Collectively the Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the NBA's most unique teams, but how they will fare in terms of wins and losses this season looks to be dependent on team-chemistry. Flip Saunders believes he has constructed a roster with players who, individually, have a lot to prove. With Kevin Love gone many of the questions during Media Day were asked about leadership: Who is going to set the tone in the locker room and on the basketball court?
Saunders believes the answer will come as a result of the collective effort made by the few veterans on the Wolves roster.
Thaddeus Young was the first player to answer the media's questions. He displayed an obvious understanding of what his role will be with the Timberwolves. Young spoke convincingly, describing himself as a mentor to the second-year players, as well as rookies, after going through somewhat of a tumultuous career with the Philadelphia 76er. He believes those experiences in Philly helped him mature as a player and a person.
When Young was done, two second-year players who massively underachieved as rookies, Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad, took turns answering questions as a tandem. These two spent the previous few weeks shedding pounds together in California. After Bennett and Muhammad, Andrew Wiggins answered questions while sitting alone before being replaced by Robbie Hummel and Glenn Robinson III (both are second-round draft selections).
The peculiar Media Day pairings continued with J.J. Barea aside Nikola Pekovic, who spoke before Andrew Wiggins took to the table solo. Zach LaVine, like Wiggins, answered questions alone after Jon Finnoff, Medical director for the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center in May Clinic Square and Michael Stuart, Vice-Chair of orthopedic surgery and co-director of Sports Medicine were done speaking. Upon answering questions LaVine revealed Kevin Martin had pulled him aside (a day or two ago) for one of the aforementioned meetings among players.
It was with LaVine at this meeting Martin admitted he has yet to enter the mentorship portion of his career. It seems as though he's making an effort to change that entering his 11th NBA season. Even with the beloved Ricky Rubio at his side, Martin did most of the talking when it was their turn to answer questions and certainly spoke like a funny, confident and laid back guy. He admitted to "riding the coattails of superstars Kevin Love and Kevin Durant over the past four-to-five years" and Martin claims he can't get away with the some of the stuff he has gotten away with during his career.
Later, Martin described his rookie teammates as "babies," and says the meetings Saunders mentioned were the "first of many" he expects to have with Rubio and LaVine, and potentially even others.
"I've got to be the big brother type who does things the right way, and not just get by on talent."
Later, Gorgui Dieng sat at the table and began answering questions before Mo Williams walked into the room. Williams approached the table and, unprovoked, told Dieng what he should be doing this season: "You get the rebound, pass me the outlet, you run the floor and I give it back to you."
Williams hopes he can leave an impression on his teammates this season from a mentorship role.
"At the end of the day it's about growth.".... "If you with me, Ima fight for you. Thats just who I am. I want to win."
While the spotlight during the offseason has shined brightest on Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, it is the responsibility of Thaddeus Young, Kevin Martin and Mo Williams to pave the proverbial road to success this season. Flip Saunders is mixing a delicate concoction of veterans and youngsters and hoping for things to fall into place in the Wolves favor.
Yes, Rubio and LaVine and Wiggins are all under immense pressure, but they are not solely those responsible for creating success. The heavy lifting is mostly on the shoulders of Young, Williams and Martin. However, the Timberwolves will need to learn, develop and grow together through victory and adversity in order for Saunders plan to work.