Jace Frederick / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS—Justin Patton was up with the Timberwolves last week, but it was a temporary stay. Patton, Minnesota's first-round pick from the 2017 NBA Draft, and Amile Jefferson and Anthony Brown — who are on two-way contracts with the Timberwolves — joined the NBA club last week during a break in the G-League schedule. But at week's end, all were set to rejoin the Iowa Wolves.
MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns was the toast of the NBA during his rookie season. The revolutionary big man was the unanimous choice for the league's Rookie of the Year award after capturing all six Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards during the season. Surely, he was on the path to becoming one of the league's next great players. These were the first awards of many to come.
MINNEAPOLIS—It was only fitting that the Minnesota Timberwolves played in the very last NBA game prior to the all-star break. The NBA schedule makers ran the Wolves ragged through the first half of the season. Minnesota traditionally has the league's worst travel schedule, with the most miles logged thanks to its geographic location. And the miles and games have come particularly fast and furious this season.
MINNEAPOLIS—Andrew Wiggins surveyed the Timberwolves' $25 million practice facility and this week couldn't help but think of Flip Saunders. The new facility, the promising young team on the cusp of its first postseason appearance since 2004, he said, "is all because of Flip — everything." "He brought some key pieces here," Wiggins said. "This is his vision. Everything here is because of him."
MINNEAPOLIS—Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves have been linked to Derrick Rose dating back to last season. Minnesota inquired about a trade with New York at last year's deadline to bring the former MVP point guard to Minnesota, but it never came to fruition. And ever since Rose was traded from Cleveland to Utah last week, then subsequently waived by the Jazz, the Wolves again have been mentioned as a likely landing spot for Rose.
MINNEAPOLIS—The dog days of the NBA season have arrived. The week leading up to the NBA all-star break is something Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said is a challenge for all teams. "I think the whole NBA needs a break," Wolves point guard Jeff Teague said. For many, the light is at the end of the tunnel. But shouldn't they have moved through that tunnel long ago?
MINNEAPOLIS — Friday's loss to Chicago continued a disturbing trend for the Timberwolves. Winners of 12 straight at Target Center, Minnesota has the look of an elite team when playing at home. And, when on the road, well ... the Wolves can lose to just about anyone. Literally, anyone. It's hard to win on the road, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau will tell you that. "Your margin of error is obviously smaller on the road," he said. "Just having a mentality of toughness, it takes a lot of toughness to win on the road."
CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls entered Friday's game against Minnesota as losers of seven straight, a rough stretch for a rebuilding franchise that had won 15 of its previous 23 contests. The losing streak started one game after Chicago lost Kris Dunn to a concussion. Bulls coach Fred Hoibeg didn't seem to think that's a coincidence. "We've missed him as much as anybody since he's been out," Hoiberg said.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves' deal to bring Jimmy Butler to Minnesota in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a swap of first-round picks on draft night was originally viewed as a big win for the Wolves and a "what are you doing?" type of move for the Chicago Bulls. But time heals all misconceptions. "Public eye sometimes doesn't affect real basketball people," Zach LaVine pointed out.
CHICAGO — Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins used to sit in the Timberwolves' locker room and discuss the future, fully recognizing the reality of the business. All three were young, talented players who were eventually going to earn max-level contracts, or close to it. With salary cap restrictions, the odds of them all signing lucrative contracts with Minnesota were slim to none. "We all talked about it in the locker room, messing around, that one day one of us was going to be on a different team," LaVine said. "It was me."