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The Wolf Nightcap, Vol. 1

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KG was back at Target Center for Prince Night. The Wolves worked the Blazers. Let the good times roll.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves
Jimmy Butler’s toxic energy is in another area code, and his former team is thriving without him.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the night is not so young. It’s getting late here in Minneapolis. But there’s always time for a nightcap, and tonight I bring you the first Wolves one.

The Blazers showed up on Friday night looking to whoop on the Wolves for the second time this season. But on Prince Night, with Kevin Garnett back in the building for the first time in what feels like forever—sitting in the first row on the far baseline across from Portland’s bench—the suddenly rejuvenated Wolves continued to look like a completely different team sans Jimmy Butler. Our beloved leader here at Canis Hoopus wrote about the win.

I have some additional news and notes from the locker room, as well as some tweets that caught my eye.

First, Andrew Wiggins was tremendous. He looks better at the two-guard, and most importantly that’s where he wants to play a majority of his minutes. He’s comfortable there against smaller wings. His activity has been everything most fans have ever reasonably asked from him, and the way he’s reading things defensively seems better than ever before. You can tell he’s enjoying this post-Butler Wolf World, no matter how often he takes the high road—something Butler is clearly incapable of doing—and compliments what General Soreness brought to the team.

Of course, we’ve been fooled plenty of times before with Wiggins and need to see this type of play over much larger samples. But tonight, I say cheers to his last two performances. I sense a guy that wants it that much more. Hallelujah!

Josh Okogie is out of the rotation now that Derrick Rose is back. I don’t agree at all with keeping him on the bench. Thibs needs to find ways to work him into the action. His energy is infectious. He’s a beloved teammate. They have to develop his skills with game reps and should not waste time letting him sit. As our good friend NPH (no, not Neil Patrick Harris) says...

Rose played well, though. I will always give credit where it’s due. Does he need to play 34 minutes? Obviously not, given Tyus Jones is on the roster. 17 points, 7 rebs, and 6 assists is certainly cool off the bench. The spark was for real. But you know what’s really cool? Not having to sit out the next game, or two, or however many, because his body hurts. Again, Thibodeau needs to find a balance. My confidence level in that is below 5% ... but all we have is hope, I suppose.

Here’s what Rose thinks about NBA defense...

My dad, of course, had some thoughts on the win. Our friends at Wolvescast think he should write for The Athletic. I don’t think he’s available though. He’s a big newspaper guy to be honest.

Shout out to David Brauer for the kind tweet. I believe he’s referencing my string of elated tweets last Saturday after the Butler trade finally went down. I was thrilled. Most of us were. I told him the deal was fantastic. It was.

In other news, wait a second, look who liked this tweet...

Thibodeau and communication go together exactly like Thibs and minutes restrictions, as I tried to express to Marc Stein.

Back to the game, though. This is the first official Wolf Nightcap, which I may or may not stay consistent with based on my energy levels. (I have a full-time job, you know!?)

Jeff Teague is always fun to talk to because you know he’s going to cut the bullshit and get right to the truth. I love that. It’s pretty rare. His insights are typically refreshing and, well, quite revealing. JFT! JFT! JFT!

I thought BIG KAT had some unique things to say tonight. I shall let you, thy reader, read between the lines on some of his quotes. Tell me what grabs your attention the most and let’s see if we agree. Watch both parts.

HERE’S A LIVE LOOK AT WOLVES NATION AFTER THE TASTE OF ANOTHER SWEET HOME VICTORY (7-1)...

Can the Wolves have Prince Night every Friday night? I mean, what’s the argument for not doing it? Target Center was electric. Seeing KG there made the moment all that more special. Good times were had by everyone, except those phony T-Blazers.

Another quick thought: *Kendrick voice* DAMN! The New Wolves just know how to play basketball. Brett Brown is obviously an awesome coach because Covington and Saric ball the right way. The thing you have to love about them is how deliberate they are in everything they do. Open look? They shoot without hesitation. Rebounding? They attack the defensive glass and box out. They know how to navigate screens. They chip the roll man if necessary. They have quick hands. They aren’t ball stoppers. There is almost no wasted motions with these guys. They offer high basketball IQ and space.

Why the hell did the Sixers want to deal these guys? I mean, I get the allure of such an incredible talent like Butler but Jesus Shuttlesworth, there’s like 23 different ways I can see this Buckets experiment going terribly wrong in Philadelphia.

Quotes from Thibs

On the improved defense:

“I think Robert [Covington] and Dario [Saric] add a lot to that, and then the energy is contagious, so the effort has picked up. That’s probably the biggest thing. The size is different. The size I think helps.”

On Wiggins’ play:

“Andrew’s playing with a lot of energy on both sides of the floor. We need that from him. When he’s attacking like that, it makes a big difference. I think the length and athleticism, when you have he and Robert out there together along with Taj or Dario, it’s real long. We get deflections, we’re in passing lanes and it allows us to do more switching which I think is more effective for us.”

On Portland’s struggles from deep:

“Some of it was very good defense, some of it was they missed some shots that they normally make too. That’s a terrific team. It’s well balanced. They have everything. They have two great guards that shoot like crazy and Evan Turner is probably one of the most underrated players in the league.”

(Me: Wait, what about Evan Turner?)

On the depth of the roster:

“There’s good and bad. Obviously the more depth the better. We probably have 11 guys that are deserving of being in the rotation. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made and everyone has to stay ready. It usually will work itself out throughout the course of the year. I think when you have high character, everyone gets concerned with how we’re going to move the group forward. Everyone has to put the team first and everyone has to sacrifice.”

Full postgame interview with Thibodeau:

Blazers coach, Terry Stotts, had some good words

On the additions of Covington/Saric to Minnesota:

“I think it’s a little early to say, but I think both those players really complement their team. I think Covington the way he spaces the court and can shoot is something that they’ve needed. I think Saric is going to give them a nice boost off the bench and complements the group as well. I think it’s a little early, but I really think Minnesota played with a lot of bounce tonight, a lot of juice You could tell that they were pretty energized.”

Time to hear from our new best friend, AND DID YOU KNOW THAT HE WAS FIRST-TEAM ALL DEFENSE LAST SEASON AND TOTALLY CHANGES EVERYTHING ON THAT END FOR THE WOLVES, RoCo...

In conclusion, I still can’t get over how different this TEAM looks. There’s a certain freshness to all of this. It really does finally feel like a TEAM again. No agendas. No animosity. And lord, having KG be in attendance tonight was icing on the cake. What a fun and encouraging night at Target Center.

I hope you enjoyed the first ever Wolf Nightcap. Now, I’m actually going to pour myself a real drink and milk the hell out of another delicious victory until Sunday afternoon arrives.