Up until now it’s been, even by the Timberwolves' own nutty standards, a completely nuts season.
The Wolves made a much-derided trade for Rudy Gobert, mortgaging their future for an aging Frenchman who immediately insulted the fanbase; Karl-Anthony Towns, a curious pairing with fellow 7-footer Gobert, missed 52 games due to injury; the Timberwolves beat good teams largely based on the emergence of first-time All-Star guard Anthony Edwards, but frequently lost to terrible teams; and during the last game of the regular season, a must-win against the New Orleans Pelicans, punches flew between Wolves, as well as a Wolf and a wall.
Through it all, a voice on the internet cut through the nuttiness with unbridled positivity: Twitter’s @jakesgraphs. The fan behind the handle, Jake Kelly, a 33-year-old financial analyst who lives in St. Louis Park, says the account started as a pandemic project tweeting Twins memes, before morphing into an always optimistic, sometimes absurdist, and usually self-deprecating Timberwolves meme account with nearly 10,000 followers.
Kelly’s approach to fandom doesn’t ignore the Timberwolves' unfortunate claim as the worst franchise in major pro sports history—it’s informed by it.
“I can’t tell you that keeping the faith that the Wolves are going to win a championship is healthy or realistic, but I think that if you’re just buckled into what this team’s history is, it gives you a good idea of what you’re in for,” he says. “It’s fun—you can have fun doing it.”
On Sunday, the Wolves lost 109-80 to the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of their first-round NBA Playoffs series, but Kelly reminds us that this season has been all about wild swings. “The Wolves can have the worst game of the season and then bounce back with the best game of the season,” he promises.
The Timberwolves are back in action tonight against Denver for Game 2, and we caught up with Kelly ahead of it to talk about the wild ongoing season, making fan merch, shoveling snow for team stars, and a whole lot more.
I always enjoy the absurdist “The Wolves are back in action” tweets for every game. Did that develop naturally out of rooting for a franchise that can be tough to root for?
I listen to a lot of sports talk radio, it’s my background noise, so I hear the updates literally every commercial break. “The Timberwolves are back in action tonight as they take on...” So I just thought, you know, you go on Twitter every day and what do you say at 10:30 in the morning when you’re thinking about a Timberwolves game at 7? People get the bit, I think, and those who don’t, wonder, “Why are people engaging with this?” But I think it organically happened; sometimes you throw something at the wall and people don’t quite get it and ask if you’re OK, and sometimes it works.
How did your Wolves fandom begin?
I really got into them in college, I had a group of college friends and it was just our thing. [It was the former head coach Kurt] Rambis years. Those are bad years. That was our sick obsession, just watching the Timberwolves on our little dorm TVs. Just the pits of rosters, so now it’s really fun in our group texts to follow up and be like, “At least we’re not there.”
I suppose this is kind of like me asking you to pick your favorite child, but who’s your favorite player on the current roster?
I love Anthony Edwards. He’s our shining star, he’s the reason why, in my opinion and most people’s opinions, if you’re trying to sell some rational sports-enjoyer hope on why this team has a chance at taking it all the way, it’s because of him. He’s my man in that respect.
I do love Karl-Anthony Towns; I will defend KAT to the death and he is a proud Jake’s Graphs Loyalty Customer, so that helps.
I bet that does. Was there ever any shoveling that happened with KAT?
I didn’t, I didn’t, I should have reached out. I try to be a man of my word and maybe next winter I will… I don’t have a shovel! I assume maybe he does, but I didn’t want to ask, “Hey, can I use yours?” So I just didn’t try to put it together until I had the tools.
Borrow A-Rod’s shovel, maybe.
Yeah, I know, he seems like maybe he wouldn’t want to communicate with people like me.
It’s been a tumultuous, yet, in my view, ultimately entertaining season, in a way that those “pits” years never were. The ups and downs have been important. What’s your favorite highlight or lowlight of the season?
I think the best moment probably was the play-in game [Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder], because everything worked for most of the game. There was so much on the line and that was honestly one of the few blowouts of the season.
I thought the season was over when Rudy [Gobert] punched [Kyle “Slow-Mo” Anderson]. Given the context, that game ended up being a top-tier game because we came back and won but I would pick that exact moment when I was sitting in Target Center. [I didn’t see it but] at halftime I started going on Twitter and seeing the videos, and it’s like, this is bad. Then Jaden [McDaniels] was out with a fractured hand, and I was like, “He must have punched a wall”... and he did!
It’s been an intense couple of weeks. You make cool stuff, you mentioned that Karl-Anthony Towns is a return customer, any other cool places that you’ve seen that merchandise show up?
The coolest is always catching it on the jumbotron or just in Target Center. The fact that people even want to wear it… it’s a big decision of whether you wear it to a game, so the fact that people even wear it out there is enough for me. That is so cool.
Wolves play-by-play announcer Michael Grady was inquiring about the Lake Slomo shirt, that was on Twitter?
Yeah, exactly. He secured the bag.
Denver is up 1-0, there’s a minimum of three games left in the series. What is Jake’s Graphs’ series prediction?
Wolves in 6. Just because it’s fun to say. And if I’m wrong, no one’s going to challenge me on my prediction, so I can just say anything. We got it all out that last game. It’s all going to even out in terms of shooting. The Wolves are better than they played that night, the Nuggets aren’t as good as they played that night. Those are just the facts and you can’t dispute them.