As a tribute to the longest-suffering NBA player of the 1990s, this year's Western Conference playoffs should be renamed the West Playoffs. After seven seasons of watching from home, Timberwolves swingman Doug West will finally play in the postseason.
Through Sunday, West, 29, had played by far the most games—565—of any active player who has never been to the playoffs. Vancouver guard Lee Mayberry was next, with 403. "He's about three years behind me," West says, laughing. At week's end Minnesota stood at 37-38 and in line for the sixth seed in the conference; the magic number for clinching the franchise's first playoff berth was one.
"It has driven me crazy," he says, "but getting there one year, then not making it for the next five—that would have made me even crazier. I've never been."
Drafted out of Villanova in the second round in 1989, West is the only original Timberwolf still with the team. In his first seven seasons, his clubs had a .265 winning percentage, and the closest he came to a playoff berth was 1990-91, when Minnesota won 29 games and finished 12 games out of the eighth playoff spot. "This is the first lime in my career," West says, "that a game in April means anything."
West has plenty of reason to celebrate, off the court as well as on. He and his wife, Wuela, welcomed their first child, a boy named Tyson, in March, "it's been a good year," says West, who has averaged 8.0 points this season. "We got [point guard] Stephon [Marbury]; we got a new logo; we learned how to win." Now he and the T-Wolves are headed into uncharted territory and looking forward to it. Says West, "I'm going to savor every minute."