The Wolves have 10 players on their roster right now that they didn’t have on the team last season and possibly three new starters in Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson to pair with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
You know the old saying. Nothing like bonding over a 19-day trip, including a 20-hour flight to China.
But in all seriousness, it’s hard to see how this isn’t a huge positive for the Timberwolves in the long run.
“That was one of the benefits I think with so many new faces to have an opportunity to spend the amount of time we’re spending with each other,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday. “We’re trying to take advantage of that. The team building I think from that aspect has been terrific.”
Minnesota practiced for the second time in Shenzhen on Tuesday morning, right before the Golden State Warriors practiced. The Wolves and Warriors are gearing up for two games against each other this week, one in Shenzhen and one in Shanghai.
Another old saying. Nothing like playing two of your three preseason games against the best of the best. But it’s a test that Thibodeau is looking forward to.
“When you look at the progression of their team, they went step by step,” Thibodeau said. “ . . . When they made the commitment to defense, it was at an entirely different level.”
Thibodeau’s China connection
Thibodeau has had a few trips to China throughout the years, starting back in his time as an assistant coach for the Houston Rockets from 2003-2007. Also on that team was Hall of Fame center Yao Ming, who helped grow the game of basketball in China significantly.
“I think Yao had a lot to do with that,” Thibodeau said. “Just the way he carried himself and all the success he had in the NBA. I think the popularity of the game just took off from there.”
Thibodeau would make the trip with Yao during the summers.
And much like how players who are visiting China for the first time this week, Thibodeau was taken aback by the popularity of basketball in the region.
“You know, just driving by. And I spent more time in Shanghai and Beijing,” Thibodeau said. “This is my first time in Shenzhen and it’s beautiful here. Just driving by playgrounds and you see all these kids playing and adults playing. It’s amazing just how much the game has grown.”
The rest of Tuesday is pretty chill for the Wolves before a very busy Wednesday.
There will be a ball signing, player appearances, NBA Cares Event along with a practice. We’ll continue to update you accordingly.