After getting eliminated from the 2022 NBA Playoffs on Friday night at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Minnesota Timberwolves held their version of “exit interviews” early Saturday morning. Most of the big name players on the roster — Anthony Edwards, Patrick Beverley, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell — shared their thoughts on the season that was while also discussing what’s potentially ahead for them personally as well as this franchise. In addition to the core players, both Chris Finch and Sachin Gupta addressed the local media Saturday morning.
Below are some of the more interesting questions that were asked as well as the answers provided by the players, coaches, and front office.
Exit interviews bright and early. Pat Bev says he hasn’t gone to bed yet. pic.twitter.com/D2pgAiSUWN— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) April 30, 2022
Patrick Beverley kicked everything off Saturday morning, telling those in attendance that he had not yet gone to sleep (that makes two of us, Pat). When asked to reflect back on the season, Beverley said:
For a lot of people they say the season was success, I agree. We came up short. Really should be 5-1, man. Overall a good year. We done some things people didn’t think we were gonna do. We got better throughout the year. That’s all you can ask for.
Why exactly couldn’t this team get over the hump?
Experience. Experience. And to end the season like that was perfect. More experienced teams win. That’s just a building block that we can start off on next season. Understanding the league is gonna be way more healthier than it is this year. The league is gonna be more tougher and that’s where we’re going to be, right in the middle of it.
Did the 2022 NBA Playoffs highlight some of this team’s current warts and make players aware of the things they need to improve upon?
Yeah. You like to take something away from losses, whatever you can. I like to always take the positives out of the losses. It’s showing that we can play with any team in the NBA, and that’s what I took from there. Bummed out that we lost of course, but the guts that we showed that we showed all year to the play-in game to stealing home court and battling against the No. 2 team in the Western Conference. Basically giving up that series, not losing it. You’ve got to hold your hat on something, and we can hold it on that.
Maybe the most interesting moment of Pat Bev’s media availability came when he was asked about how he thought D’Angelo Russell responded to the challenges that were laid out to him at the beginning of the season:
I feel like he could have ended better. Everyone felt that, he felt that. We need him a lot and, ya know, just one of those series. And it’s something he’s gonna learn from. I’ve been to the playoffs a lot. It’s something you can add for motivation, put that gasoline to the fire, whatever it may be. But a player like that, that much skill, you take that and he’s gonna get better with that and apply a lot of pressure next year.
Last but not least, the 33-year old veteran leader discussed his plans for the offseason, including his desire to spend a lot of time with 21-year old Jaden McDaniels:
It’s gonna be a ride for sure. I think I’m gonna have Jaden with me a little bit this summer. Ant’s gonna do his thing, work on his craft. But I’m gonna have Jaden with me a lot. Me, him, Kawhi, let him see how real pros work consistently everyday. And to bring all of that with the new experience, to bring all that back to training camp to try and get something going.
Overall, Pat echoed a lot of the same sentiment Saturday morning that we’ve been discussing these last few days and weeks — the 2021-22 season was no doubt a success, but there was definitely meat left on the bone. Beverley acknowledged that the Western Conference will be even tougher next season, and that ascending to the next level (or even returning to this level) is no guarantee. In order for this franchise to take the next step, it’ll involve all levels of the organization — players, coaches, and front office — to improve their games, improve their techniques, and improve their roster.
Jaden McDaniels said he’s spoken to Kawhi Leonard a few times in the past and looks forward to working out with him this summer.— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) April 30, 2022
Added that his confidence right now as a young player in this league is “ceiling high.” pic.twitter.com/9gHSGes0b9
The man of very few words started his media availability by reflecting back on his sophomore season in the NBA and how he dealt with some of the adversity he faced, specifically the ankle injury he suffered earlier in the year.
For year two, just going through the process, a lot of ups and downs, but just finding a way to get through the adversity, I’ll say. Throughout the season just learning how to get better. Stay the course. I feel like through the season just from last year, I grew a lot.
What excites Jaden the most about potentially working out with Kawhi Leonard this summer?
Really just going to learn and soak up the game. I’ve talked to Kawhi before I got to the NBA, so I kind of know him a little bit. Really going there to learn from one of the greats. It’ll just be an eye opener for me to see how hard he works because of where he’s at right now.
Does he see any similarities between his game and Kawhi’s game?
