‘I’m here not to mess it up’: Recalling Connelly’s first words with Wolves

At his introductory news conference in late May, after an aggressive pursuit that led him to leave an established Western Conference franchise to join the Timberwolves, new Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was asked to make an opening statement after members of the Wolves ownership group had done the same.

Among the first things Connelly said about his new role with the Wolves was this:

"As those conversations developed and took on more substance, you realize this place has an unbelievably special core. I'm here not to mess it up. This team is (headed in) the right direction."

Fairly or unfairly, my mind has drifted back to that quote a few times this season, one that can most politely be termed "uneven" even as the the Wolves sit with a nearly even 22-23 record one year after they won 46 games and played a tight playoff series against Memphis.

The confluence of events Monday afternoon at Target Center rocketed that statement back to the front of my brain.

In that game, as Chris Hine wrote about and I talked about on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast, the outcome and process were as bad as they could be.

Not only did the Wolves suffer a one-point loss to Utah after holding a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but also the massive trade engineered by Connelly soon after he took the job continued to look even worse (if that's possible).

To recap the trade: Connelly dealt first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, along with the Wolves' 2022 first round pick (Walker Kessler) and 2022 core players Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt (plus Leandro Bolmaro).

Those of us who gushed about it being eight dimes for a dollar (me) feel at least a little silly.

To recap the game: Gobert, who has been OK this season but is showing some signs of defensive slippage already, had to leave early with a groin issue. Kessler took advantage, getting 20 points and 21 rebounds against the team that had him briefly for a few days. (Beasley and Vanderbilt had some key moments as well).

It's, um, far from ideal to be wondering — even if a small sample is tainting our vision — if the Wolves would rather have Kessler or Gobert right now, given the magnitude of the overall trade.

We haven't seen enough, particularly with Karl-Anthony Towns having missed more than half of the season-to-date, to declare this trade a bust.

But we've seen too much to ignore this reality: If Connelly's one job was to not mess things up, it doesn't look good so far.