Over the past few years there hasn’t been that much excitement surrounding the Timberwolves, but it seems that’s all about to change.
Need proof? Well for starters, this past Wednesday (July 8) 15,200 fans filled the Target Center to watch the team practice. Keep in mind, there were actual league games that drew fewer fans this past year … these past several years. Also keep in mind the tickets to the scrimmage were free. The question now is can the team compete in the Western Conference and make people want to pay to see them play.
Bolstered by the first overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Karl-Anthony Towns, and trading for another first rounder, hometown hero, Tyus Jones, the T-Wolves are the talk of the town some four months before the start of the coming season. Add to that the reigning Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, the reigning Slam Dunk Champion, Zach Levine and a fiery future Hall of Famer, beloved Kevin Garnett, and it’s easy to see why the howl could be restored to the Wolves.
At least one fan on hand for the scrimmage – who has a pretty good knowledge of basketball and a penchant for winning – thinks the Wolves will be exciting to watch this coming season.
“You’ve got the number one pick, a hometown hero in Jones and returning guys like Wiggins so I expect the best from this team,” said Minnesota Lynx superstar Seimone Augustus.
Augustus had some words of advice for the young Wolves.
“The rookie season is the toughest; getting adjusted to the league and a new city,” said Augustus. “If they stay focused on the game then things will be alright.” She then joked that her other advice would be to learn to stay warm come winter.
The scrimmage wasn’t the prettiest display of ball, but the young players showed off just enough to leave fans with something they haven’t had much of lately – hope.
Towns, who drew thunderous applause during his introduction, showed why he was deserving of the first overall selection. He wasn’t flashy and he didn’t “light up the scoreboard” (actually, no one took official stats for the game) but he showed impressive footwork on the inside and even dropped a long-range three pointer. Also importantly, he was almost automatic on the free throw line.
Wiggins (who received the loudest applause during the introductions) played just enough to remind everyone why he earned Rookie of the Year accolades; but it was Levine who stole the show. Levine played as if he was in a playoff game and not just a fan showcase. The high-flying guard threw down a couple of dazzling dunks, rained a couple of threes and multiple times took Jones, who was guarding him, off the dribble and blew past the rookie, showing that Jones will need to improve on the defensive end.
Offensively, Jones showed that he can be a quite capable point guard in the league, dishing out several nice assists, including a couple to Towns. Off on his first few shot attempts, Jones settled in and knocked down a succession of buckets, showing he’s not just a pass-only point guard.
For Jones, who starred at Apple Valley and this past season led Duke to a national title, playing for the hometown team makes his journey to the NBA that much more special. For his grandmother, Sally Deutsch, seeing her grandson for the first time as a Timberwolf was like something out of a movie script.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Deutsch. “It’s just a fairytale story. He worked so hard for this. His family means so much to him, so to come here and play, it’s just how it should be.”
The Timberwolves’ front office is hoping many fans are like Deutsch, who said she didn’t watch much of the team before her grandson joined the roster.
“Now I’m a Timberwolf, true and true,” said Deutsch.