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.
Alexey Shved says he doesn’t matter where he plays, he just wants to play.
Shved is the Russian player who came to the Wolves before the 2012-13 season and spent much of that season showing he might have a future as a shooting guard. Getting an opportunity in large part because of a long injury list, Shved played in 77 games, started 16 and scored 8.6 points and 3.7 assists.
Last season was a different story. The 6-6 Shved saw his numbers and productivity drop.
And now? President of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders wants Shved to work at playing some point guard.
And that’s what Shved has been doing since the team’s summer league roster began prepping for league play, which begins this weekend in Las Vegas.
“It doesn’t matter – point guard, shooting guard,” Shved said. “I just want to play.’’
Shved has some abilities that would seem to make the move plausible. Saunders likes Shved’s height, which allows him to look over defenses much like a big quarterback can see things over the middle. He likes that Shved has the ability stay in front of an opponent on defense.
Saunders made his intentions known on draft night, when he said being able to add point guard duties was a key for Shved to extend his NBA career.
This week Saunders has softened his stance, saying he’d like Shved to be able to contribute to work at both positions, with the key being making sure Shved gets his confidence back.
“He’s learning,” Saunders said after Wednesday’s scrimmage. “I think the biggest thing is he has to become more vocal. That’s an adjustment when you’re a European player. He’s picking things up, trying to learn both (point guard and shooting guard). He’s been pretty solid. ‘’
Shved said he’s looking forward to playing in Vegas. About to enter his third season, his English has improved and he said he’s ready to be vocal player Saunders wants.
Here are some other nuggets from Thursday’s workout:
--On Wednesday, after scoring 21 points in the open-to-the-public scrimmage, center Kyrylo Fesenko said one of the reasons he accepted an offer to play summer ball with the Wolves was his friendship with Shved. The two know each other from playing in Europe. Thursday Shved made a politically-tinged joke. “He’s Ukrainian, I’m Russian,” he said, referencing the current political climate between those two countries. “We stay together. As players, we are together.”
--Saunders said Shabazz Muhammad has been the hardest worker this week, said the second-year player knows he has to improve on defense and is willing to do what it takes to get there. He also said this: “Today was probably as good a practice as he’s had since he’s been a Timberwolves player,” Saunders said.
--Saunders said second-round draft pick Glen Robinson III won’t be signed to a contract before the team plays in Vegas. The Wolves want to maintain some roster flexibility as they navigate free agency.
--Robinson, meanwhile, admitted the players have been as interested in the anticipation surrounding LeBron James’ impending free agency decision. “We have been fans a little bit,” he said. “We’re watching ESPN, wondering, just like everybody else.”
--Saunders said Chase Budinger, who will travel to Vegas to practice with the team, won’t play in any summer league games. But he said Budinger, trying to come back from two injury-marred seasons, is coming along well. “He’s gotten a lot more confidence in his legs,” Saunders said. “He’s able to shoot the ball better, get the ball above the rim, dunking, doing a lot of things he didn’t do a lot of [last year].”
The Timberwolves have recalled Shabazz Muhammad from the D-League.
Here is the team's release:
The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the club has recalled rookie guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad from the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League.
Muhammad appeared in four games for the Energy, leading Iowa to a 3-1 record while averaging 24.5 points, on 57.1% shooting, and 9.8 rebounds per game. He recorded two double-doubles during the stint, including scoring 26 points and hauling in a game-high 12 rebounds vs. Fort Wayne on Jan. 11.
Muhammad was named to the 2014 NBADLeague.com All-Showcase Team after averaging 23.0 points, on 62.5% shooting, and 9.0 rebounds in two games during the D-League Showcase. He made his D-League debut on Jan. 7, tallying 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting and seven rebounds.
Muhammad, originally selected with the 14th overall pick, was acquired by the Wolves in a draft-day trade with the Utah Jazz. He averaged 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season at UCLA, leading the Bruins to the Pac-12 regular season championship.
Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng arrived in Minnesota today and met the media at Target Center.
Muhammad, the Timberwolves’ top pick in Thursday’s draft, elicited immediate negative reaction from fans, who on chat boards and radio call-ins noted his me-first, shoot-first playing style.
The Wolves, who entered the draft in desperate need of a shooting guard, failed to draft one despite having three first-round picks. Making matters worse, the perception is that Muhammad’s style will be a tough fit in coach Rick Adelman’s passing offense that relies on team play.
New Wolves GM Flip Saunders said Friday that Muhammad and fellow first-round pick Dieng were “winners’’ who he deemed “NBA ready to contribute.’’ Both picks appeared at a Friday press conference.
Muhammad did his best to dispel the critics. Asked if his reputation as a selfish player was something he had to address during pre-draft workouts for teams, Muhammad did not shy away from his past.
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “That’s one thing I’m really working on, figuring it out. It makes life way easlier to be unselfish, for yourself and your teammates. I’m concentrating on that.’’
Muhammad was the 14th overall pick out of UCLA, and Dieng, a center from national champion Louisville, was 21st overall.
It was a fairly newsy Thursday over at Target Center. J.J. Barea reiterated his belief that the team needs to get tougher, and just about everybody on the team agreed. Coach Rick Adelman talked about the need for more patience on defense and a better, more team-oriented approach on offense.
But the biggest news of the day really came from Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio.
--Roy said he had another setback in his quest to return to action over the weekend. It happened Saturday – the day after what he said was a very, very good workout on Friday – when he felt a tweak in his chronically sore right knee.
“I felt I was getting close to being able to play,” he said. “And (I was) just starting to pick up my workouts. I didn’t actually bump anybody, just made a move, and kind of tweaked it. Had a setback.”
