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Center Nikola Pekovic got his moment in the spotlight during Timberwolves media day. Pekovic is a holdover on a roster greatly revamped to add more veteran talent.

Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

Wolves piece together puzzle as training camp begins

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • October 2, 2012 - 8:28 AM

The Timberwolves on Monday reported for Tuesday's first training-camp practice and a season in which everybody from President of Basketball Operations David Kahn to two-time All-Star Kevin Love expects the franchise to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Gone are talented but inconsistent players such as Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Darko Milicic and Martell Webster. In their place are veterans such as Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy and Lou Amundson.

At Monday's annual media day, coach Rick Adelman talked at length for the first time about summertime changes made to a team that will begin the season without injured point guard Ricky Rubio. Here's some of what he said:

Q  We haven't heard from you all summer. What are your thoughts on this remade roster?

A  It was pretty evident we had a huge dropoff, just huge, last year when we had injuries. When that happens, you look at the people you have and decide how they responded to it. And we didn't respond very well. We felt that we needed to make some changes. We needed some energy, needed a more versatile team with more ball-handling that we had before. We're fortunate that, just looking at the guys in the past week, we've got a chance to be a lot better in a lot of areas. We're still going to have deficiencies defensively like every team does, but I think we're going to be a smart team.

Q  Did you get what you wanted with those changes?

A  We'll find out. You never know until you get the guys on the floor. We added some versatility and we're a better ball-handling team in a number of spots. We're a better passing game and we're going to be more versatile defensively. Just watching them scrimmage, they're already doing things we're going to be doing. When you have veterans, you look at Brandon or Andrei, they know how to play. That's a big difference.

Q  What will you have to do differently without Ricky Rubio?

A  When a guy's out, you can't wait for him to come back. You've got to deal with what you have. Right now, he's a long way from playing, but there's nothing you can do about that. You just know what he meant to us last year. I'm still in shock how much it affected our team when he went down. He created an atmosphere around our team that gave everybody a belief that they had the chance to win, no matter who we play or where we play.

 

Q  What's the next step for Kevin Love?

A  He had such a great year last year. We relied on him so much, for so many things. He had to get his 26 points, his 12 rebounds. We're really hoping that doesn't have to be the case. I'm hoping maybe he can become more of a facilitator. The more weapons we have, the easier it is for him. I say it all the time, I'm not sure all the players believe it, but I know it's true: You can get a lot more credit for doing less on a good team.

Q  Can Brandon Roy still play?

A  Yeah, there's no doubt he can. Watching him play, he can get his shot, he can score. That's going to be huge when you get the game on the line. We're going to have to monitor him during camp, but I'm looking forward to trying to fit him in to what we do because he just knows how to play, knows how to score. He can get his shot off any time he wants. He can still do that.

Q  Derrick Williams lost 20 pounds over the summer. What role do you envision for him?

A  Well, time will tell. We'll have to see how his game has evolved. He's going to have his chance. Our biggest problem is how we're going to work all these guys in and where they're going to play. That's what guys have to understand. He came in here in great shape. That's going to give him a boost over where he was last year. I'm looking forward to see how he competes in this camp.

Q  How much you can ask from Alexey Shved right away?

A  I don't have any idea, but if he's playing good, he'll play. We'll put him out there, we don't want to completely overload Brandon at the start. He's one of those kids who's not afraid. He's been in big games before. I think he has some special skills. I'm not going to hesitate to play him if he deserves to play.

Q  Is this roster set?

A  I think it's set for right now. I don't know what else we could do. We felt we needed another big guy. One of the biggest concerns we've had is the injuries. Getting Lou [Amundson] was big for us because he has played in the league, he plays with energy and he gives us that insurance policy we really felt we needed. We didn't want to have a third big guy up front that was young and inexperienced.

Q  Is Kirilenko so far the guy you'd thought he'd be after he played last season in Russia?

A  He hasn't scrimmaged with us, but I watched his Olympics. He's such a versatile player. He can defend basically four spots. He's got length. He's active. He doesn't take a play off. I love his attitude. I love the way he thinks when you talk to him.

Q  How comforting is it to add two guys -- Kirilenko and Chase Budinger -- who don't stare at you blankly when you call for a back-door cut?

A  It's really huge. Everybody talked about my system with Vlade Divac and Chris Webber. That's why it became a system, those two guys. ... These two guys can run the floor. They cut. They're moving all the time. And when we get Ricky back, they'll be really good.

Q  How much of that system were you able to install last season because of the lockout-shortened training camp and the team's personnel?

A  Very little. We went to so much pick-and-roll because that was the only way we were going to win. We learned really quick why they were 30th in the league in turnovers the year before. I think you are going to see us doing a lot more things that we used to run. That's one thing I like: You can really adjust to the people you have, and that's my job as a coach.

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