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Preseason Game Preview #1: Pelicans at Wolves

Ladies and gentlemen, the Minnesota Timberwolves are BACK.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (0-0) at Minnesota Timberwolves (0-0)
When: 7:00pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio

What To Watch For

Ladies and gentlemen, the Minnesota Timberwolves are officially back — well, kind of.

Our beloved Wolves kick off their 2021 preseason schedule tonight at home against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. Minnesota will play four preseason games this year, three of which are on the road, which means tonight is your one and only chance to see Anthony Edwards live and in-person before the regular season tips off on October 20.

It’s been 142 days since the Timberwolves last took the floor at Target Center, and while the summer was mostly uneventful in terms of major transactions (the Wolves didn’t have a draft pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and their biggest free agent signings were their two restricted free agents), the team still experienced a surprising amount of turnovers, especially at the top.

For starters, after years and years of rumors and close calls, the organization announced a succession plan for a new ownership group to finally oust majority owner Glen Taylor from his lasagna-filled suite. At an introductory press conference last Monday, the Timberwolves (and Lynx) formally introduced both Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez — the franchise’s two new limited partners — as the future heirs to Glen Taylor’s professional sports throne(s). While the current power structure will see Glen Taylor remain in full-control for two more years (December 2023 is when Lore/Rodriguez are expected to take the final step towards becoming majority owners), the influence that these two new limited partners already have at Mayo Square is on full-display.

No where has this been more apparent than the surprising and abrupt dismissal of Gersson Rosas, who had been the Wolves’ President of Basketball Operations for the last few seasons. As you all know by now, Rosas was terminated a few weeks ago after reports of a consensual relationship with another team executive went public, and since then Executive VP of Basketball Operations Sachin Gupta has been tabbed as his immediate replacement. The Wolves, with new ownership in tow and a reorganized front office at the helm, will now enter the 2021-22 season with one less distraction but a plethora of new and important questions.

An offseason summary wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of the players who have departed the team (and who was brought in to replace them). After a second stint with the franchise that drafted him, the Spanish Unicorn himself Ricky Rubio was traded away earlier this summer in exchange for Taurean Prince, a future second-round pick, and the almighty cash considerations (which I presume was used to pay for the steam cleaning of Gersson Rosas’ office).

The other major trade that took place this offseason was the deal that saw Jarrett Culver and Juancho Hernangomez shipped out to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Patrick Beverley. While the departure of Rubio left a sizable hole at not only the backup PG gig but also left the team without a strong voice in the locker room, the acquisition of Beverley addressed both of those things while also giving the team a better fit off the bench behind D’Angelo Russell.

With all of that now behind us, this current iteration of the Minnesota Timberwolves will look to enter the 2021-22 season with a cumulative chip on all of their shoulders. Multiple players on the roster (including Jake Layman, Patrick Beverley, Taurean Prince, and Josh Okogie) are in the final year of their current contract, while other players (including Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell) will be eligible for extensions as soon as next summer.

Factor in the switch from Rosas to Gupta, the pressure for immediate results that usually accompanies new ownership, and the simple fact that this team is tired of losing, and you suddenly have all the makings of a make-or-break season for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

I personally cannot wait to get things started.

Injury Reports

In terms of injuries, it’s all hands on deck for Minnesota. While it’s expected that the team’s top players will play anywhere from 12-20 minutes tonight, there are currently no injury issues to worry about, which is a great sign as we enter the first preseason game.

As for the Pelicans:

In addition to Jonas Valanciunas (who was acquired by New Orleans this summer in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies), Zion Williamson is also expected to miss tonight’s game (and the entire preseason slate) after recovering from offseason foot surgery.

Last but not least — I just wanted to thank each and every one of you again for your continued support of the site, our staff, and the Wolves/Lynx. I know the implementation of Coral has caused a plethora of headaches for our community, but I sincerely appreciate those of you who have stuck around and will be following along with us all season long. This community and this staff at Canis means the world to me, and I’m truly excited to kick off another season of Timberwolves basketball. Cheers!