Column: Ready To Roll On Opening Night

Column: Ready To Roll On Opening Night

And away we go.

It’s been six long months since we’ve had a day like today. Six months full of Draft workouts, selections, Summer League, free agency, Training Camp and the preseason. Six months of anticipation. Six months of building expectations.

Now, it’s here. For the 25th time in team history, the Wolves are getting set for Opening Night.

The Timberwolves open up the 2013-14 regular season tonight at Target Center against the Orlando Magic at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM. They’re beginning what will be another six-month journey throughout this regular season with hopes it will lead to more basketball in May and June. All of the offseason moves and all of the offseason preparations lead to this moment tonight.

You best believe the team is ready to get this thing started.

“We’re tired of playing each other in practice,” J.J. Barea said. “So yeah, we’re excited. I know the fans are excited. We’re excited to play against someone else and show them what we got. We’re doing pretty good. We’re healthy. So we’ve got to get a good rhythm going here in the early season and see what happens.”

The Wolves have six games in 10 days to start the regular season, but four of those six take place here in the Twin Cities. The schedule starts out with tonight’s game against Orlando followed by Friday night’s matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. After a quick road trip to New York and Cleveland, Minnesota is back at Target Center on Nov. 6 and 8 against the Warriors and Mavericks, respectively.

Starting out at home gives the Wolves an extra energy boost from its fans during an important time for this particular roster—the Wolves made strides playing together toward the end of the regular season, but their chemistry on the court will be a bit of a work in progress early on this regular season. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic played just 13 minutes together last season, and adding in sharpshooter Kevin Martin into the mix means those four—who are crucial to the team’s ultimate success—are still getting familiar with each other’s tendencies on the floor.

That’s why being in a routine and feeding off the home crowd can be a big boost early on in this season, but the Wolves understand they need to capitalize on that. This preseason, they lost both their home contests at Target Center. To be a competitive team in the West, the Wolves need to take care of business in their own back yard.

“It’s going to be close to capacity if not capacity crowd, and we just want to go out and the best thing we can do is play hard,” Wolves forward Kevin Love said. “We know if we miss shots that we’re going to get back and be able to make stops, but we have a lot of offensive fire power. So we’re happy to be at home these first two games and have the crowd on our side.”

Adelman stressed the importance of being a strong home team. The West will be competitive, he said, and he’s right. While the East has 4-5 teams who are strong, the West has arguably 11-12 teams that could wind up in the top 8 come playoff time. That’s what makes this particular season so intriguing. The Wolves are right in that mix and have the opportunity to take the next step as a franchise, and they’ll get to showcase their skills against a strong conference.

Winning at home is the foundation of a team’s success. The Wolves have a chance to lay that foundation right away this week.

“We have to play well at home,” Adelman said. “We can’t afford to come in here and [feel like we] have something locked up because we’re playing here. We have to come out and compete and play. That group, they have a lot of potential.”

A lot of that starts with you, the fans. The crowd can make Target Center an electric place to play—we saw it first hand during the 2011-12 season when the Wolves were in the postseason picture prior to Rubio’s injury. We felt it during the Lynx’s playoff run this summer. And for those who were with the organization during the eight straight playoff appearances, the stories of the energy they felt inside the arena during those postseason appearances—particularly the first Western Conference Quarterfinals in 1997 and Game 7 of the 2004 Western Conference Semis against Sacramento—get you excited about what could be just thinking about it.

Now, we’re starting the journey. It should be an exciting six months, and in the end the Wolves have a good shot at finding themselves in the West’s top 8. But it starts right now, and finding the right rotations and the right chemistry will be important in these early games—even more so than wins and losses.

You all will be a big part of that. This team will feed off the energy inside Target Center, and they’ll have the chance to play on their home court early and often to start the season.

See you tonight.

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