Now that his top target, D’Angelo Russell, was sitting near him at the City Center in downtown Minneapolis on Friday afternoon, Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas was a little more candid about the roster he inherited and initially tried to piece together over the summer.
Rosas was asked, in light of sending out seven players this week in three different trades and receiving eight in return, when he realized the roster needed such a teardown.
“May 1st,” Rosas answered, referring to the day he was hired. “We knew the roster needed help. … Because you know you need to make changes, 29 other teams aren’t going to say ‘OK, we’re ready to go.’ The reality is, we were very aggressive in the offseason, we were very aggressive in the draft, and sometimes things don’t work out for you.
“We were very aggressive at the trade deadline, and it lined up for us.”
Friday’s news conference, with dozens of people hanging from the railings above to check out the scene, was a chance for Rosas to get a few things off his chest now that he has pulled off the blockbuster trade he pledged to seek out when he became president. Perhaps now, Rosas hopes, fans and media will see the method to his madness.
“We had to make sure that we made the right decisions … not do short-term deals that would keep us from being able to execute on a day like today,” Rosas said. “And it’s tough, because I understand for you guys, the fans and the media, a lot of what happened didn’t make sense.”
Rosas then rattled off a list of rhetorical questions that read like they came straight from the comments sections of Wolves blogs.
“Why didn’t they sign a point guard on July 1st? Because we wanted that point guard. Why didn’t we make trades for other positions? Because we wanted these guys,” he said, referring to Russell and his new teammates. “Our vision of who we wanted and what we wanted in this program, when they were becoming available, was a big part of that. To be fair to you guys, we can’t be fully transparent of everything that’s going on.”
There at least now seems to be a clear vision of the future. Russell is the Timberwolves’ point guard, a fact that became real when he landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport airport late Thursday night with good friend Karl-Anthony Towns and a strong Wolves contingent there to greet him.
It became even more tangible when Russell came down an escalator with his new teammates and staff at City Center in Minneapolis. He spoke of finally having a place to call home after moving around to three other teams in the first five years of his career.
“You go through things like this and not realize how surreal it is,” Russell said. “Once I got off the plane, I felt the love. It felt like home right way. Just gave me that home feeling.”
It feels a little more like home because Towns is now his teammate. It had been a rough week for Towns, who watched as the Wolves dealt his previous “best friend” on the team, Robert Covington, in a four-team trade Tuesday. Towns didn’t appear thrilled about the move during Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks.
It was never a given that Russell was going to end up with the Wolves by the time Thursday’s deadline came around, but Towns was all smiles on Friday.
“It’s an amazing breath of fresh air just to see the excitement that the fans have,” Towns said.
Towns’ comfort with the Wolves has been a topic of conversation around the league with teams wondering if Towns might pull the unhappiness lever and ask for a trade like Anthony Davis of the Pelicans did a season ago. Rosas said the team traded for Russell for basketball reasons first with his friendship with Towns being a fortunate secondary benefit.
“Guys can be best friends today and they’re not friends tomorrow,” Rosas said. “I lived that in different situations I’ve been in professionally in my career. So it starts with basketball. You’ve got a playmaking guard, who fits in great with maybe the most versatile skilled center in the league right now. The ability to execute our vision with those two as the pillars of who we are and how we play was very enticing.”
There was hardly any mention of one of the previous franchise linchpins, Andrew Wiggins, at Friday’s event, except for coach Ryan Saunders, who hoped Wiggins can thrive in Golden State.
“He’ll be a guy whose name is in the record books for the Timberwolves for a long time,” Saunders said. “He’ll do hopefully some positive things in Golden State, but we’re looking forward to the group we have right now.”
It’s certainly a large group. It’s not often a team welcomes as many new members midseason as the Wolves are. A nearly completely different team will take the floor Saturday night against the Clippers.
But the Russell-Towns combination is one they hope will become familiar soon enough.
“We know everybody wants it to happen overnight, but it doesn’t happen overnight,” Rosas said. “Anything that’s good in life, anything that’s meaningful, you’ve got to have some losses, you have to have some tough times, but those tough times get you here.”