The Minnesota Timberwolves have emerged from the All-Star break a far different team than they were going in, and Chris Finch deserves credit for this discernable turnaround. Finch has patiently waited for his dream of becoming an NBA head coach, spending 12 years as a head coach overseas before leading the Houston Rockets’ D-League affiliate and serving as an assistant for three different NBA franchises.
As a reward for his patience, Finch inherited a team with the worst record in the league at 7-29. But he also takes command of a roster built to suit his coaching style and has begun to maximize the talents of key players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. Finch has found himself in the rather unenviable position of bringing hope to a fairly beleaguered and cynical fanbase.
Let’s face it: If there’s one thing Wolves fans have learned over the years, it’s how to cast our gaze to the future. The dream of better days has long been a sustaining force for fans here. Rare has been the occasion when we have gotten to enjoy the sweet satisfaction of the here and now while simultaneously extrapolating those good vibes into a dream of a future contender.
This would historically be that point in the season when fans and the front office would be focusing their energy on the upcoming draft. Trying to secure a top pick would be the topic du jour, while winning games might be met with a collective head scratch. Things are further complicated because this year’s draft is loaded with the sort of top-tier talent that has GMs around the league salivating.
Of course, the problem is that they desperately need to land in the top three in this upcoming draft to keep it.
The gravity of the situation has the potential to demoralize this fanbase completely. But in steps Chris Finch and, voila. Suddenly that rather devastating scenario becomes less of a focus, and instead what we see with our eyes is something that looks real. The team seems organized on both sides of the ball.
There is a clear emphasis on running things through KAT on offense, who is as deft a passer as he is at fillin’ it up. His assist totals are a direct reflection of this. The play of Anthony Edwards might be the clearest example of the shift that’s taken place. Lately, he has been spectacular scoring the ball. It’s clear that Finch has great confidence in the rookie, and Ant has responded in kind with several explosive offensive performances, including a season-high 34 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
There seems to be a renewed defensive focus under Finch, with a clear emphasis on accountability. Role players like Jalen Nowell, Naz Reid, and Jaden McDaniels seem to be responding nicely to the environment their new coach has created.
In just a few games, Chris Finch seems to have lit a match in the long, dark tunnel that is Minnesota basketball.
Yet we are still Timberwolves fans. We know what it feels like to have our hopes and dreams dashed. We remember that there was only one actual sustained period when this team had a consistent winner. The Flip Saunders/Kevin Garnett era would ultimately provide us with eight playoff appearances and a trip to the Western Conference Finals. Good times.
We also remember the countless other examples of times we thought there were players or coaches who might take us to even greater heights. Kevin Love, Rick Adleman, Ryan Saunders, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Tom Thibodeau — just to name a few who have disappointed us.
But there are developing signs that we may indeed be entering a new era where it’s okay to dream again. An era of greater urgency with our squad. An era where there is a clear premium on winning games and less talk of tanking. The Chris Finch era.
It’s all very early for this sort of conversation. But at least it’s a different sort of conversation. All this fanbase needs is something to believe in.