MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -The Minnesota Timberwolves sure seemed to be headed in the right direction.
Two weeks ago, they had won five out of seven games while star Al Jefferson was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for a dominating stretch in the low post.
The signs of progress came from nowhere after a what appeared to be a hopeless 5-34 start. Now, just as quickly, the young Timberwolves are back in the tank. They have lost five in a row heading into the All-Star break, the latest a 25-point thumping at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers that showed just how much work is yet to be done.
``Try to forget the last couple games,'' guard Marko Jaric said when asked about what he planned on doing during his time off. ``Try to reset our minds. Try to comeback and win, simply.''
The Timberwolves (10-41) left for all corners of the United States on Thursday with one more victory than the league-worst Miami Heat.
ture this soon. They knew things would be difficult, but their most recent losing streak cast a pall over the locker room as players prepared for a much-needed vacation.
``The break will do us good. It comes at a good time for us,'' coach Randy Wittman said. ``We just need to get that spark back after this break.''
It certainly has been missing lately. After an impressive 104-83 home victory over the Los Angeles Clippers gave them their fifth win in seven games back on Feb. 1, the Timberwolves went to sleep.
Home losses to Houston, Boston in the injured Garnett's return to the Twin Cities, Toronto and the Lakers sandwiched around a road loss to the Nets zapped the feel-good from the room.
``If you look all together, we're definitely not happy. We're definitely below average and below what we expected,'' Jaric said. ``But if you look at the last month, I think we've definitely recognized that we can play.
``We had a bad stretch at the beginning of the season where we just didn't believe in ourselves. Now the expectations are a little different, so we just hope we can get a few more wins.''
With 31 games remaining, the Timberwolves are hoping to come out of the break refreshed and rejuvenated while trying to enter next season with a little momentum to build on.
to know his teammates and build some chemistry for next season. Center Theo Ratliff is also expected to return from a knee injury that has kept him out for most of the season, which would give Jefferson some help on the inside.
``I wouldn't say it's a good time for a break,'' Foye said. ``I guess it's just a good time to get away and free your mind. Then when we come back, get ready to turn it around. Start preparing to be a better team.''
Foye is most concerned about maintaining what has been a good vibe in the locker room. Losing can lead to tension behind the scenes. That's something Foye says the team cannot afford.
``Team. That should be our main goal. No matter what happens, stick with each other, stay together,'' Foye said. ``We're trying to build here. The main focus coming off the break should be team and getting things done as a whole and not individually.''
Owner Glen Taylor said he has been encouraged by the chemistry the team has developed off the court, and by the improvement shown by Jefferson and point guard Sebastian Telfair, among others. He read the stories a few weeks ago saying the team had turned the corner, but remains realistic about the timeline for success in the post-KG era.
``This is still a rebuilding program,'' Taylor said. ``This is still a long-run program.''
Which may not be such a bad thing. Several teams in the West are loading up for runs at the NBA title. Phoenix traded for Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers grabbed Pau Gasol and Dallas is trying to get Jason Kidd from the Nets.
In March, Shaq will turn 36 and Kidd will be 35.
``In two, three years, they could be gone,'' Wittman said. ``Now they've got to start over, Dallas and those guys. Maybe we'll be put in a position where we'll benefit from all this.''
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AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this story.

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