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.
Another dozen players with NBA dreams took part in the second day of workouts the Wolves organized.
Among them were at least two players who have compelling stories.
Greetings. Kent Youngblood here. I was at today's workouts, which finished up just after noon, allowing representatives of teams from around the league to get to the airport and get out of town.
Among those working out today was Robbie Hummel, the former Purdue forward who battled injuries throughout much of his college career. He had a sore back as a sophomore. As junior both he and the Boilermakers were on a roll when Hummel tore the ACL in his right knee in a game vs. Minnesota at Williams Arena. it was Feb. 24, 2010 when he planted his foot, it slipped and the ACL went. He came back from that, but tore the same ligament again that October during pre-season practice.
After missing the 2011-12 season, he came back to play for Purdue last season. And while he played well, he said he was never 100 percent, not even during the NCAA tournament. But now, he said, he feels almost all the way back.
"I haven't' had any problems with the knee," he said. "I feel great, and I'm starting to feel kind of explosive again, so that's always a good thing. Obviously it's a concern for teams. but I think I can prove to them that I'm healthy."
That's why workouts like this one are so important. Everyone wants to know that the knee is no longer an issue. Hummel talked about the pain he felt, both physically and emotionally, that day in Feb. of 2010 when he first hurt his knee. He also talked about the frustration he felt during his rehab.
But he came out of it with a new appreciation for basketball. If he does get drafted -- which is nowhere near a certainty -- or if he does ultimately make an NBA roster, Hummel said he will appreciate it more.
"I always knew I'd come back and play," he said. "But I just didn't know if I was going to be any good. And for a while during the (2011-12) season, I didn't shoot the ball very well. it was frustrating. I didn't know if I would start playing well again. People kept telling me, 'Don't worry, it's going to come.' And they were right. It did."
Another player of note was former Missouri star Kim English, a 6-6 shooting guard who rebounded from a down junior season to play well as a senior. He averaged 14.5 points per game, shooting 52.1 percent overall, 45.9 percent from three-point range.
Most draft folks have English going in the second round. His perimeter scoring ability could make him attractive to the Wolves should he be there when the team's second-round pick comes up.
English is a sharp guy, and he's obviously done his homework. When asked if he'd like to play with the Wolves, he gushed about how big a fan he was of the team last season, how good the team was playing before Rubio got hurt. He had the date on Rubio's injury memorized, as well as the play. He even knew the Wolves' current situation at shooting guard. "With (Derrick) Williams, (Kevin) Love, they have guys who can score in small spaces," English said. "Having a shooter would make it easier for them. You guys had Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington..."
I'll bet he is pretty good in pre-draft interviews.
Finally, Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn spoke, briefly, again.
He said that trade talk is heating up now that the draft lottery has set the first-round drafting order. He reiterated the team's needs of outside shooting, ball-handling, interior defense and scoring.
That's about it for now. Have a good weekend.
So how are you feeling this morning in the cold light of day about last night's draft, Wolves fans?
Cheer up, little buckaroos.
The sun rose, life goes on.
I was talking to my editor late last night after the draft and he used the tried and true Christmas morning analogy.
Wolves fans were so waiting for something bright and shiny under the proverbial tree.
They waited and waited and when they unwrapped the presents, there was underwear and socks and maybe a nice pullover sweater.
No, iPhone 4G?
The Wolves added Wesley Johnson with that fourth pick and took Nevada's Luke Babbitt with that 16th pick and then traded him and Ryan Gomes' contract to Portland for 23-year-old, sixth-year swingman Martell Webster before making one more deal and drafting for depth with Marquette's Lazar Hayward and two international players.
If you were one of the many scratching your head or shouting at your TV screen, well, David Kahn explained the moves this way:
He believes the team addressed several of its needs:
It upgraded its athleticism on the wing with Johnson -- who he considers the second best athlete in the draft after John Wall -- and Webster, the sixth player taken in 2005 who has played five NBA seasons and is only 23.
He also thinks they've improved their defense, shooting (particularly three-point shooting), toughness and have done with what he calls "character" people and by being able to stay young while being too young.
The Babbitt-Webster trade is mostly what has loyal fans distraught.
Babbitt is the bright, shiny rookie, best shooter in the draft who's liabiltiies haven't yet been exposed on an NBA court.
