The Target Center remodeling remains a work in progress. And fans entering for Tuesday night’s Timberwolves home opener will see a team in the same situation.
The Timberwolves, 0-2 in their season-opening road swing, return home to play the Memphis Grizzlies for the second time in six days. The losses at Memphis and Sacramento have shown both the potential of the young team and the work that remains to be done.
And there will be a hole in the starting lineup to fill. Point guard Ricky Rubio, who sprained his right elbow in the fourth quarter Saturday in Sacramento, is sidelined indefinitely.
Rookie Kris Dunn likely will hear his name called when the starting lineup is announced against Memphis.
“Butterflies? No,” said Dunn, who scored eight points in 15-plus minutes of playing time in the season opener and had four points, four assists and was a plus-7 in nearly 20 minutes against Sacramento. “I lost my nerves, probably the first game of the preseason. Now I understand what the game is about, I understand my teammates, I understand what the coach wants from me.’’
He’s not the only one excited.
While the 0-2 start — the first time in franchise history the Wolves lost consecutive games in which they led by 15 or more points — might have been a bit sobering, there is no question there is a buzz around the Wolves, with its young core and new leadership.
And that buzz has been national.
The Wolves have seen a steady march of national media writing about the team. Reporters from Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Yahoo, USA Today, SB Nation and Bleacher Report have been here to do stories on Thibodeau and his team.
In a preseason poll of league general managers, the Wolves were picked as the team expected to make the biggest jump.
And there has been palpable optimism here as well.
According to Ethan Casson, hired over the summer as chief executive of the Timberwolves and Lynx, there has been “modest growth’’ in the team’s full season-ticket holders, with the Wolves in the top half of the NBA in new season-ticket sales.
Meanwhile, partial season-ticket packages and single-game ticket sales are at a record high for the team.
Casson did not divulge specific numbers of season tickets sold. And, when talking about the process, he sounded like coach Tom Thibodeau. “We’ve got a lot of work left to do to where we have Target Center at its capacity,” Casson said. “As our team is young and starting to come together, we on the business side are approaching it with the same mind-set, closing the gap.’’
Casson said corporate partnerships have risen 15 percent. The team recently announced a partnership with TCL, a China-based electronics company. Casson said new founding corporate partnerships would be announced in the next few weeks.
The team has sold more than 90 percent of the seats in the newly remodeled premium suite level.
But on the court there is work to be done as well. And the Wolves will have to play at least one game without Rubio.
Thibodeau echoed his postgame comments Saturday about the need for his team to be tougher, both mentally and physically.
Immediately after the loss to the Kings, Thibodeau said Dunn had played OK but was capable of better, playing tougher and having more awareness on the floor.
Monday, Thibodeau was in next-man-up mode.
“Defensively he’s done a lot of good things,” he said of Dunn. “And I think the more experience he gets the better he’s going to play. He’s learning. So there will be ups and downs.
“But his intensity will cover up for some things. He’s an unselfish player who will hit the open man, and I think he’s starting to understand the NBA a little better.’’
Dunn sounded confident Monday.
“I feel I’ve been getting good minutes, and I’ve been playing in some tough situations,’’ he said. “Those are the types of games I like to play in. So Ricky, if he doesn’t have the chance to play [Tuesday] night, or any other games, I’ll have to step up and be ready.’’
Thibodeau didn’t say who would be Dunn’s primary backup. Tyus Jones was active for the first two games but didn’t play. John Lucas III, in his eighth season, was inactive for both games but did play for Thibodeau in Chicago.