Chris Finch has called his time to date as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ head coach a period of “intense evaluation.”
He took over a team with a horrific record with five games remaining prior to the all-star break. Anyone in that spot is probably thinking, “Let’s just get to the break and go from there.” To some extent, that’s likely true for Finch, as well.
He wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s treated this stretch of games — in which the Timberwolves are currently 0-4 — as “exhibitions,” as the Wolves were indeed trying to win them.
“We did things within the game to make sure we were trying to win,” Finch said. “That’s only fair to everything that’s going on here, players most importantly.”
But Finch hasn’t been shy about trying different rotations and lineup combinations. In Sunday’s loss to Phoenix, Jaden McDaniels played just eight minutes while Jake Layman played 30 after McDaniels had previously been a big part of a rotation that Layman wasn’t even in.
“We’re just trying some other things. I think one thing we need out there is a little bit more ball skill sometimes, somebody that can put the ball on the deck or maybe a little more experience with Jake,” Finch said at the time. “I thought he was good (Sunday) for us. We’re trying to go a different direction. Now we’re 0-4, so we’re not married to anything. It wouldn’t make sense.”
Even in Tuesday’s practice — ahead of Wednesday’s first-half finale against Charlotte — Finch said he “jumbled up” the lineups to try to make things more competitive and see who developed a connection on the floor.
“No preconceived notions on anything,” he said.
To Finch’s credit, that’s the approach a new coach should take when evaluating a team that has struggled so mightily for years. He is cognizant that the last week-plus has been a bit of a whirlwind for his players, as it’s been for him. It wasn’t the best time to have a couple back to backs. The players’ day away from the facility Monday was valuable.
“You gotta remember a lot of these guys that are young have not experienced these types of things in the NBA yet. I do believe there was a little bit of shock value going on,” Finch said. “Now we just gotta hope it settles down a little bit.”
Now is the time to lock in. The Wolves have uninstalled a few offensive concepts over the last week, but haven’t had time to replace them with anything new. Finch said some of the things the Wolves covered in practice Tuesday was going to serve as the foundation for what the team does upon its return from the all-star break next week.
“We have three days to practice in our first five days back together. It’s two days, and then a game and then another practice day, so that’s going to be invaluable coming out of the break,” Finch said. “Coming out of the break, I have a pretty good feel for where we’re going to get to in our rotations, what our offensive system is going to look like. What our defensive system is going to look like. I’m pretty confident that our identity will start to form there.”