There is no question Roy is frustrated about his attempts at getting back on the court. A few weeks ago president of basketball operations David Kahn said a new treatment approach would be used on Roy. It appears that new approach is a knee brace designed to take pressure off the most sensitive part of his right knee.
But Roy said it has been a difficult thing to get used to. As his doctor predicted, Roy experienced hamstring pain soon after donning it, and he has had to work through that, too.
“I still don’t have a timetable,” he said. “Just trying to fight through it and get back on the court. … I am able to work out. But we’re trying to get a new schedule where we don’t pound day to day. Maybe I’ll work hard on Monday, then go lighter on Tuesday, to see if that will get me closer to being able to play games, and get into shape to where I can’t practice as much, but I can play some games.”
Then Roy was asked if he is optimistic about his being able to return this year.
“That’s a hard one,” he said. “There are moments when I don’t know if it will happen again. And then I’ll start working out, building and I get to a place where I have a great workout. Friday I worked out great, and Saturday there was a setback. So I’m disappointed right now. But if it settles down, mentally I think I can start building my confidence to hopefully get back out there.”
And now Rubio:
Rubio is good friends with Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who is going through a difficult season with the Los Angeles Lakers – the Wolves’ opponent Friday at Target Center.
Gasol missed eight games earlier in the season with knee tendonitis. More recently he missed five games with a concussion. Upon his return he has been used mainly off the bench. In the Lakers’ victory over New Orleans on Tuesday Gasol did not play in the fourth quarter, and expressed his displeasure about it afterwards. Gasol, 32, is averaging a career-low 12.8 points per game.
Today Rubio was asked if Gasol was being treated fairly.
“I don’t’ think so,” Rubio said. “He proved in the league that he is one of the best. He can pass, he can shoot, he can rebound. He can do a lot of things. I think if you use him in the right way, he is a top player in this league. If they don’t want him, we are more than welcome to get him.”
At this Rubio laughed. But it’s no secret that Gasol’s name has been linked to trade rumors all season.
“He’s been with the Lakers (five-plus) seasons,” Rubio said. “And he’s been a starter since day one. This year – it seems like It’s been the last two years – it seems they don’t want him. But actually they need him, because he’s a great player. He can do a lot of things. He’s had issues with his knees, and it’s been a lot of years without resting for him. But he’s a veteran, he knows how to play. He’s a great player.”
Rubio said he’s in regular contact with Gasol, as he is with other Spanish players playing in the NBA. “It’s hard when you’re hearing things, rumors that you’re going to be traded,” Rubio said. “But he’s a professional. He’s been playing a long time, and he’s going to keep doing what he’s been doing.”
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be covering tomorrow’s game.
Timberwolves coach Terry Porter and guard Ricky Rubio have talked. And there are no issues between the two. Indeed, listening to both after this morning’s shootaround at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., it sounds like there was never really an issue to start with.
Rubio remained on the bench the entire fourth quarter of the Wolves’ loss to Brooklyn Wednesday at Target Center. At one point he was at the scorer’s table, ready to check back in. But, after J.J. Barea hit a three-pointer, Porter decided to go with Barea – who played the entire quarter -- and Rubio returned to the bench.
After the game, clearly frustrated with that decision, Rubio said he wanted to play and the he would talk to Porter about the decision.
But, Rubio said today, he had calmed down before that talk ever took place.
“Of course I was frustrated,” he said. “I wanted to play. I always want to play. … But, actually, I didn’t even need to talk (to Porter). The next day I realized that maybe I didn’t deserve (to play) because J.J. was hitting the shots. And he’s able to get hot at some point and get a lot of points.”
Still, Rubio said, he apologized to Porter.
“Because it came up like I was saying something against him,” Rubio said. “And I never went against him. It was something that I was against me, by myself, because I was frustrated with me. But it’s something that doesn’t have to be against him or against the team. We are here, we are a team and we always try to do the best for the team.”
Porter also downplayed both the incident and the need for a talk with Rubio. “I don’t think it ever was really an issue,” he said. “He was frustrated, like any player would be who wants to play in the fourth quarter. So, really, a dead issue.”
Barea, meanwhile, said he took no offense at Rubio’s frustration. “I got no issue with him,” Barea said. “He’s a competitor just like me, and we all want to be in the game in the last minutes and try to help our team win. I have no problem with that. I’m fine with him. He’s a competitor, he wants to win, and I want to win. Everybody wants to play at the end of the game and help the team. Especially now, with us losing some games, and everybody is a little tired of losing.”
In other news from this morning:
--J.J. Barea was not surprised that Brooklyn guard C.J. Watson was warned by the league for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during Wednesday night’s game with the Wolves. It came in the fourth quarter with more than 9 minutes left in the game, when Watson fell to the floor after a slight bump from Barea. Watson admitted the flop after the game. “He’s a flopping guy, so I tried to give him a taste of his own medicine,” Watson told the Nets’ postgame television broadcast after the game. “I hope I don’t get fined, though.”
Because it was a first offense, he only got warned.
“It was a great defensive play,” Barea said. “And the refs, they called the charge. But I knew he was going to get a warning after that one. Because I just got a fine. So he was going to get (a warning).”
Barea has appealed his recent fine. But he said he has learned that the NBA Players Association is taking up the flopping issue with the league, and that process might need time to play out.
“I’m finding out that everybody who has gotten (warned or fined) is in the same process,” Barea said. “So it’s a Players Association thing now.”
--Porter said there might be a silver lining in Alexey Shved’s ankle injury, which will keep him out of his fourth straight game tonight. Shved, a rookie from Russia, was showing signs of fatigue in the games before his injury. Porter said Shved might be able to take advantage of this down time to recharge a little bit.
“Hopefully, with the time off, he’ll come back fresher,” Porter said. “His legs will be stronger. He seemed to need that. Normally they get that at the All-Star break. But he’s gotten it a little earlier.”
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