This was supposed to be the season when things finally blossomed for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But the team will miss the playoffs again. In many ways, this team is more frustrating than the 15- and 17-win teams of recent seasons past. Those had no talent; this one did.
But the team will be among the leaders in the National Basketball Association in one category: empty seats.
This was the view several minutes into last night’s game with the Atlanta Hawks at Target Center, with an announced crowd of about 11,000. As usual, the actual number of people who bothered to show up was a fraction of that.
Wednesday nights have been weak draws all season for the Timberwolves, but Minnesota fans abandoned the team in large numbers this year.
Minnesota ranks 26th in the 30-team NBA, averaging 14,768 fans this year. The team paid a stiff price for raising ticket prices before the season on the promise of brighter days. Last year, the Timberwolves averaged 16,340. A year earlier, the team drew an average of nearly 18,000, thanks to deeply discounted ticket prices. That’s a nearly 18 percent drop in fan support over a period when the team was winning more games.
Meanwhile, across town, the Minnesota Wild are averaging 102 percent of capacity at Xcel Energy Center to watch a team that’s just as underachieving and disappointing as their Minneapolis brethren.
Nobody will ever be calling this the state of basketball.