Minnesota Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell had to catch himself on more than one occasion during games this season with a youthful team. When the game was getting tight, one of his young players would make a mistake. Zach LaVine might rush a pump fake on his way to the basket and get called for traveling. Andrew Wiggins might force a shot in traffic. Shabazz Muhammad might lose track of his man on the weak side and get beat for a layup. Sometimes the hard-nosed interim coach will lose it, letting them have it in frustrated postgame addresses. More often, he tries to take a deep breath and remind himself about the youthful inexperience of his team. The lumps they're taking now are part of a painful but necessary process. ''I have to rein myself in sometimes,'' Mitchell said. ''Sometimes I get a little overzealous or excited when we beat Atlanta, beat Chicago, beat some of these teams. I have to remind myself that Andrew Wiggins is 20. Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns, guys we're leaning on are 20 years old. But I'm pleased that we're getting better. I think everyone can see that.'' The Timberwolves were one of the surprise teams of the league early in the season after getting off to an 8-8 start that included impressive road wins at Atlanta, Chicago and Miami. The flurry had their long-suffering fans - who haven't watched their team play in a playoff game since 2004 - hopeful that the longest-running postseason drought in the league was coming to an end. They have lost eight of 10 games since then, dropping down to 10-16 and 12th place in the muddled Western Conference with home losses to Denver, Portland and Orlando in that stretch. The swoon was expected internally, but has been met with frustration from fans who just want some wins. ''We're talented enough to get up 15, 18 points on veteran teams that are playoffs teams,'' GM Milt Newton said. ''So I can understand their frustration, but at the same time I would hope they understand that the group of players on the floor, especially in crunch time, haven't been there and haven't done that. They're learning. They'll continue to learn. But it will change.''
Young Timberwolves going through inevitable growing pains
The Score | Dec 19