Connor Van Hulzen—Staff Writer
In 2019, I wrote an article in The Diamond titled “Impress me, Timberwolves.”
Consider me impressed.
After years of languishing in the basement of the NBA’s Western Conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves crawled their way to relevancy this season.
And, this time, they’ve got some staying power.
To truly understand what this means to Timberwolves fans, it’s important to look back at the franchise’s past.
In 2004, The Kevin Garnett-led Wolves made the playoffs . For the first time since then in 2018, led by franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns and star Jimmy Butler, the organization returned to the postseason and palpable excitement filled the air for Timberwolves games for the first time in 14 years.
Then, KAT and Butler were thoroughly dispatched in the first round by the James Harden-led Houston Rockets. After, Butler forced his way out of Minneapolis, and the brain behind the team, Tom Thibodeau, was fired.
The Timberwolves truly set records with their ineptitude. This failure to function is very contradictory to the rest of the state of Minnesota’s relationship with basketball.
Minnesota operates as a youth basketball hotbed. I attended Apple Valley High School in the Minneapolis suburbs. There, I saw players like Tyus Jones and his brother Tre graduate from Apple Valley before heading to Duke University, and eventually the NBA.
The Twin Cities consistently produce players that make an impact on their college teams and wind up in the NBA. Recent success stories include Jalen Suggs, Gary Trent Jr., Daniel Oturu, Amir Coffey, Zeke Nnaji, and so many other high-level players that call Minneapolis-Saint Paul their home.
Women’s basketball also has a successful track record in Minnesota. The Minnesota Lynx won four titles in the 2010s. Also, a long list of Minnesotan female basketball players rise through the college and professional ranks, with Paige Bueckers being the most recent addition.
Despite the state’s great success in other aspects of the sport, Minnesota’s professional men’s basketball team floundered for as long as it existed.
Following the Kevin Garnett era, the team experienced many years of suffering until their eventual playoff berth in 2018. This period of Timberwolves basketball featured lineups which included players like Nikola Peković, Luke Ridnour, Darko Miličić, Johnny Flynn, and Corey Brewer in major roles.
The Timberwolves’ sordid history became irrelevant with the arrival of one player.
The first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Edwards is central to the Timberwolves’ revolution. Edwards has an infectious energy and charisma which made the Timberwolves fun again. His amazing play and highlight reel dunks made Timberwolves fans feel a sliver of hope.
Throw in a player like Patrick Beverly, a defender that Timberwolves fans love to root for and opposing fans love to hate, and suddenly, the team has an undeniably entertaining energy.
This season, the Timberwolves performed well enough to make it to the newly implemented play-in round of the NBA Playoffs. After dispatching the Los Angeles Clippers in exciting fashion, the team won its place in the playoffs, facing off against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
After winning game one in Memphis, the Timberwolves achieved with their first lead in a playoff series since 2004.
I cannot remember excitement levels having ever been higher for Timberwolves basketball in the Twin Cities.
The Timberwolves are back.
I have only attended one or two Timberwolves games in my lifetime and
I recently purchased tickets for game four of the Timberwolves’ first round series against the Grizzlies.
I can’t and won’t deny it. I have been swept up in the excitement. I love the Minnesota Timberwolves.
I didn’t expect this. I may even come to regret it. But Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves have managed to fight years and years of history to make me a fan of a team I have never had an interest in before.