MINNEAPOLIS – It’s a little early for the Minnesota Timberwolves to be claiming victories for their new regime – and to be clear they’re not doing this – but Thursday was as strong of a step in the right direction as they’ve made this offseason.
Since Gersson Rosas was hired as President of Basketball Operations by the Wolves in May, there’s been constant chatter about how the franchise was going to challenge the normalcies of not only the way things had been done here in the past, but also the way they’re done everywhere else. No stone would be unturned, no idea – no matter how outside the box – wouldn’t be listened to, and no player worth pursuing would be left alone.
Naz Reid is an example of the Wolves turning over every stone to find the right fits, and the early returns have been terrific. He was impressive on the Summer League stage out in Las Vegas after the Wolves agree to a two-way contract with him on draft night after he fell through the night without a team selecting him. On Thursday the Wolves ripped up that contract and rewarded Reid with a four-year deal that makes him a full-time NBA player.
“Our front office deserves a lot of credit, and our coaching staff. It’s an early fruit of our labor,” Rosas said. “We identified a player that went undrafted who we considered a valuable drafted player in terms of our board. To be able to bring him into the program, evaluate him and see him play in our style and see how productive and talented he is, we were very fortunate that we were able to work something out that worked for him and worked for us and will allow us to invest more in him and develop him at a high level.”
Reid was impressive at Summer League, but he still has a long way to go, though there’s little question that his ceiling is higher than most players that go undrafted. The Wolves and their new player development system are going to have their hands full with a number of guys, but Reid will be their truest test case of getting in with a player at ground zero. Sure, Andrew Wiggins, and determining if his future is salvageable, is undoubtedly more important and more noteworthy, but Reid will be an interesting case study.
Reid had some bad habits while at LSU, and he’s admitted as much recently. There were too many times when he would hangout outside the 3-point line, not show the defensive intensity necessary at all times, and take plays or games off. His focus has been called into question at times, with good reason.
“Just look at reality, I wasn’t in the best predicament on draft night, obviously because of my efforts and the things that I’ve done on the court,” Reid said when asked why he admitted of his bad habit.
That’s going to be something that has to change, and quickly, if Reid is going to be successful at the NBA level.
“I was going to lean over and tell him, ‘You’re right, you’re not going to take plays off.’ Because you’re a professional and that’s what we expect and that’s what we will demand in this organization, but with that, we want to be an ‘actions over words’ team,” head coach Ryan Saunders said. “He said that, and Gersson and I are on the same page in that sense where it sounds great, but we need to make sure that we act on those words.”
The Wolves really wanted Reid to have his welcome to the NBA moment on Thursday. Originally, this day was supposed to be about introducing Jarrett Culver and Jaylen Nowell to the media and the Twin Cities as a whole at Conway Community Center. Their names were the ones on the press release sent out by the team the day prior, and their microphones had name plates set up.
There was, however, a fifth microphone set up without a distinction of who would occupy the seat. Then, walking through the door with Culver, Nowell, Rosas, and Saunders, was Reid. When he sat down, a name plate was placed in front of him.
The Wolves did a lot to make this happen. Reid was at his home in New Jersey when the Wolves and his side determined that they could agree on a new, full-time NBA deal. With the press conference set for the next morning, it would have been understandable had he not been able to get halfway across the country to be lauded as essentially an extra selection in the draft by the Wolves.
There was a car service sent to his residence at 3 a.m. to pick him up and take him to the nearest airport, which happened to be in Philadelphia. From there he boarded a three-hour flight to take him to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, arriving a little after 8 a.m. local time. Reid then had to check into his hotel, iron his clothes, hop on the team transportation to Conway Community Center, and finally have his moment.
The Wolves giving him a new contract shows that they believe this moment will be the first of many for Reid. And just how many good moments are in his future could tell the world a lot about the new era of Timberwolves basketball.