CHICAGO – Fresh on the job, Flip Saunders, the Timberwolves’ new president of basketball operations, worked the room when NBA executives, coaches, scouts and 60 prospects in the June draft gathered in Chicago for three days last week.
And it was a big room.
By day in a sprawling four-gym complex on the city’s rough west side, the Wolves’ former coach renewed old acquaintances after a year out of the league and chatted up other teams’ decision-makers, setting the groundwork for trades as the June 27 draft approaches.
By night at a downtown hotel, he lined up appointments with agents and with his six-member staff interviewed a long list of candidates they’ll consider selecting with two first-round and two second-round picks.
Two weeks after he replaced the fired David Kahn, Saunders has met for two days with coach Rick Adelman, contacted every player on his team’s roster and immersed himself in preparations for a draft that is soon approaching.
“A lot to get done in a little time,” he said while he kept one eye on draft prospects’ workouts that ran two days from morning to late afternoon.
He and former college teammate Kevin McHale also had seven weeks to prepare for the draft when he was hired by owner Glen Taylor the first time around, 18 years ago.
Those preparations brought a teenager named Kevin Garnett to Minnesota with the fifth pick in the 1995 draft.
“Now if we can just do that again,” Saunders said playfully.
He met with Adelman at Target Center over two days the week before the Chicago combine, which Adelman did not attend because, well, after nearly 30 years in the league, he chooses not to do so.
Saunders said he didn’t think Adelman needed to attend because he’ll see players on video and meet with those prospects the team brings to Minneapolis for individual workouts in the coming weeks.
“He’s got more important things to deal with right now,” he said.
Adelman and his wife, Mary Kay, consulted with doctors at Rochester’s Mayo Clinic after the season ended about her seizures that caused Adelman to miss 11 games in January.
Saunders said he expects Adelman to coach next season.
“I just assume going forward that everything is fine until he tells me otherwise,” Saunders said, “and I don’t anticipate that happening.”
Checking in with Love
Saunders said he has had eight to 10 conversations with two-time All-Star forward Kevin Love, who, at Saunders’ request, will represent the franchise at Tuesday night’s draft lottery in New York.
He also has spoken by phone once and exchanged text messages with Ricky Rubio in Spain and has had basketball operations staff send third-year forward Derrick Williams game video and scouting reports, hoping both will help make him more a student of the game while Williams heals from the same jaw surgery Love had in 2011 to repair his bite and breathing. Williams had the surgery on Wednesday.