Simons Says...

Friday, January 20, 2012

If you can’t tell by their play on the court, you know things are a lot different from a year ago. Just days ago at the taping of GameON!, we welcomed super Wolves sub Anthony Tolliver to the SEVEN show stage. As Tolliver arrives, customers are a buzz. He’s tall. He’s handsome and gracious…signing autographs and engaged in a handful of conversations. AT is also in good spirits. And what’s telling is that Tolliver admits THIS is fun.

THIS is the new Wolves. So different from a year ago when the team was staggered by loss after loss, fans were outnumbered with too few of them showing up at the games. The majority of others not willing to even engage in conversation about the team. Morale was low. You couldn’t give tickets away and there was little hope.

Tolliver was talking about how good it is now that times have changed. “Oh yeah, it was B-A-D last season and it showed” he admitted. “But for all the struggles and all the negativity, it’s been cleared all up. We love what we’re doing and how it’s going now.” Tolliver’s tone was relaxed but somewhat serious too.

The Wolves won their sixth game with a come from behind win over the Detroit Pistons at Target Center on Wednesday night. AT was talking about how many of those games last year (in which the Wolves trailed late) turned out to be losses and this season, there is greater emphasis to find ways to win. And in just the past week, versus the Pistons and earlier against Sacramento, the Wolves found ways to win.

That sixth win came on the 14th game. Last year, the sixth win of the season didn’t come until ten games later, on the 24th game. This is a lock-out shortened season and the Wolves are responding with urgency.

I appreciate the email’s you send and the back and forth with Wolves fans that I get to share. Let’s dig into the mailbag and get one from Eric in Mahtomedi. He writes, “How long has it been since the Wolves were in the playoffs and do you think they can get there this year?” Eric, thanks for the note and a simple Google search would show you that the playoff drought is seven years and counting. Back in the day, the Wolves were a playoff mainstay, making the post season eight straight years. They had the “Big Ticket” and managed to put good role players around him. At this moment, I see the Wolves as a team on the outside looking in on the playoffs but I would not be surprised to see them make it. They will continue to get better and better and with that improvement, very good things will happen.

It has nothing to do with being a hometown rube or too optimistic. I’m simply not going to be the one saying Kevin Love won’t do this, Ricky Rubio can’t do that and this team’s leadership (talking about the Wolves tremendous coaching upgrade) won’t craft a crew that will shock most of us and do the unexpected. They are going to do and we are seeing signs of that improvement now.

I do worry about injuries and the break-neck schedule that is the lock-out 66-game wind sprint. At practice the other day, Luke Ridnour was asked how he manages with back-to-back games, sometimes three or four games in a week. “I know when to rest and take advantage of it…you have to or your body won’t make it” Luke said.

Tolliver agreed when we kicked it around the other night: “This is going to be a very grueling season, it’s short and has a lot of games packed in. We as players have to be careful because if we’re not, that’s when injuries happen.”

There is excitement around the Wolves and inside the team, they share the vibe. These guys like each other and they appreciate what each other brings to the team. Team Timberwolves is a night and day improvement from a year ago and for fans, rest assured, this is a team who’s players know what’s at stake. It’s time to step up and get it done.

Welcome to Rick’s (Adelman) World and the new look Wolves. This is good stuff. Who knows what’s gonna happen next?

Kudos to K-Love:

You’ve heard the saying, good things happen to good people. Well, Wolves All Star Kevin Love is one of the very good guys and K-Love is now one of 20 finalists for the 2012 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team. The official 12-man U.S. Olympic team roster will be announced later this year. You might remember that Love was a member of the 2010 USA World Championship squad that went 9-0 and captured gold in Istanbul, Turkey. Love is the reigning NBA's Most Improved Player and he’s Mr. Double-Double. Congrats and here’s to going for the Gold!

Throwback Time:

If you catch any of these six Wolves home games this season, you going to catch a bit of throwback history. The Wolves will wear the 1967-68 Minnesota Muskies uniforms for home games against Indiana, Dallas, the Knicks, Clips and Lake show as well as the Celtics on March 30.

Lynx Update:

The WNBA Champions know who they’ll play now as the Lynx will tip off their 14th season on Sunday, May 20 against Phoenix at Target Center. It’s one of four nationally televised games this year. In all, 34 regular-season contests (17 home/17 away) from May 20 through September 23. The WNBA will break from July 14 to August 15 to allow WNBA players compete for their respective countries in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

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GameON! powered by SEVEN also allows you the opportunity to get up close and personal, to meet your favorite players and fellow fans @ our weekly tapings next door to Target Center @ SEVEN (7th and Hennepin). GameON! is about in-depth interviews with the top players, great food (heck, we’re coming to you from the best Steakhouse for Pete’s sake), sports newsmakers and we get you inside your favorite teams (including the Wolves).

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