You’d be forgiven if you watched the first two Minnesota Timberwolves preseason games and didn’t necessarily recognize the team playing in the midnight blue and whites. They played with a zeal uncommon to Target Center on both ends of the court, but the effort put forth on defense was the most staggering and appreciated.
Ask anyone around the Wolves about the impetus behind their newfound verve, and one name is mentioned time and again: Patrick Beverley.
“We just want to keep the intensity up. You know, PatBev, that’s a guy right there that’s on everybody on the team, making sure that we don’t take any day for granted. Hence why we came out and we make sure to lock up on D,” Wolves guard Jaylen Nowell said, following his team’s 114-112 win in overtime against the Denver Nuggets on Friday.
Nowell’s sentiment is shared widely as multiple players and coaches have taken time to heap praise upon their new point guard.
“A lot of credit to him for just changing our mentality as a group. He opened our eyes to everybody wanting to be like him defensively and just changing our mentality,” point guard D’Angelo Russell said after the preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans. “I told him, ‘I’m excited for you to be here.’ It just gives us that much more confidence. If you don’t have his mentality, the way he walks it, the way he talks it, it’s contagious. I think it’s great for our guys.”
Patrick Beverley gets his first tech from the bench.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) October 5, 2021
His response: "Bravo. I don't give a f***"
Beverley — whom the Wolves acquired in a late August deal that sent Juancho Hernangomez and Jarrett Culver to the Memphis Grizzlies — has earned himself quite a reputation throughout his nine-year career, for reasons both good and bad. His drive and work ethic — derived mainly from the antics of Wolves’ great Kevin Garnett — famously propelled him from the uncelebrated courts of Greece and Russia to become one of the NBA’s preeminent perimeter defenders. Beverley’s known for forcing his way under opponents’ skin by employing trash-talking and in-your-grill defense indiscriminately, which has placed him at or near the top of the “Love him if he’s yours, hate him if he’s not” leaderboard.
“He’s all business. You watch him play, you nailed it, he’s one of those guys you love when he’s on your team and hate when he’s not,” Wolves head coach Chris Finch told Canis Hoopus during Sunday’s media availability. “He’s really all business. He’s a great professional. He’s got a ton of juice. He’s got his teammates’ back. He’s always asking the right questions. Holds his teammates accountable in the two most important ways. That is 1. He does it himself, which gives him a platform to be able to lead, and 2. He’s very pointed in his ability to demand his teammates to do things a certain way, and he does it in a very business-like manner, non-threatening, and guys respond to it.”
Great transition defense from Patrick Beverley, this has been a focus for Coach Finch in training camp pic.twitter.com/7CRhuSteOP— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 5, 2021
Beverley’s skills extend beyond defense as he has been a 38% 3-point shooter for his career and has averaged 5.9 assists per 100 possessions. Barring injury, he will be a prominent member of the Wolves’ rotation. He’ll see minutes alongside Russell and Jordan McLaughlin in a hybrid role while functioning as the team’s primary backup lead guard.
Patrick Beverley isn’t the type of player that pushes a team into playoff contention in isolation or a vacuum. However, the intrinsic value he brings to a team is likely nowhere needed more than in Minnesota, a group notorious for offering low energy and being unlearned in the ways of winning as excuses for their performance.
No one has more energy. No one wants it more. No one (on the current roster) knows more about winning. There isn’t room for excuses anymore. The Wolves were in desperate need of a culture change, and Patrick Beverley has seemingly done just that.