It was early July, midweek. And yet the fans came to Target Center.
About 5,000 fans, and perhaps more, filed into the arena to watch the Wolves summer league team put on a free scrimmage. For many, it was a first look at top draft pick Zach LaVine, a chance to see second-round pick Glen Robinson III, to see how Shabazz Muhammad is coming along and to see if there are any other hidden gems in the group that will go to Las Vegas this weekend.
--LaVine dunked four times while scoring 16 points for the white team in the scrimmage, which was ended with the score tied 71-71. He looked good handling the ball, looked very fast off the dribble and made the fans very happy, both with his dunks during the scrimmage and those he displayed in post-scrimmage dunking display.
“Today I wanted to show a little bit of everything – passing, scoring, athleticism, excitement,” LaVine said. “And being able to defend a bit as well. So it was a good showing for all of us.”
Wolves president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders again commented on LaVine’s passing ability, stressing that the 19-year-old is more skilled than many think. Especially at passing the ball.
“He’s almost 6-7,” Saunders said. “So when you have a guy who can handle the ball at 6-7, he can see over the defense. It’s like having a big quarterback. I think he has a great feel for the game.”
LaVine also relished the chance to give the fans a good first look after the misunderstanding on draft night, when he apparently uttered a profanity after the Wolves took him.
“It was good, made up for it a little bit,” he said. “Definitely. People misinterpreted things, but that’s OK.”
--Muhammad isn’t 100 percent in shape yet, he said. More like 85, but getting better every day. But he played very hard tonight, leading the black team with 19 points. He said he has lost about 10 pounds so far this summer and hopes to drop seven more.
“I’ll be way lighter, and I think I’ll jump higher,” he said. “I’ve been working with a trainer on my spin moves and my jumping. I think it’s already really improved. .. I’m starting to stack up and raise my level of play.’’
--When asked if there has been a pleasant surprise to come out of this pre-summer League camp, Saunders mentioned center Kyrylo Fesenko, a 7-1, 280-pounder from Ukraine. Tonight he scored a scrimmage-high 21 points. And while part of that was due to Gorgui Dieng not playing because he wasn’t feeling well, Fesenko looked good.
“I think I did a tremendous job,” he said, frankly.
Fesenko, 27, has bounced around a bit, playing in 135 NBA games since being drafted in 2007 by Utah.
Fesenko was in Cleveland last January, waiting for a work visa to come through so he could play for Canton in the NBA Development league. Saunders, an Ohio native, was also in Cleveland and he put Fesenko through an impromptu workout at a local health club.
“He killed me, probably, in 40 minutes,” he said. “That’s when I realized condition is the must-have thing.”
Fesenko said he had a few offers to play for teams in the summer league, but he chose the Wolves because of his relationship with Saunders. “I’ve always liked Minneapolis as a city,” he said. “I know Alex (Shved). And, obviously, working out for Flip I felt this is a good fit for me.”