The NBA is often seen as the more immutable of the sports leagues, evidenced by the lack of parity among NBA champions. This is simply due to the fact that NBA superstars can have such an immense impact on the court and the best players in the league shape the fortunes of organizations with their decisions, as we have seen most recently with Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors and possibly leaving the Thunder to face the prospects of a potential rebuild. However, this ability of NBA players also allows significant changes to take place with one move, one player acquisition, like how LeBron has completely revitalized the landscape of Cleveland sports with his return.
The Timberwolves have changed immensely over the past year even though the roster itself has not seen the radical player turnover that some franchises have faced. At this point last year, we had just watched the Timberwolves limp through one of their worst seasons in memory (against tough competition), which was marred by somewhat blatant tanking through player's lengthy "injuries", the Zach LaVine point guard experiment, and a refusal to adequately shore up the injured roster through player personnel options. While we had drafted Karl-Anthony Towns, an ecstatic moment which was worthy of real excitement, we were still only catching glimpses of what was to come during his summer league performance.
The real factor that has most dramatically changed is our de facto leader, as the franchise was still under the direction of Flip Saunders at this point last year. It is still incomprehensible what the Timberwolves franchise has gone through due to his passing, as the organization seemed to be an extension of his personality at every point, both in ways that celebrated his genius but also exasperated portions of the fanbase in the reluctance to move towards what we consider the "pace and space" epoch of the NBA.
As avid fans, it also becomes unreal of what this meant, as we become so easily wrapped up in the modicum of each game, while the hindsight of time allows us to paint broad swaths of the season in distinct narratives. Perhaps this was also true for the players, members of the coaching staff, and employees of the organization as they also had jobs to do, deadlines to meet, or goals to accomplish.
However, we now have new management in charge and a specific player to rest our hopes upon. Tom Thibodeau is still working on putting his stamp on the team and his purported defensive-minded philosophies will hopefully be expressed on the court and in player personnel decisions. Thibodeau was definitely the face of the franchise in Chicago, as his teams there became synonymous with his basketball methodology, especially after Derrick Rose suffered his litany of injuries.
But as is becoming clear, Thibodeau has no wish or desire to play the media game in the same way the Flip was so fond of. Flip obviously enjoyed speaking with the reporters about basketball and his intrinsic love the game was expressed through these conversations, which made it so easy for him to become the public figure of the franchise. Thibodeau does not have that interest and it is likely that we will only see the "real" version of himself when he is coaching, as so much of his personality will remain behind closed doors.
This leaves the door wide open for a player on the Timberwolves to become the de-facto public leader, which is also often required of superstar players. Kevin Garnett took this role on during his earlier times in Minnesota and it seems likely that the affable Karl-Anthony Towns is next in line to fulfill this role. Towns has shown up in several interviews over the summer during the NBA draft and, such as last night, during the summer league. In Towns' first year in the NBA he already demonstrated a media-ready personality and he interviews extremely well.
The Timberwolves are extremely lucky to have not just a bonafide future superstar on their team, but also one who seems ready to carry the mantle of acting as the public figure for the franchise, something that we have been sorely in need of since the unfortunate passing of Flip Saunders. Judging from his first year in the NBA, Towns is as well suited for this duty as he is to dominate on the court for the next decade.
This Week in Things that are Great!
One of the great joys of literature, and now television, is the ability to tell sweeping epics. Stories that can span multitudes of years, carry arcs of various characters, and then usually conclude in a bittersweet manner as we say goodbye to the individuals we have begun to understand through untold hours spent reading along or by watching a show.
The Hyperion Cantos series, by Dan Simmons, is one of those stories, more specifically a space odyssey concerned with artificial intelligence, human exploration of the universe, and the overarching question of existence. The series shifts wildly from a series of novellas structured similarly to the Canterbury Tales to an action-adventure romp across the galaxy chock full of religious overtones and introspective philosophical meditations. Oh, and lots of poetry, basically if John Keats was just below Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammed in terms of historical importance.
Science Fiction epics have a very specific target demographic, as they take large amounts of time to read and dedicated interest. But if you found yourself watching Interstellar when it was released, but felt that it only scratched the surface of what could be explored, then I would highly recommend Hyperion Cantos.