Young talent ready to go: Timberwolves’ influx of new players excited for season
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Locals call the Minnesota State Fair, “The Great Minnesota Get-Together.”
Three days after trading their best player, forward Kevin Love, to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a three-team deal including the Philadelphia 76ers, the Timberwolves introduced their three newest players — wing Andrew Wiggins and forwards Thaddeus Young and Anthony Bennett — as well as their own first-round pick, guard Zach LaVine, Tuesday in front of a friendly crowd at the State Fair.
For Wiggins, the centerpiece of the deal, he’s happy to have the month-long soap opera of where he would play finally over. After signing his rookie contract July 24, NBA rules stipulated he must wait 30 days before being traded — despite the fact many knew it was only a matter of time.
“It was a big relief. I’m situated in a spot where I know I’m going to be for a very long time. It’s comforting,” Wiggins said. “I wanted to play for a team that wanted me. I felt the love as soon as I got to the airport.”
Young, the only player of the four with NBA experience, said he was excited for a new opportunity. Philadelphia is in the midst of a long-term rebuilding project and offered the Timberwolves a chance to get back an established player that can and should immediately help fill the significant void Love leaves behind.
And while Young hasn’t put up the numbers Love has over his career, he did post career-best figures in points-per-game last season and is comfortable enough in his own skin to realize that he can’t be, and likely won’t be, Love.
“I’m not trying to be that,” Young said. “I’m not trying to get individual numbers, individual stats. I’m not trying to be a 26 and 12 guy, I’d love that, but at the end of the day, defense and team work wins championships.”
Where Young certainly appears to be an upgrade is in his willingness to be a better leader on and off the court. Love wasn’t a bad guy in the locker room or off the court — but he preferred to be a guy that let others take control of the locker room.
That will work fine in Cleveland, where Love will defer to LeBron James. In Minnesota, where he was the best player, it often caused problems. While Young is only 26, he’s already embracing the chance to share his veteran wisdom with his younger teammates.
“I think for me, stepping into a leadership role, it’s going to be great. I’ve been there, done it, seen it,” Young said. “Coming in with these young guys, it’s a great opportunity. I get a chance to take some of the things I have learned and put it into them and help them along the way.”
For LaVine, his infamous “(expletive) me” moment on draft night seems like a thing of the past. Tuesday, he was thrilled with the new blood that surrounded him.
“Watching everything go down, I’m more excited than anybody here,” LaVine said. “The new look of this team is crazy. I’m ready to get to work already.”
Finally healthy, Bennett said the opportunity to hit reset on his NBA career is refreshing. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Bennett struggled with foot and knee injuries his entire rookie campaign, limiting him to only four points, three rebounds and just under 12 minutes per outing.
“I’m really excited. It’s a new start, a fresh start. New coaching staff, new teammates, I’m just trying to have fun,” Bennett said.
With an established hand in Young, and young, explosive players like Wiggins and LaVine, and a player in Bennett who admitted he has a chip on his shoulder, it’s clear the Timberwolves made the best of a bad situation in trading Love.
It’s also possible they got the best of the deal in the long-term. Wiggins thinks so.
“We’re young, athletic. We have a lot of freaks on this team,” Wiggins said. “We are competitive and it’s going to bring us to a whole other level.”
It’s also a group that is driven to prove a lot of people wrong ... and prove many more right.
“It’s overwhelming. I’ve never been a part of something this big before,” Young said. “I’m ready to get to work, ready to get this franchise back to the playoffs. It’s been 10 years, it’s been too long. It’s been way, way, way too long. I’m looking forward to this.”