I hadn't a clue what to expect; who would show up or how substantial the reception would be for the new players, but shortly after arriving at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds I realized Tuesday's press conference created a buzz even before it started.
Many of the people gathered around the guardrail at the Fox 9 booth donning jerseys or blue and grey t-shirts featuring a variation of the Wolves logo. Anyone who showed up at the same time, or after I did, around 12:15 PM, needed to be persistent in order to obtain a position in the front row. This was indubitably a popular destination as plenty of folks came to see Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Anthony Bennett be introduced as members of the Timberwolves; Zach LaVine's presence was an added bonus.
At 1:00 PM those in attendance assessed the new crop of talent, as the aforementioned players took turns answering questions posed by media members. This took place live, and the reply can be seen courtesy of Fox 9 -- click this link. It quickly became apparent, judging by the volume of the applause and cheers, that Wiggins was the distinct fan-favorite. Although, Thad Young, at 26 years old, was the most well-spoken and charismatic among the group. Presumably, Young left with more supporters than he arrived with after expressing anticipation to play alongside Ricky Rubio and 'putting it on record' that Nikola Pekovic is the strongest person he has ever gone against.
Prior to Tuesday, I was strictly a fan of Young's statistical production and playing style, but I had left the fair with plenty of admiration for his personality as well. After hearing him answer questions I can't help but assume Young will be a vital presence in the Wolves' locker room this season, which is something the team had been lacking during Kevin Love's time in Minnesota. I'm completely speculating, but, perhaps Young being a figurative co-captain to Ricky Rubio may alleviate some pressure.
After the presser, in an area to the left of the stage, the trio of newcomers took turns speaking to the media in a separate Q&A session. When they weren't answering questions, players signed autographs and distributed flyers in a separate scrum nearby. Unlike the press conference, questions and answers weren't projected over a microphone or aired on live-television for everyone to hear.
Thad Young was the first to answer questions in the separate media session.
Question: How's it feel to be the ‘grizzled veteran' at 26?
I don't feel I'm a grizzled old veteran. I feel I'm still fresh in the game, young, and still can go out there and do a lot of things. I just have more years than everybody. More experience. It's a great thing for some of these young guys. It's a great thing for me. I can step into a situation where I know some of the concepts and I can help, offensively, defensively, with the young guys, and get better as a team.
Question: What has Flip Saunders told you guys about the style of play he plans to implement?
Flip said he wants to step back a little bit; give us the concepts, give us the scheme, and just let us go out there and play. He wants the veterans to go out and lead, and show the young guys how to play. It says a lot about a coach. He has a lot of confidence in the words that he has. He's a very smart guy. He knows what he's doing. He was coaching in Detroit when I first came in. Those guys were very, very tough, man, and ever since then I have believed he is a great coach.
Question: As a veteran, what can you do to help establish a defensive culture?
(...) I think we can go out there and do a lot of damage. I think teams are going to be scared of how athletic we are. We can be really, really dangerous in transition. We have three of the top-10 guys in steals on our team; Corey Brewer, Ricky Rubio and Me! We added a very athletic Zach LaVine, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. I think this is going to be a scary situation for a lot of (opposing) teams.
(My) Question: Where do you feel you matchup size wise against other power forwards around the league?
At the end of the day I’ve done it for the past seven years. I’ve been successful at it. Some guys have succeeded in getting under the basket and scoring. Some guys have problems gettin’ around me and stuff like that. I’m agile, quick, smart, able to work myself out of certain situations, and I have a lot of confidence in my teammates.
Question: What do you think it will be like playin' with Ricky (Rubio)?
I think it will be similar to my first year when I played with Andre Miller. We all know what type of passer he is. If he sees a defender's back turned he's passin' the ball. I think Ricky Rubio's the same way, although he might be a taaaad bit better of a passer than Miller, and he's more exciting. It's definitely going to be a great situation because I'm a guy that likes to run the floor, cut backdoor, get into open space, run around to just be free and have fun.
If you want to listen to the audio from this interview, I've uploaded it to my Google Drive. Click this link.
Next up was Andrew Wiggins
Question: Are you disappointed that you left Cleveland just as LeBron James was coming in?
I'm disappointed in leaving Cleveland, period. At the same time, business is business, they felt it was the best decision for them. I'm going to miss the guys over there. The coaching staff, down to the trainers and the players too. The only thing I can do now is work hard for Minnesota.
Question: Did you ever talk to LeBron?
Question: How confident are you that you guys can end the playoff drought this year?
I'm pretty confident. I expect everybody wants to make the playoffs this year.
Question: What has this summer been like for you?
It's been up and down, not knowing where I'm going and stuff, but, I think I am in the best position for me.
Question: What are you expectations here (in Minnesota)?
You know; have fun, win games and get acquainted with my teammates and coaching staff. Just try and get along with everybody.
Last year, I didn't really get the chance to showcase that I can play. I haven't really been playing throughout this summer. Mid Preseason, I had a game where I kinda blew up, but I never really continued to play like that. I have Thaddeus Young here, I can learn from him. I'm just trying to reach my goals. I want to go out there and play well.
Glen Taylor also said a few things....
His comments have been made known, but here are some additional quotes made by Taylor that I believe have been left absent from previous reports.
I can't hardly get 20 steps without someone stopping me and saying, 'Hey Mr. Taylor, we're really excited about your team!' So I see the enthusiasm among our fans to watch these players. Now, maybe it will be a dunk contest here for awhile, but, we certainly have some athletic young men.
What I'm excited about is something that we have lacked, everyone has known it, and that's defense. We have a group of people here, now, that have shown in their young age that they understand the importance of defense. With that, I think we'll have a chance to win games during that last quarter where we've been losing them in the past.
Question: (...)Do you feel, walkin' away from it, you did about as well as you could have given the circumstances?
I spoke the truth when I said if Kevin (Love) would stay here we would have the best season. Inside I knew, Kevin wasn't giving that alternative even though it's what I wanted.
Question: What kept you guys patient through this (trade negotiations) process?
(...)I told Flip that if he didn't get the deal; we were going to make Love come to camp, and we were going to make him stay here and play for Flip. There might have been the possibility we would have played really well. Kevin has changed his mind in the past, he could change his mind (again) and I was willing to take that chance-- or we would have traded him halfway through the year. I told Flip if he couldn't get something he was happy with, we'd just stay with it.
Question (Jerry Zgoda): I asked you in the spring about the decision, three-years ago, to give Kevin the four-years instead of the five-years and if you regret that. Do you feel much regret about that decision?
Knowing what we know, now, I would have signed him to the five-years. His (Love's) offensive skills improved better than we estimated. The only thing I still have a question mark would be his health. I had that concern then, I still have that concern and I think Cleveland should have that concern.
The Timberwolves received some serious exposure at the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday. Not only were they seen by the loyal fans who came strictly to see the newest members of their team, but, even the casual fairgoer could have seen them pass by. Short of a parade, this method of promotion was probably the most efficient way to give the organization some attention during the offseason.
Players went to and from the different radio booths while loyal and excited fans crowded them for pictures. I had never seen anything like it. There was tons of commotion. Although, this was all a result of the Wolves decision to trade Kevin Love, at least people were able to celebrate what was received in return and begin to move on.
It was a wise move by Glen Taylor, Flip Saunders, and Chris Wright. Using the 'great get-together' as a platform to promote their team and helped close the proverbial book on one of the most controversial chapters of Timberwolves' history. Whether the trade pays dividends on the court throughout the season, or in the future, remains to be seen.
For those who prefer picture books, here's a Storify of my day at the fair. It is much more aesthetically pleasing than my words.