Posted by: Dan Slaubaugh
Today, I had the privilege of conducting a Q&A with Timberwolves.com Web Editor/Team Reporter Kyle Ratke. Topics discussed are Timberwolves (of course), relationships, and Kyle's favorites. Enjoy!
DS: Well hello, Kyle! Thank you for taking the time out of your day to participate in this Q&A. It is greatly appreciated.
KR: No problem at all, Dan. Thrilled to be here.
DS: How are things holding up in the office this time of the season?
KR:You know, this time of the year is always busy. We’ve got the All-Star Game coming up in Toronto, which will be an absolute blast. LaVine in the dunk contest, Towns in the skills competition and Wiggins along with them in the Rising Stars Challenge. It should be fun to watch if you’re Wolves fans. Two more home games before that, though.
DS: It would be really cool if the Wolves could head into the all-star break with 4 straight wins (LAC, CHI, NO, TOR), giving fans some rejuvenated hope heading into the 2nd half of the season.
KR: You’re absolutely right. This is a team that is learning to win. The win on Saturday against the Bulls, I mean yeah, Chicago was without some big names, but that’s still a pretty dang good win. We’ve seen that the Wolves can win games this season. They just haven’t finished consistently. A lot of that has to do with the majority of these guys are under 25 years old. Towns, Wiggins and LaVine would still be in college. I mean, I remember when I was 20, 21. I was not a very responsible person. These guys are growing up right in front of us. No playoffs this season, but there’s potential - obviously.
DS: Definitely. The Wolves are starting to figure out how to close games. In the beginning part of the season, they excelled in crunch time (CHI, ATL, MIA), then they kind of went into a dry-spell and struggled to finish, which is typical for a young team.
KR: Very typical indeed. These guys are used to playing 30-40 games in college. And boom. All of the sudden by January you’ve already played that and then some with preseason and what not. And then there’s the travel and what not. That stuff wears on you. It’s not like these guys are visiting landmarks on their visits. It’s pretty much plane, hotel, game, repeat. That’s where having veterans like KG, Andre and Tayshaun help so much. I’m not saying the stuff in Philadelphia with Jahlil Okafor wouldn’t have happened with a veteran on the roster, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Obviously they aren’t what they once were, but the value is more off the court than on.
DS: In the average fan's mind, the obvious beneficiaries of KG, Andre, and Tayshaun’s mentorship are Towns, Wiggins, and Lavine, but players like Bazz and Dieng have really benefited from having that veteran presence on the roster as well. You can see that Bazz and Dieng are improving just by cleaning up their fundamentals. Bazz spots up more frequently now and is able to score (more) without the basketball, and Dieng, Wow! The Wolves might have seriously found something with the Towns-Dieng frontcourt.
KR: Agree with pretty much all of that. ‘Bazz wasn’t getting a lot of playing time earlier in the season and when he did it was inconsistent. Mitchell has been playing him more now and a lot of that has to do with Muhammad’s ability to move the ball. That was not something he did coming out of UCLA - at all. The Dieng and Towns combo has looked great lately. I’m not sure if we’re looking at the starting PF and C for the next few years, but I don’t know if we’re not, either. So that’s a good sign. Right now, the Wolves are in the process of seeing what pieces fit for the future, and the two guys drafted in 2013 draft look like they fit very well.
DS: Absolutely. This coming offseason may be the Wolves most important in about a decade with the coaching and ownership situation, and like you said, assessing which players can gel together in the new system and which players will have to be let go.
KR: Yeah, and I can’t really speculate on the coaching situation at all, but I will say that Sam Mitchell has the support of the team. Kevin Garnett knows the locker room better than anyone else on this team. When it comes to players, contracts will handle itself and what not. It’ll be interesting to see if the team makes any moves with the trade deadline coming up. But again, it’s probably not appropriate to speculate on what may or may not happen. What I will say is that Milt Newton has a bundle of talent on his hands.
