WATCH OUT! There's a new contender in the West!

By: Jen Halvorson

Friday, January 12, 2018

In the past, the Minnesota Timberwolves were known as ultimate underdogs, now they are getting the positive attention they deserve. The mantra this season, “All Eyes North” is not a delusional gimmick made up to draw fans back to the Target Center, but instead a legitimate earmark of what has been transpiring for the Wolves so far.

The first glimmer of hope arose in June when Minnesota secured a trade deal during the 2017 NBA draft, making All-Star Forward Jimmy Butler the newest addition to the squad. His reunion with Head Coach Tom Thibodeau, who Butler played for while on the Chicago Bulls, was described as a love-hate relationship. Put this dynamic-duo together with other veteran acquisitions in Forward Taj Gibson, Guard Jeff Teague and Guard Jamal Crawford and something special was destined to arise.

These seasoned players, rounded-out by their younger teammates in Center Karl-Anthony Towns, Forward Andrew Wiggins and Guard Tyus Jones, has created a force-to-be-reckoned with atmosphere.

Flash-forward six-months: the Timberwolves are fourth in the Western Conference, have a winning record of 27-16, and recently handed a few key losses to LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder. In previous seasons, ticket prices dropped as low as five dollars for a game. Now, the Wolves are now selling out home games with energetic fans eager to show their support.

“There’s [still] a lot of work to be done, as long as we commit to improve and keep getting better...We understand how important that is, if we want to be a good team, we have to be strong on both sides of the ball,” said Thibodeau.

Minnesota has come a long way since their initial start to the season. The league and Timberwolves Nation have witnessed the rise of a newly-formed team, learning how to properly use their latest ammunition against opponents. Butler went from assist-heavy game-play to a “Give me the ball” mentality, and stepping into the leadership role he needed to be. Teague and Wiggins grew from players that didn’t look like their heart was fully in it, to revitalized attackers.

“I think guys that play a similar position, like when you’re a young guy and you’re coming into the league and you’re going against the veteran, the veteran’s have all the tricks of the trade and if you have someone who’s played that position, I think they can help share that knowledge,” said Thibodeau on Butler mentoring Wiggins.

“A guy like Jimmy, has played against these guys a ton of times, been in big games, he can tell them certain things to look for…”

As Minnesota moves forward into the second half of the season, they still have a number of tough teams to face-off against -- Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets to name a few. But, the fire has been ignited and no one on the team plans on extinguishing that flame anytime soon.

“We’re playing with extremely high discipline and playing with energy, too. When we play with the energy and urgency like we’ve shown recently, we can beat any team,” said Towns after the Timberwolves shootaround on January 12.