Jace Frederick / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS — Fresh off their first playoff appearance since 2004, the Timberwolves are on an upward trajectory in the Western Conference, looking to build on last season's successes with a largely veteran core that also features a couple of bright young pieces. If only things were that simple. The drama that engulfed the franchise this offseason has followed Minnesota into training camp, which starts Tuesday, leaving far more questions than optimism at the season's outset. Here are a few of the Timberwolves' most pressing issues:
EAGAN, Minn.—Among the many things Kirk Cousins showed last Sunday in Green Bay was an ability to sit in the pocket. While the Vikings' offensive line stood up relatively well against the Packers' pass rush, there were a few times Cousins had to stand tall in the face of a rush and wait for a play to develop before firing away. The one that stands out was the pinpoint touchdown pass Cousins threw to Adam Thielen in the final minute of regulation, a throw Cousins got off just before his legs were taken out.
EAGAN, Minn.—Lost in Kirk Cousins' dazzling 425-yard, four-touchdown performance Sunday in Green Bay was another feeble rushing performance. Minnesota rushed 18 times for just 68 yards in its tie with the Packers. The Vikings' longest run was a whopping nine yards. Through two games, Minnesota is 22nd in rushing yards per game (92), tied for 23rd in yards per carry (3.7) and is one of 10 teams yet to record a 20-plus yard carry.
Jimmy Butler has requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, a source confirmed to the Pioneer Press. The Athletic was the first to report Butler’s request. Butler made the request Tuesday in a much-anticipated meeting in Los Angeles with Wolves’ coach Tom Thibodeau. The All-NBA’s wing’s request comes six days before the start of Timberwolves’ training camp, and five days before the team’s media day, placing the team in a tight spot this late in the offseason.
EAGAN, Minn. — A lifelong fan of football and its traditions, Kyle Rudolph had to go vertical after scoring his first touchdown at storied Lambeau Field in 2012. The Vikings tight end reeled in a seven-yard scoring strike from Christian Ponder, then turned and headed straight for the stands. Rudolph spotted a few Vikings fans and deemed that to be a safe spot to elevate for his attempt at the legendary Lambeau Leap. Not so much. "Yeah, they didn't like that too much," Rudolph said.
MINNEAPOLIS — Josh Okogie received some love in the NBA's annual Rookie Survey, The Timberwolves' first-round pick finished third among all rookies in voting in questions asking who's the most athletic rookie and who's the best defender in the 2018 draft class. But for the big questions, the ones that matter most, he went unmentioned. When players were asked who will win Rookie of the Year, Okogie didn't receive a single vote. Same goes for the question asking which member of this draft class will have the best NBA career.
MINNEAPOLIS — Former Lynx assistant coach Jim Petersen used to send Lindsay Whalen the same message almost daily when things would get difficult. "Never underestimate the heart of a champion," the texts read. "Really, that helped me get through a lot of times," Whalen said last week, "Because it's true. Once you've won and you know what it takes, you never count a group out that's done it and done it so well like we have."
MINNEAPOLIS — Lindsay Whalen managed to withhold tears from her news conference last week in which the point guard announced her retirement from professional basketball, effective at the end of the Lynx's 2018 season. Her coach wasn't quite so successful. Event emcee John Focke hadn't finished listing Whalen's laundry list of accomplishments and Cheryl Reeve was already sobbing. "I thought I'd make it a bit longer," Reeve joked when she got in front of the mic. But the coach wasn't surprised in the slightest that she was the one to tear up. Neither was Whalen.
MINNEAPOLIS — James Nunnally officially signed his two-year deal with the Timberwolves on Wednesday, Aug. 8, fulfilling a goal he was in no way chasing. Nunnally played 13 NBA games during the 2013-14 season before taking his career overseas, but he wasn't fixated on trying to get back to the association.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves have searched high and low this offseason for wing players who can both defend and hit the 3-point shot. Their latest find spent the past few seasons in Europe. Minnesota agreed to a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal with James Nunnally, a source confirmed to the Pioneer Press. The deal was first reported by Yahoo! Sports. Nunnally, who got married less than two weeks ago, is flying into Minnesota on Tuesday to take a physical and eventually sign his contract.