Timberwolves’ end-of-season comments suggest team ready to establish stability
Tim Connelly believes Minnesota can have success by making tweaks, not starting from scratch
Tim Connelly did his best Thursday to squash speculation that the Minnesota Timberwolves’ basketball boss could be a candidate for the same position with the Washington Wizards. Such a move would allow Connelly and his family an opportunity to move back “home” to be near family. It’s also the organization with which Connelly started his career.
But Connelly is just entering Year 2 of his Timberwolves’ tenure, and his exit interview comments with the media suggested that’s where his focus lies.
“I’m pretty committed to the Minnesota Timberwolves right now. I’m just worried about how we can get out of the first round. It’s been a long, long time since we got out of the first round (2004, to be exact — the only season the franchise ever achieved the feat),” Connelly said. “I think (Timberwolves coach Chris) Finch and I are pretty excited. Meeting with the guys, we’re really excited about kind of the foundation pieces we have here, and just keep building.”
That seems to be the overall philosophy for the Timberwolves as they head into yet another pivotal offseason — building upon what’s already within the organization. A year ago at this time, Finch noted he felt the team’s greatest improvements would come from within. Then two months later, Connelly made a seismic move, trading numerous assets to Utah for Rudy Gobert.
But everything said Thursday strongly suggested Minnesota indeed plans on “running it back” for the 2023-24 season.
Not only did Connelly express his intent to continue running the Timberwolves, but he expressed confidence in the team’s coaching staff. Connelly said Finch did “a fantastic job” handling the team’s extensive adversity faced over the season. He later said he knows “we have an elite coaching staff.”
While there’s been no suggestion Finch’s job was ever in danger, the coach has certainly had his share of detractors on social media. It’s been that type of season for Minnesota, with skeptics in the media and the fan base taking aim at the Timberwolves’ double-big-man approach from the time the Gobert trade was made last July all the way through the end of the season.
There was vocal frustration aired in the form of boos at various stages of the season at Target Center. Such a season at times void of joy automatically leads to people calling for change.
But the Timberwolves’ decision-makers don’t seem to share those beliefs. Quite the opposite, the opinion seems to be that stability and familiarity is what currently best serves the team. Connelly and Finch continue to express optimism that the Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert pairing can work not only for the two bigs themselves, but also transcendent 21-year-old guard Anthony Edwards.
“I think Coach and I are pretty confident and convicted that that’s a pair that can be really good together,” Connelly said.
They’re also bullish on the team’s young core — most notably Edwards, Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid. Reid is a free agent this offseason, and Finch and Connelly both expressed the franchise’s intent to make every effort to re-sign the reserve center amid what’s sure to be a competitive market for his services.
“I still think internal growth is huge. When you have players like Ant, Jaden and Naz, those guys are your young core,” Finch said. “We saw what Ant was able to do. We lamented the fact that Jaden and Naz missed the playoffs. So they missed a great growth opportunity, but I still believe that that’s the path that’s going to lead this franchise forward.”
Into what the Wolves’ brass still clearly believes is a bright future. Finch called the 2022-23 season a “moderate success” given all of the obstacles Minnesota experienced, but Connelly noted there was still “a sense of disappointment” the Timberwolves couldn’t improve on last season’s results.
But that doesn’t mean there is a lack of confidence in what the Wolves currently have on the roster.
“I think we really, really like our starting five. We think we can compete with any team in the Western Conference, and how we continue to complement that group and augment that group is going to be a challenge we have this offseason,” Connelly said. “I think in the playoffs, the lion’s share, if you get there, everyone’s so talented, right? So much of it is injuries and matchups, and we’re seeing that with some other teams that are having early (end-of-season) press conferences that are quite surprising.
“I think we should be pretty confident. We’ve got to be our own biggest fans. We have to not assume success, but we have to assume that we can be at a successful level we think we can get to.”
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