The Timberwolves have won 15 games already this season, including impressive wins over some of the NBA's elite teams like Boston and Denver. They enter Wednesday night's game against San Antonio with the best record in the entire league.
But in the parlance of what is still an up-and-coming team, the Wolves haven't won anything.
That notion came through loud and clear in my conversation this week with Wolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.
Given the opportunity to take an early victory lap of sorts, and to deservedly say "I told you so!" to those (like me) who crushed him during the last year either for action or inaction, Connelly instead chose the long view and the high road.
Yes, he's thrilled with how the season has come together so far — including a raucous, often full Target Center that has been a true home-court advantage. Of course he's heartened by the resurgence of Rudy Gobert and the all-around contributions of Mike Conley, cornerstones of the two big trades Connelly has made during his tenure.
And yes, there should always be time to appreciate success as it's happening. That said ...
"We're only 19 games in, we haven't won a playoff series in two decades, so we haven't accomplished much," Connelly said in an interview on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast. "But ... I think there's something special about this group."
A year ago at this time, the Wolves were slumping through a December that would leave them 16-21 on Jan. 1. Gobert was merely good, hardly all-NBA defensive caliber, and Connelly's deal to land Gobert that included a bevy of unprotected first round picks and a slew of useful rotation players was being ridiculed as one of the worst in sports history.
"Rudy had a good year, but it wasn't a good year by his standards. He heard me say that on numerous occasions. That's what happens when you have an elite-level reputation," Connelly said. "He challenged himself. What can I do better? How can I have more of an impact on winning?"
Gobert has been playing at (or perhaps even above, at times) the level he showed all those years in Utah. His late-game defense, in particular, has been tremendous.
And his offensive game has been simplified and amplified with the help of Conley, who was acquired midyear in what looks like a steal for the Wolves considering they offloaded D'Angelo Russell while acquiring Nickeil Alexander-Walker and three second-round picks in the process.
"(Conley) has been fantastic," Connelly said. "Everything has been as advertised or better. ... I can't imagine our team without him."
If anything, I suppose, the Wolves' excellent start is a testament to the power of patience. Connelly said the organization saw "more good than bad" last season, particularly toward the end of the year.
Still there was a chance Connelly could have tinkered more this past offseason or pivoted away from pairing of Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert with another big trade.
"I'm a pretty patient person. Sometimes I think that patience can bite me, so I don't want to overly patient and asleep at the wheel," Connelly said. "But if you have the ability to be patient, I think oftentimes it's rewarded in this sports landscape."
Here are four more things to know today:
*I also talked about the Wild's dramatic turnaround on today's podcast. They're 4-0 under John Hynes, but the difference in their play might be more subtle than blunt.
*Jets QB Aaron Rodgers scolded his teammates for leaking things to the media. Fellow Jets QB Tim Boyle was released. I'm not sure about cause and effect there, but these sure are not good times in New York.
*The Gophers men's basketball team is a slight home underdog to an extremely mediocre Nebraska team tonight. It seems like a game Ben Johnson's team needs to win to be on the road to improvement.
*Starter or reliever? The Twins might not have a choice with Louie Varland given how thin their rotation depth figures to be.