Instead of a regular practice Tuesday, the Timberwolves did a little housecleaning.
Interim coach Sam Mitchell and the players watched some film. Then players and coaches went out onto the practice court, stood in a circle near midcourt, and spent about 90 minutes clearing the air.
“We talked about what we wanted to be as a team,” Mitchell said. “Normally the coach is the one who’s always talking. But we let the players talk. What are the goals for the year, as a team, individually? And I think it was good for us.’’
Mitchell encouraged everyone to talk, both veterans and young players.
Some of the themes?
According to Mitchell, much of the talk was about sacrifice. What sacrifices – both great and small – that each player needs to make to make the team better. The need for the young players to learn to focus for the length of a game was talked about, too.
And face it, the Wolves need to get better. They enter Wednesday’s game with Denver at Target Center having lost three straight and seven out of eight.
For reserve players, sacrificing might mean accepting changing roles every night. For starters? “Their sacrifice is they always have to bring it at a certain level every night,” Mitchell said. “Now, I didn’t saw play great, ‘cause you’re going to have nights when you don’t play great. … I don’t judge our players on how many points or rebounds they score. I judge them on are they mentally locked in? Are they playing with intensity? Are they focused?
“The thing I’m proud of and optimistic about is that the things they said are the things as a coach you want them to say,” Mitchell continued. It was refreshing. And it made me feel good as a coach.’’
That’s why, on a day when the team really didn’t practice at all, rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns called it the best practice of the season so far.
“I can’t tell you how valuable this practice was to us,” Towns said. “Especially to our growth, and our process and our success. I personally know how practices like this can lead to big success, because at Kentucky we’ve had a lot of these and they’about only led to greatness and great things.’’
Veteran guard Ricky Rubio was slightly less effusive. He appeared to opt for more of cautiously optimistic approach. “We can talk about a lot of things that we’ve been doing wrong,” he said. “But Golden State or San Antonio are doing things wrong. What they the best is they play with energy and they learn how to win. They take that as a philosophy. We’ve got to take that. Every ball, everything matters. Of course we can set better screens. Of course we can make better plays. But, at the end of the day, if you don’t have the energy, it doesn’t matter.’’
Here are a couple other items from today:
--Mitchell said Nikola Pekovic is 50-50 to return to action tomorrow. Having said that, I’d be surprised if he came back before Friday. But Pekovic – who had Achilles surgery in April – is clearly hankering to bet back on the court.
--Mitchell said he might mix in more veterans down the stretch of games going forward. He talked about getting Kevin Martin back into the mix, and the positives Pekovic will bring.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you tomorrow morning.