Timberwolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda opens the mailbag this week and answers questions via Twitter from a Wolves Nation discouraged by its team’s start:
Q Why do the Timberwolves continue to have third-quarter collapses? Josh Hawes, @my4gems
A Some say it’s because Tom Thibodeau plays his starters too much and bench too little (he does) and blame fatigue. I don’t buy that. It’s youth and to generalize, it’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine panicking, jacking shots and each trying to stop the flood by himself. The Wolves are a couple of years behind Utah and need to do what the Jazz did: Add veterans who are real contributors (George Hill, Boris Diaw, Joe Johnson in Utah) who can settle things down when needed.
Q Why do I do this to myself every year? :-) Jim Cook, @MnEsdad
A I’m no psychologist. The best I can do is steal from Andy Dufresne in “Shawshank Redemption” and say: “Remember Jim, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Q How are players responding to change in coaching style from Sam to Thibs? Is there any apparent tension? John Grooms, @jgg512
A I’m not sure it’s all that different in style. Sam Mitchell rode them hard for three or four months, then loosened the reins and they responded, starting in February. I don’t see tension per se, but they certainly don’t seem to be playing free and with any real joy.
Q Would the team be better and more balanced with Bjeli starting and Zach coming in off the bench? Chief, @fredofromMN
A I think this is where Tom Thibodeau would like to get, with LaVine in a reserve scorer’s role and Wiggins as a big shooting guard. But it requires two things: Nemanja Bjelica must play better and more consistently, which is a big “if,” and LaVine would have to accept the role, which probably is an even bigger “if.”
Q With KG gone, who is the player who will hold others accountable? Do they need a veteran presence? Minnesota Sports Fan, @MnSportsJD
A They’re essentially asking three 21-year-olds to win, so of course they need one. But they need a veteran(s) who really contributes. KG wasn’t that — sorry to say, they probably miss Tayshaun Prince’s stability more — and last summer’s signings aren’t, either. Towns is trying and seems to be as close to a leader as anyone, but he’s 21.
Q Thoughts on Dunn? Doesn’t seem NBA-ready for a guy predicted to be a runaway ROY. Sam Arnold, @samarnold44
A Kris Dunn is struggling offensively for sure, and he’s another point guard who can’t shoot, which is problematic. But give him time. It’s a good reminder, though, not to take summer-league play too seriously.
Q Should the Wolves look to deal Shabazz and/or Payne for a veteran? Pete ang V-peat, @theRealMcPete
A “Should they” and “can they” are two different things. Neither Shabazz Muhammad nor Adreian Payne has much trade value, not with how Muhammad has played this season. He hints he hasn’t played well because he hasn’t played enough, and I thought Thibodeau would utilize him as an offensive mismatch better. But it’s still early. A date to watch is Dec. 15. That’s the first day teams can trade players they signed as free agents last summer and tips off trade season.
Q With at least three REALLY good pups (Wiggins, Towns, LaVine), can the Wolves keep them together long-term with NBA salary rules? Eric, @AZ_Eric_D
A Depends so much on what the new collective bargaining agreement looks like and how LaVine accepts being the third of that group. See James Harden and Oklahoma City, 2012.
Q Why doesn’t Jordan Hill get any minutes? David Brand, @1cowboydave
A That is puzzling, particularly considering the Wolves need experience and fully mature bodies. Thibodeau’s answer is he can’t play everybody. “His time will come,” he said. But if not now then when?
WOLVES' WEEK AHEAD
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. San Antonio (FSN). Thursday: 6:30 p.m. at Toronto (TNT). Friday: 7 p.m. vs. Detroit (FSN Plus)
Player to watch: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs Tim Duncan quietly has gone into retirement, leaving perhaps the NBA’s best two-way player to lead the Spurs into a new day.
“What did he have, like 103?” — New York coach Jeff Hornacek after Wolves star Karl-Anthony Towns scored a career-high 47 points in the Knicks’ 106-104 victory Wednesday at Target Center.
• In case you didn’t know it already, last week’s Wolves-Knicks games illustrated the connection and talent of Karl-Anthony Towns and New York’s Kristaps Porzingis.
And they’re only 21 years old.
“When you’re part of the same draft class, you’ll always have a connection not many people can have with each other,” said Towns, who was drafted first overall and Porzingis fourth in 2015. “Us being part of the same draft class, us being young bigs in the league, we’ve always hit it off right away.”
They’ve been friends since that draft, and Porzingis has said he’d like to work out together in summer.
“I’m always in New Jersey, so I think it’d be very easy for me to get to New York,” Towns said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
• Kevin Garnett has kept busy in retirement, with his weekly appearances from his own “Area 21” set during TNT’s Thursday night NBA coverage. He also has tutored Clippers Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Brandon Bass, among others, teaching tricks he knows. He did so at the request of former coach and pal Doc Rivers.
“It was refreshing,” Garnett said during Thursday’s appearance. “For some reason, they’re trying to oust the big man.”
• When the Pistons move into the Red Wings’ new Little Caesars Arena next fall, all four Detroit sports teams — the Lions and Tigers included — will play within mere blocks of each other downtown.
The Pistons are headed back to play downtown starting next season for the first time since they called Cobo Hall home nearly 40 years ago. They have played at the Palace of Auburn Hills since 1988 and played at the Pontiac Silverdome for a decade before that.
Twitter: @JerryZgoda, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Blog: startribune.com/wolves