I’m proud to introduce to you all Derek James. He is the newest writer onboard the HTW team, and I couldn’t be happier to have him join us. Here is his first piece on the Timberwolves season that was 2011-2012. Enjoy! – Jonah Steinmeyer
I’ll admit it: I was skeptical about this team coming into the season. After all, why not after all of the things that we’ve been through, up to, but not limited to, failed coaching hires, disastrous lottery picks, and a mountain of losses over the last seven years or so. You could even say my attitude, like others’, bordered on cynicism. Considering the arduous and trying nature of the past two seasons, it was hard to blame anyone for feeling like the Timberwolves had something to prove.
Facing a condensed schedule that offered little time for practice to integrate a new coach’s system, a rookie point guard coming from Spain to the United States, and a team still in the player development business as the league’s second-youngest team, it seemed unlikely they would be able to contend for the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference this season. After that, you had to wonder who would play center, could Kevin Love carry this team when they need it most, and could they get consistent play out of the perimeter players. Ultimately, how did we know that this season would not end up filled with false hope, and inevitable disappointment?
Well, we didn’t, and we have nothing to be disappointed about. For once we have hope, and this time it’s founded, because we’ve finally seen it.
Yes, it’s true. Next season, we won’t have to go into next season being sold on the likes of Ryan Hollins, Darko Milicics, Anthony Randolphs, or Michael Beasleys of the NBA. No more trendy offenses and miscast players expected to do well outside of their capabilities, either.
Now, we know what Ricky Rubio brings to this team. We’ve seen Kevin Love continue (somehow) to grow as a player to exceed even his most loyal supporters’ expectations. You could even liken Nikola Pekovic’s growth from last year to present to finding a $20 bill in your coat from last winter. Finally, we have the proper coach in place to cultivate the development of this roster even further.
To someone who grew up watching the rise and fall of the Garnett era, the empty arena days of the Al Jefferson era, it’s a true pleasure to witness the rise of the Kevin Love era. Really, it’s like an old childhood friend coming back into your life after years apart. I’ve always maintained that there is nothing like the Target Center when they’re behind their team, and I couldn’t be happier to have those days back. Even after Rubio went down and the season was lost, fans continued to pack the arena to near-sellout levels.
Looking past the turnstiles and concrete walls of Target Center, Timberwolves merchandise is “in” again, and became readily available in many places for the first time since before Garnett left. That means current Timberwolves gear. This also means less blue #21 jerseys that people have been wearing for fifteen years, and fewer green #5 Celtics jerseys. Yep, now is the time to get your Love and Rubio jerseys and shirseys. Well, except for those of us who’ve been ridiculed for the past seven years or so for wearing Wolves gear, because we’ve already had ours for awhile now, that is.
Perhaps you noticed one other thing different in regards to the attitude of the people of Minnesota towards the Timberwolves. For instance, in past years, it may have been wise to lie and say that you were going to go downtown to, say, buy drugs instead of admitting to going to a game to simply avoid the persecution. Fast forward to this winter, and that same person would probably be badgered by requests to let them go with. And why shouldn’t it be that way? This was one of the most fun Timberwolves teams I have seen from December to early February.
It can stay this way, too. Take into consideration JJ Barea’s comments after the Wolves blew a 20-point lead Sunday night against the Warriors. If you missed them, he didn’t named names, but he called out the guys in the lockerroom for not caring enough about winning, leading to Beasley, Pekovic, and Anthony Tolliver refuting the notion that some guys don’t care. But it’s kind of hard to argue otherwise when we see the body languages of an Anthony Randolph, or players-who-shall-remain-nameless being disengaged from a huddle during time out (Not to name names specifically, but their name rhymes with “Less Blonde-fun”.)
And perhaps best yet, Rick Adelman stood behind his point guard and talked about changing the losing culture, and not being content with the status quo. To be honest, I’m just fine with Barea’s comments. Clearly, players were too comfortable and accepted things the way they were, and if Barea’s comments can make them uncomfortable enough to change, I’m all for it. One thing I’ve learned in my time coaching and working with young teams is that, from top-to-bottom, you have to make everyone regardless of talent level accountable. Everyone has to buy in – regardless of talent level — and do their part to ensure team success. Sure, it begins with the coach, but if the message doesn’t trickle down to the players, what’s the point? We know there are players on this team who do care that also happen to be the better players on the team, and even lesser players that do. It’s not difficult to imagine those who don’t care not having their days in Minneapolis numbered.
Even though the past couple of months have felt rather onerous at times, we can look forward to next season knowing that better things are in store. I’m talking about things like playoffs, a whole new generation of fans that have yet to witness this team thrive, and longtime season ticket holders being rewarded for sticking it out through all of the misery of the last three-quarters of a decade. This time, we know that the hard times aren’t here to stay. Finally, and perhaps the best part, this is just the beginning.