The Minnesota Timberwolves’ finalized purchase of the NBA D-League’s Iowa Energy in May was a great relief to long-time fans of the team. After missing out on one-to-one relationships with various D-League teams over the past few years, they would finally have their own team for the 2017-18 season. Today, the Energy took part in the Wolves’ rebranding process and officially became the Iowa Wolves.
“It had to be the right team, it had to be the right time, and certainly there needed to be a tremendous opportunity in that partnership, and we found that,” Timberwolves’ CEO Ethan Casson said after the unveiling of the logo. “Frankly, all roads led back to Des Moines.” Casson also called the Wells Fargo Arena and facilities “[I think] the best facility inside the league to date,” which is quite the call to go with the brand-new facilities at Mayo Clinic Square and the soon-to-be completed renovations of the Target Center.
The new logo comes from the same designer as the Wolves’ new logo, which should be relatively obvious when putting the two side by side, with the new green North Star featured in both logos. However, the side-facing wolf rather than the wolf howling upwards is a nice call-back to the Timberwolves’ original logo, used from 1989-1996 (even if the wolf is facing the opposite direction). The smaller logos also featured use the star idea to mark out Des Moines within the state of Iowa.
Timberwolves’ head coach and president of basketball operations also called back to the franchise’s history in his comments. “If you study the history of our team, the foundation was built with minor league players who came up and did a great job for us. I was a part of that team under Bill Mussellman, had guys like Scott Brooks, Sid Lowe, Tony Campbell, Sam Mitchell... it was a team that was built with that kind of foundation.”
Thibodeau called specifically on the impact of the two two-way contracts that the Timberwolves will be able to use with the Wolves to augment the fifteen normal regular-season roster spots, and also discussed the impact of the D-League team as a rehabilitation opportunity for injured veterans.
“We can also use it from the standpoint of, when a veteran gets injured, we can send him here to recover, part of his rehab,” Thibodeau said. “Practicing with that team, maybe not playing in the games, but having the ability to practice. If we’re on the West Coast, and you’re not practicing, it gives him an opportunity to play five-on-five and get experience that way.”
In specific regard to Zach LaVine’s recovery process, Thibodeau said, “A lot depends on where he is. There’s an eight- to twelve-month recovery time, so you don’t know. He’s coming along fairly well, but depending on when an injury occurs, it’s certainly something that will get strong consideration.”
Thibodeau also talked about the potential coaching staff of the Des Moines team. “We’re gonna open it up, and I think the important thing for us is to find someone that is familiar with the system that we’re running. We have some people in mind that we’re talking to, and we’ll see how that unfolds.” The ability to install Thibodeau’s extensive system and terminology from the ground up in Des Moines should be an unbelievably huge benefit to every player on both sides of the roster divide.
The press event was so well attended that they had to bring extra chairs into the conference room to seat everyone, and the staff were ready to hand out t-shirts and other swag to begin the branding process in Des Moines. It will be interesting to see how the relationship between the Timberwolves and the state of Iowa, in addition to the I-Wolves specifically, will develop over the coming months. It’s official: the Wolves have a D-League team, which is also the Wolves.
- In his remarks, Casson noted that the Target Center renovations were scheduled to be completed for the start of the 2017-18 season, which is NOT news, but is still nice to hear and be reminded of.
- Thibodeau talked about how when he met with Timberwolves’ majority owner Glen Taylor before taking the job, a priority was getting the Wolves a D-League team, and then it happened.
- And for clarity, it is indeed still the D-League, for two more weeks. The D-League’s rebrand to the G-League will happen on June 22 as a part of the draft.