MINNEAPOLIS – This was a team that needed a day off. The Wolves returned from the west coast on Nov. 10 and traded Jimmy Butler.
After that, the team played home games Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, with practices in between each game. That’s eight straight days of basketball for those counting at home.
In other words, this team had quite a week. Finishing up with a 3-1 record in that time, given everything that has gone on, including the task of having to incorporate a pair of new rotation players, is impressive. Going through a trade on the fly is hard, doing it when it involved unloading a publicly disgruntled star player is even more difficult.
Monday was the first day off for the team since then.
“Yeah, we needed a day off,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “No excuses losing the game, but I think a lot of our offensive struggles in that game were due to the fact of not having legs. We did a good job coming back today – and getting rest yesterday – and coming back today and having a great practice. It’s always good to have a good practice. Just to see the focus still there and the edge still there. We’re ready.”
Another practice on Tuesday will only help both Robert Covington and Dario Šarić become more acclimated to things with the Wolves, but it’s likely that the off-day on Monday was just as vital – if not more so – to this team’s success.
Continued home stretch
For everything made about the stretch of basketball everyday being difficult – and it is – the best part of it for the Wolves is that the entire week was spent at home. It won’t be until Thanksgiving that the Wolves actually have to leave for a quick one game trip to Brooklyn.
Having a stretch of nearly two weeks at home while a team is undergoing as many changes – both on the floor and in the locker room – as the Wolves is an advantage. The unloading of Butler came at the perfect time for the Wolves in terms of where it came on the schedule.
A win over Denver on Wednesday night would help to bring Minnesota closer to the .500 mark and cap off a five-game home stand with a 4-1 record. This team still has much to prove in order to be considered a contender, including actually winning on the road. To date the Wolves are 0-8 away from Target Center. The only other teams without a road win on the season are Cleveland and Phoenix. Those two teams have combined for a 5-26 record on the season and 0-15 on the road. Not good company to be in.
Road for the holidays
The Wolves will get another chance to get their first road win of the season on Friday morning against the Brooklyn Nets. That game will mean a little bit more for Taj Gibson.
Gibson is a Brooklyn, NY. native and will be treating kids from his hometown community center to the game against the Nets. Gibson bought tickets for over 50 kids from his hometown. He’s been giving back to the community for a few years in New York, and these kids have also been able to participate in basketball clinics put on by Gibson during the offseason.
“Just mentoring, leadership,” said Gibson when asked about how he’d like to help his community. “The community center has always shown different ways about how to help find jobs, how to teach how to be business casual. Different things, they’re trying a lot of different things and I’m happy to be a part of trying to help lead the charge and set the tone for the future.”
Since trading away Butler, the Wolves have turned in four good defensive performances in a row.
“Just making little things happen. We’ve fixed little things that we’ve had to fix,” Towns said. “We’re doing the things we need to do. I think the communication is great. I think that we have great chemistry out there and we’re doing a great job of finding ways to get those stops. It’s an all hands-on effort to get the defense better. It’s the one thing that’s keeping us from being a great team.”
What Towns said is absolutely true. They’ve done a much better job of communicating and helping each other out at that end. It does help that they’ve added in both Covington and Šarić into that mix. Covington is alluded to as one of the best defenders in the game, and while Šarić’s strong suit isn’t his defense, he’s a very fundamentally sound player at that end.
It’s been a small sample size so far, but if the Wolves can continue to play this way defensively, they may be able to get themselves back into the playoff mix.
The Wolves will be giving away a plush “Bullseye” stuffed dog on Wednesday night against the Nuggets. If you are unfamiliar, Bullseye is Target’s mascot dog.
This is the first of six games that the Wolves will have this giveaway, with the stuffed animal going to each of the first 7,500 fans through the gates at Target Center on Wednesday night. The difference between Bullseye giveaways will be the jersey that the dog is wearing. On Wednesday night Bullseye will be wearing the “Icon edition” uniform.
The next giveaway will take place on Dec. 28 with Bullseye wearing the yet-to-be-unveiled “Earned edition” uniforms.