Imagine the challenges of being traded to a new team, speaking English as your second language, and that at least one of your new teammates makes your role on your new NBA basketball team. That is the scenario that is coming to light now that the Minnesota Timberwolves have traded away PG D’Angelo Russell.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were not a team that had plenty of time to build trust, create friendships, and generate chemistry. On the contrary, the Timberwolves found themselves scrambling to play cohesive basketball because the starting lineup did not have a chance to even step onto the same basketball court together until the final preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets.
That placed a lot of pressure on this team to get it right. Some players flourish under such pressure, while other players do not.
D’Angelo Russell disappoints
DLo did not make Rudy Gobert feel welcome. In fact, if the rumors are true, DLo went out of his way to make Gobert feel unwelcome.
Clearly, the Minnesota Timberwolves did not have a point guard who handled that type of pressure well. The
"“Rudy knew that D’Angelo Russell was not in his corner. Rudy’s a sensitive guy, he’s a perceptive guy, so I don’t think any of that was lost on him. Conley, not only do they hve the synergy from playing together, but he’s more of a Rudy guy. Conley is a high IQ, make the right play, be in the right spot kind of player, not a home run swinger like D’Angelo Russell is. I think Rudy is over the moon that his guy is back, that he’s gonna get the ball where he wants it and he can trust Mike Conley. I think that’s a big thing for Rudy Gobert.” – per The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski as discussed on the Dan Barreiro’s radio show on KFAN in the Twin Cities"
The story was not just featured on Dan Barreiro’s radio show but was reported by CBS Sports Jack Maloney. And the more I learn about the situation, the more cringe-worthy this story becomes.
The Timberwolves knew that the roster was like a blind date. The front office did their homework and the compatibility was expected to happen because this is the NBA and the locker room chemistry is something that everyone knows impacts the performance of the team.
And yet, that is not what happened. You can check it out for yourself. We’ve embedded the podcast starting at the 14:00 mark:
That puts a new light on the situation.
PG D’Angelo Russell had to go
Whether intended or not, veteran PG D’Angelo Russell’s role as the team’s point guard is to get players involved, learn what works and doesn’t work for everyone on the basketball court, and then deliver to each player to the best of his ability. And yet, that was certainly not the reception that DLo gave to Gobert.
The Timberwolves projected that Rudy Gobert would actually help amplify Russell’s game. Instead, the story that has since surfaced paints a picture that is at least an uncomfortable work environment for Rudy Gobert.
I’m not convinced that the Minnesota Timberwolves really had a choice. If D’Angelo Russell was working against the team, then there was really no choice, right? The Timberwolves, right or wrong, had committed to a long-term relationship with Rudy Gobert. D’Angelo Russell was in the last year of his contract, and the team was debating how best to commit their limited future dollars.
I don’t ‘hate’ on D’Angelo Russell. I simply get it. The Timberwolves needed to calm the choppy waters on the roster, and ensure that everyone who is a key foundation block has every chance to succeed. With Mike Conley at point guard, the Minnesota Timberwolves believe that is in place. I, for one, believe them.