What a night. Everything was pretty much going according to plan. The assembled media was hovering around a single telephone in the Wolves’ new practice facility – in a high-tech world, we can be remarkably lo-fi in some cases – waiting for No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns to dial in on a conference call. Most of the free world had expected the Wolves to take Towns; the conference call and then a quick media appearance by Flip Saunders would cap a big night for Minnesota, but one that went pretty much according to plan.
But as we waited for Towns to call (a shocking amount of this job is waiting), Tyus Jones kept sliding in the draft. Houston didn’t take him at No. 18. Suddenly the draft was in the 20s, and still no Tyus. With each passing pick, there grew a possibility that the Wolves – in need of another point guard to go with Ricky Rubio – would make the bold and popular move to trade up and grab the former Apple Valley star.
And then, of course, at the exact moment – literally the same second – that Towns’ voice came through on the conference call, those monitoring the Jones situation on Twitter caught word that Cleveland had drafted and traded him to the Wolves.
What followed was chaos, with some amusement at the start. A media member asked Towns about playing with Jones. Towns, who was watching the draft on TV at that point while on the call, started talking about Jones in hypotheticals while thinking Jones was going to Cleveland because that’s what was happening on TV. Several reporters on the call kept trying to tell him that no, in fact, Tyus was joining him in Minnesota. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, but it was right out of Abbott and Costello.
From there, it was a blur for the next two hours. You can see all of the video we produced last night right here. Some observations from the night:
*You can call the Jones decision a “homer” choice if you want, but even looked at in purely objective basketball terms it made a lot of sense. Saunders has been watching Jones play since he was a sophomore in high school (remember, Flip hung around the U of M folks a lot and there was a notion he might become the coach before Richard Pitino go the job. If so, he would have had to try to recruit Jones). The Wolves needed another ballhandler. And the price they paid for Jones – a player who has always risen to the occasion in pressure situations – was fair.
*The beauty of having the No. 1 pick and grabbing Towns was underscored by the volatility in the draft that followed. With D’Angelo Russell going to the Lakers in a surprise at No. 2, it became more clear that there was a consensus number one pick, and then there was the rest of the draft.
*The Wolves now have the most promising young nucleus they’ve ever had – and that includes the KG/Marbury era. That doesn’t mean it will translate into wins, but the potential is there.
*The best moment I saw at the Jones draft party came when Flip, Glen Taylor and other Wolves executives arrived. All of them gave Jones big hugs, and Flip explained to him all the wheeling and dealing he had gone through during the night in order to get Jones. He punctuated the story by telling him, in a joking tone but also with rather colorful language, that he had better work hard to prove that it was all worth it.
Based on the energy of the fan base Thursday, the whole night was worth it. Now we’ll see what happens on the court.