Target Center was rocking Wednesday. Sixteen thousand fans filed into the downtown Minneapolis arena to watch the Timberwolves rout Houston in Minnesota’s season opener. The arena was lively throughout, with audible roars following the game’s biggest plays and moments.
It was an atmosphere rarely replicated in recent years, perhaps not since Derrick Rose dropped 50 points in a Minnesota uniform in October of 2018, when Jimmy Butler last walked the Target Center halls as a member of the Timberwolves.
“It was amazing,” point guard D’Angelo Russell said. “Timberwolves fans, you guys were amazing tonight. I’m looking forward to every game for them to be like that. It got us going. We were looking forward to that energy.”
There is no telling if Saturday’s atmosphere against the Pelicans will stand up to Wednesday’s. For one thing, it’s not the season opener. There is always intrigue with a fresh start of a season that brings fans out. Still, a Saturday night home contest is generally a nice draw.
Monday’s game against New Orleans? Not so much. A quick scan of the available tickets on the Timberwolves’ website suggests there are good seats still available. That’s to be expected. Minnesota has struggled year after year after year. Local fans cannot be expected to buy in right off the bat.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t, if the Timberwolves give them a reason to.
It may not seem fair for the current roster and staff to have to work to undo the damage done by those before them, but it’s the reality in professional sports. The 2017-18 season was a prime example. The Timberwolves were competitive on a nightly basis and made the playoffs. During that campaign, fans flocked to Target Center to watch the team win with guys like Butler giving a full effort on a nightly basis.
In contrast, other seasons often featured half-packed houses and a less-than-lively building. There simply hasn’t been much to cheer for.
Hustle, heart, intensity and a few more wins are all the fan base really requires. Showings such as Wednesday’s — where the Timberwolves flew around on both ends and played with a joyful energy, would help rejuvenate a hibernating fan base.
“It’s so great to see them back in the stands again, obviously, after a whole year of really not seeing them. To see the place packed and alive like that is something really, really special,” Karl-Anthony Towns said Wednesday. “I think for all us in the NBA, I think that’s something we took for granted. I think right now it’s a time for us to look back and really appreciate the fans and the support and the energy they bring.”
It’s a good bet that most fans attendance on Wednesday to witness the Anthony Edwards Show plan on coming back this season. A 3-0 start — there for the taking with the two upcoming home games against New Orleans — would certainly pique the interest of fans.
Strong play leads to excited fans, which creates a fun environment from which both spectators and players benefit. Give this fan base something to cheer for, and it will come.
“It was totally different (from last year), man. It’s like night and day. The crowd last year, it was no crowd. The crowd this year, there was no seats left,” Edwards said Wednesday. “We appreciate the fans being there. We just want to tell them to keep coming out. We’re going to give them what they want to see. They’re the reason we’re gonna win.”