This isnâ€™t last yearâ€™s Minnesota Timberwolves.
Thatâ€™s obvious looking at the roster full of new faces.
But this yearâ€™s version of the Wolves doesnâ€™t play like last yearâ€™s team, either.
That was apparent in Sunday nightâ€™s 114-109 preseason victory against Milwaukee in front of more than 5,000 fans in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Minnesota showed potential to the faithful, but perhaps the most impressive was Kevin Loveâ€™s 32 points and 13 rebounds.
â€œI just had a good rhythm going out there from the start,â€ said Love, who was 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. â€œComing into the second half and in the third quarter, I was letting the game come to me. I wasnâ€™t forcing anything and I wasnâ€™t begging for the ball. In the fourth quarter, things just clicked for me. We showed our youth a little bit down the stretch with them coming back a couple times, but we also showed that in these situations, we can win.â€
A season ago, the Wolves couldnâ€™t win close games like Sundayâ€™s.
Or any other, for that matter, as Minnesota finished a dismal 15-67.
During the offseason, Minnesota general manager David Kahn rebuilt the Wolves, finding players to the suiting of second-year head coach Kurt Rambis.
â€œI look at it like this is coachâ€™s first year,â€ Love said. â€œHe got to kind of hand pick and select the players he wanted on this team. Weâ€™re really happy with the way things are going. Heâ€™s a players coach and heâ€™s fun to be around. But when itâ€™s time to get down to business, heâ€™s really working.â€
Corey Brewer, who was drafted in 2007, is the longest tenured member on Minnesotaâ€™s youthful roster.
â€œWe can make (our youth) work in our favor,â€ said Minnesotaâ€™s Wayne Ellington, who scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting on Sunday. â€œWith us having young guys, of course we lack some experience, but at the same time, weâ€™re going to be able to get up and down the floor and do some things some veteran teams canâ€™t do. I think it will balance out for us.â€
Twelve of Minnesotaâ€™s players were acquired in 2010, adding both inside players like Darko Milicic, and athletes, like Michael Beasley.
â€œPreseason is about getting to know each other,â€ said Minnesotaâ€™s Luke Ridnour, who signed as a free agent in the offseason. â€œYouâ€™re going to have some mistakes at times, but itâ€™s just figuring out a way to get better and get to know each other more.â€
Ridnour started at guard on Sunday and scored 10 points and had seven assists as the â€œold guyâ€ on the team.
â€œItâ€™s been fun,â€ said Ridnour, who spent the last two seasons with the Bucks. â€œWe have a young team, so just to be that older guy on the team and try to help run things has been a lot of fun. I think our team has a lot of talent. I understand itâ€™s preseason and we have a lot way to go, but weâ€™re excited with the way weâ€™re headed.â€
Ridnour has been in the league seven years, which makes him the elder on the team.
â€œOur oldest guy on the team is Luke Ridnour and heâ€™s 29 years old,â€ Love said. â€œWe donâ€™t want to use that as an excuse or a disadvantage or anything. We want to use it as an advantage and keep working hard and grow together. We know weâ€™re going to have some mistakes, especially right now in the preseason. But if we can grind out â€˜Wsâ€™ in the regular season and give the peopleÂ around the NBA, and more importantly, the people in Minnesota something to be happy about, then weâ€™ll be happy in the end.â€
With Al Jefferson traded during the offseason, Minnesota needs a go-to player and a leader.
If Love keeps playing like he did Sunday, that search is over.
â€œI definitely want to be the leader, I definitely would love this to be my team,â€ Love said. â€œBut thatâ€™s earned, thatâ€™s not just given. I just want to keep working as hard as I can and keep listening to the coaching staff and keep getting to know my teammates. We have a good group of guys and weâ€™re very young.â€
The Wolves open their regular season at home against Sacramento on Wednesday.
â€œI think itâ€™s important for our team mentally just to get used to winning games and get that atmosphere of winning,â€ Ridnour said. â€œFor us, weâ€™re just going to try to keep getting better and try to carry it over to the regular season.â€