Flip Saunders, as the new Timberwolves president of basketball operations, was in a unique position when he accepted his new position because all last season he had the advantage of either watching Wolves games on TV or in his job as a commentator on ESPN.
Because of that, he could study all the strengths and weaknesses of the Rick Adelman-coached team.
“One of the biggest things I talked about was getting the team balanced, getting the roster balanced, increased three-point shooting percentages, and getting some offensive wing-type players in,” Saunders said.
Saunders learned how important it is for the team to stay healthy, and having Ricky Rubio and then Kevin Love sidelined by injuries made it clear how much worse off the team was when its stars weren’t healthy.
“It’s a matter now of building around [Rubio and Love] and with the players we’ve brought in, they can make [them] better,” Saunders said. “Many times, you bring players in and you’re hoping that your main player can make those guys better, I believe the players we have coming in will make Kevin and Ricky better.”
Saunders was asked what his thinking was bringing back Corey Brewer.
“One, he won a championship [with Dallas in 2011] and he got thrust into a trade-type situation, but he has continued to improve,” Saunders said. “This past year he averaged over 12 points a game on a team that won 57 games. He played 27 minutes a game. He was one of their key ingredients on how Denver played this year.
“We looked at him not as the guy that was here in Minnesota when he was the seventh pick, we look at a guy that averaged 12 a game last year and is improving. What he does is that he can run and defend, and that’s what we need. He was the best guy that we thought would fit within our system.”
The Wolves have 13 players on their roster, and Saunders said he is confident Nikola Pekovic will be the 14th.
“We’ve had talks, we’re progressing, and I really believe Pekovic is going to be here. I don’t have any doubts with that,” said Saunders.
“We have one roster spot that is available [if Pekovic signs] and we’ll let that sit there and see through the summer how our rookie Lorenzo Brown plays, if he’s going to be a guy that can fill that role, or see if someone else pops in.”
Saunders expects the additions he has made will make the team competitive. “I think the team can be really good,” he said. “I look at the Western Conference and it’s stacked, a lot of good teams, but when you look at a team that can put both size, scoring ability and flexibility, I believe we can be one of the top teams. We should be a team that, if we stay healthy, can compete for a playoff spot, no question, and maybe even better.”
Partners opt out of Wolves
Glen Taylor reported that former Wolves minority owners that he bought out include Dennis Frandsen; the Moore brothers, and Fred Lutz. In addition, Burt McGlynn died in December 2011, and his partnership was in an estate, which his family decided to sell to Taylor.
But Taylor, the Wolves majority owner, said he will not be doing any more buying out in the foreseeable future.
Yankees injuries are numerous
While the Twins have suffered from a glut of injuries the past couple of years, surely their opponent this weekend, the Yankees, is suffering about as bad a season for injuries as any team in recent memory.
They are missing $275 million third baseman Alex Rodriguez; first baseman Mark Teixeira, who is out for the year; Kevin Youkilis, who was supposed to replace Rodriguez at third; outfielder Curtis Granderson, who has played only eight games this season; pitcher Michael Pineda, who has yet to pitch in a Yankees uniform since they traded for him last year; starting catcher Francisco Cervelli; and infielder Eduardo Nunez.
On Thursday, Derek Jeter returned from surgery after he broke his ankle in last year’s playoffs, but the Yankees captain lasted one game, straining his quadriceps, and is missing the series against the Twins even though he remains on the active roster.
Kill talks San Jose State
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill recently talked about how tough the upcoming schedule will be, not only this year but in the years to come.
“We play San Jose State, who has probably the best quarterback in the country [David Fales]. I think everybody assumes he’s going to be a first-round draft pick and the first quarterback coming out, and they won  games last year,” Kill said of the Gophers’ opponent Sept. 21 at TCF Bank Stadium “There’s nothing easy about our schedule the next three years. We have a challenge, but I think our biggest challenge is how we practice, how we get the kids prepared, and we have to stay healthy.”
• Gophers defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman continues to get a slew of preseason honors. Hageman was recently named to the Outland Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award preseason watch lists. The Nagurski and Bednarik awards go to the nation’s top defensive player while the Outland goes to the nation’s best interior lineman.
• Twins closer Glen Perkins was asked what he will do when he walks into the clubhouse and sees the best players in the American League for his first All-Star Game in New York next week. “I think I’ll probably let them know that I’m glad I don’t have to pitch against them that day and I get to be on their team for one day,” he said. “Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera and [Mike] Trout and those guys, they’re tough outs, and I’m glad I don’t have to worry about them for one day.”
• Twins prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton will get to play against each other Sunday in the All-Star Futures Game, which will be televised on ESPN2. Buxton is playing for the United States squad, while Sano is playing for the World team.
• The Timberwolves summer league roster features Mychel Thompson, the son of former Gopher Mychal Thompson, who was the No. 1 draft pick in 1978. Mychel played collegiately at Pepperdine and last season for Sioux Falls in the NBA Development League. The roster also includes Luke Sikma, a 6-8 forward who played in Spain last season and is the son of Wolves assistant Jack Sikma.
• Chris Colabello and Andrew Albers will be representing the Twins’ Rochester farm team in the Class AAA All-Star game next week. Colabello entered Saturday leading the International League with a .358 average, 1.096 OPS and 74 RBI. Albers had a 3.29 ERA and 91 strikeouts entering Saturday’s start.