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 time 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."

--TIM KURKJIAN

COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER At long last, West's year won't end with the regular season. [Doug West in game]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)