Opening tip is tonight, ushering in 82 chances for the constantly rebuilding Timberwolves to develop their youthful roster while distancing themselves from turmoil.
This season should be all about this young squad sharpening skills, learning how to play together and drilling deep into coach Chris Finch's playbook. A franchise that has made a few missteps through the years needs a season without turbulence so their best players can thrive and their young players can develop.
Sure, the Wolves could work their way into a play-in game and reach the postseason tournament. But sneaking into the postseason wouldn't be a reason to close schools and throw a parade. Becoming relevant in the Western Conference for years to come is the goal, and this season has to be a step toward just that.
No unnecessary turbulence. No controversies. Just play and grow. Maybe the wins will follow.
So here are best wishes for a drama-free 2021-22 season, for reasons that are numerous.
Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the most skilled big men in the game, lost his mother and several other relatives to COVID over the past 18 months, then tested positive for the virus in January. He missed 22 games with injury. He set career lows in shooting percentage while the Wolves posted a fifth losing season under his watch. Just a rough two years for him.
He reported to camp in the best shape in his career. He's motivated to win, and a motivated Towns is the last thing the rest of the league wants to see.How long is Towns willing to stick around while the Wolves try to strengthen the roster around him? He's an unrestricted free agent following the2023-24 season, and he has mentioned the number of regime changes during his six years with the team, including last season.
Ryan Saunders was fired in the middle of the season, and the club quickly hired Finch from Toronto. The organization took heat for not interviewing minority candidates. I'm not demanding that Finch become the next Phil Jackson, but he better be good for the Wolves to ignore hiring etiquette.
Then, right before training camp, the Wolves had to fire their president of basketball operations, Gersson Rosas, for reported conduct and leadership failures no organization should tolerate.
Opening tipoff can't come soon enough for this hot mess of a franchise which, by the way, is being sold to Mark Lore and Alex Rodriguez through a unique layaway plan that will put them in charge by 2023. The Wolves might be ready to win by then.
It's tantalizing to imagine how much better Anthony Edwards will be after he averaged 19.3 points a game in 2020-21. He's grown an inch, wants to play defense and might have to take over this team if Towns gives up on the process.
It's encouraging to hear Towns express a desire to make the Wolves a winner after the club has posted a .398 winning percentage during his first six seasons.
It's tempting to expect a much better 2021-22 season with Edwards, Towns and D'Angelo Russell on the court together after only being in the same starting lineup eight times in 2020-2021.
Malik Beasley, who spent 78 days in jail during the offseason for making threats of violence, provides scoring from the perimeter. Taurean Prince can shoot the three and defend. Naz Reid is not a shabby backup center. Patrick Beverley looks to be a glue-and-grit guy coming off the bench.
But this team has warts. Everyone is going to have to help out Towns with rebounding. And they must prove they really are committed on defense. The Wolves ranked 28th in defensive efficiency last season. They were 9-44 when giving up more than 110 points.
This roster needs to stay under the grow lamp without interference. This Opening Night is not about wondering how many games the Wolves can win, it's about hoping an organization can get through a season with little turbulence and lots of development.