New Timberwolves bring championship rings -- and the invaluable lessons that come with them.
By PHIL ERVINFS North
MINNEAPOLIS -- It is merely a hypothetical picture, unless your name is
Corey Brewer, Jose Barea or Ronny Turiaf.
It's June in the Twin Cities. You and your family kicked on the AC a few days ago. It's about time for the boat's annual tune-up. You can't go a few blocks downtown without passing an engagement photo shoot. More and more joggers and roller skaters can be seen circling Lake Calhoun.
You're stuck in late afternoon traffic. So is everyone else on Interstates 394, 94 and 35W.
The sensation of NBA Finals basketball is about as foreign to Minneapolis as a snowstorm in July.
The Timberwolves' revamped roster combined with the franchise's mighty struggles the past decade forge an equation where playoffs equals progress.
But a byproduct of new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders' offseason work is a locker room with several cases of championship experience.
It can't hurt.
"That's the stage when you find basketball is a game of detail, a game of dedication," said Turiaf, who played in the 2008 Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers and won a title with Miami four years later.
Free-agent gets Turiaf and Brewer and returning reserve guard Barea have combined to play in 13 games spread across three separate NBA Finals appearances. Barea and Brewer played on the same 2011 Dallas team, though Brewer didn't see any action during the final series.
All three have championship rings. With those rings come invaluable lessons.
"It was a great experience, just to be around those guys, to have the opportunity to be on the team," Brewer said of his short stint in Dallas. "It helped me a lot, seeing a lot of veteran guys. Now being in my seventh year, being around guys like Jason Kidd really taught me how to win."
It was a watch-and-learn course for Brewer, who'd been traded away by the Timberwolves earlier in the 2010-11 season, waived by the Knicks and signed as a free agent with the Mavericks.
While witnessing his team's upset of Miami in six games, Brewer watched Barea emerge as a difference-making scorer in the series' final two episodes. In a Game 5 victory, he hit 4 of 5 3-pointers on the way to 17 points; in the clincher, he scored 15.
Turiaf's role with Miami's crown claimer a year later was more observatory, too, though he did see time in one game of the Heat's 4-1 Finals victory over Oklahoma City. He played in all six games of the Lakers' 4-2 loss to Boston in 2008, too.
It's a task few athletes are ever charged with: roll out of bed knowing what's deemed a world championship is on the line that night while keeping emotions in check enough to carry out the normal gameday routine.
But if young stars Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic -- all of whom have yet to play in a playoff game -- have any questions regarding the path to that pinnacle, they've got three prime sources sharing a dressing room with them now.
"You have to play with team chemistry and the same tempo, like what Phil Jackson said back in the day," Turiaf said. "Going through all those experiences and ups and downs, it showed me finally what I can bring to the table."