Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

‘The best season yet’: Timberwolves fan and author on finding hope in the recent losses

A basketball player goes to shoot a basket
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards dunks the ball during Game 4 of the NBA basketball second-round playoff series at Target Center on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

The Minnesota Timberwolves are proving they are a Minnesota sports team. After an explosive start in the playoffs, they are now tied against the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Western Conference semifinals.

Denver beat Minnesota in game four 115-107 Sunday.

The back-to-back Timberwolves losses after wins on the road bring back a familiar feeling for Minnesota sports fans of hope mixed with worry of being let down.

Back in March, Hanif Abdurraqib has described that feeling perfectly in an online essay for ESPN in March.

He also was featured in a Timberwolves playoffs hype video.

Abdurraqib is the author of a new book called “There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension.” Abdurraqib joined MPR News Host Cathy Wurzer to talk about the plight of being a Timberwolves fan.

How do you feel about last weekend’s losses?

Well, I don’t feel great. You know, last night felt like a real must win against the defending champions. And you kind of can’t let a team like that get back into a series, particularly not on your home floor two nights in a row, two games in a row.

So I do have some concern, but the season series has, you know, point itself out this way where no one has won on their home court. The Nuggets and Timberwolves are two and two in the regular season, and all the wins came by the visiting team.

So that trend holds true, and really does serve the interests of the Timberwolves. I’m trying to remain optimistic.

You’re optimistic? Or are you preparing for the worst?

In some ways, and this is a bit preparing for the worst, but also just true, I’m very grateful to have witnessed this season, no matter how it ends. This is the best season and perhaps the most fun I’ve had watching the Timberwolves in my entire life, and so I’m thankful for that. I think they can win but if they don’t, I do find myself with some gratitude for having gotten the season at all.

How did you become a Timberwolves fan?

When I was younger the Timberwolves drafted Kevin Garnett. And my family’s from New York. And so I grew up in a house of Knicks fans and I wasn’t that interested in the Knicks. I thought they were fine.

The Timberwolves had this young star and they were a young team at the time and I picked them because I thought this was a team I could grow with. I could latch on this team, with this new young star and kind of ride the glory of that for the entirety of my life and it wasn’t as much glory as I hoped.

But it’s been really wonderful. I really am thankful, even in the years, very lean years. You know, I found some pleasure — it’s a routine you know, I think loving a sports team, builds a discipline into your life even when that discipline is not paying dividends in terms of victory.

Why do you think they keep blowing it?

Well, I don’t think that the talent hasn’t not been there, but not to the degree that I think it requires to really win, capital W win. The talent that has been there has not been built around very intelligently. We all love Kevin Love being here, but I don’t know, you know, he didn’t have a lot of help — he wasn’t the kind of guy you could win playoff series with.

And we have Kat and Ant who really have some great chemistry together. And a supporting cast that I think is really the best that I think it has ever been. I mean, the bench that we have right now is phenomenal.

You can have one or two talented people on a team, but that doesn’t really make a winning team. I don’t know if Minnesota has been really the smartest about roster construction before this past year. I think what we’re seeing now are the real fruits of thoughtful roster construction, which has not been very present.

Minnesota is not a massive free agent destination so you really have to build through the draft. And I think, you know, there’s been some notable draft struggles for the Timberwolves.

Hanif Abdurraqib poses for a photo
Hanif Abdurraqib is the author of the new book "There's Always This Year." It's a mix of memoir, essays and poems, looking at the role basketball played in Abdurraqib's life.
Photo by Kendra Bryant

Do you think it’s easier to feel that the Timberwolves deserve success because they haven’t had it in so long?

Of course, yeah. I recorded the playoff hype video for the team, I was very honored to get to do that. A big part of my initial draft was, you know, we deserve it. Timberwolves fans, we deserve a team that is good because we’ve suffered for so long.

But, I don’t know if sports fans really “deserve” anything. But also it’s hard for me to work my way around this sense of entitlement that comes with saying, you know, I’m a long suffering Timberwolves fan and many of us are long suffering Timberwolves fans and when is our time going to come? In wanting — it all happened at once. I’m trying to work around that field.

Why don’t fans just relax and enjoy the ride?

I will say that is easier said than done. In my head, I’m saying I’m gonna just enjoy it because but you know, watching last night, I certainly was not enjoying that. At my core that is what I’m striving for. It does seem like this is you know, hopefully not just a one off thing.

I hope this is the start of a new era of Timberwolves basketball we’re in, where we are competitive for a while. I hope this isn’t just like a one season thing because this is, I think this is one of the hardest Western Conferences that it has ever been to get through in my life. I mean, this is just a brutal Western Conference. And so to even have them rising to the occasion, to this degree feels, I feel really thankful to witness it.

So I hate to ask this question — but I think I probably should — do you think the Timberwolves can win it all?

I firmly believe whoever comes out of the Western Conference will win it all, I just think the west is so much tougher. And I think that the Celtics are good — but even that is uncertain. If you get past the defending champions, I believe you can become champions.

I think the level of rigor and focus and intensity it will take to get past this Denver Nuggets team, I mean, they’re just so good that, you know, they have so many ways they can beat you. If there’s a way the Timberwolves can kind of crack this code and get past them. I really feel like the potential is limitless.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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