OK, the most obvious answer, at least for now, is that we can watch the NBA playoffs. If you are a Timberwolves fan it stands to reason that you are a fan of the sport of basketball and the NBA playoffs offers some of the finest basketball in existence. Now, I get that the first round can be a little boring — this year being no exception. Use this time to catch up on your correspondence or clean the garage. It's fine to take some time for yourself but just be aware that, beginning in round two there are going to be some epic match-ups, at least on the Western side of the bracket. San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City? Golden State vs. L.A. Clippers? Yes, please, and thank you!
Now, as I see it, there are two basic barriers to Timberwolves fans watching the NBA playoffs and they are kind of interconnected. The first is the barrier of not having a rooting interest and the second is actively hating the teams still going. OK, I guess these are basically different versions of the same barrier. Regardless, it's nonsense. The model of sports fandom where you harbor a deep and profound hatred for the opposition doesn't really appeal to me personally, but I'm well aware of it's popularity. I do, after all, live in Minnesota where rooting for the Vikings is often secondary to rooting against the Packers. I'm not saying I'm above this entirely, I have no interest in seeing the Clippers win the championship, but there are more than enough players and teams to like and root for in these NBA playoffs. Of course the rooting interest won't be as intense as when the Wolves are back in, but there can be advantages to having a more relaxed rooting interest in exciting basketball games. Rooting for a game seven, for example, is a luxury that home town fans can't afford due to the risk involved, but we Wolves fans can just sit back and enjoy the show. Pick a team, if they loose, pick another. Find a rooting angle you can feel good about. If you are a hate oriented fan, use that to your advantage and root against, rather than for, one of the teams on your television. Cultivate a rooting interest and enjoy the NBA playoffs Wolves fans because soon enough we will be on the edge of our seats just trying to remember how to breathe.
Draft and Free Agency
Years ago I came to understand that the NBA offseason was one of my favorite sports seasons overall. This probably has something to do with the perpetual need to rebuild my beloved Timberwolves, but there is little reason to go into that sadness here. The NBA offseason is a fun spectacle on its own, regardless of team need. The hope and promise of the draft, the wooing of veteran free agents, the wild roster churning trades. It's all so exciting.
This summer should be especially fun for Wolves fans. The past season brought noticeable improvement over the previous year while also highlighting some specific roster needs (back up point guard, versatile power forward, wing defenders). Combine this with the fact that new coach/president Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden will both be anxious to make their impact on the roster and Wolves fans could well have the most exciting off-season since the Sam/Spree celebratory summer of 2003.
First up is the draft where the Timberwolves are assured to be picking no later than 8th, and likely a notch or two higher than that. Take this time to familiarize yourself with the players who will be available when our favorite team is on the clock. Will Thibs move up to take Dragan Bender, move down to take Henry Ellenson, or stand pat with Buddy Hield? Any of these could happen and you, as an obsessive fan, will want to be prepared to react. Go to Draft Express, watch the videos, read the bios, do your homework. It's always fun to imagine how a new young player might fit on the roster. One word of warning however, don't let recent events convince you that a rookie is going to have a major impact right away. Despite evidence to the contrary, it's not like these Wolves can have a rookie of the year every season.
After the June draft is when the real fun begins. The rumors are going to be thick and they are going to come fast. Just this morning I saw speculation that Thibs will target Carmello Anthony this summer. It's going to be crazy so bookmark your favorite NBA rumor site, study up on the available free agents, and work that trade machine. This is going to be so much fun you won't even miss watching the Wolves actually play.
One of the great things about the sport of basketball is how simple it is to get together and recreationally play essentially the same sport you watch on the TV. There are some obvious differences of course, it's not like my friends ever finish my sweet lob passes with a dunk, but mostly it's the same. Hockey and football require people to have expensive equipment and impeccable health insurance, baseball and soccer require superb community organizing skills just to put together a decent game, but basketball requires only a ball and a local park and there you are playing your favorite sport the same way your heroes play it.
Have you spent all season complaining about Adrian Payne's loose picks? Go out and set a crisp pick yourself. Tired of Andrew Wiggins' drifting perimeter defense? Show the world how it's done by locking down some random guy at the YMCA. Do you wish Zach would cut hard to the basket whenever that lane opens up? Well, you get the idea. I am the first to point out the limitations to what we can learn about the professional game during a friendly pick up match. After all, these guys are the best and they play against the best under the tutelage of the games finest coaches, but I can honestly say that playing the sport myself does impact the way I watch. Conversely, thoughtfully watching (something I do occasionally indulge in) helps inform the way I try to play. It's an interdependent relationship. Really, if you're body still works well enough to play basketball, and you love basketball, get out there and make the Wolves proud and play some basketball. You won't regret it- at least not until you try to walk up and down stairs the following morning.
The World Champion Minnesota Lynx
Let's get real for a second here. Have you, obsessed Minnesota basketball fan that you are, noticed that there is championship level, professional basketball, being played right here in downtown Minneapolis? You haven't? Well you should. The three time champion Minnesota Lynx are everything you want a basketball team to be. They are fun and serious at the same time with a combination of savvy vets, hometown heroes, and Maya Moore. Seriously, if for no other reason, watch for Maya Moore- she's simply incredible.
Look, I get it. Finding an entry point into the WNBA can be difficult. Most of us don't have much inertia around it. I remember when the league first started I peeked in a few times and felt that the product simply wasn't very good. Maybe it wasn't then, or maybe I didn't know what I was looking for. Regardless, the product is pretty damn good right now. Summer can be a barrier as well, even knowing how good the team has been these past few years I traditionally struggle to find time to watch, waiting mostly until the WNBA finals to jump on the band wagon last season. I'll make no such mistake this summer.
The Wolves season ended on an emotional high. Our favorite team played near .500 basketball over the final third of the season as Karl-Anthony Towns established himself as one of the brightest young stars in the league. The off season began with a bang as Glen Taylor acted swiftly and decisively in bringing in a new coach/president and general manager. I'm excited about Minnesota basketball and so are you and the good news is we are just a few weeks away from the start of the Lynx season. Support Minnesota basketball, support women athletics, and have a great time doing it. I expect the Lynx to compete for another championship this season, perhaps the last of this run, and either way the season will end just as the Wolves season is about to begin. There is no reason to miss basketball in Minneapolis because it hasn't gone anywhere- it's simply gotten more competitive.
As a last note I will just add that if you need a break from basketball to pursue other interests we will understand. A well rounded life is a must these days and this last week was a reminder of just how fleeting life can be and how important of a role music can play in all of our lives.
Twitter confession: Music >>>> Baskeball. Always and forever.— SlowBreak (@AverageJer) April 21, 2016
Go see some shows, buy something you have never heard before, road trip to see an old favorite one last time. Go Wolves! Go Lynx! Go music! Please let everyone know in the comments how you intend to pass the time until November.