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Innovation Is Expected As Timberwolves Await 2020-21 Season

by Katie Davidson
Digital Content Associate

You might remember where you were when the Timberwolves opened their 2019-20 season with a game against the Nets in Brooklyn.

You probably remember Karl-Anthony Towns’ 36 points and seven made 3-pointers, which helped land him in the earliest MVP talks.

Maybe you remember Treveon Graham’s inspired play and how head coach Ryan Saunders made a point to recognize his willingness to do the dirty work after the game.

Without a doubt, you remember Josh Okogie’s game-sealing defense that sent Kyrie Irving to the ground before he could muster up his 51st and 52nd points of the game to claim a win for his new Nets team.

You probably remember having premature hopes or lingering skepticism after that 127-126 Timberwolves overtime win. Regardless of which way you thought the season would go, you were wrong about its conclusion.

That overtime win was followed by countless injuries, losing streaks, untucked jerseys, a roster overhaul and some incessant belief in the front office’s ability to build a better future for the franchise.

But none of that could have prepared us for March 11 or the days, weeks, months that would follow.

The Timberwolves lost 117-111 to the Houston Rockets on March 10 and within 24 hours found out they wouldn’t be returning to play anytime soon after it was announced two players had tested positive for COVID-19 moments before tip-off of an Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz game. You know the one.

The NBA season was immediately put on hiatus, and a possible resumption of play would be left to speculate over — until June 4.

Last Thursday, after nearly three months of brainstorming cutting-edge ideas to salvage the remainder of the 2019-20 season, the NBA Board of Governors announced their approved plan to have 22 of the league’s 30 teams tentatively resume play on Friday, July 31, in Orlando, Florida.

However, given their 19-45 record, the Timberwolves were not one of the 22 teams to make the cut.

“While we are disappointed for our team and our fans that our season is coming to an end, we understand and accept the league’s plan to move forward with 22 teams,” said Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas, in response to the league’s announcement. “It is important that we be a good teammate not only to the NBA, but to the other 29 teams to support the efforts to complete this season and prepare for next season in a healthy and safe manner.”

The Timberwolves’ season ended unceremoniously, just as a vision for a brighter future began to emerge, and now the long wait for Timberwolves basketball begins.

If the remainder of the 2019-20 season plays out as tentatively scheduled, we would most likely have to wait until Dec. 1 to watch the Timberwolves back in action. The wait will be even longer if the Timberwolves aren’t given an opening-night game. I hope you enjoyed that March 10 game against the Rockets as much as possible.

This 265-day offseason will be the longest in franchise history, but it also has the potential to be one of the most eventful offseasons Timberwolves fans have seen.

There are a few key — again, tentative — NBA dates between now and Dec. 1.

First, the NBA Draft Lottery is currently scheduled for Aug. 25. Lottery odds are still based on teams’ records through games of March 11, so the Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers all hold the best odds at acquiring the No. 1 overall pick at 14 percent.

On top of their favorable odds at receiving the top pick, the Timberwolves also own the rights to Brooklyn’s No. 1 draft pick, thanks to the February four-team trade that transformed Minnesota’s roster.

Let your speculation now turn from the resumption of play plans to whether or not Rosas will hold on to both of those picks or make a trade before draft night, which is now scheduled for Oct. 15.

With time on his side, there are few limitations to what Rosas and his staff could surprise us with.

While we’re all watching college basketball highlights and attempting to become draft experts, the league will still have some decisions to work out.

Will there be a Summer League? If so, when will it begin? When will the eight teams whose seasons ended March 10 or March 11 be able to regroup for full-team workouts again? What will the nine-month hiatus from organized play do to the development of young players?

These uncertainties will, of course, have a larger impact on the Timberwolves than the 22 teams who’re scheduled to resume play on July 31, and will call for a level of innovation only folks like Rosas and his staff can provide.

That overtime win against the Nets may seem like a lifetime ago, and the wait for December will probably feel even more extensive. But while Rosas and other league executives are revamping the NBA’s timeline, the least we can do is begin to cherish Timberwolves basketball more than ever.

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