MINNEAPOLIS — Timberwolves fans are howling with excitement.
If you haven't been paying attention, the team currently has the best record in the NBA while riding a five-game win streak.
Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and big man Rudy Gobert are all playing at a high level. But if there's one thing we know about Minnesota sports, it's that heartbreak often awaits. Those who follow the team closely however are encouraging fans to get their hopes up for the team.
"My feet are firmly planted, rooting for and covering the best team right now in the West," said Kyle Theige, co-host of the Flagrant Howls Podcast on SKOR North.
He said his job has never been more fun than right now.
Rather than worrying about who the team will draft next year, he's focused on how the Timberwolves will navigate the Western Conference with a target on their backs as they hold down first place.
"I get it if you don't believe yet, but I think now is a good time to buy in while the iron's hot," said Theige. "Their defense is something that makes you believe in them."
The Timberwolves currently have the number No. 1 ranked defense in the league, mainly thanks to the man in the middle.
"Rudy Gobert is going to probably win Defensive Player of the Year," said Theige, who pointed out that Gobert is healthy both physically and mentally.
That dominating presence from Gobert has WCCO radio host Henry Lake feeling nostalgic.
"Defensively, they're able to do some things that they haven't done in a long time. And when I say a long time, I'm talking about since (Kevin Garnett) was in his prime here," said Lake.
Both analysts touched on the cohesion the team is showing. The stars aren't worried about contract negotiations or how they'll gel with a new coach or system. Instead, the team is focused on playing sound basketball.
"It just goes back to that trust. They didn't have it last year in the locker room, on the bus. Now, they're all connected as one and that's why they're kind of pummeling teams late in games, third and fourth quarter, kind of like a prizefighter. Just leaning on them until they give up," said Theige.
Lake made sure to credit the man in charge of leading the team, head coach Chris Finch.
"One of the things that people said about Chris Finch when he came into the Timberwolves organization was that he was a mastermind, he was a genius offensively and he's been exactly that," said Lake. "But I think he's been really underrated and not given much appreciation for how well he's gotten guys to gel defensively."
Lake also said that if you're a true fan, you're ready to be there through thick and thin.
"I'm a person that, I want to live in the moment. I want to enjoy what I'm watching, what I'm seeing, trust that it's real and not miss out on opportunities of pure joy and fun," said Lake.
Naturally, there are doubters. The "Minnesota Sports Fan Experience" is one littered with collapses, bad luck bounces, and championship droughts.
"I think being a fan of a team is like an investment," said Theige. "You're putting your time in. You're putting your physical dollars into tickets or merchandise or whatever and the Minnesota Timberwolves have been probably one of the worst return-on-investments in all of sports. So, people that have that scar tissue."
That being said, Theige couldn't be more determined to convince people that this Timberwolves team is different and worthy of fans' emotional investment.
"I understand people that are nervous, but if it is as good as it seems, as fun as it seems, you don't want to wake up in May and be like, 'Oh, I wish I would have enjoyed that December, January, February,'" he said. "Hop on, there's a lot of room still. There's no judgment if you doubted them for 19 years and now you're back. Welcome aboard and enjoy the ride."
If there's one metric proving that fans are literally buying into the team, it's ticket sales.
Over the 11 home games so far this season, the Timberwolves are averaging 18,024 people at Target Center. That's a sellout for every game. It ranks seventh out of the 30 NBA teams. The six teams ahead of the Timberwolves sell over their arena's capacity.
Averaging a sellout is a stark difference from seasons past.
When looking at the last three seasons that weren't impacted by COVID-19 capacity limits, the average attendance at Target Center was 80-88%. That landed the Timberwolves in the bottom third of the overall rankings in the NBA, sometimes ranked as low as 29th overall.
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