That the Timberwolves will open the regular season Wednesday in Brooklyn is only fitting, considering the Nets influence here in Minnesota.
Players? Backups Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham both played in Brooklyn last season, when the Nets bounced back from a 28-54 record in 2017-2018 to go 42-40 and qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs. Both of them came to Minnesota as part of the complicated dealings that sent D’Angelo Russell to Golden State and Kevin Durant to the Nets.
Front office? Assistant general manager Gianluca Pascucci was the Nets’ director of scouting from 2016 through last season, while Wolves assistant coach Pablo Prigioni was an assistant with the Nets last year.
What effect has this western migration to Minnesota had on the Wolves?
“It’s a selflessness for the group, understanding that the greater group is where your strength lies,” Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said before Monday’s practice — the Wolves will travel to Brooklyn on Tuesday and open the season there Wednesday. “That’s a credit to Brooklyn and what they’ve built from a place of a low number of draft picks to being in the position they’re in right now, as arguably one of the better teams in the league.”
It’s an influence that might be seen on the Wolves, though Saunders was quick to point out the Wolves try to learn from a number of successful teams.
“I think you take things from any organization that has success and has done things the right way, and done things with character as well,” he said.
All that said, this won’t be a reunion of any sort. It’s the first game of a season in which the Wolves intend to surpass leaguewide expectations. Napier, for example, doesn’t feel he has anything to prove with the team that parted ways with him.
“No, I’m never about that,” said Napier, a point guard who averaged 9.4 points and 2.6 assists in 56 games for the Nets last season. “I just want to win, at the end of the day. They have a great group of guys there, and so do we. We’re just trying to come out here together, trying to figure our each other and trying to get a win.”
A good place to start
Just from an X’s and O’s standpoint, Saunders said the Nets are a good team to start the season against. The Wolves have implemented a faster-paced offense that encourages more three-pointers and fewer long twos.
“Brooklyn is going to be a good first opponent for us, because we know they play some zone,” Saunders said. “They do some things that they’ve had success with. In a way, they want to force you into long, contested twos. Very similar to what we talk about a lot. So it’s a good test for us, just reinforcing our points of emphasis, our philosophy and understanding that we stick with things.”
• Wolves newcomer Jordan Bell has an opinion on prognosticators who are picking the Wolves to have a difficult year: “I don’t know what they don’t know,’’ he said. “But I know that we’re going to make some noise this year. We’re not just going to be a team that gets through the season and in the middle of April we’re just done. We have aspirations of playing in April, May, June, however far we can make it in the playoffs.”
• The Wolves on Monday waived guards Tyus Battle, Barry Brown Jr. and Tyrone Wallace, finalizing the roster at 17 players.