Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.
The Wolves, unless there's a late change of plans, are down to their final three days of workouts this week before next week's NBA draft.
They've got former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe, North Carolina forward Reggie Bullock, New Mexico forward Tony Snell, Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas, Arizona State swingman Carrick Felix and Utah center Jason Washburn.
Bullock, Snell and Thomas all are candidates if they're still around when and if the Wolves use that second first-round pick, 26th overall.
Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum is due in on Tuesday and the Wolves, as of right now, are scheduled to hold their final day of workouts on Friday.
If you're wondering about the Wolves moving up after Flip Saunders' visit to Washington D.C., to see Victor Oladipo last weekend...I'd say there's a better cha ce they move up from the 26th pick into the late teens or early 20s to make sure they get a guy they like than it is they'll be able to move up far enough to get Oladipo.
The Wolves resume draft workouts this afternoon now that Flip Saunders is back from Eurocamp with a big man's day that includes Pitt's Steven Adams, Bucknell's Mike Muscala, French 7-2 center Rudy Gobert and Indiana's Cody Zeller.
Adams, Muscala and Gobert worked out together this afternoon and Zeller, at his agent's request, is working out solo after that.
Workouts continue Thursday and run into next week. The team is scheduled to have players in six of the next eight days: UCLA 's Shabazz Muhammad is scheduled for Sunday and Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum is set to work out Tuesday.
The team also added to its basketball operations staff today: Former NBA center Calvin Booth has been hired of a player programs director/scout who will assist players with life issues and do some pro scouting.
He played 10 NBA seasons with Washington, Dallas, Seattle, Milwaukee, Philadelpha, Sacramento and the Wolves.
Former WNBA center Kaayla Chones has been hired as manager of team operations. She is the daughter of former NBA player Jim Chones.
Both hires have connections with Ohio/Cleveland, Flip's homeland. Booth's agent is Mark Termini, Flip's agent.
The Wolves will play a preseason game in Canada this fall for the second consecutive season, and this time they'll play Boston in an Oct. 20 game in Montreal that's part of the NBA's "Canada Series."
Last fall, the Wolves thumped Detroit in a game in Winnipeg.
This time, the Wolves and Celtics play at Bell Centre, home otherwise to hockey and the Montreal Canadiens.
Toronto and New York play there last October, in a game that kicked off the NBA's series and its attempt to grow the game up north beyond Toronto and the reach of the Raptors.
The Celtics opened their preseason last season with a trip to Turkey and Italy.
Flip Saunders headed to Las Vegas after the Timberwolves finished the third and final days of workouts at Target Center on Thursday, and by Saturday he'll be three time zones over in Miami.
Yes, he's got a lot of work to do before the June 27 draft.
Saunders supervised his team's first individual workouts Thursday, when the Wolves brought four shooting guards to town along with a couple of big men.
Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the only one of the four the Wolves will consider taking with that ninth overall pick.
The other three -- Cal's Allen Crabbe, Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. and Providence's Ricky Ledo -- all are candidates for that 26th pick.
Saunders praised all four for their good shooting and good size, two of the biggest needs in a new shooting guard.
Caldwell-Pope shot it well from the little we got to see at the end of the workouts, but didn't look to me as big and/or long as the other three.Crabbe is longer, Ledo and Hardaway both a bit taller than the 6-5 1/2 Caldwell-Pope.
When asked what he learned about Caldwell-Pope, Saunders said, "Nothing more than we knew about him before. Just what the scouting report says: Can shoot the ball, has good size, good quickness. He was a very very good player in the SEC. The things people said about him, that's what he does. That's what you like about him. I believe he's a player who has a lot of upside and he's a two-way player."'
Saunders made it clear he's looking for size and shooting in a much-needed shooting guard.
He headed to Vegas to attend a pro there Friday featuring Russian shooting guard Sergey Karasev, a teammate of Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved on the Russian Olympic team.
Then Saunders will fly to Miami to meet Ricky Rubio for the first time since he replaced David Kahn as the team's new boss.
He'll head to Italy next week for the annual Eurocamp. The team won't hold more Target Center workouts until he returns, starting, as they have it scheduled now, June 12.
Representatives from 25 other NBA teams attended the Wolves' two-day group workouts that ended this afternoon at Target Center.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was here, too.
He's serving as something of a draft adviser to pal Flip Saunders, the Wolves' new president of basketball operations.
"He's good because he has seen a lot of these guys play, recruited a lot of these players," Flip said. "Him coming in to look and talk just helps, gives you insight. One of the biggest things you want to do is background checks, so you know as much about players and where they were four or five years ago and what improvement they've made. Have they reached their full potential or do they have a lot more to go. He helps with that."
Other bits of this and that from these first workouts as the June 27 draft approaches:
* Rick Adelman did come to town -- I didn't see him there yesterday -- for these two days of workouts and Thursday's first individual workouts and he chatted with Kevin Love high up in the Target Center stands at the end of today's second session.
* Those first individual workouts on Thursday are scheduled to feature shooting guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Allen Crabbe (Cal) and Ricky Ledo (Providence) in a six-player group.
Caldwell-Pope is perhaps the leading possibility for that 9th overall pick. The other two guys are candidates for the Wolves' second first-round pick, 26th overall.
Those Thursday workouts are the last until after Saunders returns the second week of June from Italy for the annual Eurocamp.
* Flip will leave after Thursday's workouts for Las Vegas and will watch Russian prospect Sergey Karasev -- a 6-7 shooting swingman who the Wolves will consider with that 9th pick -- in a pro day there on Friday.
He'll then fly to Miami to meet with Ricky Rubio on Saturday.
* While in Europe, Flip also hopes to meet with Alexey Shved -- as well as Nikola Pekovic -- before he returns to Minnesota to continue workouts starting June 12 most likely.
* Flip says he has talked to many candidates -- above and beyond the names of Washington's Milt Newton and New Orleans' Tim Connelly -- for a front-office position but say he won't do anything (if he does anything) until after the draft.
"I've talked to a lot of people about a lot of things," he said. "We're going to wait until after, to see where we are. If I feel comfortable where we're at, we'll continue as is. If I feel we need to bring in somebody else, we'll do that."
He said he wants to streamline the scouting operation and intends to have regional scouts Milt Barnes and Derek Pierce do more extensive pro scouting. He also wants to build a more extensive NBA scouting database.
He wants other front-office personnel based in Minneapolis so they can see the team practice and play daily. There's a chance a guy like longtime international scout Zarko Durisic could move back to the Twin Cities from Los Angeles.
* Flip said he'll bring former Gophers Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe in for individual workouts as the draft approaches.
Williams was in Wednesday's first group of workout and Flip was rather blunt about Williams' NBA prospects at this point.
When asked what parts of Williams' game translate to this next level, he said, "Right now, nothing...Everybody knows he's a great athlete, but at this level you don't just get by with athleticism. There are players in our league who are athletic. Your other skills have to develop. With Rodney, can he make that transition over the next three weeks and use his athleticism defensively and maybe tickle someone's fancy with the way he plays. That's what we're going to have to see."
Flip said he's not sure what position Williams is: He played power forward in college but considers himself an NBA small forward and Flip said with Williams' size, he might have to play shooting guard instead.
"He has to become a perimeter player rather than an inside player," Flip said. "His ball skills and shooting skills have to improve."
* I asked a longtime NBA scout if he'd trade Derrick Williams to move from the ninth pick into the top four if he were the Wolves so he could take one of the two top shooting guards, Indiana's Victor Oladipo or Kansas' Ben McLemore.
No way, is what he said.
He said Williams might be better than anyone in this draft and probably would go top 4 in this draft.
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