Generally speaking, I don’t get too worked up by professional sports. I enjoy occasionally watching the Twins and attending a game or two each summer. I watch the Timberwolves on nights that I am not coaching high school basketball. Sunday’s are reserved for Vikings football where I watch every week, but I often find myself focusing on my fantasy football team as much as the Vikings game.
I used to be a much more devout fan, but January 2016 changed me for the better. I was watching the NFL playoffs alone in my dorm room at Bethel University. The kick that would seal the game for the Vikings went up and was not even close. I got up, kicked my door and was in a sour mood.
After returning to my couch, I realized that these professional athletes who don’t know me, care about me or care about our state should not affect my mood like this. So I’ve mostly become a much more easy-going fan. If we win – great! If we lose – life goes on. But I digress.
Going into this past Sunday evening, I was admittedly buzzing over the potential move looming for the Minnesota Timberwolves. You can ask my wife, who was probably very annoyed with how often I was checking my phone for an update from Woj.
It was coming in from all angles. National writer Zach Lowe and player JJ Redick agreed that Minnesota was up to something. Wolves writer for The Athletic Jon Krawczynski also seemed to be hearing that the Wolves were trying to get something done, among many others.
That something was to acquire All-Star D’Angelo Russell from the Brooklyn Nets, either via signing him as a free agent after trading away players that matched his cap or completing a sign-and-trade with multiple teams.
The news was breaking the right way for the Wolves early. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were signing with the Nets, meaning they would not have room for Russell.
Based on reports, it seems that Minnesota was the number one destination of choice for the star point guard. The chance to play with one of his best friends along with being a leader on a young team was enticing.
However, with the blink of an eye, the Wolves hopes were dashed. Reports came in that the Warriors had completed a sign-and-trade, essentially swapping Durant for Russell.
Although Russell would not have made the Timberwolves instant title contenders, it still was a gut punch to the franchise and fan base. I was probably more annoyed than I should have been if I am being completely honest.
I had to remind myself that this was Minnesota we were talking about. One playoff appearance in 15 years isn’t exactly the best way to lure in free agents.
At this point you might be thinking to yourself… Wait, what does missing out on Russel have to do with Thibs?
The reason things with Russell were so difficult was primarily because the lack of cap room or flexibility. Our faithful former President of Basketball Operations signed Gogui Dieng to a four year $64 million deal. He signed Jeff Teague to a three year $57 million deal. He signed Andrew Wiggins to a maximum deal worth $147 million.
These contracts hamstrung the Timberwolves at the most inopportune time in the past 10 years. The one time an All-Star willingly wants to come to Minnesota, we are too busy paying Teague and Dieng roughly $35 million and can’t find any trade partners to take them off our hands.
Thanks, Thibs, for reminding me why I’m not going to let Minnesota sports affect my mood ever again. At least until the Vikings miss another important playoff kick.
*PS: For the record, as limited as the options were for the Wolves, I liked the signings of Noah Vonleh and Jordan Bell for minimum deals. They are both young, defensive-minded forwards with a lot to prove. That is about as good as you can do considering the cap situation.