Timberwolves have found their inspiration
MINNEAPOLIS — A number of factors have gone into the Timberwolves’ turnaround. Better defense, improved rebounding, efficient offense and bench contributions have all played roles.
You can thank Robert Covington for most of it. The newly acquired All-NBA defensive wing is setting quite an example.
“I just bring that level of confidence, level of humility to the team, and just allow guys to go out and play a lot more freely,” Covington said. “Guys are watching me a lot, watching the little things I do on the court. Whether it’s hustle plays, guarding your man, stuff like that is contagious.”
It’s what Minnesota has lacked for so long. The Wolves would do it some games, but not others. Not so anymore, not with Covington and Dario Saric on the floor. They’re bringing the lessons they learned in Philadelphia and imparting them on their teammates.
“We just believe in what we been doing and we’re bringing the same mind-set here,” Covington said. “You see it’s contagious, and guys are really picking on to it. It’s amazing to have the effect that we have thus far.”
Covington’s impact isn’t limited to his play. Three weeks in, he has been vocal in getting his teammates to play and prepare the way he expects them to. He has made a point to keep Karl-Anthony Towns engaged on defense “because that’s going to allow him to take his game to another level.”
“He understands what he wants and how he wants to get it done,” Towns said. “He’s out there just really trying to do his job as best as possible. When you see someone like him working that hard, … it’s contagious. The energy is contagious, and you just want to make sure you never let him down.”
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau noted a lot of players talk but don’t back up their words with action — not the case with Covington.
“He’s one of those guys who has a lot of energy to him, and I think Taj (Gibson) has that with the starters,” Thibodeau said. “They bring energy to people. They bounce into the gym. It doesn’t matter, it could be practice, could be a game, back to back (games), it doesn’t matter. They have great energy all the time.”
Tyus Jones said Covington is “always talking to guys” and isn’t afraid to pull people aside to say something. Even in Philadelphia, Covington said he was “the vocalist.” But there’s a way to deliver messages effectively to certain people. Jimmy Butler wasn’t able to always do so during his time in Minnesota.
Covington said he’s “very approachable” and has made a point to deliver praise to Wolves big men such as Towns and Gorgui Dieng when they’ve played well on defense.
“I talk to guys in a way that I know how the game is going to know how to read (it) with the emotions flying and everything,” Covington said. “That’s just part of my character. I always want guys to succeed in the most positive way, so I pick the right moments and that’s when I approach guys. I wouldn’t ever want to sit up here and rub people the wrong way, because not a lot of people typically react the right way.”
In Philadelphia, Covington said he was “the guy that really kept everyone together.”
“I feel like I can do the same thing here, and that’s what I’ve done thus far,” Covington said. “My teammates are building trust in me, and, I’m building trust in them.”