Old Wolf showing young pups by example
Jon Krawczynski, The Associated Press
Published Friday, February 01, 2008
MINNEAPOLIS — The stat line isn’t all that impressive — four points, four rebounds, eight minutes.
What the box score can’t show, however, is the steadying hand an old wolf gave some jittery pups in Minnesota’s latest victory.
When Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman had no one else to turn to; when not a player in sight could put the ball in the basket; Michael Doleac, in his 10th season out of Utah, stepped in to get things rolling. In the process, he taught these young Timberwolves what it means to be a pro.
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Doleac played just two minutes in Tuesday’s loss to the Bulls, and before that had not played since Jan. 12, a span of seven games he spent watching things from the sidelines. When he finally got another chance, he made the most of it in Minnesota’s 83-67 victory over the Bulls on Wednesday night.
Wittman hardly had a choice when he threw Doleac in there at the end of the first quarter.
“I called about every number I could last night in that first quarter just to find something,” said Wittman, who watched his team make just three of 21 shots in the first quarter for eight points. “He was ready and made it happen.”
Doleac entered late in the first quarter, then knocked down two jumpers from the free throw line elbow and looked like he had been playing big minutes all year long. The second gave the Timberwolves a 20-18 lead with 8:25 to go in the second.
“Michael Doleac came in and made two quick jump shots, and everybody was like, ‘Yeah,”‘ Wittman said. “It kind of took off from there.”
Al Jefferson had 26 points and 20 rebounds and Ryan Gomes had 25 points and 10 boards, but a day after their fourth win in six games, the Timberwolves maintain that it was the little-used Doleac who deserved plenty of the credit.
“That’s what vets do. The man hadn’t played in a game in like five or six games. They called his number and he was ready to come in and do what he had to do to help us win,” said Jefferson, who missed a wide open dunk during the first-quarter malaise. “You have to really give him the credit for getting us going because we couldn’t make a shot. Nobody could make a shot. Doley came in and made a couple of jumpers, played some great defense and rebounded as well.”
In his typical soft-spoken fashion, Doleac deflected the praise.
“I don’t know about that,” Doleac said after practice on Wednesday. “We were struggling a little bit. It would be just a matter of time if we kept playing and kept chugging after it. And that’s what we’ve been doing lately.”
Despite his sporadic playing time, Doleac has worked tirelessly to stay ready and prevent any rust from building up while being left out in the cold.
“Just about doing the same things, being consistent with what you practice and how you work,” Doleac said. “It’s one of those things that you have to be ready as best you can.”
Those are words Jefferson thinks need to be heard around this team.
“That’s been a problem for a lot of young guys who don’t play, and when they get called to play they’re not ready to play because they’re mad about not playing,” Jefferson said. “That’s what separates the vets from the young guys.”
That’s a bit of a tongue twister, but the point remains.
To be fair, there are not exactly any gray hairs creeping in to Doleac’s goatee, and he doesn’t turn 31 until June. But on a team with nine players aged 25 or younger, Doleac is the third-most tenured player on the team.
“I feel old,” Doleac said with a chuckle. “We’ve got a great group of guys. It’s fun to be in the locker room and talk trash with everybody and get competitive and do all that stuff. That part I love. I’ll probably always love that.”
Doleac came to Minnesota in a trade with Miami before the season and he may not return next year. He’s played for six teams in his 10 seasons, and he’s starting to feel the wear and tear.
“It’s one of those things where things hurt more, they ache longer. You wake up feeling stiffer,” Doleac said. “The good thing is I’m a lot smarter than I used to be.
“I stretch a lot more. I get my rest a lot more. I’m married now and all that so I’m not going out as much. As far as taking care of my body, I’ve made vast improvements. So hopefully I’ll hold up.”
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