Thursday morning, Chris Finch’s appearance with JJ Reddick on The Old Man and The Three podcast went live. Reddick and his partner Tommy Atler have done a phenomenal job with who they feature on their show and the content they discuss. I would highly recommend you give it a listen in full. However, if you don’t have the time to sit down and listen to the whole show, don’t worry; I am going to recap some of the highlights from Finch’s segment.
Finch opened the show by discussing his path to coaching in the NBA and his and Reddick’s history together; I am going to leave those parts out to keep this somewhat short. After all, Reddick and Finch chopped it up for over an hour. I will be focusing on what was said by Finch on the Minnesota Timberwolves side of things.
(I have lightly edited the transcript for clarity and conciseness.)
Chris Finch On A More Structured Offense
First of all, you’ve got to nail the high notes. To be an efficient offense, you still have to get to the right shots. Now, the distribution of the shots are different. … I believe as we head into this next year, which is hopefully a complete season with KAT and Rudy, we need more structure because the structure is going to provide us with the right spacing for the two bigs to stay out of each other’s way.
I think, at times, they got into each other’s way. Offensively, we weren’t great; we were pretty medium last year as a result of probably not taking enough threes. We’ve got to get some guys to take some more threes. There’s lots of little things we can do, but I think the structure will help us do that.
Through Finch’s first three seasons with the Timberwolves, he’s run a pretty relaxed offensive game plan. There hasn’t been much structure to his offense, a positive and negative aspect of his coaching style. In late-game situations, it’s negative. I can’t even count the number of times a game has been on the line, and all that was run was an Anthony Edwards isolation, which led to him dribbling the clock out and side-stepping for a triple. Now, that lack of structure helps players, specifically guys who always have the ball in their hands frequently, to create an offense they are comfortable with.
However, above all that, implementing more of a straightforward and focused offensive game plan should help the team-wide flow issues in an insurmountable way.
Flipping Karl-Anthony Towns’ Role Successfully
This lineup we have now first starts with KAT. He made, has to make, and continues to make the most sacrifices. Not many All-NBA players are asked to make sacrifices. So, all credit to him. He has a tremendous willingness to continue to make it work.
After discussing Towns’ sacrifices after the team traded for Rudy Gobert, Finch then starts to break down his initial concern and biggest challenges with KAT turning into a power forward, playing alongside an inside-the-paint center, trying to contain smaller players, and missing well over half the season.
There was a big concern for me, I didn’t want to just turn him into a 2-guard, play him in the corner, and tell him to take more threes. I do think he can increase his three-point rate, but he has so much success driving against fives. I think now he has to realize that he needs to shoot over more fours.
The biggest challenge is always going to be on the defensive side of the ball. Guarding actions, being in rotations – that’s where we missed him in the reps. We had him for 20 games; it was choppy, hit and miss. We were trying to figure some things out. We looked good sometimes, sometimes not. Then he misses 50, comes back for 10. When he comes back, we are literally like, ‘Just try to feel good about your game.’ Let’s just see if we can get you physically ready for the playoffs. … That remains our challenge, just how to build that defense.
Anthony Edwards’ Next Step
After discussing Minnesota’s playoff history these last two seasons, Reddick asked Finch about Anthony Edwards. Reddick didn’t ask what it’s like being around a player who has the high level of charisma that Ant has. Rather, JJ prompted Finch with, “For [Edwards], what’s the next step? Where does he evolve from here?”
This isn’t necessarily a step in evolution, but it is significant – he’s got to get better at foul drawing. I put that in the context of, ‘How do you control the whole game when the ball isn’t in your hands?’ He has the ability to get to a lot of different shots; some of them are better than others. He’s got to be better at manipulating the floor, reading the floor, and understanding what may be coming in advance. And then, being able to slow the game down enough to draw fouls or make the right play. Just keep trusting the right play is going to benefit him in the long run.
He’s very good at adjusting from game to game… He’s got to be a little bit better at putting them into play in the middle of the game. Not every game is the same.
Some of that on-the-fly decision-making circles back to my earlier point about his late-game execution. Obviously, he has grown a considerable amount on that front, but until he gets more games under his belt as his team’s No. 1 scoring option, that will always be a point of emphasis, not just in crunch time.
Conflict in the NBA and the Game-82 Scuffle
To wrap things up, Finch was asked about the inevitable conflict that happens between any major sports team, how that can be a positive thing, and his outlook from a coaching perspective on the Game-82 scuffle between Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson.
I’m open to conflict. I think it has to happen. One of the things we talk about is brutal truth. We’ve got to be brutally honest with each other. Like, you can say it to me, I can say it to you. Hopefully, we can move on quickly and get an understanding of where we are. Film sessions are right there, in black and white. We don’t dance around it.
Obviously, the Rudy-Kyle incident isn’t something we openly condone. But you and I both know these things happen all the time in practices. … Now, what happened there was the height of the pressure. Game 82. We got to make it to secure the best possible Play-In position at that point in time. The two of our most competitive guys, Kyle and Rudy, two of our best guys at holding their teammates accountable, just happened to try and do it to each other. Kyle was asking for Rudy to do something, Rudy felt he was doing it. Some unfortunate language was exchanged, and then he lost his cool.
I tried not to overreact to it. We had a game to go out and win at the moment. By 10:00 pm that night, everything had been resolved. The players had all patched it up. Rudy was sent home, and Kyle was talked to. They had talked to each other. Mike Conley, who’s an unbelievable leader, was instrumental. Tim Connelly took a quick swift decision that we’re going to suspend Rudy moving forward. Our team didn’t like that; our players wanted Rudy back. They didn’t think it was worth a suspension, but we had to do it. By noon the next day, there was a lot of momentum. It’s all gone. It’s fine. Let’s move on. We got other things to do.
It honestly wasn’t something that had been bubbling around. It wasn’t a contract dispute, or two guys competing for the same minutes or the same money, or they personally don’t like each other. … I think we might have reacted differently if we felt there was malice or ill-intent, but there just generally wasn’t. It was an ugly scene. We are not proud of it, but we forgot about it pretty quickly.’
I recapped four main Timberwolves points that Finch discussed, so listening to the entire episode would be of value, especially with how informative his responses were. If nothing else, this is a great way to get excited before training camp kicks off in two months.