There is an arms race raging across the NBA, and this one isn’t leaving the Timberwolves behind in the proverbial construction dust.
Last summer, the Wolves opened their new $25 million Courts at Mayo Clinic Square, one of the league’s 13 state-of-the-art practice facilities that have opened since 2013 or are coming by 2018.
Among them: The Bulls opened their $25 million facility across the street from United Center nine months before the Wolves opened theirs. Toronto opened its $38 million (Canadian dollars, about $27 million U.S.) facility on Wednesday. Brooklyn’s $50 million facility opens this week when the Nets return from the All-Star break. Philadelphia’s $80 million complex should be ready for training camp this fall.
They are homes away from home intended to draw players for breakfast and keep them at work through dinner with such amenities as multiple basketball courts, player lounges and team offices, interactive television screens with access to NBA stats and game video, hot tubs and cold tubs, plunge pools and hydrotherapy rooms, spacious fitness and weight rooms, underwater treadmills, yoga space and a full-service kitchen as well as concierge service, massage therapists, resident chefs and barbers.
All of it comes with 24/7 access.
It’s a long way from when Toronto’s Dwane Casey coached the Wolves for 122 games a decade ago. When he worked at Target Center, the team practiced in the arena health club one floor down.
“I remember going down in the basement here, people running in the health club next door,” Casey said, “and watching what you’re doing in your shootaround.”
Now the Wolves have a 107,000-square-foot complex that includes a Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Clinic. The Raptors’ just-opened facility is 68,000 square feet and overlooks Lake Ontario.
“It’s our space,” said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who with teammate DeMar DeRozan will play in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game just down the road at Air Canada Centre. “It’s just more comfortable. We don’t have to rush in and rush out. You can’t get kicked out. There’s no concerts, no hockey games. It’s our space. It’s our building. And it’s an amazing building.”
Wolves guard Zach LaVine has spent much of his young life in gyms, just not a gym envisioned by then-President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders and approved by consulting star Kevin Love before he was traded in August 2014.
“I never want to leave the gym anyway,” LaVine said. “Now it’s so nice, I really don’t want to leave.”
Players can stay there all day, every day all season if they so choose, but such investments might pay off most in summer, when Casey predicts the Raptors’ gleaming new building — as well as others around the league — will serve as a recruiting tool for prospective free agents.
“Huge,” Casey said when asked about the potential impact. “If a guy doesn’t walk in there and is not impressed by the space and the technology, the equipment in the weight room, sauna. … It may be a little too nice, if there is such a thing. We don’t want a guy to get too comfortable, feel like they’re in a spa and get soft on us.”
DeRozan has seen all the bells and whistles with his team’s new space and is impressed by one thing most of all.
“It’s closer to my house, by four minutes,” he said. “With all the things that are in there, it makes you not leave the gym, honestly. I’ll probably spend about the same time there, I’ll just get a little more sleep.”