There was a feeling. You could just sense a turnaround was on track. There was a “can’t miss” upbeat mood at the Wolves shoot around prior to their game with Charlotte. It was a vibe that led you to believe they’d end this losing streak and get things turned around. In a lockout shortened season that is long on work and short on rest, the Wolves are youthful and showing a resilience that is going to play to their advantage.
It’s funny, but I keep going back to it because it has everything to do with the new leadership this team has. And what a difference from the direction this team was headed a year ago. Where resignation reigned, a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude now prevails. Inside Wolves HQ, all the support staff that works 24/7 behind the scenes is excited to get to work because they appreciate the product on the court. Just as the Wolves veer off, the coaches retool the collective team focus and the team gets its mojo back.
Coach Rick Adelman doesn’t have to veer far to get his message across to his Wolves. His list is much longer, for sure, but here’s a CliffsNotes version of points that Adelman laid out after the loss to the Knicks (a game the Wolves should have won). Among many, Coach really had five points that he’s driving home to the players: 1.) Can’t have turnovers/protect the ball 2.) Winning is great but even after a win or two, we haven’t “arrived” yet. There is plenty to do 3.) Wolves are not patient enough in their half court offense 4.) Still not shooting well, must knock down open shots 5.) Team has to play as hard at home as it does on the road.
Does the tune sound familiar? It all boils down to consistency. Adelman knows that building consistency needs time and patience. With the nice mix of players here, the Coaches preach that it’s a work in progress and something they are all striving towards. I see it at moments like the pre-game shoot around. A collective bunch of players who know they’re making something happen. They want to improve. They know they will. And best of all, we’re seeing it happen.
Location, Location, Location:
If you are still on the fence about the new vibe surrounding this basketball team, you need to take it in first hand. Case in point, the only visit, last Saturday, of the New York Knickerbockers.
We all know that 20, 232 fans packed the Target Center for the game. Also understood, it’s the largest crowd since 2004. But for a team and venue that supposedly takes a back seat to the pro ice team across the river in the newer building, this was a mismatch. Having been to both arenas this season, there’s no comparison. And fans were shouting it back to me via social media:
This place is NUTS! I won’t wait again to get tickets…sitting 2nd deck, still fun and loving all the (Jeremy) Lin fans around me. SO much better effort that before. LOVE it! Mark SLP
Mark thanks for the note to Rod@GameOnTvMN.com. I was there and our group was blown away by the atmosphere as well. Just to walk into Target Center and look up to see fans seated in the very top rows all around the building. It did have a serious playoff feel! The past few years make nights like this standout so much more vividly. And the game was solid even though the Wolves gave it back to the Knicks (they admitted mistakes in the post game locker room). All that, the Hoop Troop was raucous and just overall; the vibe downtown was great to see again. We were out at dinner prior to tipoff and it was a zoo! Packed all around and fans having fun. That’s what it’s all about. It’s clear; there has been a seismic shift in fan attention and team play. You can just tell that the Wolves are the winter team with far more upside moving forward.
And one other note, when you are at the game, keep your eyes peeled for the scoreboard trivia time. It’s played out with the help of a very popular (and growing) Wolves center and a play off the “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” jingle/promotion used by the Today show. I mentioned it last week, with all the injuries suffered early in the season, the Wolves are getting all their players back and we are seeing the emergence of Nikola Pekovic. Pek is playing huge and no wonder. He’s a force in the middle. As I mentioned before, Pek’s a load. Just a tick under 7-feet tall, legs like tree trunks and a fear of no one, Pek is leaving a trail of banged up believers from New Jersey to Houston, Sacramento to Charlotte and all points in between.
Pek is one of the subjects we cover this Sunday on GameON! Assistant Coach (and center position coach) Jack Sikma joins us and talks at length about the rise of the Wolves big men. And by the way, Pek will be joining us soon in a GameON! taping at SEVEN Steakhouse/Sushi/Ultralounge just a block from Target Center.
All Star’s Ahead:
The Timberwolves will be represented well at the upcoming All-Star Weekend in Orlando. Forward Kevin Love is on the 2012 Western Conference All-Star team after balloting by NBA head coaches. This was a no brainer. It’s the second All-Star selection of Love's career and he’s the second player in franchise history to make more than one All-Star Game appearance, joining Kevin Garnett (10 appearances). Tom Gugliotta, Wally Szczerbiak and Sam Cassell all made one appearance as a Timberwolves player.
K-Love will be joined by Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams who will both play in the Rising Stars Challenge to be held during All-Star Weekend. This should be a great game with All-Star Blake Griffin and rookie guard Kyrie Irving and 16 others scheduled to play. It’s a new format as rookies and second-year players will be mixed in the game on Friday, Feb. 24 in Orlando. Hoops analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will serve as general managers and draft players for their teams. The 2012 NBA All-Star Game will be played at Amway Center in Orlando on Sunday, Feb. 26.
Hey…Time to help cover up for Good Cause:
Even though it’s officially ending, there’s still time to help out and make a difference with Kevin Love’s coat drive. There are many people in need this winter and it’s real. K-Love tells me that fans can still drop coats at any of eight metro-area drop-off locations, including the Target Center Box Office and Comcast service centers and they will be picked up. All donations supporting The Salvation Army.
"We've had a mild start to the winter, but it's pretty cold in Minnesota and many people are in need of new winter coats," Love said. "I want to help out again this year, and with the support of The Salvation Army, Comcast and Wolves fans, we can make a difference this winter for those in need."
More information can be found at Timberwolves.com
Look who's back:
The Timberwolves have recalled rookie guard Malcolm Lee from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League. Lee appeared in three games for the Skyforce, averaging 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 25.3 minutes.
Big upside for this rookie. Lee underwent successful surgery on Dec. 30, 2011 to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He has not appeared in any games for the Wolves this season.
A 6-foot-5 guard from UCLA, Lee was drafted 43rd overall in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls and acquired by the Wolves in a draft-day trade. He averaged 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists over his three-year collegiate career. Lee earned both First Team All-Pac-10 and Pac-10 All-Defensive Team honors in 2011.
See you on TV:
You don’t want to Miss GameON! powered by SEVEN Steakhouse/Sushi/Ultralounge/Skybar this Sunday morning on FOX’s My29 at 10:30 a.m. Special guest is Wolves Assistant Coach and NBA Champion Jack Sikma. Big Jack looks good in High Definition and it plays out on TV as well as on ITunes & online at www.GameOnTvMn.com.
GameON! powered by SEVEN allows you the opportunity to get up close and personal, to meet your favorite players and fellow fans at our weekly tapings next door to Target Center at SEVEN (7th and Hennepin). GameON! is about in-depth interviews with the top players, great food, sports newsmakers and we get you inside your favorite teams (including the Wolves).
It’s GameON! powered by SEVEN Steakhouse/Sushi/Ultralounge/Skybar. You can friend us on Facebook and drop me a note at Rod@GameOnTvMN.com. We reserve the right to use your e-mails here in SimonsSays at Timberwolves.com.
Keep your GameON! See you soon!