On a warm morning in mid-August, the Timberwolves had just started their annual spring training camp.
They had a game to prepare for and a game they were going to win to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
They hadn’t had much success in their first few games, but they had gotten the most out of their new young core.
The Wolves had a roster full of stars from their most recent Super Bowl champion, the Los Angeles Rams, and a pair of new starters.
They also had a lot of veterans.
The players on this team have played a lot together for years and have developed into one of the league’s best teams.
But when you’re a team that doesn’t have a lot going for it, there’s a lot that you can learn from each other.
“We had some players that were really, really good,” says Kevin Love, the Wolves’ star center.
“They were good teammates.
They were good together.
They knew how to get it done.
I think they played together really well.
And they were a real good team.”
That combination of talent and chemistry has made the Wolves a perennial contender, and the team has won four of the past five NBA championships.
The team’s fans and players have always embraced the game of football and its rules.
But the team’s roots have always been in the sport of wool.
“There are some guys that are going to love football,” says Rick Adelman, the former Wolves coach and the current Minnesota Vikings’ executive vice president.
“But there are some people that just love wool.
That’s what makes the game great.
There’s just a big difference between those two types of people.”
That’s why it was a little surprising when Love took the helm of the Wolves in 2016.
His first year, the team went 1-15, missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
In the second season, he went 3-14, losing his first seven games.
But he had the chance to turn things around by bringing back the Wolves from the dead, which would give them a playoff spot in the first year of a new collective bargaining agreement.
That meant the team was facing a long-term financial burden that had kept it from winning a title for a while.
So, Love turned to a new strategy.
The idea was to put together a new roster of players that could win games, which meant re-signing the veterans that had been on the roster for so long and adding some younger talent.
The plan was to add a younger core to the roster.
The result: the Wolves were going for a title and now have a core of star players who are just entering their 30s.
In other words, the Minnesota Vikings have a pretty young core that is still developing.
The Timberwolves, who are in the final year of their current collective bargaining contract, are expected to pay $15.6 million for the 2018-19 season, the last year of the deal.
And if they do, the franchise will have to pay a whopping $23.5 million.
“I think we’ve done a good job of rebuilding,” says Adelman.
“If you look at our payroll, it’s probably about $15 million to $15-plus million more than what we had last year.
And the salary cap is just going to keep rising.
That makes us really, truly in need of more young players.
We have the opportunity to add players that have played for this organization.
We just need to get the right one in.”
Love, who led the Wolves to their first championship in 2008 and has won six NBA championships, had some ideas about how to improve the team, including re-working the offense.
But his strategy would ultimately cost him his job.
“It’s the most difficult thing in the world to be able to keep a team together,” he says.
“The only way you can keep a winning team is to be the best.”
The Vikings’ owner, Zygi Wilf, said that he was disappointed with the way Love had run the team.
“You can tell from the way the season went that I thought that he wasn’t doing the right things on the offensive side of the ball,” Wilf said.
“And that was a big part of it.
But I don’t think it’s a decision we’ve made lightly.”
But it wasn’t all bad news for Love.
The Vikings made the playoffs in 2018 and finished second in the NFC.
And in 2019, the Vikings finished first in the AFC North and advanced to the playoffs with the help of a surprising win over the Indianapolis Colts.
“This was a great team,” Love says.
He was also a great coach.
“As long as I have a chance to coach, I will always take the time to coach.”