First off, I am back. I was traveling for a month’s time and finally back in my groove. School is going to be intensified this semester, but will always look to continue contributing.
In my time away, the Wolves have struggled. I have followed from a distance. Excuses can’t be made like years past. The team is healthy, heck – even Nikola Pekovic is playing. A lot of the players have gotten minutes. And while a lot of guys have been able to showcase their talents, the Wolves have underwhelmed over half way through the season. The Wolves showed promise early on, starting the season 8-8 and the West has been weaker than most seasons. Somehow, the Wolves find themselves at 13-30 without many excuses.
Before Flip Saunders passed, he made an emphasis on building a winning culture. Flip wanted to bring in guys who wanted to win and change the identity of the franchise. He was very intentional about every guy he brought in to surround the young core. While it looked like the Wolves were headed in the right direction early, somewhere there was a collapse in that vision. There was a pivotal point in the season where the Wolves decided to have a ‘moment of truth’ type of meeting instead of practice. The veterans seemed to be blaming the young guys and the young guys pointed fingers at the head coach. The Wolves fan base has found an easy-out in blaming Sam Mitchell, and while it can be valid, the issue is bigger than that.
The Wolves have the talent. The Wolves have the assets. Yes, they are inexperienced, but this team can compete. But the culture hasn’t been established. And a valid concern is that the right personnel is not that to establish that culture. As learned in business school, ‘Culture eats Talent’. The Wolves are going through the necessary bumps and bruised to build a winning culture. But it will truly be how the Wolves franchise react to the adversity that defines the culture. The culture is in jeopardy as the Wolves now have the worst franchise winning percentage in the league. Will the Wolves let that define them?
To get away from that, the Wolves need to leverage this experience this season. They need to get the most out of their talent now. The front office also needs to make decisions on who is a part of the future here and what part do they play in it? Once that is decided, the coaching staff needs to implement that vision in developing the players to get them in that role. From the looks of it, the coaching staff has failed at this or the front office has yet to determine these roles. Shabazz Muhammed is the best example of this as of late. Shabazz’s future may be as a 6th man, but isn’t a 6th man in the future more valuable if he has starting experience? The opportunity is there for him to start. Even if he doesn’t succeed as a starter, although it did last season, he will gain the necessary experience to become a player off the bench who plays like a starter while the first five are resting. The mishandling of Shabazz has been frustrating in that sense. But the same can be said about how most of the young players have been handled.
The Wolves need to also develop an identity. A brand of basketball. What will opponents think of the Wolves when they play them? It shouldn’t be automatic win or young players. The Wolves need to be good at something and be better than their opponents at it. Whether it be in the fast break or on the defensive end. It seems like the talent is there to be good at those things, but yet the Wolves still haven’t been able to be consistently good at them. There is plenty of time in the season to develop this, but it needs to be intentionally done.
The Wolves lost a big lead last night against the Pelicans and it just screamed to me that ‘it takes more than talent.’ The Wolves let Anthony Davis do what he wanted whenever he wanted. They didn’t play defense. And when the lead was gone, there was no question that the Wolves wouldn’t come back to reclaim it.
These are just my thoughts after a month of observing and not writing. The summer will likely bring in another young talented player, but it may mean nothing if that player is brought into talent. The Wolves need more guys with character. They need an identity. They need chemistry. Teams that try to win fast by acquiring talent really fast never win immediately. It takes more than talent.