Minnesota Timberwolves: Are cold winters to blame for free agency struggles?

Is cold weather the major factor in free agents not signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves? Or is it (gasp!) the fact that the team hasn’t been able to build a winner?

Fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves have heard it since the franchise began play in 1989,
the top free agents won’t sign with Minnesota because of the cold, brutal, and frigid winters.

For confirmation, look no further than some of our brethren at a fellow FanSided site.

Cai Owen of Sir Charles In Charge wrote:

“Acquiring star talent is difficult at the best of times – being in a small market, cold-weather city adds layers of difficulty to an equation already problematic. Those aforementioned factors virtually take free agency off the table – and the proof is in the pudding. The best player to join the Timberwolves via free agency in the last 20 or so years is…Joe Smith? A fine player, yes. The franchise’s greatest ever free agency snag?”

That analysis, of course, overlooks marginally-better and likely overpays such as Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson during former boss Tom Thibodeau’s 2018 spending spree.

It didn’t help when David Kahn, former Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations and arguably the worst Wolves boss in franchise history, said in an article he wrote for SI.com, 

“Immediately after my hire, I was spending nearly every weekday morning in the team’s conference room, listening to team business partners and season-ticket holders lament over coffee and pastries. ‘You’ll never attract free agents here,’ they said, practically in unison. ‘Players don’t want to play in cold-weather places.’ Doomsday all around.”

It’s no wonder free agents don’t want to play here. That is what the front office thought back in 2009 and it wasn’t what one might consider a positive attitude.

That was under Kahn’s watch and does not reflect the current attitude that is being set by new President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas.

Stephon Marbury played for the team from 1996 to 1999. Marbury and Kevin Garnett had the team on the rise before he demanded a trade. Many people speculated that Marbury wanted to be the main star and not be number two behind Garnett.

Here’s what Marbury revealed in an interview for Scoop B Radio Podcast.

“I’m not saying that I couldn’t have stayed there and played there. But with the snow, how cold it was…you’ll wake up and on some days you’ll go outside and if you don’t have this-and-this, you could die. I’m like, ‘I don’t want to die from this – I know I’m going to die one day, but I don’t wanna die from going outside to my car.’ It was just a different way of living and I wasn’t really down with it…going ice fishing and all of that. It really wasn’t something I was down for.”

Minnesota winters are cold. I was born and raised in Minnesota and the cold is the reason I moved to Texas in the 90’s, but … there are 30 teams that play in the National Basketball Association and an argument can be made that 12 of the teams — a whopping 43 percent — play in cities that are considered to be cold in the winter.

Let’s call those cities Minnesota, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto. Not included in the list is Utah, but Salt Lake City is certainly snowy in the winter, so include the Jazz if you’d like.

Looking at the list of cold-weather cities, it doesn’t make sense why Minnesota is singled out? For example, Chicago aka The Windy City, in the winter is downright FREEZING! Milwaukee is 92 miles north of Chicago and both cities have winds that blow in off Lake Michigan that adds serious wind chill to the already freezing temperatures. Across Lake Michigan is Detroit… not exactly balmy by any means. Yet no one seems to talk about those cities when it comes to why free agents don’t want to play in the cold.

Some may say that Minneapolis pales in comparison to Chicago in nightlife, but cold weather makes no difference when it comes to that. Cold is cold, regardless of where it is. NBA writers say Minnesota is considered to be a small market and when combined with the cold winters, those are the good reasons players don’t want to sign with the Timberwolves. People of Minnesota have heard it before but, it is not warranted.

Minneapolis has a lot to offer NBA players. The team plays in the recently updated Target Center and holds practices at Mayo Clinic Square, which both are considered to be among the best in the NBA. Downtown Minneapolis has a nightlife that can hold its own when compared to many other NBA cities and has a clear advantage over cities including Sacramento, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee.

Not a single NBA game is played outdoors. While it might be 10 degrees outside, it is always something like 70 degrees inside the arena. If a player doesn’t want to be outside in the cold for long, Minneapolis has an incredible skyway system that connects most of the buildings located downtown and the Target Center. The parking garage at Target Center is the only cold place they would have to walk from their cars to go inside.

So, are there NBA writers biased against the Timberwolves? Or is it more likely that it is the people involved with the team like the owner, Glen Taylor, or Kahn and Marbury that are to blame when they have brought negative attention to the team and the cold winters are used as the scapegoat?

Fans of the Timberwolves understand that losing has a way of casting a negative light on a team and the Timberwolves are no strangers to losing seasons. Granted, the team hasn’t exactly produced much to cheer about over the years and having the label as cold is making it harder to attract top free agents to Minnesota.

Next: Grading Jake Layman's 2019-20 season

There is a cure for the cold weather: winning. If Gersson Rosas builds it (a winner), they (top free agents) will come.