Practice Report | A Halftime Reckoning, Increased Accountability And Wiggins’ Aggressiveness
The Wolves had a great practice on Tuesday after an incredible comeback win over the Rockets on Monday. Every day this team gets better and their emphasis on improvement and accountability is obvious.
“The challenge is to come in every day and try to improve,” said coach Tom Thibodeau. “Every day is important, every meeting is important, every practice, just keep improving. The whole idea is you want to be playing your best at the end, so hopefully at the end of the season than we are today.”
The Wolves are fully bought into that mission, and though Thibodeau’s leadership is obviously important, they realize that at the end of the day it’s on them to execute. Notably, the Wolves made many of their adjustments at halftime without the guidance of their coach. Wolves players spoke candidly with one another, discussing what needed to change and being honest without calling anyone out or taking things personally.
“I felt like we just held each other accountable. We’ve seen that team a lot of times and you get frustrated at times, you get frustrated at how they play, how they were laughing during the game,” said Taj Gibson. “At halftime guys set the tone in the locker room and we came out and did a good job.”
“The way guys are communicating to each other without stepping on each other’s toes, everybody is real responsive. It shows growth,” Gibson continued. “One of the things is I think KAT has been a phenomenal leader as of late as far as the offensive end and the defensive end.”
Andrew Wiggins agreed that the players taking on the challenge of turning the game around is a positive development. It’s incredibly encouraging to see the Wolves not only recognize the problems in how they are playing but to fix them immediately, by working together.
“That’s how it should be,” he said. “We’re the ones out there. We’re not just seeing what’s on the floor, we’re doing, playing. Us [conversing] in the locker room and telling each other what we can see out there, what we can do better, goes a long way.”
While the Wolves offense has been good, the biggest improvement by far has come on the other end, a fact that is not lost on Thibodeau.
“You’re not going to shoot the ball great every night,” said Thibodeau. “If you can count on the defense and rebounding that will give us a chance to win every night regardless of how we shoot. Then when we’re shooting well and sharing the ball we have the capability to be really good.”
Wiggins was right in the middle of that defensive effort.
“I thought Andrew’s aggressiveness not only on offense but on defense also was critical,” said Thibodeau. “He did a great job of protecting the basket and getting out and covering the line. We need that type of effort from him all the time.”
Wiggins had a great game last night. That may have been a surprise to Wolves fans who had watched him struggle the last few outings, but it was not a surprise to his teammates, who see the kind of consistent work Wiggins puts in on a day-to-day basis.
“He’s in the gym 11 o’clock at night, he’s in the gym working through his ups and downs he has to work through,” said Gibson. “He’s done a great job on defense, got a lot of key stops that last game, but he does put the work in. Every night I come here around 10 or 11 at night he’s still here getting shots up. His time will come and he’ll overcome it but I just love his mentality as of late.”
Wiggins relies on the extra time he puts in to break out of these kinds of slumps. He knows they won’t last, but he’s proactive in making sure he’s getting extra shots up, preferably late at night when the gym is quiet and he can be alone.
“You feel the need to go to the gym, get some exercise, get some extra work in to prepare yourself for the game, to make yourself feel comfortable to where it’s like, I’m missing shots but they’re good shots and I’m feeling great taking these shots so eventually they’re going to fall,” he said.
- Thibodeau was very complimentary of Towns’ and Derrick Rose’s commitment to passing out of the double team. Both players draw a ton of extra attention and have learned to capitalize on that focus, creating better looks for their teammates.
- Jeff Teague was less hesitant to shoot the three against the Rockets than he has been in the past. Thibodeau emphasized that when Teague is open he wants him to let it fly.
- Rose has been a more vocal leader this season than he ever has in his career. Gibson said Rose typically leads by his play, but this season he is taking an active role in talking to the younger players and being a mentor.
The Wolves play the last game of their homestand on Wednesday against Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets before going on the road. It will be your last chance to see the team in person for a while, so get your tickets to that game here.