Believe it: As we close out the month of November, the NBA has already played one-quarter of their season. It’s not a Major League Baseball (MLB) 162-game marathon. It’s the next best thing — 82 games mid-October to late April.
This is the earliest start to an NBA season ever with not as many dreaded back-to-back games. The hometown Timberwolves are 12-8 at the quarter mark, their best start to an NBA season since 2005-2006. If not for a hiccup or two, they could be 14-6.
Yet many observers and critics locally are already complaining about this and that, saying the team should be playing better. Tom Thibodeau, the team’s second-year president and head coach, is doing his best to get this talented group to be more consistent, to play harder, smarter defensively, and above all to play for one another for 48 minutes.
The new additions Jimmy Butler (16.3), Taj Gibson (9.6) and Jeff Teague (13.5) have blended in nicely with Andrew Wiggins (18.8) and Karl Anthony Towns (20.6). They have, however, struggled primarily against the Eastern Conference teams.
They have played eight games against the East teams and are just 3-5 while going 9-3 against the powerful Western Conference. That includes losses to NBA Champion Golden State and San Antonio on the road.
It’s been 13 straight very cold years of missing the playoffs. I firmly believe that this group will make the playoffs in 2018 and challenge the big boys. Obviously, we have a long way to go. Talented Washington is in town this week (Tuesday) at the marvelously renovated Target Center.
From a business standpoint, business is good for the Timberwolves. Attendance is up; they average over 16,000-plus fans a game. The product is much better. This is an exciting team to watch, also frustrating at times, yes, because you see the potential is unlimited.
These are slam-dunk days for NBA owners. Team values are soaring thanks to media deals and sponsorships with TNT-ESPN-ABC networks to the tune of nine years and $24 billion. Every team in the NBA except Brooklyn made a profit last year. Average franchise value has increased to $1.25 billion per team. That’s up 13 percent from 2016.
Before renovating Target Center to the tune of $150 million, the Timberwolves franchise was worth $720 million. So that’s why all the smiles. Things are looking skyward for the league and the Timberwolves.
I stress patience — it all depends on the Timberwolves staying healthy and focused and continuing to buy into Coach Thibodeau’s unrelenting message and Butler’s and Gibson’s leadership. You read it here first: The Timberwolves are looking good and are on the come up.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.