Before the finals: Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves vision

Golden State vs. Cleveland in the NBA Finals — I can’t wait. There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as being on the inside watching two great, gifted teams loaded with talented players that worked into a position in the NBA Finals’ best of seven seeking NBA glory.

Kevin Love, once the face of the Timberwolves, was traded away two years ago by Flip Saunders to Cleveland. He will have a chance to help LeBron James, the first player in 50 years to reach the NBA Finals six years in a row, win the first-ever NBA Championship or title of any kind by Cleveland in 52 years.

Before my NBA Finals journey, I visited with Tom Thibodeau, the Timberwolves’ new president and head coach. His general manager is Scott Hayden. Their job is move the organization out of the lottery 12 years in a row and into the NBA mainstream.

The following is from my conversation with Thibodeau (TT), former NBA Coach of the Year who won an NBA title with Boston before leading the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs five years in a row.

LF: Welcome, Tom, to the Timberwolves, and congratulations on the opportunity to
be here as president and head coach. Talk about that journey to be the Timberwolves’ president and head coach.

TT: It’s great to be here. I’m excited about it obviously. Last year I had the opportunity to take a step back and study the league from a much broader view, and when I was studying the Timberwolves they had all the things I was looking for. They have a very bright young core and a large window here for the team. But there’s a lot of work to be done to make the playoffs.

Timberwolves

Photo by Steve Floyd

LF: Talk about this challenge here in comparison to the Chicago challenge.

TT: In some ways it reminded me of Chicago when I arrived there. Derek Rose was 22 years old. Joakim Noah was 25. We had to build a foundation to get going. I was very fortunate. I had a great group of guys that battled like crazy. Unfortunately, Derek got hurt. I have a lot of respect for all those guys there the way they competed.

In coming here, when I started to study the team, I was looking at Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and a number of the other young players. You start looking at Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad and Tyus Jones and Nemanja.

You have a good young core to build around. When you look at the West, I think things are changing a little bit. Obviously, the teams at the top are incredibly strong, but I think we have to find a way to build our foundation and improve daily. And if we do that, we’re doing the right things. The results will take care of themselves.

LF: Your experience is in the East, and now, being in the West, how do you adapt?

TT: I was in the West when I was with Houston, and then of course going to Boston and then Chicago, you’re in the East. There has been a shift in some ways, too. There are some teams that are playing similar styles to the West.

I think you have to be ready to do both when you study what wins in the playoffs. You see it’s teams that are strong on both sides of the ball. We have to have a good understanding of what goes into winning. And then we’ll take it from there.

I think when you study your team and analyze your strengths and weaknesses, you want to play to those strengths and cover up your weaknesses. We’ll figure out the right pace and what our strengths are, and we’ll play to our strengths and cover up our weaknesses.