MEMPHIS – While ranting following Tuesday's loss to New Orleans, center Karl-Anthony Towns lamented the fact that the Timberwolves' most recent win streak came to an end at four. Towns is tired of four-game win streaks.
"We can't get to four and act like it's cool and we're just going to be given games," Towns said. "We ain't going to be given no games in this league. Timberwolves ain't done much of anything in how long?
"We ain't getting no respect. Ain't no one giving us respect. We've got to go earn it every single night. Can't be four, can't be five, can't be six. We've got to be 10-plus."
Towns said the Wolves need to be more like Memphis, which is actually on a 10-game win streak. The Grizzlies also happen to be the Wolves' opponent Thursday night in Memphis.
"That's where I want to be," Towns said.
The Wolves would like to be Memphis in more ways than one.
The Grizzlies went from a play-in team last season to having one of the best records in the Western Conference this season (29-14) thanks in part to their current streak. The Grizzlies have a young roster with a few veterans and a star who keeps getting better in third-year guard Ja Morant. The Wolves have a similar profile in the age of the roster and have their own potential star in the making in second-year guard/forward Anthony Edwards.
But the Wolves aren't the Grizzlies. Coach Chris Finch spent time as an assistant in Denver and said he hopes the Wolves can make similar leaps to what the Nuggets did with Nikola Jokic. They went from out of the playoffs to a fringe playoff team to advancing to the Western Conference finals in a few years. The Grizzlies are on a similar trajectory.
The Wolves, despite their disappointing loss to the Pelicans, seem to be at the beginning of this arc — becoming a play-in team that is the seventh to 10th best team in the conference, even though Towns and D'Angelo Russell are among the oldest players on the two rosters.
If they want to be more than a play-in team, the Wolves can't let nights like Tuesday slip away. Even though New Orleans has played well of late (7-5 in its past 12) the Wolves were at full strength before Jaylen Nowell exited because of a sprained left ankle. They blew out New Orleans the last time they played on the road, but their focus and energy early were lacking.
Edwards took the blame himself for not coming out with the required effort.
"I've just got to be aggressive from the tip," Edwards said. "I can't come out here waiting. There's nothing to wait on. I've got to come out there and be aggressive, be assertive and be me."
When asked why he thought he came out flat, Edwards responded: "I really can't give you an answer for that. I just wasn't there first half, wasn't there at all."
The same could be said for many on the Wolves, especially on the defensive end as New Orleans had 28 fast-break points. The Wolves can't play that way and expect to beat the red-hot Grizzlies, who have split their two matchups with the Wolves.
The schedule doesn't get easier the rest of the month. Matchups at home vs. Brooklyn and Utah, and at New York, Atlanta, Portland and Phoenix await while the Wolves also face the Warriors twice, the first of those coming Sunday at Target Center.
The "trick games" on the schedule, as guard Patrick Beverley called their recent streak, are over for now. The Wolves will have a chance to earn some respect, but they'll need to play better than they did Tuesday.
The Wolves announced the hiring of Marquise Watts as chief experience officer, a new position designed to "focus on premier player experience and establishing the organization as a talent destination."
Watts, 43, is president of brand strategy for Klutch Sports Group in Los Angeles. He also has worked for Under Armour and adidas. A Milwaukee native, Watts played college basketball at Minnesota Morris.