SBN’s Timberwolves blog, Canis Hoopus, was at Minnesota’s media day, and reported that the T’wolves players are looking to this year, not 2010 and beyond, to be successful in Minnesota:
Kurt Rambis was very open about pushing the team to run more and take on a defensive identity, both things that would distinguish this team from last year’s. He was equally open in stating that they didn’t have all the pieces of the team he and Kahn envision. It’s obvious that the roster is a work in progress, but when Rambis says he would like a rotation of 8, 9 or 10 guys (which doesn’t specifically tell us what he wants) the reflex is to start counting heads of who’s in and who’s out a year from now.
The players, though, are much less interested in talking about next year and the year after. Ryan Gomes was well aware that Kahn is looking for him to prove he’s worth the $14 million that would be guaranteed to him should he be on the roster July 1 (as opposed to the $2.5 million he’s guaranteed if the Wolves cut him before the deadline). That he’s willing to say that he knows his contract structure means he’ll have to prove his worth this year speaks volumes about Gomes’ character. His workouts this summer focused on taking defenders off the dribble and finishing at the hole, but his 3-point shooting may be more important to this perimeter deficient offense.
Al Jefferson and Kevin Love both know their status on the team is safe, but they share Gomes’ sense of urgency this year. Neither seems impatient with Kahn and Rambis’s restructuring of the team (Al specifically mentioned his transition from confusion to understanding after some conversations with the front office), but both are itching to prove their team won’t be a league doormat anymore. Regardless of how much time their on-court chemistry needs to mature, it’s easy to see that Love and Jefferson get along very well off the court. Yesterday they joked around while interrupting each others interviews and walking from shoot to shoot with ones arms around the others’ shoulder.
With Jefferson healthy, Kevin Love already one of the league’s better rebounders, and Jonny Flynn on board to run the team, the Timberwolves have quietly amassed one of the better foundations in the league. Question marks abound—namely, does David Kahn have any clue as to how to run an NBA franchise?—but considering the recent history of Minnesota basketball, there’s ample reason for optimism right now. They’re headed in the right direction, and while that probably won’t lead them to the playoffs this year, “the right direction” is victory enough.