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Tom Thibodeau on Wolves: 'We want to close the gap'

thibspresserIf there is a slogan for this year’s Timberwolves — at least unofficially, since it wouldn’t be very catchy on T-shirts, posters or temporary tattoos — it emerged early and often during new coach/basketball president Tom Thibodeau’s opening session at Monday’s media day.

With the Wolves set to begin training camp Tuesday, these three words are sure to follow them around: “Close the gap.”

Thibodeau said it multiple times Monday, perhaps none more clearly than toward the end of one response.

“We don’t want to fool ourselves,” he said. “We’re a 29-win team. We want to close the gap.”

In other words, count on Thibodeau to keep his plenty grounded even as national pundits predict that the gap should naturally already be closing based on an improving roster and, frankly, Thibodeau’s presence. The coach talked at length about areas that need improvement. He also touched on a number of other subjects. Some highlights:

*How exactly are the Wolves going to close the gap? Thibodeau talked about the need to become a top-10 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They were close on offense last year (No. 12 per Basketball Reference) but woefully short on defense (No. 28). Part of the process of getting there, Thibodeau noted, is to both increase the number of three-pointers the Wolves make while cutting down on the threes they allow. That gap last season accounted for about a 10 points per game difference between the Wolves and opponents.

*A key to the season will also be staying focused on steady improvement instead of dwelling on the past or looking too far into the future, Thibodeau said. “Looking backward or looking ahead does you no good,” he said specifically in response to a question about whether he talks to his team about making the playoffs.

*The play of Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and co. during the second half of 2015-16 stood out to Thibodeau as a positive when he went back to look at game film from last year’s team, but an overriding theme was that there “wasn’t a consistency to our defense.”

*”This is a very determined group,” Thibodeau said when asked what he’s learned about his players that he didn’t know coming in from the outside. He said he likes the team’s work ethic and mentioned Nemanja Bjelica as a key cog on the Wolves’ second unit because of his ability as a “stretch four” who can pass over players and run the pick-and-roll with other bigs.

*Thibodeau met a question about social justice issues head on and thoughtfully, saying he has talked to his team about it. It seems clear he’s in step with the league in wanting to be proactive and supportive of players expressing themselves. “The conversations are good, but the actions are even better,” Thibodeau said, adding: “Understanding what the issues are, try to make things better. I think that’s critical.”

*Thibodeau started off before taking questions by addressing the retirement of Kevin Garnett, a player he coached in Boston as an assistant. “He’ll go down as the all-time best Minnesota Timberwolves player and one of the best to play the game,” Thibodeau said.

The Twins have been terrible -- and terribly unlucky with weather

twinsrainIf you’ve been paying attention at all this summer in Minneapolis, you’ve noticed two things: an unusual amount of rain and an extraordinary amount of bad baseball.

We’ve had a staggering number of heavy rains. And we’ve watched the Twins pile up 100 losses (and counting).

If you’ve thought about the two of those things together, you might have been thinking: doesn’t it seem like it’s been raining an awful lot when the Twins are at home?

During a wet summer, that’s only natural. But in looking a little bit harder at the data, we also can conclude that the Twins have been pretty unlucky when it comes to the worst of the weather.

According to Heather Rule’s calculations, the Twins have had 11 rain delays and three full postponements this season at Target Field.

Looking at the full season, there’s also this: by my calculations, using data from Weather Underground (thanks to Matt Brickman for the link) there have been 41 days between April 1 and Sept. 25 in the Twin Cities in which at least 0.2 inches of rain have fallen.

On 23 of those days, the Twins had a scheduled home game.

On 16 of those days, the Twins had a scheduled road game.

On 2 of those days, the Twins had a scheduled off day.

Even if it didn’t specifically rain during the game in each case, bad weather certainly influences attendance.

There have been two particularly sad/comical stretches of poor weather.

*Between the end of May and the end of July, the Twins played 10 home series. In nine of those series, there was at least one scheduled game in which it rained at least 0.2 inches on that date.

*September has been particularly brutal. The Twin Cities have had at least 0.2 inches of rain during six of the Twins’ last 11 scheduled home dates. And for as lousy as the weather has been lately, it looks like it is going to be beautiful for most of this week — when the Twins end the year on the road.

Then there’s this: in a far less scientific rendering of the weather, WCCO (again, our guy Brickman and his crew) likes to hand out “Top 10 weather days” in the metro area. While I don’t profess to know exactly what goes into the *official* designation of these days, I do know this:

There have been a total of 7 “top 10 weather days” in the Twin Cities during this baseball season (see #top10wxday on Twitter if you’ve never participated in this phenomenon).

The Twins have been at Target Field for just two of those seven (and in one of those, Sept. 1, they were competing against the State Fair, the Gophers’ opener, a Vikings preseason game, high school football and more). Seriously, I hope you guys enjoyed May 21 when the Twins hosted Toronto for a 1:10 p.m. game on a top 10 weather day. Weather Underground reminds us it was 80 degrees that day without even a trace of rain.

So the Twins have caught most of the rain and missed most of the truly glorious days. That doesn’t explain 100 losses, but it sure made them a little bit more miserable.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Twins at Kansas City

    6:15 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Colorado at Wild (preseason)

    7 pm on 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Kansas City

    6:15 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Kansas City

    6:15 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Wild at Winnipeg (preseason)

    7 pm on NHLN, 100.3-FM

  • Lindenwood at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Lindenwood at Gophers women's hockey

    2:07 pm

  • Gophers football at Penn State

    2:30 pm on BTN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Jacksonville at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    2:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Carolina at Wild (preseason)

    5 pm on 100.3-FM

  • N.Y. Giants at Vikings

    7:30 pm on ESPN, 100.3/1130

Today's Scoreboard

  • Chicago Cubs

    Pittsburgh

     

    - F

    12

    2

  • Arizona

    Washington

     

    - F

    14

    4

  • NY Yankees

    Toronto

     

    - F

    7

    5

  • Cleveland

    Detroit

     

    - F

    7

    4

  • NY Mets

    Miami

     

    - F

    3

    7

  • Milwaukee

    Texas

     

    - F

    8

    3

  • Tampa Bay

    Chicago White Sox

     

    - F

    1

    7

  • Seattle

    Houston

     

    - F

    4

    3

  • Cincinnati

    St. Louis

     

    - F

    15

    2

  • Oakland

    LA Angels

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • Atlanta

    New Orleans

     

    - F

    45

    32

No NBA games today

  • Ottawa

    Toronto

     

    - F

    6

    3

  • Columbus

    Boston

     

    - F

    3

    2

  • Minnesota

    Buffalo

     

    - F

    2

    1

  • Philadelphia

    New Jersey

     

    - F

    0

    2

  • Philadelphia

    NY Islanders

     

    - F

    0

    3

  • Carolina

    Washington

     

    - F

    2

    1

  • New Jersey

    Montreal

     

    - F

    3

    2

  • St. Louis

    Dallas

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • Edmonton

    Calgary

     

    - F

    2

    1

  • Calgary

    Edmonton

     

    - F

    2

    4

  • Los Angeles

    Arizona

     

    - F

    3

    5

  • Arizona

    Los Angeles

     

    - F

    3

    4

No MLS games today