It's one of the darkest yet brightest junctures in the largely painful Minnesota Timberwolves' existence.

Repeated failures have wrought changes at the top of the organization. A success-starved city's cynicism is spiking. Poor luck piles on top of a growing heap of shortcomings.

Yet hope endures, primarily in the form of a big-time talent at the forward position and a man named Flip taking command.

It's not May 17, 2013. It's December 18, 1995.

Flip Saunders just assumed the coaching reins from Bill Blair, who directed a job-costing 6-14 start. Kevin Garnett's a rookie on the verge of becoming a perennial all-star.

What comes next is the golden age, so far, of professional basketball in the Twin Cities.

Eight straight playoff appearances -- the only ones in franchise history -- culminate in a Western Conference finals berth in 2004. Garnett, who's yet to be matched as the organization's all-time defining athlete, wins league MVP honors that year.

With owner Glen Taylor pumping ample resources into his product, Minnesota has neared the cusp of NBA success. Starting in 1995, the team's coach, general manager, and front office are working in effective harmony.

Fast forward 18 years, and it's early. Very early. But there are pieces in place similar to those glory days, the ones Timberwolves fans crave.

The new Kevin, Love that is, is expected to return fully healthy this season. The takeover ability that made Garnett so prolific has yet to germinate, but there are enough complementary pieces in place to set him up in the post and from the outside. Love's ability to score from both spots and tear down rebounds earned him the description of “the most unique player playing in the NBA” from his new team president.