If you follow the Timberwolves on social media, you might notice the team has been getting some sun — and singing a few tunes.
Several players and staff were in the Bahamas recently as part of a team-bonding trip that Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington helped organize, coach Ryan Saunders said Friday at the State Fair.
Saunders was also down there and said while there were basketball workouts, the main purpose of the trip was team bonding in an effort to establish a positive culture around the organization.
“You see it a lot from the teams that have those ultimate goals of competing for a championships this year or down the line. They understand the importance of building camaraderie and building that bond … ” Saunders said. “It’s just good for guys to bond, get to know each other, especially being such a new team. So we look forward to that being something we can point to, if not this year but down the line in terms of something that helps turn the corner for us.”
It’s a lot different from the vibe around the team last summer, when most players went their separate ways and did not come back together until training camp.
One part of the trip included a visit to a jazz lounge that Wiggins helped arrange. At the venue multiple players got up and sang, including rookie Jarrett Culver, who gave an impassioned — if off-key — version of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.” It’s moments like this that Saunders hopes will help the Wolves build a reputation as a player-friendly organization.
“Our hope would be obviously that on the court performance is what makes guys want to be a part of this, but until we feel we’re in a good place with that, these things are going to continue to be important,” Saunders said. “And they’ll continue to be important as long as we’re building this thing the right way.”
Help from Swinney
In trying to build a desirable culture, Saunders has sought advice from all corners of the sports world. In addition to consulting with local coaches such as the Gophers’ P.J. Fleck and the Vikings’ Mike Zimmer, he has consulted with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
“He was a great resource to me,” Saunders said. “He reached out to me in the middle of last season. We’ve spoken a number of times where he was able to kind of tell me how he wanted to change things going from the interim to getting the fulltime gig.”
Towns’ next step
At his various appearances at the fair, including the Star Tribune stage, Saunders said the next area for Towns to improve will be on the defensive end of the floor. To do that, Towns must improve his pick-and-roll defense, Saunders said.
“It’s his feel in terms of pick-and-roll coverage. Not being in no man’s land,” Saunders said. “With that, I understand the responsibility that we have as a staff and I have as a coach, we need to find what his best coverage is, and really commit to that, and for him to become very good at that coverage.”