Unselfish play is working for Wolves, but there’s still room to improve

PHILADELPHIA – Before the season began, the Timberwolves talked a lot about their need to sacrifice.

Guard D'Angelo Russell said the Wolves needed to adopt that mentality coming into the year.

Rudy Gobert said the Wolves "won't have a choice" but to set aside some of their personal goals and statistics to win.

The Wolves sit at 8-8 through their first 16 games after winning three in a row. Sacrificing to win sounds easy enough, but just how good have the Wolves been at practicing it? There is room for improvement.

"We could give a little more of ourselves to each other, 100 percent," forward Taurean Prince said after Saturday's victory at Philadelphia. "I'll be the first to say that to anybody in the locker room. Just continuing to keep winning at all times is most important for everybody."

Several players have cited Prince as one of the authoritative voices on the team, someone who helps teammates hold one another accountable. His words have weight.

The dynamics are a bit different for those who start and those on the bench. The starting lineup has Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Russell who are capable of taking over a game with their playmaking and shotmaking. There's Gobert, who has shown throughout his career he can do more than just get putbacks, while Jaden McDaniels makes his sacrifice by being the player among the starting five with the lowest usage rate (meaning he takes the fewest shots, free throws and commits the fewest turnovers compared with others).

There's only one ball for everyone to get their shots and points, and the players are learning that some nights might not be theirs.

"I think we're super talented, but it's hard for everybody to have the night they want to have on the same night as everybody else," Edwards said.

Edwards said winning makes relinquishing shots and points a lot easier to handle.

"I be cool, man. I don't be trippin'," Edwards said. "As long as we win, I don't care whose night it is, as long as we win. If we lose, and it ain't my night, that's when I'm mad."

That cuts at the heart of the matter. It's harder for players to complain when things are working and the team is winning. That can appear selfish. But when losses pile up, players might think they can help unlock things if they just get the ball more.

"It's not always easy," Gobert said. "Everyone feels like they can give more, they can prove more, do more, but it's part of the luxury and sacrifices of people trying to accomplish something, trying to win something."

The Wolves also have multiple players on their bench, like Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell and Prince who are either in contract years or could be in contract years pending the pickup of options.

"That's not an excuse really," Prince said. "It's all about playing good basketball, putting each other in the best positions to succeed."

Added Gobert: "It's not always easy when you're on the bench or you're not feeling like you're getting the opportunities you should get. The only thing you can do is work harder and just contribute whether you're on the bench, on the court. Be a great person. Be a great teammate. Lift somebody else up and when we win, everybody wins."