MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Following a first-round playoff exit to the eventual NBA Champion Denver Nuggets, the Minnesota Timberwolves collectively see a silver lining in the team they will be running back to compete during the 2023-24 season.
On the eve of opening training camp, the Timberwolves held its Media Day at Target Center on Sept. 29, providing an opportunity for Head Coach Chris Finch, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly, and players to answer questions about what they hope to accomplish this year.
"Retrospectively, when you lose you’re so bummed out, but then you put the emotions aside. Last season as a whole we had plenty of lows, but even more highs," Connelly told the media on Thursday.
Internally both Connelly and Finch believe growth from within will be the key to advancing past the first round of the playoffs. As a team, the repeated overarching goal will be to do just that this year.
"It’s certainly our goal to advance in the playoffs," Finch said Thursday. "We’ve been there twice now. Getting there is the first step – being able to navigate through them is something we feel that we should be able to do."
"We’ve got to win a playoff series this season, it’s been too long," Connelly said. "Let’s be honest, we have to have success in the postseason to be taken seriously."
When asked what he hopes most that [Anthony] Edwards learns to do this season, Connelly responded, "Learning how to do a post-game interview after winning a playoff series."
Along the path to getting there, the Timberwolves will focus on being a top-tier defensive team, while continuing to mesh its top players in Karl-Anthony Towns, Edwards, and Rudy Gobert into a scheme that benefits all three.
"We need to find some chemistry here in camp," Finch said. "We were never really able to find an identity last year. We were a bit of a chameleon, changing all the time just to survive the season with everything that was thrown our way. Through the season KAT and Rudy had a better chemistry, and a key for us will be to recapture some of the chemistry KAT and Ant have always had."
"We expected it to be clunky initially, and then we were thrown a couple curveballs," said Connelly, noting Towns’ sickness heading into training camp last year then injury in the beginning of the season, as well as, Gobert coming into camp tired after playing for France throughout the summer. "Both those guys [Towns and Gobert] are capable of putting the team over individual productivity. I think we learned as the season progressed what spots we could find for them to be more successful."
According to Finch, the preseason schedule, which includes a trip to Abu Dhabi for two games, offers solid blocks of practice time for the team.
Meanwhile, Edwards said playing for Team USA in the FIBA tournament during the summer allowed him to stay in basketball shape, which should lead to a fast start to the season for him both offensively and defensively.
Continued maturity among its core will also be a focus this season, having gone 7-13 against teams under .500 last year. The team also led the league in technical fouls.
"Our lack of organizational success is clear. Until we take ourselves more seriously no one else will," Connelly said. "There’s been a loud mandate and risen bar about how we will handle ourselves. There are 82 games, and we can’t take nights off. We had way too many games last year when we didn’t show up… You’re not going to be great 82 nights every year, but there has to be an expectation of elite habits."
A belief among players and coaches alike is the Timberwolves’ renewed depth, including getting Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniels back from injury, and adding players such as Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Troy Brown and Shake Milton to their rotation will help the team get over the hump this season.
"We like what we have in those additions, and we love our core. Fingers crossed the optimism is well-placed," Connelly said.
The Timberwolves also hope to sign Jaden McDaniels to a long-term contract before the season begins, with talks continuing between the team and his agent. Over the summer the team extended Reid to an extension of $42 million over three years.
"We want to be an organization that rewards its players. We’ve had some really positive talks, and hope to get things done sooner rather than later," Connelly said. "Anytime you have extension talks it’s a wonderful sign that both the organization and player want to further cement the relation. Two years ago Denver lost 4-1 to the eventual champion. Last year we lost 4-1 to the eventual champion… This year should be fun."