DS: The talent is here no doubt, which is why the team has such a bright future. The hard work they have been putting in at the gym and off the court is starting to pay off and I’m sure they are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
KR: I think so. And it’s tough for these guys. I mean, an 82-game season is freaking long. There are so many ups and downs on and (probably) off the court for these guys. I couldn’t imagine. The biggest thing for them is to just keep their head up and see the bigger picture after tough games. That’s hard to do sometimes. It’s like breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend in high school. Yeah, it stinks then, but there’s plenty of time in the future to find someone. Or in this case, find success. And again, you won’t talk to anyone in the media world that isn’t excited about the future of this team. I’m not sure if future means next year or three years, but you can see that it’ll come at some point.
DS: Perfectly said. And by the way, you’ve always been great at coming up with excellent analogies.
KR: And it’s funny because most of them revolve around relationships - something I’ve been allergic to throughout most of my life. I have a good catch now, though, so the wait was worth it.
DS: We have very similar stories, sans the “catch”. My bait is still in the water, or have I yet to cast? Doesn’t matter. Same outcome. I’m 19, so let’s move on.
DS: Alrighty, now for some off topic type of questions. You ready?
KR: Uh oh. I guess we’ll see.
DS: Your favorite Wolves player of all time?
KR: Good question. Everyone loved KG growing up, obviously. I was a big Wally Szczerbiak guy. I wasn’t getting to the NBA with athleticism, so I figured launching threes was my best bet. Obviously that didn’t work out either. I’m 5’9, so the odds weren’t exactly in my favor.
DS: I’m a bit too young too remember the vintage KG or Wally days, but from what I hear, it was a good time to be a Wolves fan. Alright, next question! How many Twins games do you attend each year?
KR: Normally between three and five. I’d like to do more being my office is right across the street, but things get in the way during the summer. I’ve gone to an April game the last two years and my girlfriend begged me to leave in the third inning because it was too cold. The sacrifices I make...
DS: The struggle is real, man. How bout the Vikings? Same number? 3-5?
KR: This year I think I went to two games - one in Atlanta and one at home against the Seahawks (we were at the bar by half). I was neighbors with wide receiver Adam Thielen in college (Minnesota State University, Mankato) and it’s so much fun to watch him succeed in the NFL. I have a feeling I won’t be able to get a ticket to the new stadium, but I’m looking forward to that.
DS: Yeah the new stadium is going to be beautiful. It’s really cool how the Wolves, Twins, and Vikings are simultaneously on the rise while renovating/building their new/current stadiums. Alright 10 last quick questions. You're on the hot seat. Ready?
KR: Hopefully more than Cam Newton was last night (ZING !).
DS: Favorite color?
DS: Favorite animal? (fictional or nonfictional)
KR: I guess dog. I’m not a big animal guy, which makes me the worst person ever, I know.
DS: Morning or night person?
DS: Favorite food?
KR: Anything that resembles a pizza.
DS: Favorite season?
DS: Hidden talent?
KR: I’m a sneaky-good dancer, I’ve been told. Most of the time I’m told that at weddings, though, so alcohol more than likely has influenced the opinions of others.
DS: Favorite tv show?
KR: I’m a big True Detective fan, although season two was freaking weird. New Girl is also great. I like to think of myself as a Nick.
DS: Can you cook?
KR: Pizza Rolls, yes.
DS: How big is your tv?
KR: 55 inches.
DS: Have you ever cried during a movie? If so, which one?
KR: Multiple times. Multiple movies. I’m a sucker for Lion King. Every time. Miss you Mufasa.
DS: Haha. Well, that’s about it. Thanks for coming on and taking the time out of your day to talk to some goofy 19 year old college student. I appreciate it. Keep doing great work at Timberwolves.com.
KR: Hey, I was a pretty goofy 19-year-old college student as well. Keep on doing your thing. Give Brock Bormann a shout for me!
DS: Will do man. Have a good one, and go Wolves.