Editor’s note: Please welcome Mike Kenyanya to Canis Hoopus! Mike is as passionate of a Wolves fan as they come, and is dedicated to telling the stories of fans, as well as the culture around the team and in the city. As you will see by this piece, he is both a fantastic writer and creative mind, and will be a wonderful addition to our team this season. Please give him a warm welcome in the comments and on over Twitter @_ImClutch.
Basketball is an emotional business.
The same buzzer beater that shocks euphoria and dopamine through one soul is a dragonglass dagger to another. And while it hurts to be on the wrong end of a Mike Breen “BANG”, we can agree that emotions make sports better. They also make us stubborn. Once someone makes up their mind about a player, nothing you find on Basketball-Reference will change their mind. Admittedly, these emotions aren’t always a good thing as we’ve seen with various fights and other incidents throughout the years. Currently, an expected emotion looms over Minnesota Timberwolves fandom — sadness.
If you’re not a Wolves fan, you probably think I’m crazy.
What’s there to be sad about? Have I not been paying attention this summer? The Timberwolves shocked the NBA and all but froze the trade market when they shipped an arsenal of players and picks to the Utah Jazz in exchange for an All-NBA, Defensive Player of the Year big man in hopes of completing their transformation into a formidable suitor for the elusive Larry O’Brien trophy.
While the success of the trade remains to be seen and many are skeptical of a Karl-Anthony Towns x Rudy Gobert pairing in a small-ball, perimeter-centric NBA, this is arguably the most talented Timberwolves roster ever (yes, that includes 2004 when strictly talking about talent). Surely even skeptics will admit they’re anxious to see a D’Angelo Russell x Gobert pick-and-roll.
So, why is it that with the season opener around the corner, something feels off? Something is missing. Actually someone is missing.
I know, I know! It seems silly doesn’t it? To bemoan the absence of someone who only played 58 games and delivered 9.2 points and 4.5 assists on 40.6% shooting doesn’t make sense. But it does if you remember what I said; this is an emotional business.
Minnesota fans know that Beverley gave us plenty of that– emotion. His infectious passion, demand for effort, and willingness to hold teammates accountable was something this team sorely needed. When he was acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies last summer, most anticipated that his presence would be felt in the locker room. Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic detailed the Beverley-led players’ meeting where he asked everyone “what is your role’’ in response to an abysmal — and familiar — 3-5 season start.
You all expected the defensive impact and knew that Anthony Edwards could be special under Pat Bev’s tutelage. What none of us knew was that this cultural transformation would permeate throughout the Target Center and the city of Minneapolis.
It was a bit of a perfect storm, really.
Fans were ready to get back to the arena after watching the COVID season from home. Upon returning, they were met with new players, new coaching, new ownership, and new winning. Unbeknownst to him, Russell activated the missing piece when he called out Minnesota’s “quiet-ass fans.” After some initial shock and constructive discourse, fans accepted D-Lo’s gauntlet. The Target Center now had new energy and Beverley lived at the center of it. His technical fouls riled up the fans so much that it usually (but not always) justified the donated points.
Hey Jim I’m just challenging our fans to adjust to this special team. If it’s not to much to ask from here on standing until we score to start the game, That would be cool. Love all yaw #Peace https://t.co/YFy1tRyCWq— D'Angelo Russell (@Dloading) February 8, 2022
He got that dawg in him
Pat’s always been a polarizing figure. Over the years, many have questioned his sportsmanship and impact on the game. There’s a good chance that you were a Beverly hater for most of his career. There’s also a good chance that you instantly rejoiced when you found out he was on his way to Minnesota.
This was the case for lifelong fan Bryan Gichaba (@SkyHydrate) who tells me “[Beverley] got that dawg in him.” What Gichaba once called “antics” in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform suddenly became “feistiness” in Wolves threads. In speaking with Bryan, it becomes clear that the respect and recognition of impact was always there. He only lamented that his talents were not employed in support of his cause.
Success breeds complacency.
This is why many find college sports more exciting than the pros. The players are still fighting for so much. It’s also why several of J Cole’s mixtapes are better than some of his albums; you can feel the hunger in his voice in The Warm Up, Friday Night Lights, and Truly Yours.
As fans, we ask players to care, we lament the ones we deem to be divas, and we yearn for our favorite artists to channel their pre-fame energy. PatBev obliges.
He approaches his career and every game like it’s a tryout. You also saw this in fellow departed Timberwolf Jarred Vanderbilt, whose motor won this team some games they otherwise didn’t deserve. Beverley hasn’t forgotten that his career started in Ukraine, Greece, and Russia (partially due to his own missteps at the University of Arkansas). He plays like he’s on the final day of an Exhibit 10 contract. He plays like you’d expect in an emotional business.
We ask this of players but don’t know how to appreciate it so we resort to ridicule. It’s the same treatment this team and it’s fans got for celebrating the play-in win over the Clippers. The NBA didn’t know how to react to a franchise that cared top to bottom as articulated by J.J Redick.
It’s both curious and impressive that as an emotional player, Beverley is able to maintain his passion across different teams, especially in recent years in which he’s become a bit of a journeyman. Anytime he discusses a trade, he always says something to the effect of “it’s just business.” He’s capping.
This is personal for him and that’s a good thing. We see it on the court, we saw it when he beat his former teammates in the Play-In game, and we saw it when he embarked on his early summer anti-Chris Paul media tour. Although with the announcement of his new podcast, it seems the media antics were calculated.
Always business. Wolves Thank You❤️. Time to take another team 2 Playoffs— Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) July 1, 2022
With that context, you can understand the mixed feelings in Minnesota.
In psychology, there’s this concept of cognitive dissonance “the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs”. In this case, belief A is that the Gobert trade makes this team significantly better, and belief B is that you wish Patrick Beverley was still on your team. It’s a false dichotomy because both those thoughts can be true. And though Beverly’s absence will certainly be felt, regression is not inevitable.
In retrospect, his role was that of a consultant, a mercenary if you will. The confidence he instilled in the locker room will remain, the energy in the arena will only grow, and according to Gichaba, the expectation of winning and that “dawg” mentality are now part of our identity. So as you prepare to watch the most competitive Timberwolves team in nearly two decades, you’re allowed to be nostalgic of PatBev’s passion and Jarred Vanderbilt’s motor and the overall “vibes” of last year’s team.
Because logic be damned, this is an emotional business— a business of the heart.