I can see that. Over the years he’s added more stuff to his game, started to get more confident on the court. You could see that over time. So I just feel like staying the course, I feel like I’ll be fine.
He plays, scores at all levels. Plays defense. Can guard anyone. He’s a person I watch.
Less than 24 hours removed from tallying a career-high 24 points, I thought it was pretty cool to see just how hyped Jaden was to get started on his offseason workouts. Normally a man of very few words, McDaniels seemed pretty excited about spending time with Pat Bev, working out with Kawhi, and putting in the necessary work to take his game to another level in Year 3.
Have you had any time to reflect on this season and if so, what were some of your biggest takeaways?
We were doubted a lot of the year and we came out here and proved a lot of people wrong. We showed that we have value in this league and we were worthy of being in the position of being in the playoffs and playing against a top team. We showed we were one of those top teams in the West for sure. I haven’t really reflected too much. I just had my meeting with Finch and we’re all kind of still in playing basketball mode, playoff basketball mode, so like I told him, I called our trainer this morning talking about lifting and I didn’t realize the season was over. But I’m still going to get that lift in because next season starts now and I got to get ready.
Towns went on to discuss what he and Finch discussed Saturday morning during his exit interview:
Really our exit meeting was more about just saying, I don’t really want to say too much because I know you’re amped about playing and games and your body, I’m a very rhythm guy. I’m always here at the same time. First one here, last one here. Always, I’m again like I said a rhythm guy, so he knows it’s going to take a week, two or three to find myself trying to actually relax and not feeling like there’s a game coming up that I got to get prepared for and everything like that. It was just more talking, as I said before, two guys and a beer. Just really just talking about the season a little bit but more just talking about each other’s lives and what we expect to hopefully accomplish toward my goals this summer and everything.
Karl was also asked specifically about how much he thought he grew this season as a leader on the team:
I was given more responsibility and I had a lot of fun doing it. I was doing it my own way. I’m just really happy that I had this group of guys in the locker room that respected me and gave me the trust to lead them. As a man, my leadership style is more be me and just help them not only on the court, but off the court. That’s why when I said yesterday I’m very honored that I had such life lessons where I was able to help them not only on the court, but off the court as men. In a way, that’s what true leadership is, it’s making them better all around, not just as a basketball player. Everyone gets caught up in leadership as a basketball player, but there’s so much more to a person than just the basketball aspect and helping them in their lives with the wisdom and experiences I’ve been through, it translates to them playing better basketball because their mind’s more free. They’re finding themselves more at peace with themselves and with life. We’re in a day and age where mental health is super important. I’m just trying to help others as much as I can.
Towards the end of his session, I asked KAT if after everything he’s experienced and been through over his first seven years in the league, was this season the most fun he’s had as a professional basketball player?
For sure, just through everything. Life has been chaotic the last two years, for sure. To find any peace for me was already a step ahead of where I was before. And then to do that with the support system in my life that I have and these guys, it just made the game fun. Really looking forward to games. It took all the nervous energy out. It was more like, ‘I can’t wait to go out there.’ Playing and having my support system watch me and these guys supporting me so much, the energy we bring as a team every night, it just made it really fun. It makes all these games really, really fun. I had a great time this year.
I was telling my family it’s one of the few times where I, and I think these guys will speak for themselves, a lot of these guys, when we’re talking on our last road trip, for a lot of the guys who’ve been on a bunch of playoff teams or have been on a lot of different teams or whatever the case may be, they were saying they’ve never seen a team hang out as much as we do with each other. We’re consistently, 24/7, hanging out with each other. That unity, that camaraderie that we’ve been talking about, it translated off the court. A lot of these guys have never experienced it. It feel like AAU basketball-ish, where we get to the hotel, everyone wants to go to the same hotel room and hang out with each other. It’s very funny to see 15 millionaires arguing about pizza. We could all just buy our own pie at that point.
To wrap things up, Karl echoed what would become a common theme throughout the day, discussing how tight the camaraderie was on this team and how they meshed not only on the court, but off the court as well.
