Was it wise for Timberwolves to sit stars in preseason?

Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports /

After the Minnesota Timberwolves finally rounded up their starting five in the last preseason game to face the Brooklyn Nets, the anticipation of fans finally getting a chance to watch the team’s top stars on the same basketball court in TImberwolves jerseys was quite the build-up for the home crowd at Target Center.

But if there were expectations of polished play, dominating defense, and unstoppable offense, those expectations quickly disappeared as the Brooklyn Nets raced out to an early seven-point lead immediately following the tip-off. After two quarters of play, the Timberwolves had fallen behind by 16 points. And so, if you asked yourself why the team was unable to suit up their starting five before that game, you have solid ground from which to do so.

The theory behind not playing starters is simple: No injuries. Regardless of the pace or meaning of competition on the basketball court, professional athletes will compete.  That competition will lead to injuries that may or may not impact players early or over the course of the 82+ game NBA season.

And if that was the only factor in the decision, it was likely not the correct one.

Timberwolves tried to walk a tight-wire

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Timberwolves were in a more complicated situation than just trying to keep players healthy. Due to significant off-season play with Team France, Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert has been nursing a sore knee. And due to an off-season illness that triggered significant weight loss in power forward Karl-Anthony Towns, he has been underweight, and underpowered, and his stamina has taken a significant hit as well.

In these circumstances, Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch decided to hold off getting all five starters on the basketball court until the fifth and final preseason game. Then, the team opted to maximize their play to ensure plenty of video footage to digest and diagnose in practice before the season opens Wednesday, October 19.

If you witnessed the first half of the Nets game, you know that the Timberwolves have their work cut out for them. Not only was the offense lethargic and uninspired, but the Timberwolves seemed to abandon perimeter defense in the early going, choosing instead to bunch up on or near the paint in what can only be described as a black-and-white cinema comedy of the Keystone Kops or the Three Stooges.

If the goal was to get footage of correctable errors, the Minnesota Timberwolves hit the mother lode. But if the goal is to fix all of the flaws on display by the team in the final preseason game, I’m concerned that there simply isn’t enough time to do so.

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