the timberwolves are actually going to be good this year [published on the step back]

I’ve been trying to find the right words since June 22. It was a notable day for the league, marking the 2017 NBA Draft, but it was more notable for the Timberwolves. And not in the way Minnesota fans are accustomed to. Notable as in good. Notable as in incredible. Most importantly, notable as in this never happens.

A recap, if you will, of the night: on Thursday, June 22, 2017, the Timberwolves traded Zach LaVine (miss you), Kris Dunn and the 7th overall pick to the Bulls for the ever dreamy, three-time All Star, Jimmy Butler, and the 16th overall pick in that evening’s draft. Wolves fan worldwide (yes, worldwide, keep reading) were ecstatic. The league was shook. Minnesota seemed too small a market for someone like Butler, even given the appeal of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Brasa Premium Rotisserie. Seriously, the offseason never turns out this good.

The thing about acquiring Butler is that other players in the league want to play with him. Proof of this came in the following weeks when the Timberwolves added Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and my personal favorite, Jamal Crawford.

Each year, Timberwolves fans are promised by the organization that this year is going to be the year. We all know better, but we all go along with it. Because we love basketball, and we love the Timberwolves. We remember a time when we were good. When we went to the playoffs. When basketball in Minnesota was competitive, exciting and entertaining. Nostalgia is powerful. Nostalgia is why Kevin Garnett returned. That and, well, ticket sales. Basketball, after all, is a business.

So, let me remind you of another important day: July 14, 2016. Just over a year ago, the Timberwolves added a new partner to their ownership team: Lizhang “John” Jiang. Why is this important? Well, it might not be, but I like to look for coincidences and reasons, my brain is wired to try to make sense of things. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means, far from it actually. I’m much too optimistic for conspiracies, but I do entertain them. The addition of Jiang stood out to me when it happened. And it stands out even more, now, with the addition of Butler.

Jiang is the first Chinese owner of a NBA team, even if it is just five percent. China is an incredibly large and promising market for the NBA. So am I suggesting that it would be in the league’s favor for the only team with Chinese ownership to actually be competitive? Yes, I suppose I am. Hopeful, however, that it is not. I hope that it was Tom Thibodeau and the promise of KAT, Wiggins and an incredible city on the rise that drew Jimmy, Jeff, Taj and Jamal. And yet, either way, I’m happy, because the Wolves have a lineup this year that is outstanding.

So whether it was Thibodeau, Lizhang “John” Jiang, Adam Silver or just plain luck (which I actually believe in), watch the Timberwolves this season. It's going to be a good this year.

[View on The Step Back]

Jennifer Universe