By Darian Ruderman
The Minnesota Timberwolves and their fans were off to a rough start last week. On Sunday, October 25, team president and coach, Flip Saunders died after battling with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Saunders was only 60 years old. On that Tuesday, the day before the Timberwolves were set to begin their season, the team unveiled a memorial patch for their late coach. In great fashion, the next day, the T-wolves got their first win of the season with a 112-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Anyone could see that this was not the same team that finished the 2014-2015 season in dead last. Stepping into the Staple’s Center that night, the Timberwolves knew the crowd would be rowdier than usual, as it was Kobe Bryant’s first game of his 20th season. Clearly this did not faze them, as point guard Ricky Rubio had a career-high 28 points with 14 assists. The T-Wolves were able to overcome a 16-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Lakers, leaving many wondering, is this a new Timberwolves team or just a fluke?Embed from Getty Images
The following day, on Thursday, October 29, the Timberwolves announced that they would honor the late coach with a video before their home opener the following week on November 2nd. In their second game of the season, on October 30th, the new T-wolves did not disappoint. Rookie and number one overall draft pick, Karl-Anthony Towns, contributed 28 points to the team’s 95-78 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
On Monday, November 2, the Minnesota Timberwolves faced off against fellow Northwest division team, the Portland Trailblazers in their home opener. The game started 30 minutes late due to a pregame memorial service and a 15-minute pregame program, which left fans, players, and coaches extremely emotional. In an ESPN article titled, “’Drained’ Wolves fall to Blazers after emotional tribute to Flip Saunders,” Timberwolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns exclaimed, “I was drained from the beginning. I was crying the whole pregame. I was emotionally drained coming out. I just tried to use my energy in a good way.” But, Towns’ energy may have had the opposite effect. He only contributed 11 points, coming off of a 28-point performance just the previous week. Despite a late run by the T-wolves in the fourth quarter in the last minutes, they fell to the Trail Blazers 106-101.Embed from Getty Images
Now 2-1, the Timberwolves have had an emotional start. Will they continue their previous performance from the first two games, or was that just new rookie adrenaline? Also the question comes up of will the loss of Flip Saunders hurt the team’s performance on the court or will they use it propel themselves forward? Only time will tell.