MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor stood at the podium and used the words "gold standard" and "radical departure from the norm" to describe the team's glimmering new practice facility, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver nodded his head in agreement.
For once, it appears, the long-suffering Timberwolves are actually at the forefront of something positive in the NBA.
The team held a grand opening ceremony for The Courts at Mayo Clinic Square, a $25 million joint venture between the franchise and the renowned medical provider that all involved hope will help end more than a decade of futility.
"We think there's a beautiful future in front of us," Taylor said. "But it's a very competitive environment and we've got to try to stay up with it. Even though we're called a small market, we've got to be out there showing our best face to players to attract them and to keep them. And in this particular case, to help them get over injuries and perform on the court."
For years, the Timberwolves shared a single practice court located in a fitness center in the basement of the team's arena. There was a small weight room, only basic medical and training amenities and a court that had to be shared with the WNBA's Lynx and others, meaning players often couldn't get over to work out because of scheduling conflicts.
Now the Wolves and Lynx share a 107,000-square-foot space with two courts, state-of-the-art training equipment and a sports medicine center complete with physicians and equipment to diagnose and treat injuries. And unlike many practice spots across the NBA that are located out in the suburbs, Mayo Clinic Square is right in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, just across the street from Target Center.
"In some ways it's a bit of an arms race," said Silver, who came from Cleveland where the Golden State Warriors won the championship on Tuesday night. "But I think what our franchises are seeing is that in this day and age it's absolutely necessary to have a state-of-the-art arena together with a state-of-the-art practice facility. I think here what we saw in this season and the playoffs especially, there's no question that injuries had a big impact on the competition."
WNBA President Laurel Richie commended the Wolves for providing equal facilities and resources for the Lynx.
The Timberwolves have had terrible luck with injuries for the past four years. Last year, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad and Kevin Garnett all missed extended time as the Wolves limped to a league-worst 16-66 record and missed the playoffs for the 11th straight year.
Now they have Andrew Wiggins coming off a stellar rookie of the year season, the No. 1 pick in next week's NBA draft and this brand new facility, which is also home to the team's business and marketing departments and was built entirely with private funds. That led to some cautious optimism from Taylor that the team is getting ready to turn a corner.
"I feel momentum and I think that we're doing all the right things," Taylor said. "I'm just sorry to say luck will have to play a part of that and health will play a part of that. We're trying to address the health issue as best we can by having people close to us and maybe keep the players here in the summer. ... I see momentum going our direction and I just got to hope health will stay there."
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