Several players talked about the disappointment of last season as Wolves training camp got underway in Mankato yesterday. What emerged from those comments is that the players knew that Kevin Love was probably gone from the team this summer, and that the team failed to come together last season.
John Krawczynski of the AP wrote an article focusing on Love's pending departure and it's effect on the team:
And his teammates had grown weary of having to answer questions about Love's uncertain future and hearing the narrative that the star was some kind of martyr stranded in an NBA wasteland. Those teammates that Love left behind started training camp on Tuesday determined to prove that they were more than just weights around Love's ankles.
Andy Greder produced a similar piece in the Pioneer Press, focused on veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin, who had several interesting quotes yesterday:
"We had enough veterans to gel the team, but there was just something that happened around February that was just -- I couldn't put my hand on it -- but our team just went in totally different directions." -Kevin Martin
Martin talks about getting a call from Glen Taylor this summer expressing his disappointment in the season and prodding Martin to become more of a leader on the team. It's apparently something Martin took to heart, as he discussed last season being disrespectful to Rick Adelman, his realizing that he can no longer cut corners in practice, and sitting down with rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine to talk about expectations.
We knew that Love's situation might have been a distraction last season, and we had the sense that Rick Adelman might have been a bit checked out compared to previous years, but hearing the players discuss what went wrong and their failures as a team sheds some new light on what happened to the Wolves last season.
As befits the beginning season, of course, the players are ready to turn the page and embrace a new sense of optimism and excitement which hopefully will last beyond the first three game losing streak. Martin in particular seems to understand that he has to be a better professional. I found his willingness to acknowledge his past failures in this area to be the most interesting thing to emerge from Mankato yesterday.
The Wolves have a fascinating mix of young players and veterans heading into the season. How this group comes together is going to be an interesting process to watch, especially after last year's mostly veteran group didn't coalesce. One final note: apparently Ricky Rubio understands it's time for him to take the reins.
Ricky Rubio emerged as the communication leader at practice Tuesday. His voice could be heard almost as much as the coaches, and his actions off the court follow suit as he has become the leader of the Wolves.
"It's been like that ever since I've been here," Mo Williams said. "It's his team ... and he knows he has to take that next step to get to the next level."
Camp continues in Mankato today.