Jace Frederick: It’s Not Timberwolves Coach Chris Finch’s Business to Ready NBA Players – InForum

ST. PAUL — After another uncompetitive loss that pushed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ rollercoaster season back below .500, coach Chris Finch was asked about the inconsistency that has plagued this team in 27 games.

The Timberwolves (13-14) seemed to be finding their way with their twin tower lineup of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, winning five straight games against a relatively exhausted squad. But that was followed by a three-game slip, with two of those losses being blowouts.

Then the Towns-less Timberwolves won three of their first four games and everything appeared to be fixed, only to then lose back-to-back games in Portland, the latest of which was a 133-112 blowout loss on Monday, which saw Minnesota by the Blazers was blitzed from three-point shooting.

Throughout the season – wins and losses – Wolves’ biggest problems like turnovers, defensive intensity and lack of rebounds keep coming back after they think they’ve solved those problems. The Timberwolves team that shows up one night will likely be gone the next.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant, left, guards Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell Monday, December 12, 2022, in Portland, Oregon. The Trail Blazers won the game 133-112.

Troy Wayrynen/USA Today Sports

“That’s indicative of a team that’s 13-14. You’re quite inconsistent by nature,” Finch said. “At this point, I don’t know if there’s a magic button I need to press.”

Finch believes it all starts with the team’s sharpness early in the game. That was the biggest indicator of Minnesota’s success. He’s been saying that all season. Generally, if Wolves win the first quarter, they win the game. This sharpness was not there on Monday. The defensive rotations were not good. Offensively, Minnesota missed layups and free throws.

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“It looked like it was ready to play,” he said of Monday’s main issue. “When you miss so many free throws and layups, does it really matter if you were really ready to play?”

Too many times this season, for this team, the answer to that question has been no. Many viewers will hear and see this quote and wonder if it is the coach’s job to get his players ready to play. But that is disputed by many in the industry. For example, legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the willingness rests with the players.

Jace mug (1).jpg

Jace Frederick

“I don’t remember playing tonight. No speeches from Knute Rockne. It’s your job,” Popovich said after a 2016 loss. “If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get a job. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. A doctor botches operations and he is no longer a doctor. If you are a basketball player, you are ready. That’s called maturity. It’s your job.”

More recently — about a year ago — then-Kings center Tristan Thompson told reporters that he’s never needed a coach to inspire him.

“The day I need a coach to inspire me is the day I … retire,” Thompson said.

The Timberwolves were ready to play consistently last season, the main reason they won 46 games. But in the first third of this season, it’s looking more and more like that readiness can be attributed more to the efforts of Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt than anyone else remaining in the current roster. These two were starters who kept the team shooting out of the gates every night.

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The impact of their absence from this year’s lineup hasn’t been properly accounted for. Relying on youngsters like Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels to fill a similar role has so far proved unsuccessful. Great rosters don’t necessarily need a player to light the match. They’re full of professionals willing to work on every game, or at least close to it.

But this team is proving so far that they don’t belong in that category. So it will probably need at least one player to step in and provide inspiration.

And if that responsibility somehow gets into the hands of an NBA head coach, then Wolves are in trouble.

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