Because so many of the players had been in town for weeks meant the tone of the first practice of the Tom Thibodeau era didn’t come as a surprise.
People knew what to expect.
“It was very intense,” Andrew Wiggins said. “But we’ve been at it for three weeks now. We knew what he was expecting. So we came out here and we worked hard. We gave no reason for him to get mad and make us go harder.”
So, with Duke coach Mike Krzyzeweki and his staff, former Wolves assistant and head coach Randy Wittman and Gophers coach Richard Pitino looking on, Thibodeau kicked off camp with a determination to build a base of skill and fundamentals before adding layers of offensive and defensive intricacies.
Details and fundamentals and layers. These are Thibodeau talking points fans will hear a lot of in the coming weeks.
“The summer was a lot of individual work, building relationships, getting to know ‘em,” Thibodeau said. “The fall was a really good next step. And this is the step that follows that. It gives us a baseline of where we are. We know where we need to go. … You want to get the base of your offense, the base of your defense. And you want to build. But you have to do it with your fundamentals first. You add layers as you go.”
There is a lot to work out. And, during a rather loud first session — the yelling could be heard through the walls at the team’s practice facility — it began.
“Coach said we need to be loud, that we can help each other if we talk,” rookie Kris Dunn said. “I need to get used to it.”
Another process that already has begun is working on the chemistry on the team.
Over the summer, Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden sprinkled their young, talented roster with experienced, veteran players such as Cole Aldrich, Brandon Rush and Jordan Hill.
But it’s an interesting situation. Most of the biggest contributors will be young players while the veterans are expected to have complementary roles.
Already it’s started. On media day Rush talked about how much he liked Dunn and hoped to work with him. Tuesday it was jokingly suggested that Rush might just be buttering up Dunn to ensure he gets a steady stream of passes from the young point guard.
“He’s a vet, I would love to be under his wing,” Dunn said. “I’m going to try to learn as much as I can from him. He’s a great guy.”
Dunn comes from Golden State, so he knows about winning. Aldrich was part of winning teams in Oklahoma City and, last year, the Los Angeles Clippers.
“Especially Brandon, he came from a championship team,” Wiggins said. “He knows how to get there. He knows what it feels like to win in the NBA. That’s great for us.”
Said Karl-Anthony Towns: “It’s about building a great locker room. And that’s what they’ll do. They give us the passion, that love of the game. If you look at their backgrounds, all of them have been with winning teams.”
‘A good day’
Thibodeau has his blend of veterans and youngsters working on building a foundation. Individual skills first. Then drills. Eventually, layer upon layer, the defense and offensive playbook.
“Not trying to do too much is important,” Thibodeau said. “We have to execute things well first, before we move on. I think you improve your execution from repetition. And when everyone has an understanding of what we’re trying to execute, you move on. The first thing is them knowing what their job is. Then they have to go execute their job. Then you try to tie everything together. It was a good day.”
And an intense one. Thibodeau has a reputation for taxing practices. The good news is that many of the Wolves are young. And they were ready.
“We all were in shape,” Towns said. “We all pushed our bodies to new limits. So we were able to come in and get a great first day of practice.’’