KAT said this year felt like AAU off the court, with literally everyone wanting to hang out in the same hotel room on the road.— Jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) April 30, 2022
"It's very funny to see 15 millionaires arguing about pizza. ... We could each just buy our own pie at that point"
To sum it all up, I thought Karl-Anthony Towns came off Saturday morning as a guy who truly was at peace. Not about how the season ended by any means, but more so about how the season had progressed from a chaotic media day last fall all the way to this franchise’s first ever Game 6 appearance in the playoffs. KAT made mention multiple times that he definitely wasn’t ready for the season to end, noting that the first thing that came to mind this morning was to get in his regularly scheduled morning lift.
With a possible supermax extension on the table later this July or August (depending on whether or not he makes one of the All-NBA teams), KAT will have yet another important business decision to make. But for now as the calendar flips from April to May, it seems like Karl-Anthony Towns is simply having fun playing basketball again. And that’s pretty important, too.
Like most of his other Timberwolves teammates, Anthony Edwards began his media availability by saying that he hadn’t gotten any sleep since last night either, and because he was so tired, he didn’t really want to talk about basketball.
However, in typical ANT fashion, as the conversation about him working on his game this summer progressed, he responded like you or I do after a big cup of coffee.
Start of Ant's presser:— Jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) April 30, 2022
"I ain’t gonna lie, I don’t even want to talk about basketball. .. Man, I’m tired. I just want to go to sleep"
Later in presser: "Now we talk about me getting better, I’m getting happy now. Anything that’s going to make me get better, I’m all with it" https://t.co/9LNiMQa65W
When asked what the offseason plan is, ANT said, “I’m young. Won’t take too long off. Get a week, week and a half maybe and I’ll get back to it.”
He also talked about the Timberwolves fanbase finding hope in him and believing in him, to which he gave this pretty cool answer:
Anthony Edwards when asked about the Timberwolves fanbase finding hope in him and depending on him going forward:— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) April 30, 2022
"Since they depending on me to get us there, I’m depending on them to be there. Yeah. It’s 50-50. It’s mutual."
In an effort to respect his earlier request and discuss topics NOT centered around basketball, I asked ANT if he had any specific things that he was looking forward to, including maybe a special holiday later this summer:
I asked Anthony Edwards if there’s anything specific that he’s excited for this summer besides working on his game. His response?— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) April 30, 2022
(that’s his 21st birthday)
Towards the end of his media availability, Dane Moore asked ANT about having only 75 assists to Karl-Anthony Towns this season despite playing in 1,886 minutes together on the court. Here was his response:
That’s terrible. That is terrible. Don’t tell nobody that, man. Ya’ll don’t post that. How many games we played? 85? That’s still bad. That will change. I gotta have 200 assists to KAT a year. That will change.”
Aside from lacking a good night’s sleep and just generally being exhausted from such a demanding season, Edwards seemed more than ready to get back to work, specifically using this summer to develop his ability to score at all three levels.
Similar to his comments after Game 6, ANT went out of his way once again to compliment teammate and 2020 NBA Draft alum Jaden McDaniels, adding:
That’s my dawg. We both came in the same year. He’s just nice. A lot of people don’t know it. He’s just nice. He can do everything. Once his confidence gets like mine, it’s going to be trouble, for sure.
As I tweeted out late Friday night, the dynamic duo of Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards means that the future is very, very bright for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The future of the Timberwolves is bright. pic.twitter.com/8Rt6DculaF— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) April 30, 2022
Jarred Vanderbilt echoed the idea that this team formed a tight brotherhood throughout the season.— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) April 30, 2022
Did it help that most everyone on the roster is of a similar age?
“Yeah. All of us being the same age… well except for Pat.” pic.twitter.com/W2rFLld2o0
Like he is both on and off the court, Jarred Vanderbilt was very business-like during his media availability, discussing his desire to bulk up a little over the summer:
Vanderbilt mentions that he's looking to put on weight and strength this offseason, as well as to work on his ball-handling and work in the dunker spot.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) April 30, 2022
It's evident he feels he has a great foundation to grow his NBA game upon and will be back better next season.
In addition to more size, is there anything else (specifically offensively) that Vando hopes to add to his game prior to next season?
Offensively, just getting a better feel, dunker spot, expanding my game as far as everything. Just ball-handling, finishing and shooting. Defensively, just watching more film where I can be better at on ball and as a team defender. And also just improvements in my body, whether it’s gaining more weight or getting stronger at certain levels of my body. So, just pretty much everything.
