All Things Considered

Wolves playoff preview: ‘They’re fully concentrated and locked in’

The Athletic calls Phoenix Suns ‘an incredible challenge’ for the Minnesota Timberwolves

Suns Timberwolves Basketball
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, right, works toward the basket as Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday.
Matt Krohn | AP

The Minnesota Timberwolves are set to begin their postseason campaign in the NBA playoffs this weekend. The Wolves have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004. 

Jon Krawczynski, senior writer with The Athletic joined All Things Considered Host Tom Crann to discuss the Timberwolves’ chances in their opening series against the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota’s strong performance this season, fan enthusiasm despite an ongoing ownership saga and budding superstar Anthony Edwards.  

The first game of the Wolves playoff series against the Suns will be at Target Center on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and accuracy.

What’s the energy like right now?

It’s been kind of the complete opposite of most of the history of the Minnesota Timberwolves. I mean, you’re looking at one of the most dysfunctional drama filled franchises in professional sports, they are not used to being a team that is in contention for a championship. But that’s exactly what has happened this season. It’s been a real turnaround for the product on the court. And I think the community has really rallied around this team.

The Wolves lost all three of their regular season games against the Phoenix Suns. Should fans be worried about that at all?

Well, I do think that in typical Timberwolves fashion, nothing can be easy for them, this is going to be an incredible challenge. The Timberwolves are the third seed in the West, the Phoenix Suns are the sixth seed, so the Timberwolves won more games.

But, with the way that things match up, I think it’s much closer to even call here.

So, I think that if they can break through with the victory in game one that will take a lot of the nervous energy out of fans, out of kind of the organization in general. But, until they show and prove that they actually can compete with the Suns, there’s going to be a lot of questions that they’re going to be facing.

The Wolves are also getting attention for this unfolding ownership saga. So has any of that stained any of the good energy here going into these playoffs?

From a larger perspective, yeah, I think it’s rained on the parade a little bit. I mean, when fans are just trying to get super excited about this team and then to have this real kind of ugly public, back and forth between Glen Taylor and [both] Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, that certainly, I think, brings a level of dysfunction back into the fold.

But, I can tell you, in talking to the players, they do not care, as long as the checks keep clearing, they have no real kind of dog in this fight. And so they’re fully concentrated and locked in. But certainly I think for fans and some longtime employees of the organization on the business side, and on the basketball side, it’s a very awkward situation that they’re having to navigate.

For those who haven’t been following, tell us what’s the major storyline been this year?

I think there’s two major ones. One is that Anthony Edwards, their 22-year-old leader of the team, has really emerged in his fourth season as a true face of the franchise type player. Fans have been falling head over heels for Anthony Edwards with the personality he has off the court.

But, I think more so even like the competitive nature and the intensity that he plays with that, I think reminds them of K.G. [Kevin Garnett]. You knew with Garnett on the floor, this was a playoff team.

And I think Anthony Edwards is establishing himself with that kind of reputation. And then the other thing that was really important for the Timberwolves this year is that Rudy Gobert, their big center, has kind of reemerged as a dominant defensive player.

And so when you put those two things together, those are reasons 1A and 1B why the Timberwolves are in this position, with home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

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