Here we go, folks: The Minnesota Timberwolves’ 30th NBA season kicks off tonight against Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. Up until last year, the Wolves had only made it to the postseason eight times in the franchise’s short existence. During that time, Minnesota fans endured a 13-year playoff drought that seemed like it might never end. Yet, finally in the 2017-18 season the Wolves managed to edge their way out of the maddening “build, rebuild, repeat” cycle that the franchise seemed destined to make its mantra by winning an essential play-in game against the up-and-coming Denver Nuggets in order to secure the final Western Conference playoff spot.
They didn’t last long in the playoffs, but that’s beside the point. They ended the streak, broke the curse — however you want to put it — ostensibly removing the burden the franchise has carried since before they gave Kevin Garnett away for a couple crumbs and a high-five. Wolves fans could finally rest easy in the fact that they were no longer the laughing stock of the NBA ... right?
As has become more and more clear in the past month, simply making the playoffs doesn’t absolve a franchise of its past and present sins. Upper management has completely bungled an enigmatic situation involving some combination of Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Tom Thibodeau, to the point where the entire league is tuned in to the catastrophe like it’s an episode of Bachelor in Paradise. It’s even reached the point in the drama where a previous bachelor contestant is weighing in to say the person running the show “doesn’t know s---” about what he’s doing.
All of this is to say that the Wolves face an even steeper uphill climb to reach the playoffs than they did last season, and it all begins tonight.
Along with the myriad issues surrounding this team internally, the strength of the Western Conference has grown to an unprecedented level. All the while, opposition in the East continues to build strong, young talent of their own. With all of this in mind, the Wolves need to focus all of their energy on where this team will be in three or four years, with Karl-Anthony Towns leading the charge. The first step in this plan was signing him to a max extension, which apparently not even the Wolves’ front office can mess up.
As for tonight, the Wolves will compete against a fractured Spurs team with a lot of moving and undetermined parts. With the offseason loss of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, as well as the preseason injury to Dejounte Murray, the Spurs are absent some of their best defenders of seasons past. But with the addition of DeMar DeRozan and Gregg Popovich’s penchant for crafty defense, the Spurs remain frisky. And yet the biggest tell of tonight’s outcome will likely come from the chemistry — or lack thereof — the Wolves display on the court.
Is Minnesota headed in the right direction, or are they blundering toward another postseason abyss? The answer to that question will start to reveal itself tonight.
Injuries: Justin Patton (foot)
Injuries: Dejounte Murray (knee), Lonnie Walker IV (knee), Derrick White (heel)
Our pals at Pounding the Rock have Spurs coverage for you.
Prediction: Wolves 105, Spurs 100
Canis Prediction Record: 0-0