Timberwolves

What Really Happened In the Timberwolves' Players Only Meeting?

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

On December 31, 2022, the Minnesota Timberwolves held a players-only meeting after a loss to the Detroit Pistons. Not only had the Wolves let one slip at home against one of the worst teams in the league, but this loss was also the team’s sixth in a row. They had plummeted down the standings and were on the outside looking in on the playoff race in the West. The team has gone on an 8-3 run and is creeping up the standings since Minnesota’s behind-closed-doors meeting.

What exactly happened in that meeting that turned the Wolves around? I (definitely) did weeks of hard-core, shoe-leather investigating to find out exactly what went down.

The Wolves had just let a 20-point deficit slip against the woeful Detroit Pistons. It was New Year’s Eve, normally a night meant for celebration and merriment. There would be none of that here. The closed-door meeting between Wolves players began with a heavy silence in the room. It was the type of silence that hung on the precipice of being broken loudly, maybe violently. Surprisingly, the silence was broken by a cool, calm, and collected string of expletives by D’Angelo Russell.

“DLo started things off real fiery,” a player (definitely) told me. “He said something like ‘I ——  —–  —– so let’s —– ——– ——– ——– because —— ——– ding dang diddly —— —— ——— —–. I swear I ——- —— ——– —- if ——- —— then —— ——– and we’re all a bunch of timmy tommy tangerines.’ Or something like that.”

Russell’s laid-back demeanor wasn’t enough to hold back the contemptuous feelings in the room. Taurean Prince took particular exception to the way that DLo addressed the room.

“TP stood up out of nowhere and started walking toward DLo,” the player continued. “He was mad. He really felt like, you know, DLo had crossed the line with the way that he was talking. It was a tough way to kick things off.”

With that, the players-only meeting looked like it was going to become a brawl. But as he so often does for the Wolves, Naz Reid was there to quell the tensions.

“Yeah, Naz, man. If Naz wouldn’t have been there, I guarantee things would be different,” the player (definitely) told me. “He basically stood up and told DLo to look in the mirror before he comes at us with the timmy tangerine stuff. That’s just too far, you know.”

As it turns out, mirror talk was exactly what Russell needed to come back to earth. DLo has a complicated set of beliefs around spirits, magic, and the occult.

“DLo’s got some ideas about magic and stuff, man,” he continued. “All that stuff is, I don’t know, I don’t really believe in that kind of stuff. I mean, like some of it, but the stuff he’s into, yeah, I don’t, I mean no one really does.”

He holds a belief, as I understand it, that mirrors are “a tool of the occult” used to aid evil demons in the capturing of human souls. DLo, as stylish as he is, does not have a single mirror in his home and has asked that the Timberwolves remove all mirrors from the locker room.

After DLo and Prince calmed down, Austin Rivers stepped into the spotlight. Rivers has become a very vocal leader for the Wolves this season, and he took control of the room that night. The yelling stopped, and players had opportunity to share their frustrations with the room.

Much of the meeting focused on effort — something the Wolves had struggled with to start the season. One particularly awkward moment came between Rivers and Anthony Edwards when an exchange they were having took a turn toward the uncomfortable. A source close to the situation told me that Edwards kept challenging Rivers and demanding that he say the Wolves were playing like “Really stinky doo-doo diarrhea.”

“Yeah, Austin and Ant got into it for a little bit,” another player (definitely) told me. “But, you know Ant, he’s stubborn. When he says something he doesn’t like to be misunderstood either. He kept saying that we were playing like doo-doo diarrhea and that it was really stinky. Austin didn’t want to say all that.”

Ultimately, Ant was right. The Wolves were playing like stinky diarrhea, and they couldn’t do anything about it if they couldn’t take accountability for the way that they were playing.

The meeting concluded with Karl-Anthony Towns interjecting with a surprise guest that he had come and talk to the team. Normally during a meeting like this, the space is sacred and only players are allowed. In this instance, Towns had, without explicit permission, brought someone into the fold because he felt that his guest would “be the key” to fixing many of the Wolves’ issues.

The person who walked into the room has been described to me as the worst-looking man any of the players had ever seen. To be clear, nobody said that he was particularly ugly or there was anything physically wrong with him. It was reported to me by several individuals that he just looked like a “guy that you didn’t want to be around” and “a real dirtbag type looking guy.” One player told me that “If I ran into this guy on the street, I’d call the police because he looks like he’s up to something really, really bad.”

Another player said, “He made me mad just looking at him. I wanted to stop him.” I asked what he wanted to stop this man from, and the player responded, “I just needed to stop him. I don’t know how to explain it.”

This man went by the name Tommy Mayonnaise. He started out his presentation with a joke. “The joke he told was so inappropriate. Just straight-up nasty,” one player said. “I don’t know why he would walk in front of a group of strangers and say something like that. I didn’t really know why Karl brought this guy to our locker room.”

From there, the atmosphere in the locker room was ripe with disdain. There was this disgusting stranger that the team’s leader had brought in front of the group to talk, and so far, the team had received nothing from him. Towns, assuming that he was sensing the room’s vibe starting to tank, interjected, asking Mr. Mayonnaise to get to the point.

“He started talking about the reason he came,” said one player. “He was talking like, ‘Y’all don’t like me,’ or, ‘I know y’all hate being around me, just look at me’ type of stuff. It was honestly kind of sad, but he wasn’t wrong. No one wanted him around.”

The ultimate point of Tommy Mayonaise’s visit was simply, so the team knew he exists. My understanding of the situation is that Towns brought him into the locker room as leverage. If the Wolves can get it together and make the playoffs, he’ll never come around again. But, if the Wolves continue to struggle, it seems he and Karl have agreed that he will be back in the locker room as much as it takes for the Wolves to fix their issues.

“He basically made a deal — make the playoffs, and I’m gone for good,” a player said. “We couldn’t make that deal fast enough.”

The whole ordeal was unorthodox. I asked players if they had ever had a players-only meeting like that, and they unanimously agreed that they had never been a part of anything like that. I’ve attempted to reach out to Tommy Mayonnaise to hear more of his story, but people closest to the situation are tight-lipped about who this man is.

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