwolves traded Brian Cardinal and his $6.75 million contract for Darko Milicic.

At first, many sports fans said this seems like a fairly meaningless trade, whereby the New York Knicks shed about a million dollars in salary (Darko’s contract is about $1 million more than Cardinal’s)–although both contracts expire at the end of the season. Some say Kahn did a favor for his friends in the Knicks’ front office. Others are more optimistic. Personally, I fall into the latter camp.

Cardinal’s and Milicic’s career statistics are practically identical–both are horrible. There are a few key differences, though. First, Darko was seen has having enough potential to be drafted 2nd overall in the 2003 draft, whereas Cardinal was drafted 44th overall in the 2000 draft. Second, Darko is 24 and Cardinal is 32. Third, Darko is 7’0” tall and talented, and Cardinal is (generously) 6’8″ and…let’s just say…a good “effort” guy. Still, though, neither guy has succeeded much in the NBA.

To complicate things, Darko has stated that he plans on going back to Europe to play after this season. Personally, it seems that this is a direct result poor performance that possibly stems from a combination of a lack of support and lack of playing time. If given a proper chance to flourish, he would be dumb if he didn’t continue playing in the top league in the world. Speaking of flourishing, since joining the Timberwolves, Darko has averaged about 5 ppg, 6 rpg, and 2 bpg while (according to his rather blunt coach) playing solid defense. As he continues to get into shape and play more minutes, these stats will almost definitely improve–hopefully enough to boost his confidence and sign w/ the Timberwolves this offseason.

The point is, fans, that this trade cost the Timberwolves practically nothing–and the upside is huge. The Timberwolves got a potential long-term (albeit long shot) starter at center, and only had to pay a little extra money for a few months. Should we get our hopes up? No. But does Darko finally offer us an option at center that can thrive in the triangle offense and play alongside another one of our big guys? Yes. The Timberwolves must be careful about taking playing time away from some of their other young players, but the risk is well worth the possible reward from this trade.

The Timberwolves might not have gained any fans from this trade, but in an age where the NBA is hemorrhaging money and being accused (perhaps rightly) of being crooked or rigged, this trade at least allows the Timberwolves an opportunity to succeed. And maybe then, if finally get some talent and win some games, they’ll have the officials (and the NBA higher-ups) on their side–and possibly win a few games. So, Timberwolves fans (if there are any of you left), don’t get too excited about this trade, but you can finally start to be cautiously hopeful that the Timberwolves will one day regain their NBA glory. Oh wait…

What do you think?

P.S. Thanks for letting me indulge in an explicitly sports-oriented post. Now certain friends of mine might finally read something I write…

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