He noted that even the former staff members he was a part of had been caught overvaluing certain performances and trends.
But such messages will always fall on deaf ears. The Timberwolves, in their rawest form, were back on Monday, overtaking the Pelicans 117-114 in a game where the rotating players built a 24-point lead. Here are the main takeaways from awesome performance that doesn’t count for just one thing.
D’Angelo Russell said he trained this offseason as if it were a contract year – and for his purposes, it is. Currently, with two years left on his contract, Russell is looking for a massive extension for the next offseason.
He performed as a financially motivated man on Monday. Russell shone offensively, scoring 19 of 6 for 10 shots, including three trebles. He is known for this throughout his career.
More remarkable was the pace with which Russell played. He pushed the ball to the ground at every opportunity, creating countless transition opportunities for Minnesota. That’s what Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said was Russell’s main responsibility in the attack, and he dealt with it on Monday.
Russell was also a vocal presence on and off the pitch. When not in action, the playmaker always made sure he was heard, constantly chatting with his teammates on the bench and communicating with those in action.
The buzz around Anthony Edwards early in training camp was that the sophomore star was paying more attention to the defensive end of the pitch. Finch boosted knowledge off the ball and Edwards’ general aggressiveness on the defensive end.
But it’s always hard to tell the coaches talk from the real thing, no matter how honest Finch has been so far.
If Monday was any indication, Edwards’ defensive improvement appears to be more fact than fiction. He had two blocks and two interceptions, serving as a playmaker on the weak side.
Edwards was active and engaged on this side of the ball. If that continues into the regular season, his all-star goal might be more attainable than most assume.
Most regular season rotations tend to fluctuate between nine and 10 players. Finch said Wolves have 14 guys they are comfortable putting into action, which means the competition for playing time will be tough.
Monday provided clues as to which players are currently in the lead for spots in the rotation at the start of the preseason. Eleven players appeared in the first half. The starters were Russell, Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jaden McDaniels and Josh Okogie. They played between 13 (McDaniels) and 22 (Edwards) minutes. The first six on the bench were Taurean Prince, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Naz Reid and Jordan McLaughlin.
The likes of Jake Layman, Jaylen Nowell and Leandro Bolmaro seem to be fighting an uphill battle for playing time.
Timberwolves may sport the smaller roster in the NBA this season. They have a legitimate attacker on Vanderbilt’s list.
The lack of size raises questions about the team’s overall ability to bounce back. The Pelicans – playing without big key players Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas – exposed this potential weakness in the first quarter on Monday. New Orleans dominated on the offensive glass, grabbing five offensive rebounds in the opening minutes of the game.
The Timberwolves will likely need to win back fans, a common theme in recent years and a by-product of nearly two decades of team futility.
And while there seems to be reason to intrigue with this team – from his improved game under Finch at the end of last season, Edwards’ potential fame and the chance to see Russell’s healthy core Towns, Edwards, McDaniels and Co. together for a long period of time, the Timberwolves appear to have yet to gain the attention of local fans.
Target Center’s lower bowl was sparsely populated on Monday. Yes, it’s preseason, but it was also the first chance to catch a glimpse of this year’s squad, and few took the opportunity to do so in person.