the first 48 (minutes of the 2017-18 timberwolves season) [published on the step back]

It’s really real. Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson — they’re all Minnesota Timberwolves. I know, I know, obviously it was real when they signed their respective contracts this past summer, but seeing the squad, in the flesh…in the jerseys, that was confirmation. That was bliss.

In their first preseason game this past Saturday, Sept. 30, the Wolves matched up against the Los Angeles Lakers in Anaheim. A preview of Christmas Day. A first look at Lonzo Ball. A glimpse at a rivalry that should be more given the Lakers originated in Minnesota 70 years ago. Both teams look a lot different this year and both teams are going to have to compete at a high level every night to vie for a playoff spot in the absolutely stacked Western conference.

The man of the moment, at least my moment, Jimmy Butler, played the full first quarter and became a staple of the bench for the remainder of the match-up: bantering with teammates, advising KAT and adding an overall positive and encouraging essence to a team hungry for more. In his 12 minutes on the court, Butler put up 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. And he looked good doing it. The Wolves looked good. They looked…smarter.

I was impressed with the Wolves’ allegiance to fundamentals. Particularly their spacing, defense and ball movement. The starting five (Teague, Butler, Wiggins, Towns and Gibson) exuded incredible patience on the offensive side of the ball, and the bench did their best to do the same.

My favorite part of the game? Seeing Thibs yell to Jimmy from the sideline, “go to work.” And he did. Seriously. My heart, it fluttered. Thibs, known for his vocal approach to coaching, also (and often) aimed to motivate Wiggins to be more aggressive. It worked.

The game remained close and competitive throughout four quarters. For Wolves fans, it was only truly worrisome in the fourth quarter. But Thibs added Taj to the fourth quarter rotation and the Wolves walked away with a win. It was fun to watch. I can confidently confirm, the Wolves are going to be fun to watch this season.

A handful of takeaways: 

  1. Karl-Anthony Towns is the Wolves’ best player. This is fluid opinion which I am sure will bend throughout the season. KAT is KG 2.0. Watching the sophomore power forward play, it’s impossible to not reminisce about The Big Ticket.
  2. The Timberwolves have a point guard who can score. Jeff Teague is a lovely fit, a supportive teammate and has a crossover that breaks ankles (and hearts).
  3. Andrew Wiggins is more aggressive on both sides of the ball.
  4. The second unit has to work on defense and composure.
  5. Tom Thibodeau is a phenomenal coach. He’s also the perfect man to help Wiggins harness his potential this year.
  6. Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng both know they need to come to play every night. They have something to prove. Shabazz, still sassy, put up an impressive 22 points. Dieng recorded a double-double. The duo are off to a good start.
  7. Jamal is more fun to watch when he’s taking shots. In 28 minutes, Crawford took just one lone shot. Re-read that. Jamal Crawford took ONE shot. I’m looking forward to seeing him take (and make) more shots.
  8. The Andrew Wiggins vs. Brandon Ingram match-up has potential to be great.
  9. (For Lakers fans) Kyle Kuzma is going to be better than Lonzo Ball. 

Wolves fans, get excited. And get another look at the squad tonight as they take on the Golden State Warriors in Shenzhen, China.

[View on The Step Back]

Jennifer Universe