The 2003-04 was a great season to be a Minnesota Timberwolves fan.
After years of being criticized by fans for not surrounding superstar Kevin Garnett with more talent, GM Kevin McHale made two trades that would change the fate of the Timberwolves.
On June 27, 2003, McHale traded Joe Smith (see Ache #6) and Anthony Peeler to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Sam Cassell and Ervin Johnson.
McHale helped orchestrate another big deal on July 24 as the Wolves were part of a four team deal involving the New York Knicks, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Philadelphia 76ers, in which the Timberwolves parted with Terrell Brandon and Marc Jackson in exchange for Latrell Sprewell.
Despite past warnings that Sprewell could be trouble behind the scenes, the Wolves fanbase welcomed the Milwaukee native with open arms as the Minnesota searched for their first NBA title since 1954.
Then the best season since the Lakers left began.
The Wolves won their first and only Midwest Division championship (They are still the reigning Midwest Division champions...the league reformated the following year), and were the #1 seed heading into the playoffs after posting a 58-24 record.
Playing alongside NBA MVP Kevin Garnett and All-Star Sam Cassell, Sprewell started all 82 games for the Wolves, and averaged 16.8 ppg and just under 39 minutes per game.
Even more thirlling for Wolves fan was their first-ever playoff run. The 03-04 season was the eighth-consecutive playoff berth for the Wolves, and the previous seven had all ended in the first round. The Wolves beat the Denver Nuggets (in Carmelo Anthony's first trip to the postseason) 4-1, and won Game 7 against the Sancramento Kings after Chris Webber missed a 3-pointer that would have sent the game to overtime.
Sprewell was having a terrific postseason, scoring 19.8 ppg.
And then came the Lakers.
The Lakers had an intimidating roster that included Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton and Karl Malone.
The Lakers beat the Wolves in six games, and sent the franchise into a spiral.
Offseason contract disputes plagued the Wolves as Sprewell and Cassell wanted more money. Cassell was limited to 59 games due to injury, and the Wolves finished 44-38...and missed the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade.
Following the 04-05 campaign, the Wolves traded Cassell to the LA Clippers in exchange for Lionel Chalmers and Marko Jaric. The Wolves also made an effort to re-sign Sprewell, offering him a 3-year, $21 million deal, a signifiant paycut from the $16 million he made in 2004 alone. Sprewell's message for the Wolves was clear.
"Why would I want to help them win a title? They're not doing anything for me. I'm at risk. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed. Anything can happen."
The Wolves released Sprewell, and despite offers from NBA contenders in 2006 like the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and LA Lakers, Sprewell couldn't/wouldn't reach a deal with any of those teams.
Things haven't been too good for the Wolves or for Sprewell since.
Since releaseing Sprewell in 2005, the Wolves have had four different head coaches (Dwayne Casey, Kevin McHale, Randy Wittman, Kurt Rambis) and have compiled a 141-369 record.
Sprewell has had a load of financial troubles.
In Auguest 2006, Sprewell (36) was investigated for a claim by a 21-year-old that she was strangled while having consensual sex with Sprewell aboard his yacht, "Milwaukee's Best." The following September, police indicated that he would not recieve any charges.
In January 2007, Sprewell's long term companion sued him for $200 million for ending their relationship agreement. She claims Sprewell agreed to support her and their four children since they were in college.
In August 2007, it was reported by multiple news agencies that Latrell Sprewell's yacht was repossessed by federal marshals after Sprewell failed to maintain payments and insurancefor which he reportedly still owed $1.3 million.
In February 2008, Sprewell's yacht was auctioned for $856,000 after he defaulted on a $1.5 million mortgage, and in May 2008 a Milwaukee area home owned by Sprewell went into foreclosure. Between September 2007 and January 2008, documents revealed that Sprewell failed to make his mortgage payments of $2,593 per month.
In July 2009 a Westchester mansion owned by Sprewell went into foreclosure.
That $21 millions doesn't seem so bad right now. After all, anything can happen.