Following the theme of “brotherhood” and “comradery” that echoed throughout the morning, I asked Vando to describe what it meant to him to have such a successful season while playing with such a fun group of guys:
It’s super fun. Like you said we got a brotherhood and everybody likes each other. We like being around each other, hanging out. Especially all of us being around the same age, with the exception of Pat, but he’s one of us at heart. He’s always hanging around with us. Like I said, I’ve never been around a group of guys where 1-17 everybody clicks and we hang out, we do stuff off the court and I think that helped us so much on the court, just translating over. Just the chemistry that we build, the brotherhood we built. I think we do got something special going over here.
Vanderbilt closed his session by talking about how proud he was in terms of the work he’s put in to go from a second-round pick, to the G-League, to a bench player and then ultimately a starter on this year’s team. At just 22-years old and known by many to be a gym rat, I’d imagine we see an ever bigger, stronger, and more polished version of Jarred Vanderbilt when training camp kicks off later this fall.
“It was a hell of a season with my guys.”— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) April 30, 2022
D’Angelo Russell reflecting back on this past Timberwolves season, adding that it was a really special and tight-knit group of players to be apart of. pic.twitter.com/Q5bbbUDltE
Last but not least was D’Angelo Russell, who had this to say when asked to reflect back on the season that just concluded:
I thought we had a very successful season. Maybe not the way we wanted to finish it, but I thought we competed and made a lot of strides throughout the season that helped a lot of us individually, just preparing ourselves to be the best you could have been in the situation you were in this year. I think coach did a hell of a job managing the guys and his coaching staff as well. They got better throughout the year. I think our season was a success, to be honest.
To be honest, the sort of “elephant in the room” Saturday morning was the topic of Russell not closing out Game 6 with his teammates, and Finch instead going with Jordan McLaughlin in that spot. As Dane tweeted out, Russell made it very clear that he didn’t want to create any headlines or make it a big deal that he watched the final few minutes from the bench, but he also came across as someone who definitely wanted to have the opportunity to close the game.
D'Angelo Russell made it very clear in his end of season exit interview that he didn't want to make it a big deal that he didn't close the game in Game 6. But he did say he was upset about not having the opportunity to be on the floor in the final minutes of the game.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) April 30, 2022
The entire media availability with D-Lo was far more cordial and relaxed than one might have expected, but I do think Russell came across as a natural competitor who wanted to be out on the court with his teammates during that final stretch of the game. Whether he should have been out there is a whole other topic, but Russell did close his media availability by laying more praise on Finchy one last time, saying:
I think he puts a lot of guys in a good position to just be the best them. He just gives you the free reins to be a basketball player on the court. Like, he’s not putting a lot of guys in a box. We’ve got a young team, so putting a young player in a box can dictate his career. So I think he’s done a good job with just managing the young guys and giving them a process to work toward every day. Coming in, knowing it’s a work space to be a part of, and it’s not just like you come in and just do nothing. I’ve seen that. So for him, just seeing that he has structure around our group, I think that was probably one of the most positive things.
With D-Lo being eligible for an extension this summer, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Timberwolves handle his contract status once the offseason officially kicks off in July. Russell declined to comment on the whole situation when asked about it on Saturday morning (which makes perfect sense), but it is definitely a topic that isn’t going away any time soon.
After the players had concluded their end of season media availability, it was onto Sachin Gupta and Chris Finch. Sachin spoke first, and had this to say when asked to reflect back on the season that was:
I think it’s still pretty raw and so there is quite a bit of disappointment. We’ve been with players all morning for exit interviews. We all expected to still be playing right now, so there is disappointment. But as we reflect back, I think there is a lot to be proud of. We doubled our win total from last year, exceeded preseason expectations by double digit wins, and our goal was to make the playoffs and we did that. We felt like we gave Memphis a run. There’s a lot to continue to build on, too. That’s also the exciting part. There’s a lot of optimism, too, as we look forward.
Sachin also went out of his way to rave about his strong relationship with Chris Finch, saying:
It’s everything. It’s so important for me, for us. Both of us truly view this as a partnership. I’ve said that many times. He’ll have incredible input into what we do this summer and we’ll sit down and talk through the roster and debrief on the whole season. And likewise during the year whenever I have input he’s wide open. I’ve sat in on coaches meetings. He and his staff are more than welcome to sit in on draft meetings. So, it’s wide open. In some ways there’s no wall. In some ways there’s almost no distinction between coaching staff and front office staff. We’re all in this together.
