On the phone while sitting in his Mankato office Wednesday afternoon, hours before his team knocked off the Kyrie Irving-led Nets in Brooklyn, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was feeling optimistic about the upcoming NBA season.
“I’m looking forward to hopefully having a great year,” he said.
It would be easy for Taylor to be beaten down by the Wolves’ lack of success, lowlighted by just one playoff appearance in the past 15 years — and some would place many of those struggles directly at the owner’s feet.
But Taylor is looking forward, and feeling good about the team’s new direction. With a reworked roster and a fresh front office perspective, the Wolves are indeed starting anew. He likes the new course Gersson Rosas and Co. have charted.
“I’m really pleased with what Gersson and the staff have done,” Taylor said. “It’s a totally new concept.”
He particularly likes the increased pace of play and the emphasis on player development.
“All the things that they’re doing, I just see it as a very positive thing and a step up,” Taylor said. “I think it just increases our chances of getting our young guys in the position to do well in the playoffs sooner.”
Now that’s optimism.
That’s not to say Taylor is expecting playoffs this season. He didn’t express any team goals. Rather, he’s focused on individual development and evaluation.
“I think we’re going to have to see which players … we want to build around in the future,” Taylor said. “I think that’s going to be a lot of individual observations and see the improvement. So, in other words, I’d like to see improvement in every player, and what they can bring to the team to make the team better.”
What, specifically, is he looking for from Andrew Wiggins?
“I think improvement in every area that he plays in,” Taylor said. “Improvement in his defense, improvement in his shooting of threes, and then … he can do some really neat things going to the basket, just because of his natural abilities, and I hope he just does more of that.”
The Wolves are hopeful their emphasis on efficient shot selection — prioritizing layups and 3-pointers — as well as their pace of play will help “unlock” Wiggins this season. Those same tenets should lead to an entertaining brand of basketball for fans to watch.
Taylor isn’t naive; he knows the Wolves need to win to get people flowing back through the Target Center doors.
“But I think once people get there and see how the guys are playing this fast-paced basketball with a lot more 3-point shots, and we’ll try to get more dunks,” he said. “I think it’s a fun style of basketball and people will enjoy it.”
Much like his players are currently enjoying themselves while playing for this organization. They’ve spoken at length about the positive culture flowing through the Mayo Clinic Square hallways centered on the bonds they’ve established with one another.
That, above all else, is what Taylor feels best about.
“When I’ve talked to the staff and the players, everyone is enthused,” he said. “They seem to be having fun. I think enjoyment while you do your job is an important asset to have. Right now, people are enjoying playing the game. I think that’ll help us in the long run.”
It’s one of the things Taylor thinks makes for a championship-level team.
“(It’s) enjoying your job, enjoying your teammates, enjoying all the participation that you have to do to get ready for a game,” he said. “I see that in their eyes and hear it in their voices. I’m just very hopeful that it’ll give us results on the court.”