There was a lot that Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell liked about the Timberwolves as he was going through the free agency process this summer.
One of his best friends is center Karl-Anthony Towns. The coaching staff added an assistant he liked from his time with the Nets in Pablo Prigioni, and the front office had some familiar faces as well.
It was trending that Russell might join the Wolves in a sign-and-trade, but he ultimately decided to go with the Warriors. Why? Well, at least in part, you can blame the Minnesota weather.
“I thought the opportunity here was amazing … ” Russell said after Warriors shootaround Friday. “It was definitely something I was considering very strongly. But then when this opportunity came, the weather is way better, so that helped me.”
It turns out the winter weather was more than a small talking point. Russell said it "for sure" played a significant role in his decision.
“I did my first winter in New York and that was tough,” Russell said. “So to get the opportunity to go somewhere where it’s warm again, I think that played a major part in my plan.”
The Nets acquired Russell after the Lakers drafted him, so Russell had a taste of West Coast living, and wanted to go back. Of course, things can change quickly in the NBA business, and there is a train of thought that the Warriors may trade Russell after they are eligible to do so December 15 with the Wolves still hungry to acquire another All-Star to complement Towns.
The Warriors are off to a slow start thanks in part to a rash of injuries. Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the finals in June. Stephen Curry has a broken hand and is out three months while Draymond Green isn’t on this road trip because of a torn ligament in an index finger. Russell is also coming back from a sprained ankle.
As for Friday’s matchup, Russell dropped 52 points on the Wolves and joked about his friend Towns.
“I don’t know that guy today,” he said.
From his view, he sees Towns as taking on a different kind of leadership this season with the Wolves, one that Towns’ teammates said he has embraced.
“He has to lead vocally on and off the court,” Russell said. “Kind of attack that leadership role versus kind of coasting through. He’s got a taste of the playoffs and it’s something he really wants to do and continue to do with the core group of guys they have here. … He’s in a great situation to do that.”
How hard was it for Russell to tell Towns he wasn’t going to be joining that “great” situation?
“It wasn’t hard at all,” Russell said. “Everybody understands situations in this league, so for me to tell him that it was a piece of cake.”
So, seemingly, was the decision when he looked at the winter forecasts.