'We've got a special group': 6 a.m. workout is example of Timberwolves' changing team culture
At 6 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26, a slew of Timberwolves players poured into a San Francisco gym.
Six hours earlier, the team had just arrived at its hotel following a defeat at the hands of Golden State—Minnesota's second loss in as many nights at the end of a six-day road trip.
But this early-morning workout had nothing to do with the previous night's result or the Wolves' losing streak. It wasn't some Tom Thibodeau method of torture. The players on hand were there by choice and were there for a reason.
The plan was to get Jimmy Butler a workout in Friday before his return to action Saturday night, Jan. 27, against Brooklyn after missing four games with a sore knee. The early morning, before taking off on a return flight home, was the best time to do it.
The hope was to get a few players to come in to help Butler get in a real workout. Instead, most of the roster showed up.
"That's what a team's about," Jamal Crawford said. "If you care for a person off the court, you'll run through a wall for him on the court. Obviously, we knew he had to get some work in to get back, and we showed up."
But showing up to an early-morning workout on the heels of a back-to-back just to help a guy work his way back into action doesn't seem like a commonality.
"It's very rare," Crawford confirmed, "but I think we've got a special group."
"We understand," Taj Gibson said, "that we have to put a lot of work in, we understand that, to get where we want to go, we have to keep striving and keep working every day, even on days off. But the thing about it is we've got a great group of guys, guys who understand the importance of getting their work done, guys who have an understanding that we have an ability to do something special, we've just got to keep building, keep working."
It was just another example of what seems to be a cultural shift in the Timberwolves' locker room, the type of change that's made while transitioning from losers to winners.
In the first half of Saturday's win over the Nets, Thibodeau noted that when Crawford had it going offensively, his teammates started to look for him in the flow of the offense.
In the fourth quarter, Thibodeau called for Jeff Teague to re-enter the game. But Teague, who was struggling with a sore ankle, told Thibodeau to stick with Tyus Jones, who scored 11 points in the quarter to help the Wolves put Brooklyn away.
"That's the thing, you're seeing a lot of guys now sacrifice for the team and put the team first," Thibodeau said. "In order to win, that's what you have to do. ... Everyone is putting the team first, and that's important."
Tyus Jones said players are pushing one another and doing extra work to make one another better. Crawford said the Wolves are "all about winning" and doing whatever it takes to do so.
"When you have maturity like that, it lifts the whole group," he said. "It's definitely fun."
Gibson said he loves the Wolves' camaraderie, "especially on the court."
"We're just believing in each other, and understanding that we've got guys who really want to be here and really want to do that work," Gibson said. "We're changing the culture."