Great players working to make other players great
As you parse through Adelman's training camp comments, you quickly start picking up a theme: the team gets it.
“Just watching their scrimmage play, they’re already doing things that we need to be doing. They don’t have to think about it.”....“There is a lot of potential in this group. They played well together at both ends and it’s going to be interesting to watch them go. For the most part I was really pleased.”....“I really wasn’t sure exactly how much we were going to do. Watching the scrimmage, we’re running a lot of stuff out of our corner offense because they seem to pick it up very quickly.”
"It is a smart team."
Whoa, wait. They picked it up quickly? They're displaying great basketball IQ? They're ahead of the curve?
Is this really the Timberwolves?
If there's one thing I do in my free time more than anything else, it's read. Fiction, non-fiction, history, music, documentaries....whatever. Right now, I'm in the middle of Steve Jobs' biography (done by Walter Isaacson...I highly recommend) Granted, Jobs probably wasn't the most enjoyable guy to work for, but he did change the world several times in the span of just 40 years or so, and when he was asked about it, he wasn't shy about the answer:
For most things in life, the range between best and average is 30% or so. The best airplane flight, the best meal, they may be 30% better than your average one. What I saw in Woz [Steve Wozniak, Jobs' co-founder of Apple and the technical genius behind the Apple II] was somebody who was 50 times better than your average engineer. He could have meetings in his head. The Mac team was an attempt to build a whole team like that: A players....I realized that A players liked working with other A players, they just didn't like working with C players. At Pixar, I had a whole company of A players. When I got back to Apple, I decided that's what I'd try to do.
A players. You either were one, became one, or were out.
I'm a big, big believer in the idea that iron sharpens iron. That the presence of great players makes everyone better. It motives with inspiration, teaches by example, and toughens through competition.
For more than a decade, Kevin Garnett was this team's Wozniak. The guy who was 50 times better than your average NBA player. He did everything anyone could to make his teammates better. They had to listen to him, learn from him, and work with him in games (or learn to be effective against him in practice). Or they were out. When KG left, the sharpening stone went with him, and the Wolves haven't been able to replace that until now.
Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko are more than just productive veteran additions. They're iron to sharpen everyone else. A guy like Derrick Williams won't be much challenged to get better guarding Wes Johnson and scoring around Michael Beasley. You better bet it's a hell of a lot harder to stop Roy and score against AK-47. So now the standard is a lot higher. Williams either gets better, or is left out. Even a guy like Greg Stiemsma...who's Love going to have a harder time scoring in the post against? Greg? Or a guy like Ryan Hollins? Greg is going to make Love better because now Love has to figure out a way to score against him every day.
You can't find your way if you don't know the path. Sometimes a genuinely unique, brilliant person manages to blaze the trail alone without someone leading the way. Garnett did it. Wozniak and Jobs did it. But most need some sort of guidepost. Iron to gain their edge with. The Wolves may have finally found theirs. And if Adelman's optimism is any indication, the whole team is quickly getting sharper.