Webster has played five seasons in Portland, shining spectacularly in moments but mostly deferring to Brandon Roy.
Kahn called the trade important because it takes a bit more money off the team's salary cap -- the Wolves owed Gomes about $1 million if they didn't pick up his option for next year by June 30, which they weren't going to do -- and because in Webster it adds a young player who isn't another rookie.
"One of the things that puts a lot of pressure on a team is yo ucan almost sometimes take it too far with the number of rookies and young players and clearly we might be nearing that point," Kahn said. "One school of thought was if we could add a young veteran, someone who has been in the league a number of years but still was on the young side, he could help as much as a college player or, I hope in this case, more and that might be the way to go."
Kahn envisions Webster playing a lot of shooting guard and envisions Johnson and Webster playing together a lot. He said the team has added two wing players with "almost freaky athleticism" who can both shoot from three-point distance.
"When you think about it, most people don't think of shooters as really superb athletes," Kahn said. "And yet, Wes is exactly that: An unbelievable athlete with an amazing stroke. And in some ways, that's what Martell is, He's an amazing athlete with a proficiency of making three pointers. From a spacing standpoint on offense, the two kids will help us immediately.
"I see them as being wings, where you can see one guy on one side of the floor and one guy on the other side stretching the defense out because they have to honor them. I also see them, of coures, on the fast break, flying down the court -- lane runners, as Kurt calls them -- finishing at the rim. I think they can play a lot together.
Johnson turns 23 next month. Webster is 23, so is Hayward, whom the Wolves drafted 30th overall after they traded teh 23rd pick to Washignton for the 30th and 35th picks. They used those picks to take Hayward and Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica, a former point guard who's now 6-10 and who Kahn hopes is a "poor man's Toni Kukoc."
Johnson fit team needs and Kahn considered his age and maturity attractive over the promise of 19-year-old Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins, who both intrigued and frightened NBA executives.
"Some people say, `Well, why not Cousins,' " Kahn said. "I think to me, it was very simple and it was basketball related. We spent most of this past season talking about the length of athleticism and speed on our frontline and I didn't feel that he would improve those areas.
"That's all I'm going to say. I think he deserves his day in the sun in Sacramento. I expect him to be a very fine player in our league and we spent many over the last week and a half talking about him and making certain we explored if it'd be a fit or not. But at the end of the day, we felt Wes was the right thing for us to do."
I've got more about last night, but I've got to run to Target Center, where Johnson, Hayward and Bjelica will be introduced at 1 pm.
Some other random stuff from last night:
* Kahn said he had discussions with Miami about trading Gomes' contract -- which calls for him to be paid nearly $3 million over the next three years if the team doesn't exercise an option by Wednesday -- for Michael Beasley in what would have been a salary dumping move to completely clear their roster to sign LeBron, DWade and Bosh. The Heat apparently were unwilling to have about $1 million due Gomes next season on their cap in return for trading away the No. 2 overall pick from the 2008 draft.
"In somes cases, even small amounts of money, teams literally don't want to cover the number," Kahn said. "Some teams are moving things left and right to create these enormous canyons of room. You'd think it's not that much, but you'd be surprised how these teams have reacted."
Kahn basically suggested the Blazers took Gomes' contract as a favor, the "cherry on top," even though the Blazers soon could turn around and deal that mostly non-guaranteed contract for an asset.
* Kahn said he thought he had a deal in place to move up from the 16th pick for a player they had targeted but it never came off because the player was gone by then. I'll bet he was talking about Butler's Gordon Hayward, who went ninth to Utah.
* If Babbitt hadn't been there at 16 and the Portland deal fell through, he would have traded that 16th pick for two picks in the 20s, probably Memphis' 25th and 28th.
* He acknowledged he had discussions about trading Al Jefferson, but nothing came close to being a done deal. "No, not this week," Kahn said. Look for him to try to trade Jefferson -- and Kevin Love for the right deal -- in a sign-and-trade deal to spend some of that accumulated cap money.
Here's something interesting Kahn said today: He said he and his staff went through the list of free agents the other day and came up with only three who they don't have a chance to get.
He wouldn't say which three, but that's presumably LeBron, DWade and Bosh.
So Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, etc., each would take the Wolves' money?
That's what he said, folks.
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