Jace Frederick / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS — Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau went to the same play four consecutive times on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Minnesota spread the floor and left Tyus Jones and Karl-Anthony Towns to run a pick and roll in the middle of the court. And on all four trips, the Wolves came away with a bucket, a key stretch in a 98-86 win over San Antonio that snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Spurs. "We just got in a good rhythm," Towns said after the game. "Known each other since high school, so we've always had that chemistry."
MINNEAPOLIS — There were mixed reactions when the Timberwolves signed Taj Gibson to a two-year, $28 million deal in free agency. Everyone knew Gibson was a solid player with a knowledge of Tom Thibodeau's system, but was he worth that kind of money to a team with so many other needs? So far, yes. When Gibson is on the floor, the Wolves are outscoring opponents by five points per 100 possessions, the best mark on the team. When he's not on the court, opponents are outscoring Minnesota by a whopping 13 points per possession. In short, the Wolves need Gibson.
In recent years, the Minnesota Timberwolves' second unit could be summed up as such: Shabazz Muhammad would try to single-handedly provide the offense, the defense would pray for misses on the other end and the Wolves' coaching staff would close its eyes and hold its breath until enough time had passed that the starters could come back into the game.
MINNEAPOLIS — It was fair to question Nemanja Bjelica's 3-point shooting capabilities last season. The versatile forward shot a measly 32 percent from deep and looked more interested in driving and play-making than putting up another long jumper. Was Bjelica even a threat from deep? Was he an option to spread the floor? Eleven games into the season, those questions have been answered. Bjelica leads the NBA in 3-point shooting, hitting 59 percent of his long-range attempts (16 for 27). He's shooting 60 percent from the field.
MINNEAPOLIS—The box score suggested Jimmy Butler was largely ineffective in the Timberwolves' 112-99 victory over Dallas on Saturday. Butler, a three-time all-star and All-NBA wing, scored four points. And coach Tom Thibodeau loved it. "Jimmy played a great game," Thibodeau said. While points are the primary indicator casual observers use to decide who's good at basketball and who isn't, Butler is proof that there are many more things a player can do for his team.
MINNEAPOLIS — There is a method to the Timberwolves' madness this season, a reason Minnesota earns its wins late rather than putting opponents away earlier. "I think people want to watch those really close games more than they want to watch a blowout, so whatever the fans (want), that's why we do it," Jimmy Butler said. "We'll give up a lead for the fans just so we can make it a close one at the end."
MINNEAPOLIS — It was the summer of 2009 when Jamal Crawford decided it was time for a change — even if that change involved sacrifice. Nine years he'd been in the NBA, and while he had scored plenty of points and made a name for himself as a special scorer, there was one thing he hadn't done — played in the postseason. Crawford wanted to check that box, regardless of the route he would have to take. So that offseason, he signed with the Atlanta Hawks, not to be a starter, but to come off the bench.
MINNEAPOLIS — No, Jimmy Butler was not 100 percent as of Friday, but he's good enough. He had to be. Still sniffling every few seconds, a lasting side-effect of the upper respiratory infection that sidelined him for two blowout losses this week, the Timberwolves' All-NBA wing was set to make his return to action Friday night, Oct. 27, against Oklahoma City at Target Center. Asked if rest was the remedy for his ailment, Butler responded: "I don't want any rest tonight. If I'm out there hooping, I want to go. I want to help this team win. I've got to be prepared for that."
MINNEAPOLIS — Lance Stephenson spent just more than a month in Minnesota last season — on a pair of 10-day contracts — but his stay could have been much, much longer. In six games in Minnesota last season, Stephenson averaged 3.5 points and 1.7 rebounds. He said his time with the Timberwolves was "actually great." "I learned a lot from (Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau), got to play with a couple all-star caliber guys and I liked it here," Stephenson said Tuesday, Oct. 24. "I liked the fans, they embraced me well. I just loved it here."
MINNEAPOLIS — Andrew Wiggins has been the Timberwolves' big-shot taker for the past two years. In each of the past two seasons, Wiggins led Minnesota in field goal attempts and points scored in clutch situations — when the game is within five points with less than five minutes to play.