Welcome to my annual season preview/wait, we’re still here? How is that possible? column.
Over the years I have written about teams with no hope, and teams for which we had hope. I’ve written about this community and what it means to me, and how thankful I am to have this site in my life.
You can read previous iterations here: 2013. 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018. I was not in a good place mentally in 2014, which I suspect is why I skipped that year.
This year I want to talk about new starts. For the Wolves, this will be the third “new start” they’ve had since I have been managing Canis Hoopus. First, there was the Return of Flip, which was met with a lot of local enthusiasm along with some skepticism among long time followers of the country club.
Flip Saunders’ tenure as President still has a significant effect on the current Wolves team—it featured the acquisition of the two highest paid players on the Wolves: Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Flip era was of course cut short by his untimely death, leaving a void in leadership that Glen Taylor took a year before filling with Tom Thibodeau.
That was the second new start. Thibs promised toughness, professionalism, and a singular focus on winning. Instead we got a bunch of recycled Chicago Bulls, an utter failure of professionalism at Mayo Clinic Square, a shockingly high “fun tax” given the mediocre results, and of course the Jimmy Butler Fiasco.
Taylor moved on from Thibs in surprisingly quick and decisive fashion given they style to which he had accustomed us. And now we are on to our third new start, this one with Gersson Rosas in charge and Ryan Saunders on the sidelines.
Of course whenever a new general manager takes over a team, an early theme is patience. They are presumably coming aboard because the previous manager didn’t succeed, at least to the level expected, and the team is usually in less than ideal shape.
Rosas is no exception, preaching patience while he chases after more talent and the cap flexibility needed to acquire it. That’s fine, though it misses the point that in the Wolves case, any fans who are still paying attention have exhibited the patience of saints. One 4-and-out playoff appearance in 15 years is a shocking record, if only from an odds standpoint. You would think they would have stumbled into something decent at least a couple more times over the years. As an old friend likes to say, the Wolves are the best at being the worst.
Still, none of that is Rosas’ fault, and he can be excused for asking for patience once he got a look at the Wolves roster and cap situation. He’s obviously eager to acquire star players to surround Towns, much as he helped do with the Rockets. You do not, however, get points for trying in the NBA. He failed at his first attempt with D’Angelo Russell.
Whether and when he succeeds will tell the tale of his tenure in charge of the Wolves. This season feels in part like a new start, but in part like a holding pattern as Rosas waits for his opportunities to clear the cap and change the talent. Right now, the cap is clogged with players who are making a lot more than they are worth to the Wolves on the court: Jeff Teague, Gorgui Dieng, and Andrew Wiggins combine to make about $62.5 million this season, significantly more than half the cap. Until some of that money expires/can be moved, the options for the front office are limited.
Still, for a couple of reasons, it does feel like a new start.
First, the methods of the front office have clearly changed. Rosas has a much more collaborative style, certainly than the secretive and demanding Thibs, and even than Flip, who was personable, but also In Charge. Rosas has hired a series of experienced people with strong resumes, and appears in the process of building a front office that makes real use of everyone’s talents. That’s a new, deeper approach to team and organization building than we’ve seen in the past.
More obviously, the product on the court is changing. There has of course been significant roster turnover, with many veterans making way for younger, more athletic players, who, even if they prove to be short timers with the Wolves, will allow them to play a much faster brand of basketball, which we’ve seen throughout the preseason. And of course the Wolves are making an obvious commitment to playing through Karl-Anthony Towns and especially increasing their three point attempts.
So another new start on the court and in the front office for the Timberwolves. But for us at Canis Hoopus, we’re still here, doing what we do. Which is talk Wolves, the NBA, and everything else under the sun. Movies? Sure. Photography? Absolutely. Biking? You bet. Politics? Of course. Bird watching? Doesn’t everyone?
And that’s what I’m most thankful for. The Wolves...maybe someday they’ll be good. Maybe even before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
But whether that happens or it doesn’t, I know I have a home here. I know I have people in our writers’ Slack group eager to write about what’s happening with the team and the league. I know we have readers who will hold us to some standards. I know we have commenters who make the place what it is and who I count among my friends.
It’s what we’ve done for the past decade: We abide. Through miserable performance after miserable performance, we have our bits, and our bit. Regardless of what life offers or doesn’t, Canis is here. For that I want to sincerely thank you. You all have helped me more than you know, and I am profoundly grateful for this place, and the people who make it what it is. In return, I hope I’ve done just a little bit to keep the fires burning and making this a place you want to come back to.
So, on the occasion of another new Wolves season, and another new Wolves start, I say welcome, I say thank you, and I hope we can enjoy it together.