If you’ve ever been around Sachin Gupta, you know that he’s very soft-spoken and prefers to listen rather than speak, but I thought his comments on his “partnership” with Finch were really telling (and Finchy agreed... more on that in a second). While Gupta has yet to really put his fingerprints on this organization in terms of a major transaction, he did get Patrick Beverley extended, signed Chris Finch and his entire coaching staff to new deals, and decided against making any major moves at the trade deadline and instead leaning into the “brotherhood” and “camaraderie” that this team had built throughout the year.
One of the more interesting questions asked to Sachin was about the timeline for a guy like Karl-Anthony Towns compared to the timelines for guys like Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards. Can those two timelines coexist?
I think so. I think that’s a great question. A very relevant question. But I think we’re seeing signs that they can with the way Ant and Jaden have developed this year. With Jaden I think it was so great to see him come back from that ankle injury and he worked hard to come back from that quickly. He was able to come back before the end of the regular season and really contribute in the playoffs and then to have the game he did last night was really great to see and it’s something for him to continue to build on. But, yeah, I think both of those guys, their trajectories’ heading in the right direction and our veteran players just entering their prime and they’ve got many years ahead as well. I do believe that those timelines can co-exist.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but not only is this a big offseason for the players and the coaches, it’s also a big offseason for the front office, most notably Sachin Gupta. With new ownership in the fold, who will have the ultimate say in whether or not Gupta is retained full-time as President of Basketball Operations? That remains to me seen, but if it was up to someone like Chris Finch, I think a new deal for Sachin would already be signed, sealed, and delivered.
To add to my previous comments about Finch’s desire for Sachin Gupta to remain long-term with the Timberwolves, here’s what Finchy had to say Saturday morning about his message to ownership in regards to Gupta’s job status:
Yeah, they know my feelings about Sach. They know that I think he’s outstanding and he’s been a huge reason that we have stability in this organization right now. He’s very smart. We have complete alignment. The players love him. He’s appropriate in his presence around the team. He’s not heavy-handed with the coaching staff. He does his job. I’m a huge fan, and I’ve advocated for him to have his opportunity to be the guy to run this team. Nothing would make me happier than that. No better time, after this season, to be able to continue to build.
Again, I think that part about “he’s been a huge reason that we have stability in this organization right now” is massive (I also got a good chuckle about the “he’s appropriate in his presence around the team” comment). Finch clearly enjoys working with Sachin and believes he’s the man to help take this organization to the next level, so when these discussions ramp up over the next few weeks, at least we know where the team’s head coach stands.
In addition to Sachin, Finch was also asked to describe the overall vibe from that morning’s exit interviews. Here’s what he had to say:
Today’s approach was super informal. Very appreciative of their efforts. We talked about how this has to be just a foundation. We can’t expect that when we get back together in September that we’re just going to pick up where we left off because that’s not how it works at all. Most importantly, we know what we’ve learned about ourselves and what we need to do to be better. And how those habits have to be ingrained early and carried out every single night so they stand up when you need it most. I think that’s something that now resonates with the players when you’re harping on it on a daily basis, but they haven’t yet really paid the price for it.
Those are just lessons that you learn. Do not touch that, it’s hot-type stuff. And guys were in a good mood. I think there was a lot of, you know what I really found interesting is nobody had any plans. Nobody had given much thought about what they’re going to do now, which means they were still completely locked in, thought they were going to win, thought we would be moving on to a Game 7 and beyond. So, give them a couple weeks to decompress from all that and we’ll circle back around for what it takes for them to be better individually to help us better collectively.
Finch spoke for over 20 minutes with the media on Saturday morning, answering a wide variety of questions, including his thoughts on what the roster could look like next year, expectations for certain player’s offseason development, and what he thinks the Western Conference will look like next year when teams get back to full strength and re-tool. I love listening to Finch talk basketball, so rather than include more quotes, I thought I’d just include the entire video so that you can give it a listen as well:
And that about does it! The 2021-22 season for the Minnesota Timberwolves is officially in the books, and now we must quickly shift our attention to what will be a very pivotal summer for the organization. I want to once again thank you all for your support of our site and our staff, as well as your continued participation and involvement in our little online community. For the first time in a long time, I truly believe that “Wolves Back” is more than just a funny saying, and I look forward to tracking the pack with you all summer long.