Here's a report from Kent Youngblood off this morning's free-agent workouts before he heads away for a month to undergo, and recover, from hip-replacement surgery. Everyone wish the big fella well....
Paulao Prestes will not play for the Timberwolves in the upcoming season.
So why was it so important for the big Brazilian center, who is currently finished his second season playing in the top Spanish league, to be at the two-day free agent workout the Wolves held this week?
Basically to get him used to the city the Wolves second round pick in 2010 might one day make his home.
“That was the key," Tony Ronzone, the Wolves’ assistant general manager/player personnel, said Friday,after the two-day camp wound up. “We wanted him to get a taste of it. We wanted him to meet with our strength guys, to see our coaches, our facilities, see the city.”
Prestes, a 6-11, 265-pounder, had an interesting two days here. On Thursday, Ronzone reported, Prestes was the best player in the gym. Friday, the Wolves put former Gophers player John Thomas – a wily, strong player – on Prestes.
Not surprisingly, Prestes wasn’t as effective.
And that only points out how much stronger Prestes needs to get.
“We asked John to push him,” Ronzone said. “I thought it was good for him. And now he can see. We have to get him to understand he’s got to get his body right.”
Prestes sounded like he got the message.
“I really want to play and I want to play here,” Prestes said. “I think I (need to) get better with my body.”
By the time Prestes leaves for Brazil on Monday, he will have been in the United States for a week. That included two days in Los Angeles before coming here.
He said he was nervous about the camp "because it’s my first time to practice here, first time in USA to practice with the team. I’m real nervous but I’m happy.”
Ronzone said the team expects Prestes to play another season in Europe, at least.
While in the Twin Cities, Prestes was to meet with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches to get a program he can work on when he leaves. Ronzone likes Prestes’ work ethic, his love for the game and his craftiness around the basket. Prestes will play for Brazil in the South American championship this summer, and Ronzone will watch him.
“It’s very different, it’s more physical,” Prestes said of the NBA game. “I know if I’m to play here I have to change my body right now. I know that. I have a hard job now in the summer. So I’ll work in Brazil now and then go to Spain.”
Also among the players workout out this week was Matt Janning, the former Watertown-Mayer High School star who played at Northeastern. He played in the developmental league the past two seasons.
“He’s a catch-and-shoot guy,” Ronzone said. “It’s nice to bring back a local guy.”
The Wolves will continue to monitor Jannings, and the possibility remains that he could get an invite to training camp.
Ronzone also talked about a few other things:
--He couldn’t comment on the reported signing of guard Ricky Rubio, other than to comment on the 20-year-old’s game. “I think anybody that walks on the court would be excited to play with him,” Ronzone said. “His teammates in Barcelona (Spain) love playing with him.” As for some opinions that Rubio regressed this season? “All I know is the kid is a winner,” Ronzone said. “He wins, and he’s 20 years old.”
--He said that, as of Thursday, he believed the Wolves were ready stand pat and not trade away the No. 2 pick. That said, Ronzone also said the team was getting a lot of calls about the pick. “There is excitement,” Ronzone said. “I like our position.”
--Ronzone is leaving for Italy. He and Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn will be in Italy attending the Rebok Euro Camp. That’s where all the top European prospects go. It is run by Wolves scout Pete Philo. Ronzone will also go to a camp in Italy.
--That means the next workouts the Wolves will host won’t come until June 16, when both Enes Kanter and Derrick Williams will have individual workouts. Williams is the consensus pick among most so-called experts to be the second player taken in the draft. Kanter is a talented big man from Europe who came to play at Kentucky last season before being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Ronzone said he wasn’t too worried that Kanter – a player whose stock might be rising – has gone a season without playing, as Ronzone scouted him extensively when the big guy was playing in Europe.
-Other workouts: The Wolves will have a group of six off-guard prospects in. On the 18th, a number of players from different positions will be in. On the 20th Kawhi Leonard will be in for a workout. Workout will wind up on the 21st. “We have a good bunch of guys coming in who cover both the No. 2 and No. 20 (picks),’’ Ronzone said.
--That he doesn’t believe it’s a lock that Duke guard Kyrie Irving will be the top pick in the draft. “I think it’s still open,” said Ronzone, who hinted that Cleveland having both the No. 1 and No. 4 pick in the draft could alter the way the Cavs approach their picks. “It could go in any direction.” To that end, Ronzone said, it is the Wolves intention to watch Irving work out, even though Irving’s agent has indicated his client will only work out for the Cavs. There is a chance the Wolves could arrange a session in Miami. One way or another, they need to talk to Irving, as the Duke star didn’t do interviews at the draft combine. “We have to cover all the bases,” Ronzone said.