Freaks and Fried Alligator: the Wolves Bring Wiggins, Bennett, Young and LaVine to the State Fair
Some thoughts on the Wolves’ media and fan meet-and-greet at the State Fair, in bullet form:
– People began packing themselves around the stage nearly an hour prior to the start of the show. The atmosphere was jubilant and peppy – fans cheered loudly for each of the four players (loudest of all for Wiggins) and lingered long after they were done speaking, taking selfies, asking for autographs and hollering praise to Flip for getting the deal done. It was certainly an interesting environment for an introductory press conference – the Fair’s enormity shrinking for an hour into a very intimate, uncontrolled setting. A few barely audible catcalls arose from the crowd and drew chuckles from the guys onstage. Those awkward moments aside, today was a very positive day for everyone involved. The weather was perfect, the Wolves garnered some much-needed buzz, and Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine got their first taste of Minnesota’s atmosphere.
– It’s probably unwise to read too much into short interactions in such a public setting, but Wiggins seemed very, very comfortable. He flashed a big smile, laughed easily, and even ceded that Zach LaVine would probably beat him in a one-on-one dunk contest. “I ain’t doing no windmill from the free throw line,” he said laughing, referring to the absurd highlight reel slams LaVine’s been churning out at pro-ams and workouts this summer.”There are a lot of freaks on this team,” Wiggins said. “And we all play hard, and we’re competitive, so I think we can take (this franchise) to the next level.”
– Echoing the dispatches from Las Vegas Summer League: Anthony Bennett looks slimmer and healthier right now than he did at any point last season. He spoke of his opportunity to get a fresh start and repeatedly stated he was here to “work hard, have fun and win games,” or some variation or combination of the three. He seemed a bit more reserved than the other players who were present today. At one point, a reporter was questioning him about his time in Cleveland, particularly the end of his time there, and asked him point blank if he ever spoke to LeBron James. Bennett flashed a look that seemed to ask, “Why are you even bringing that up?” before softly answering “no” and moving onto the next question. Once the trade is no longer fresh news, hopefully those questions will dissipate and Bennett can get the new beginning he needs.
– I’m beginning to understand why our own Steve McPherson has such a man-crush on Thad Young. He’s bright, energetic, self-aware, answers each question honestly and injects some personality into this team. He spoke at length about being a leader, clearly seeing himself as a mentor to the younger players on the roster. “I was talking to guys in the locker room today,” he said, “asking them about their expectations and goals, just so I can get a feel for them. I think that I’m perfect for helping these young guys, and I think I’m the perfect person to help this franchise.” He also outlined his experience adapting to new teammates and systems. “I think I’ll mesh well (with the rest of the roster),” he said. “This will be my sixth coach going into my eighth season, so there’s been a lot of change. And I’ve been able to adjust to each new situation.” Whether he leaves in six months or next summer, Young will be a positive influence on the young, impressionable core around him in Minnesota.
– Zach LaVine is both looks and acts like a 19-year-old, and I mean that in the most sincere (and least condescending) way imaginable. His youth is displayed in the way he talks (he called Andrew Wiggins a “really cool dude,”) the way he acts (he got sidetracked from a couple of media requests because he was signing so many autographs), and in his sudden food cravings (he bummed a cookie from Steve, who was walking around with a bucket of Sweet Martha’s, offering them to anyone and everyone).
– Speaking of food cravings, someone brought Anthony Bennett deep-fried alligator to try:
Bennett’s report: “Yeah, it’s true what they say, it tastes like chicken.”
– The buzzwords from all the players? Defense, athleticism, communication, teamwork. All of the present players mentioned each at some point, and given the tenor of the Wolves’ Summer League practices, it’s pretty clear Flip and the rest of the coaching staff are trying to build a program based on those four points.
– Glen Taylor did make a few comments at the tail end of the media session, in a scrum with about seven of us around, one of which was about Kevin Love “getting away with some stuff, not playing defense on our team… not sure how that’s going to work in Cleveland.” But he also said a bunch of nice things about Love, about his desire to win, how the two of them had a great relationship, so I’m sure it won’t get overblown and come back to blow up in his face… ah… crap. Crap. Crap
– Quote of the day goes to Thad Young, who played to the crowd, held court with reporters for much longer than he needed to, and genuinely seemed to be enjoying his time at the introductory presser. When asked to assess his new team, he said, simply, “We’re going to be long, lean and athletic. We’re going to be fun to watch.” Maybe I’m still riding the high of the upbeat atmosphere at the Fair, but I must say I’m inclined to agree.