Failure to launch.
That was the problem for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, even as they reached the playoffs for the second consecutive spring (after 17 years of mostly irrelevancy).
The front office’s bold move of adding Rudy Gobert to the frontcourt with Karl-Anthony Towns, two of the Western Conference’s top centers, in a super-sized frontcourt neither succeeded nor failed. It simply never got off the ground, scuttled when Towns suffered a calf injury 21 games into the season. He only returned in late March for seven appearances before the priorities of the AT&T Play-In Tournament games and the first round against Denver kicked in.
So the Wolves will be hitting the reset button on the Gobert-Towns experiment, zagging big while most others in the NBA zig small. Meanwhile, fans want to see improvement on last season’s 42-40 record, as the dynamics within the team evolve. That includes forward Jaden McDaniels, a snub from the All-Defensive teams; veteran Mike Conley as a still-essential 36-year-old starting point guard; Naz Reid as yet another talented Minnesota big; a handful of intriguing youngsters, and wing Anthony Edwards who looks poised for a breakout 2023-24 season.
Chris Finch, about to begin his third full season as Wolves coach, spoke briefly with NBA.com during the National Basketball Coaches Association meetings in Chicago earlier this month.
Editor’s Note: The following 1-on-1 conversation has been condensed and edited.
NBA.com: What is your take on the Wolves’ offseason?
Finch: What I like is, we were able to add a little backcourt and wing depth with Shake [Milton] and Troy [Brown Jr.] coming in, guys who are versatile and help fill our roster needs. Obviously getting healthy — getting KAT back healthy — and then taking what we learned through the moments when we were all together last year and then build, be better prepared going into this season with the two bigs. We’re really excited about all our guys who played this summer internationally and certainly, Anthony’s continued emergence there.
Had Karl been healthier, you’d know a lot more about how he and Gobert fit together. Is that still to be determined?
Yeah, going into last season, we felt like it would really take 40 or 50 games to really catch a rhythm with it all. And with that span of time, you’re going to see a lot of defenses, schemes, coverages, things you’re going to have to adjust to. So you’d have a frame of reference going forward. And we really didn’t have that.
We were trying to figure it out for 20 games when he got hurt, and it was some good, some bad. Then when he came back at the end of the season, it was literally ‘Get in, fit in and try to figure it out on the fly.’
At that point, it probably was most important that his return not disrupt what had been working.
And he did a good job for the most part of just trying to find his own rhythm. It wasn’t disruptive. But we didn’t optimize it.
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) August 1, 2023
There has been so much talk about Edwards with his summer exposure in the FIBA World Cup competition and the sense that he is ready to take a leap. Is it happening organically enough that it won’t feel forced on Karl or anyone else there as the pecking order shifts?
I believe so. I think, coupled with his personality, it’s also kind of natural for him to handle these dynamics.
It’s not an ego takeover then?
No, I don’t feel that at all. He naturally works hard for his teammates. Wants to see them succeed. Wants to bring them along with his success. And I think he still understands that he still has room to grow. He knows he doesn’t know it all, doesn’t have it all figured out. At the same time, he knows he needs his teammates to help him get there.
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