Ah, yes. It’s that time of year again when optimism is renewed and hope springs eternal. The Minnesota Timberwolves held their annual media on Monday afternoon to introduce the team as well as Gersson Rosas and Head Coach Ryan Saunders to the media for the 2020 season.
This is typically they day when everyone talks about how the weight they’ve lost or muscle they’ve added has put them in the best shape of their life. That one wing player has also added a 3-point shot and the whole team has a newfound commitment to running and playing uptempo.
Just once I need a team to tell me they’ve put on too much weight and will need to play slower until at least New Year’s Day.
Despite all of the cliches and tropes, we did get a little insight into the mindset of the 2020 Minnesota Timberwolves. In case you were unable to watch media day online, here are a few takeaways from Monday afternoon. Feel free to leave your own observations in the comments.
This team has spent more time with each other
The Timberwolves will return seven players or about half of their roster from a season ago. Seemingly every other player who got up to the podium talked about how they had already spent the last few weeks getting acquainted with each other and working out together ahead of training camp. Even tenured Wolves like Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng remarked that they’d never seen anything like it during their many seasons in Minnesota.
Getting new teammates familiar with each other early may slow the learning curve on the floor as guys started building chemistry around Labor Day instead of October training camp. Hopefully, this leads to a more cohesive group on the court by the time opening night rolls around.
The culture is changing
While this is a bit of a media day cliche, there is some merit to it. From the front office, to the coaching staff and to the roster, this season’s Timberwolves hardly resemble the group we saw last season. Newcomer Jordan Bell spoke about his free agency and how he was skeptical about the cultural shift in Minnesota, but quickly became a believer after being around the organization. It seems that the Wolves have done a 180 turn from the ways of the previous regime and that appears to be a welcomed change.
Let sleeping Wolves lie (or something)
Despite Rosas saying that this team is a work in progress, which is apparent given the roster construction, the team seems to enjoy having little hype surrounding them this season. This makes sense. They may not be a playoff team but if they play well, they could surprise people and make the teams ahead of them sweat a little. Who knows, if they play well and stay healthy, maybe they steal the eighth seed from a team that gets injured or collapses down the stretch. Maybe not but it’s possible.
Yes, they want to run
Coach Saunders spoke about how he’s placed a significant focus on conditioning as the team hopes to play a more uptempo style this season. Similarly, Robert Covington spoke about how conditioning has been a focus of his offseason after dealing with an injury that sidelined him for much of last season. Saunders was also encouraged by the results of the schemes they implemented in summer league and hope that they will be effective in the regular season.
At any rate, this is a younger team now and they should be up to the challenge of pushing the pace and try to wear teams out. This can also lead to more mistakes but a faster pace could also play to the youth of the roster.
Optimism for Andrew Wiggins persists
One of the more notable press conferences was Wiggins’. Wiggins not only spoke about how he has heard his critics but has also realized they’ve been correct. This is the kind of self-awareness we’ve seldom seen from Wiggins throughout his career.
It also seems that Wiggins has the support of Rosas and Saunders. The guard will have a clean slate with Rosas as he was not here for the first five years of Wiggins’ career. I’m dubious of Saunders saying that they can unlock Wiggins, something we are now in Year 6 of saying, but I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that a forward-thinking organization can identify and implement strategies for making him more effective.
I’m not exactly starting Wiggins most improved player campaign yet, but my interest is still piqued. If Rosas and Saunders pulls it off, they look like geniuses and the team probably outperforms expectations.
Karl-Anthony Towns wants to be more involved
One of the biggest gripes many Wolves observers have had is with Towns’ usage, or the lack thereof. Seeing inferior players take midrange shots instead at least giving the best and most-efficient player on the team at least one touch is maddening. It sounds like this may change this coming season.
Towns said that he wants to become more of a facilitator this season, which is a role he is familiar with from his high school days. The big man has become better and better at finding teammates out of double teams and other situations, and it’s hard to see how giving Towns the ball more could be a bad thing for the team. In fact, Towns becoming the focal point of this offense is rather overdue.
Off to camp
The Timberwolves will now head to Mankato for training camp ahead of their first preseason game against Phoenix on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Before you know it, it will be time for the season opener in a few long weeks. The good news is that despite the expectations for this team, there is a good energy around the team and real NBA basketball is almost back.