I didn’t use a lie detector when I interviewed Flip Saunders, because I have known the Timberwolves president and coach since 1973, 41 years ago, when he stepped on the Williams Arena floor as a Gophers freshman guard from Cleveland.
Our families are close and my relationship with him has been such that when he tells me something, I have good reason to believe him.
So even though media outlets and Internet reports are speculating that Kevin Love, the Wolves’ superstar forward, will be traded even before or during Thursday’s NBA draft, I believe Saunders when he says otherwise.
Sure, I want to make it clear that if somebody comes up with a fantastic offer — think along the lines of the Vikings’ offer for Herschel Walker in 1989 that made the Cowboys into a dynasty — Saunders could change his mind. But asked about Love’s status Friday, Saunders said:
“My position hasn’t changed from the whole time. The players we have on our roster are on our roster. Kevin Love is on our roster, and I have no problem with Kevin Love being on our roster when we start the season in October.”
So unless something changes, he will be here?
“It’s not just him, it’s anybody,” Saunders said. “Everyone is trying to focus because of the Love situation, but we will do what we have to do to make our team better, no matter who it is on our team. When you’re 40-42 you’re always trying to improve. But what we’re not going to do, no matter who it is, we want to get better. There’s a lot of people saying that players want to win, but we want to win, too. By doing that you have to do what you feel will make your team better.”
While every day seems to bring a new offer that the Wolves have received for Love, Saunders said a trade isn’t imminent.
“Right now there’s a lot of rumors about a lot of people, that’s what social media has brought, rumors about a lot of players in our league,” he said. “All we do is, we wait and see what happens with everybody around the league.”
Asked how good an offer would have to be, Saunders said: “For any of our players, I don’t care who it is, whether it’s [Nikola] Pekovic, no matter, anybody we have, we have to feel that it’s a good trade for us that’s going to make our team better.”
Quality available with 13th pick
On another subject, Saunders was asked what kind of players he thinks will be available when the Wolves use their 13th pick in the draft.
“There’s a good player,” he said. “I think there’s rotation players, probably all the way to 18 or 19, guys that will be able to come in and be in teams’ top eight [next season]. There’s a box of a lot of good players at that spot. A lot will depend on who falls there and what position we might think would be of a higher need for us.”
The Wolves had two first-round picks last year, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, who sat on the bench a lot this past season, only to impress when they had the opportunity to play.
As for this year, Saunders said: “I think all of those guys can play. I don’t know if they’ll start, but a lot of guys can come in and play. … There’s a lot of fluidity in the draft right now because you have some guys that have some injuries [like Kansas center Joel Embiid, who had been the presumed top overall pick until he had foot surgery Friday], and so no one has been able to really knock down where some of the upper guys are going to go.”
Saunders didn’t sound like someone too interested in moving up in the draft.
“Right now at the draft you usually have to give up too much to improve your position,” Saunders said. “And I really believe that the guy we can get at 13, the same guys are going to be in the mix at 6 and 7, and guys at 6 and 7 could fall down to 13 depending on what the needs of some of the teams in front of us are.”
Gophers facilities update
If there was any chance of a new Gophers basketball arena being built soon, forget about it now, because the University of Minnesota is spending $7.5 million to put a new roof on Williams Arena, with the work having started this summer.
The Gophers athletic department has appropriated $1 million for a new scoreboard in the Sports Pavilion. And the basketball court in the Bierman Building is getting a bandage renovation with the addition of a new scoreboard, some graphics and a new men’s locker room in the lower level of the gym.
Incidentally, the word is that the university athletic department will show a $1.9 million profit for this past academic year.
• Architectural Alliance, a local group, and Sink Combs Dethlefs of Denver have been named the architects that will work together on the $100 million remodeling of Target Center.
• With the White Sox in town it was news to me that Jim Thome, the former Twins slugger who was with the White Sox from 2006 to 2009 before coming here, is now a special assistant to White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn.
• The appearance of former Gophers guard Justin Cobbs at a draft workout for the Timberwolves made you think that if he had stayed here and not transferred to California, where he averaged 15.6 points, 5.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game as a senior last season, he might have saved Tubby Smith’s job.
• Speaking of Smith, ESPN.com has been running a series all summer ranking the top 50 college basketball coaches, and they ranked the Texas Tech coach 39th in the country and had Richard Pitino at 49th. Also on the list was one-time Wolves candidate Fred Hoiberg, who is ranked 15th overall. The list is up to No. 11, with No. 10 to be revealed Monday.
• Carlos Gomez played his final season with the Twins in 2009, when he hit .229 with 51 runs in 137 games. This year for Milwaukee, the center fielder is hitting .318 with 12 homers, 40 RBI and 49 runs scored through 68 games and is an NL MVP candidate. Kyle Lohse, who last pitched for the Twins in 2006 when he went 2-5 with a 7.07 ERA, is 8-2 with a 3.09 ERA for the Brewers in 15 starts, and fellow righthander Matt Garza, who was 5-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 2007 with the Twins before they traded him, is 4-4 with a 4.02 ERA with Milwaukee this year. Incidentally, Lohse and Garza were never teammates here; Lohse was traded July 31, 2006, and Garza made his major league debut 11 days later.