By: Brian Simonson
Leading up to the start of the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves are in a completely different position today than they were a year ago. In the 2018 offseason, the Wolves’ pop up season of 47 wins was quickly exposed and dysfunction again ensued. Jimmy Butler destroyed the atmosphere and morale of the team, as he worked to push his way out of Minnesota. There was a clear disconnect and everything seemed on edge within the organization. Old school Tom Thibodeau dragged his players to the ground through aggressive minutes per night. Then, with Thibodeau’s firing, Ryan Saunders was tasked to pick up the pieces for the last 42 games of the season with a roster stacked with injuries. Finishing with 36 wins, the franchise was once again, reverted to a state of uncertainty and mediocrity for their future.
Enter the 2019 offseason, and there’s a new regime in town under President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas, with a proven track record with the successful Houston Rockets franchise. Rosas brings with him competency, which is something the Timberwolves have rarely had in their 30-year existence. Rosas tears down the walls immediately and begins working. He executed the hires of proven coaches and management within his staff, removes the interim tag off Ryan Saunders and with the limited amount of cap space he had to work with, fills in the empty roster with talented but unproven role players with upside while on affordable contracts. You could feel a breath of fresh air and a significant shift in how the Wolves were operating internally. The Wolves have never had a mind like Gersson Rosas in their front office.
Next thing you know, Rosas is constantly preaching “challenging the status quo” and “culture”. The Timberwolves were never a forward-thinking organization that tried to keep up with the times. Now, they have begun to rely heavily on tactics such as analytics and are trying to devise strategies to improve the players and elevate their game individually and as a team. The organization’s vibe is now an open and welcoming one. There was a trip to the Bahamas to bring the players closer together. Now you see the players showing up to practice early, participating in voluntary workouts and just simply wanting to be there working. There’s transparency, accountability and unity. The vision from Gersson Rosas is being projected through Ryan Saunders and the players and you can see it with all the smiles going around. There’s a lot of momentum going into the new season.
While we all hope the new culture will translate to more wins, what will happen to the hype if it doesn’t?
It’ll be interesting to see the fan base’s reactions should they go down the losing path. If the Wolves lose more than they win and do not show real strides or improvements during those losses, will the fans continue to buy into the organization’s marketing tactics of their culture? Will the narrative get old? We will get the answers to these questions as the season progresses.
While we are all optimistic for the new-look Wolves and seeing Karl Anthony Towns take the next step in his game and leadership, we must be honest with ourselves with our expectations. In a stacked Western Conference, there is one true star on the roster in KAT. Andrew Wiggins does not seem interested in improving his work ethic and the team is still strapped in cap space. We are looking forward to seeing the development of the players and the team throughout the season, but we must be open-minded and understand that while this team will do its best to put a good product on the court, there are still limitations that cannot be entirely addressed within this individual season. It’s our turn now to “trust the process” through seeing the young players develop, remove bad contracts when able, and execute savvy trades and free agent signings.
The 2019-2020 journey of answering our questions begins on Wednesday, Oct.23 against the Brooklyn Nets. For now, let’s enjoy the culture and the feel-good environment.