Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young will meet the local masses in the most appropriate venue possible Tuesday — at the State Fair.
Before that basketball on a stick introduction, however, we took it upon ourselves to give the newbies a primer on what they should know about Minnesota and the Timberwolves:
1) This one is for Wiggins in particular: You are not replacing Kevin Love. Young is the power forward coming over to play Love’s old position, but Wiggins is the centerpiece of the deal. That said, he should not feel as though he has to be what Love was.
In fact, it is crucial that he forges his own identity as a rookie in this league. Wiggins is not going to replicate the sheer offensive production of Love, nor will he command the immediate respect of opponents that Love earned. But he can be a dynamic two-way player and the heart of a team with a new identity. That’s plenty.
2) It hasn’t always been bad. A decade of woe, as well as the lean early years of the franchise, can make us forget sometimes that the Timberwolves, in the middle years of their existence, were a perennial playoff team. They made it in eight consecutive seasons from 1997-2004, the last of which ended with a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
And in that season, particularly in the playoffs and especially in Game 7 against Sacramento, the atmosphere in Target Center was about as good as it gets.
3) Speaking of which, there is a dedicated group of fans here in this state. Don’t listen to those who attempt to make lame “Minnesota has an NBA team?” jokes. We might call ourselves the State of Hockey, but when the hoops are good, this can quickly become the State of Basketball.
The fans probably will be cautious and skeptical at first, but if they start believing, they can be fiercely loyal.
4) More than anything, Minnesota fans love effort. This is largely a blue collar state. While the fans in the good seats will be corporate, the ones commenting online and calling talk radio will not be. They will demand maximum effort, they will abhor laziness and they will be keenly aware of your status as young millionaires.
Show hustle, ability and competence in line with your salary, and they will love you.
5) Yes, it’s cold here. And maybe Minneapolis wouldn’t top your list of NBA cities in which to play if given all the options. Then again, neither would Cleveland, San Antonio or Oklahoma City — lesser cities than this one that are doing just fine talent-wise. As your new boss, Flip Saunders, said Saturday:
“Our NBA has become, instead of destination city, it’s become destination players. Around our league it seems players gravitate toward other players to play with. We feel with some of the players that we have that we’re going to have the ability to get players to gravitate towards our organization because of that.”
That could happen here. It might not. Much of that is up to you.