Learning a new offense can be tricky. Learning the Triangle? Even trickier.
by Jonathan Santiago / @ITSjonsantiago
In the last 20 years, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls have been the only teams synonymous with the Triangle Offense.
In this new decade, the Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to be the third.
Trying being the keyword.
With just about a month left to go in the NBA season, the Timberwolves stand at 14-53. Yes, that’s good enough for last place in the Western Conference. Their struggles with the Triangle were evident Sunday night in a loss visiting the Sacramento Kings.
“They need to slow down,” a Los Angeles Lakers scout in attendance said of the Wolves offensive execution. “(As a young team), they have a tendency to rush the offense.”
Patience is key when running a methodical system like the Triangle. With a group of youngsters who are at their best on the run, waiting for an offense to develop in a 24-second-shot-clock League can be difficult.
But the difficulty differs, depending on who you’re talking to.
In his mind, sophomore big man Kevin Love hasn’t had any issues transitioning into the Timberwolves’ new offense in his second NBA season. As a power forward, his responsibilities in the Triangle, he believes, are simple.
“You just need to kind of find out where you fit,” Love said. “For the big men, we just need to pick our spots and need to pick apart the defense on the (offensive) end.”
But he can’t say the same for some of his teammates.
“You know it’s tough, I think, for the point guards in this offense,” he said. “Jonny Flynn has really found his way and so has Ramon Sessions. (But), their best (scoring) opportunities are in transition.”
Flynn, the rookie point-guard, has never played in such an intricate system before. He’s experienced his fair share of successful strides and disappointing falls trying to grasp the Triangle’s principles.
“It’s like being in school and learning a foreign language,” Flynn said of studying the offense.
“One day, you might learn something new,” he continued. “But the next day, you might forget everything you learned before that.”
Under Jim Boheim, Flynn was accustomed to pick-and-rolls and playing in an up-tempo system, which, as he put, allowed him to freelance offensively.
And shades of his Syracuse self were apparent Sunday against the Kings. Instead of setting up the Triangle on the Wolves first possession, he opted for a quick, but successful, three-pointer. And throughout the game, he looked best running the floor and creating scoring opportunities off the dribble.
“I think it’s tough to play in a situation like this where you bring the ball up, pass and might not touch it again the rest of the possession,” Flynn said of the Triangle’s point guard demands. “But I’m getting better at it every day.
“I just have to keep working at it with the coaches and watch film to try and get better,” he added. “So I can (continue to) get an opportunity to play.”
In NBA history, only names such as Jordan, Pippen, Kobe and Shaq have become synonymous with the Triangle Offense. Could Flynn, Love and/or Jefferson be next?
That notion pretty seems far-fetched right now, considering Minnesota may not even win 20 games this season. But who knows? If the Timberwolves front-office can be as patient and methodical as the Timberwolves Triangle — never say never, right?
Jonathan Santiago also co-hosts the weekly Davis Sports Deli Podcast, which can be found here.