Mon 6 Feb 2012
After going 32-132 the past two seasons, the Timberwolves find themselves at 12-12 this year and on the fringe of the playoff race. By recent Minnesota standards, that qualifies as red hot.
Third year guard Wayne Ellington has known nothing but losing since he was taken 28th overall by the Wolves back in 2009. Despite receiving erratic minutes, he’s been solid when given an opportunity and is reveling in the team’s newfound success.
The former North Carolina Tar Heel star and I hooked up for a quick chat after today’s practice at Target Center.
DZ: First off, some hard hitting stuff: did you watch the Super Bowl yesterday?
ELLINGTON: Oh yeah, definitely man, definitely.
DZ: Who were you going for?
ELLINGTON: I was rooting for the Giants. I am a Philly guy and it’s tough to root for the Giants when you are from Philly, but I got two guys I know on the Giants, so I was in favor of them.
DZ: You guys are .500 now, for the first time in awhile - at least since you’ve been here anyway - how good does that feel, what did it mean for the team?
ELLINGTON: It’s a great feeling, man. It’s a great feeling especially when you compare it to the last two seasons. It’s unbelievable to see the city behind us, the fans are coming out, everybody is supporting us. It’s a lot of fun right now.
DZ: When you’ve lost as much as you have the last two years - especially being your first two years in the league - is it hard not to get numb to that?
ELLINGTON: During those seasons, after you lose 50 games, it’s kinda hard not to get - it still hurts some, but not as much. Now we are back to that winning feeling. Once you get a taste of that winning, you don’t ever want to go back. Hopefully we’ll never have to feel that losing feeling again.
DZ: When did you first notice that things might be different this year?
ELLINGTON: Training camp, we all did. The energy not only during training camp, but in the locker room - all around. The vibe that everyone had from each other kinda just (gave us) the feeling that we had a chance to be pretty good this year.
DZ: From a personal perspective, your minutes have been up and down a little, how do you deal with that kind of challenge?
ELLINGTON: It’s just being a professional. It’s tough, it’s really, really tough especially when you feel like you are playing pretty good. It’s just a matter of that we have so many guys playing the same position. It’s just one of those things where you have to continue to stay confident and keep working hard and make sure you have yourself ready physically and mentally.
DZ: You changed your number (from 19) to 22 - your college number - that’s obviously why you did it.
ELLINGTON: Yeah, when I first got here, Corey Brewer had it, so I couldn’t get it. I finally got a chance to get it (this year).
DZ: Is there any kind of approval you have to get to do that - from the league or anything?
ELLINGTON: Yeah, you have to go through the league, but it wasn’t any problem for me.
DZ: Going back a little bit, what did you do during the lockout to stay ready?
ELLINGTON: Just stayed in the gym. I did a lot of weight lifting actually, a lot of cardio work and tried to play pick-up games - just making sure I am getting up and down and working on my game and staying in playing shape.
DZ: How stressful was that time?
ELLINGTON: It was tough man, it was tough. But since I got into the league, they’ve been warning us about it - telling us about it - and guys didn’t really believe it until it happened. It was a tough situation, it is something we are very happy and fortunate that we got it solved and it’s over with.
DZ: One last thing, do you think this team can make the playoffs this year?
ELLINGTON: I think so, I think so - for sure. We are still very new to each other. Right now we are .500 and I feel like we are only going to get better and better as the season goes on. We definitely have a chance.
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