The Timberwolves climbed aboard their charter for Kansas City, Mo., on Friday afternoon, where they will open the preseason with a game against the Miami Heat on Saturday. They most likely will not touch down again in the Twin Cities until the wee hours of Oct. 17.

In between: Five preseason games, a number of practices, a road trip that will take them from Kansas City to Charlotte, N.C., to Lincoln, Neb., and Louisville, Ky., to Oklahoma City.

This extended trip is all by design.

Coach Tom Thibodeau is looking forward to the games, certainly. He wants to see how different combinations work, how well the players have assimilated his offense and defensive schemes. But he is also looking forward to the bonding that can come with an extended road trip. Especially early, in training camp, with so many new players and coaches.

"I think we have to be a together team," Thibodeau said. "I think all those things add up. I like the things we've done so far. The guys being back early, and being here for camp. And I like being on the road. That will give us more time together as a group. You can't help but get to know each other a lot better.''

On the road, away from distractions. It's an insular experience that promotes camaraderie, and it's something Thibodeau believes in strongly.

"I like going away as a group,'' he said. "So, we were initially going to split [the trip] up. Then we decided rather than adding another trip, we'll just spend a little more time on the road, be together.

''I think that's good. I think it allows us to lock into what we have to do. Eliminates distractions.''

There is a chance that, in future years, Thibodeau will take the Wolves out of town to start camp to achieve the same effect.

In fact, he was thinking of doing that this year. But, with such a nice practice facility, and with so many new faces — both players and coaches — needing to get acclimated to a new city, he decided against it.

"I realized we could really do both by having training camp here," Thibodeau said. "Then we go away for a week. Basically it comes down to the same thing.''

It's more than a week. The trip will allow the players to get used to the way Thibodeau wants to do things on the road, things like walk-throughs and shootarounds.

And, of course, bonding as a team.

"For us, as a young team, we already are really tight," big man Karl-Anthony Towns said. "But for us to even become more unified on a trip like this? They say road trips build the best bonds. Something good always starts on long road trips.''

For Thibodeau, though, this is also a much-needed test to see where the team is at.

He and his staff have thrown a lot at the team during nearly two weeks of training camp, both in schemes and in philosophy. Thibodeau is eager to see how much of that has sunk in.

"I think that your practices are good," he said. "There's a lot of things you're working on, and then you evaluate. First, is a player practicing well? Is the group practicing well?

"But then, games are like tests, they're exams. They reveal exactly where you are. Once we start playing games, we'll have a better understanding of who we are, what our needs are and how we have to move forward."

Thibodeau said he will use the first couple of preseason games getting a look at different rotations.

"You want to get a good look at different combinations," he said. "We'll play a lot of guys just to get a look at everybody. And then, as we progress through the preseason, we'll pare it down.''