The Minnesota Timberwolves have had 75 percent of their players at the team facility over the past couple of months, participating in individual workouts or just getting up shots. Most all of them will gather back in downtown Minneapolis starting this week.
Monday marks the first day of the Timberwolves’ three-week “minicamp” allowed by the NBA and the NBA Players Association for the eight teams that were not invited to the NBA bubble in Orlando for the resumption of the season.
The first week features voluntary individual workouts, which Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said were “basically a continuation of what we were doing” over the past few months. The same protocols will be in place, and players will be subject to regular testing.
The final two weeks will be in the Wolves’ “bubble.” Players, coaches and staff will stay at a hotel in downtown Minneapolis that will be privatized for them. They also have the luxury of having Target Center, Mayo Clinic and the Mayo Clinic Square practice facility all in close proximity.
“It’s an opportunity to really maximize our facility resources,” Rosas said. “Our guys, our staff has done an incredible job of setting up, basically, a campus that’s as safe as possible. We’ve got all the amenities we need for basketball, for meetings, for bonding. It should be good.”
The final two weeks in the bubble will be when Minnesota can participate in on-court team activities, including practices and scrimmages. The basketball portion of the next three weeks, Rosas said, is significant.
“The ability to go from individual workouts to 5 on 5 individual competition and scrimmaging is something that our players have really wanted to do, so it’s a great opportunity for them to ramp up their training, their conditioning, their basketball,” Rosas said. “And it’ll allow our coaches to walk through and continue to lay the foundation offensively and defensively for what we’re going to do next year, and really take our player development to another level.”
Rosas noted the season came to a “hard stop” back in March, and these three weeks provide a chance to “end it the right way.”
“We’ve already begun the preparations for next season,” Rosas said, “but it’s an opportunity to have involvement and integration with players and staff to talk about the future and the things we have to do here over the next two or three months to get us ready for that.”
And beyond that, it’s an opportunity to continue to build team chemistry. Rosas said the team bubble provides “a safe space” for guys to work, and connect as teammates and staff members, “and really build a bond that we’ve been missing with the pandemic and everything that’s happened here.”
Rosas said there will be a strong emphasis placed on continuing conversations with the social justice movement, as well as team building. They want to learn ways in which they can improve, but also entertain the players.
“They’re going to have a safe space where they can be entertained, have a lot of fun together, spend some quality time as teammates,” Rosas said. “Our guys have been super creative. We’ll be doing a ton of not only the social justice, but entertainment, speakers, activities, all with safe protocols, either Zoomed in or enough space and enough room for guys to kind of do their own thing or have an opportunity to connect.
“Whether they’re gaming or competing or spending time to themselves, our staff has done an unbelievable job of just mapping everything out. A lot of what you’ve seen in Orlando. The NBA and the union have been great about supporting our efforts and making sure that the players and staffs are going to be safe.”
Rosas said that, for the most part, “all of our guys will be here,” with the exception of players entering free agency this offseason, including guard Malik Beasley. And even those guys will take part in the first week, sans Juancho Hernangomez, who is filming a movie this summer.
“We’ll have a couple of guys missing during that two-week bubble, but it’s pretty standard,” Rosas said. “Guys that are going into free agency, we want to make sure that they handle things on their end going into that process.”
There were times when people doubted whether such in-market camps would take place this offseason, in the middle of a pandemic, and the view of what it looked like it seemed to morph by the week. Rosas said “a lot of work” went into getting everything established by the teams, leagues and ownership groups.
“We’re happy that we got to this point, because it was important for our guys to be together and it was important for our guys to get an opportunity to ramp up their work,” Rosas said. “We feel good about the program. We feel it’s going to be a safe campus, safe environment for not only our players, but our staff. … Orlando was a priority, and we had to work through that, but Orlando has been an incredible success, and now we’re working to make sure that all these in-market bubbles go in the same direction. That gives us a lot of confidence going into this period.”