NEW YORK -- Before his Minnesota Timberwolves faced the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, coach Tom Thibodeau had a simple answer for what most concerned him early on in the season: "Everything."

Thibodeau grinned as he said it, perfectly playing into the perception that he's his profession's premier workhorse. The answer implied it would take him hours to explain all of the things he's worried about, given how obsessed he is with the minutiae that can be the difference between winning and losing.

After Thibodeau's Timberwolves fell to 1-5 on the season with a 119-110 loss to the Nets, he had a much more specific answer for what ailed them: "Unless we correct the defensive end, it's going to be a struggle. That has to become a priority by everyone. Otherwise, nothing positive is going to happen."

This was Thibodeau at his most blunt, offering no excuses for what he saw as an unacceptable performance. Many thought that his arrival in Minnesota would automatically vault this young team into the league's upper echelon defensively, despite the fact it finished 27th in defensive rating last season. He is wary of such assumptions, knowing that this can only happen if the effort, communication and execution are all there.

Thibodeau's media session lasted about a minute and a half, but he found time to criticize the Wolves for giving up points in the paint, failing to run shooters off the 3-point line and rebounding poorly in the second half. Minnesota might have more than twice the talent as Brooklyn, but it found itself in a tight game down the stretch. Andrew Wiggins' career-high 36 points didn't mean much because the Wolves couldn't contain the Nets, who moved the ball, spread the floor and attacked the basket.

"It's not good enough," Thibodeau said. "It's not good enough to win. I know that. So we have to get caught up in what wins. If you're going to win, particularly on the road, when you're short-handed, your margin of error is very small. You got to play hard, you got to play with discipline, you got to defend, you got to rebound, you got to keep your turnovers down. That I know."

Tom Thibodeau in Brooklyn
Tom Thibodeau wants the Wolves to get their act together defensively. USATSI

More than anybody else in Minnesota's locker room, John Lucas III knows what Thibodeau expects. The veteran guard played for him with the Chicago Bulls and trusts that he'll break down exactly what went wrong. Lucas said that he's "very concerned," though, because the Wolves are "just trading buckets and we got to stop people."

"In practice, we're there," Lucas said. "Everybody's helping, everybody's scrambling. In the games, it's like everybody's left on an island. Now it's just got to click. And that's the thing. It's going to happen. It's just a matter of, it needs to happen now. I'm tired of losing and a lot of other guys are tired of losing. I know coach is tired of losing."

Despite the disappointing start, there are signs that Minnesota isn't as bad as its record. It is 11th in the league in net rating, but close losses to the Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets suggest the Wolves haven't put last year's crunch-time struggles behind them. Strangely, they have also been the worst third-quarter team in the league, and the conventional wisdom is that, with all of their youth and potential, it will simply take some time for them to grasp the nuances of Thibodeau's defensive schemes.

The pillars of the program, however, reject that conventional wisdom. Wiggins said Minnesota's struggles are not about adjusting to a new system. Karl-Anthony Towns said the team is tired of hearing about their age, insisting that it's not an excuse.

Karl-Anthony Towns looking exasperated
Karl-Anthony Towns displays his frustration. USATSI

"We have all the tools," Wiggins said. "All the tools. I feel like once we get it, once we execute our defensive plan in a game one time, it will just keep building. We'll know what to expect. We'll know how it feels. We just got to trust in one another at the defensive end."

The 20-year-old Towns is 7 feet tall with the quickness of a wing. He has the potential to be a two-way superstar, switching onto smaller players and protecting the paint. Thibodeau wants him to be "the eyes and mouth" of the defense, though, directing his teammates the way that the recently retired Kevin Garnett did better than anybody.

The 21-year-old Wiggins has been guarding the opposing team's best playmaker since he was a rookie, and few players possess his combination of speed, athleticism and length. Those attributes can be wasted, though, when he lapses into inattentiveness away from the ball. Thibodeau's presence has not immediately turned them into elite defenders.

Lucas said the Wolves are not panicking after just six games, but they need to stop making the same mistakes. He is still completely confident that Thibodeau will take Towns and Wiggins where they need to go, as long as they listen to him.

"Everybody keeps saying we're young and we're going to go through growing pains," Lucas said. "We don't need to go through no growing pains. We have enough talent to be a special team. That's what we got to keep preaching and keep going. Encourage everybody. We don't need to go through no growing pains, we can go in and we can make our own destiny. Let's do it."