Timberwolves impress in Sioux Falls exhibition

This isn’t last year’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

That’s obvious looking at the roster full of new faces.

But this year’s version of the Wolves doesn’t play like last year’s team, either.

That was apparent in Sunday night’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 Love’s 32 points and 13 rebounds.

“I just had a good rhythm going out there from the start,” said Love, who was 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. “Coming into the second half and in the third quarter, I was letting the game come to me. I wasn’t forcing anything and I wasn’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.”

A season ago, the Wolves couldn’t win close games like Sunday’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.

“I look at it like this is coach’s first year,” Love said. “He got to kind of hand pick and select the players he wanted on this team. We’re really happy with the way things are going. He’s a players coach and he’s fun to be around. But when it’s time to get down to business, he’s really working.”

Corey Brewer, who was drafted in 2007, is the longest tenured member on Minnesota’s youthful roster.
“We can make (our youth) work in our favor,” said Minnesota’s Wayne Ellington, who scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting on Sunday. “With us having young guys, of course we lack some experience, but at the same time, we’re going to be able to get up and down the floor and do some things some veteran teams can’t do. I think it will balance out for us.”

Twelve of Minnesota’s players were acquired in 2010, adding both inside players like Darko Milicic, and athletes, like Michael Beasley.

“Preseason is about getting to know each other,” said Minnesota’s Luke Ridnour, who signed as a free agent in the offseason. “You’re going to have some mistakes at times, but it’s just figuring out a way to get better and get to know each other more.”

Ridnour started at guard on Sunday and scored 10 points and had seven assists as the “old guy” on the team.

“It’s been fun,” said Ridnour, who spent the last two seasons with the Bucks. “We 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 it’s preseason and we have a lot way to go, but we’re excited with the way we’re headed.”

Ridnour has been in the league seven years, which makes him the elder on the team.

“Our oldest guy on the team is Luke Ridnour and he’s 29 years old,” Love said. “We don’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 we’re going to have some mistakes, especially right now in the preseason. But if we can grind out ‘Ws’ in the regular season and give the people  around the NBA, and more importantly, the people in Minnesota something to be happy about, then we’ll be happy in the end.”

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.

“I definitely want to be the leader, I definitely would love this to be my team,” Love said. “But that’s earned, that’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 we’re very young.”

The Wolves open their regular season at home against Sacramento on Wednesday.

“I think it’s important for our team mentally just to get used to winning games and get that atmosphere of winning,” Ridnour said. “For us, we’re just going to try to keep getting better and try to carry it over to the regular season.”