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.
In the end, Michael Beasley’s “All Star Classic” became more of a friends and acquaintances thing.
Organizers promoted appearances by Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and other NBA stars, but Friday’s turnout at Osseo High included several of Beasley’s Timberwolves teammates, Golden State’s Dorell Wright, a collection of summer-league players and former WNBA player Tamara Moore in one of those typical 179-170 pickup games won by Team Beasley over the Visitors.
If you’re a Timberwolves fan thinking long term, the most important presence might not have been a player, though, but one of the celebrity coaches.
And I’m not talking Adrian Peterson.
Former Lakers guard Norm Nixon was there to support Beasley, with whom he has worked much of this prolonger NBA summer.
Nixon was Jalen Rose’s agent when David Kahn worked for Indiana.
After seeing that relationship work, Kahn reached out to Nixon last spring and asked him to work with Beasley over the summer both on and off the court.
Despite the June drafting of Derrick Williams, it’s obvious Kahn still is investing a lot in helping Beasley all he can be.
The hiring of Portland assistant Bill Bayno seems like one indication.
Nixon’s presence certainly is another.
Nixon’s influence can be seen in Beasley’s slimmer and more flexible body. Nixon’s wife is Debbie Allen, the actress, director and famed choreographer who owns an L.A. dance studio and Nixon and Beasley spent time there this summer applying the stretching elements of dance to Beasley’s body.
Included one day was a lesson from a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi.
“When you start teaching guys and make them understand better about their bodies, they become better pros,” Nixon said.
He also has mentored Beasley – who was ticketed for marijuana possession in June and pushed a fan in the face during a streetball game in New York City in August – away from the court.
Nixon has pushed Beasley to tighten the circle of people around him.
“You have seen Michael’s talent, I don’t think there’s a question about the talent,” Nixon said. “What most people don’t realize is he’s 22. He’s just a kid. When young guys come into the league at 18, 19, they’re more comfortable having people around them. I think as you mature and get older, you need to peel some of that entourage off. He’s getting to the stage now where he’s getting to be a leader on this team.
“I think when you have too many distractions off the court, you can’t lead the way you should. One of the things I’m trying to get him to do is be more focused and get that entourage smaller, so he can focus on what he needs to do to lead this team.”
Beasley said one step to becoming that leader is becoming more active in the community where he plays, and thus Friday night’s game.
“I feel like we need a leader,” Beasley said. “We’ve got a young talented group and all we need is the right coach and the right floor general…
“I want to be, I think I can be that guy.”
Some other things from Friday’s game:
· * Beasley did look noticeably slimmer.
He said he played last season around 240 and now after a summer of experimenting with ballet and yoga is about 225, a change he said is intended to help him prolong his career.
“I never had fat,” he said. “I’m just more prepared now.”
He played in pal Kevin Durant’s charity game that included LeBron James in Oklahoma City on Sunday and went out and scored a game-high 56 points.
· * Anthony Randolph looks a little thicker after a prolonged summer spent working out. You can see he’s more defined, but he’s still a skinny dude.
It’ll be interesting to see how much Rick Adelman plays him at center. Adelman certainly will have options because he can play Love at power forward and center, Derrick Williams at both forward spots and Randolph at all three frontcourt positions. Beasley’s weight loss – and the additions of Randolph last February and Williams in the draft – suggests he’ll play almost exclusively at small forward now.
· * Randolph, Wes Johnson and Lazar Hayward all have used this uncertain summer to go back to college. Randolph returned to classes at LSU this summer, Johnson is back at Syracuse and Hayward has gone back to Marquette.
“Back to school, working out, spending time with my family,” Randolph said about his long summer. “I love my family to death, but I’m used to get ready for the season right now. Right now, it’s a little disappointing. When it got to a certain point, I started going to two a days because it felt weird not working out or playing and practicing every day.”
You’d think a guy like Hayward – the last player taken in the 2010 first round, just one pro season under his belt – is hurt most by this lockout, but he said he prepared for it the best he could.
“We had to be ready,” he said. “They (union officials) were reminding us like every other day, `Save money, save money, save money.’ Even if I didn’t want to, I probably would have because it was in my ear all the way.”
· * Love didn’t play Friday, but Golden State’s Dorell Wright has been working out with him, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbook and others regularly in L.A. and can attest to what it looks like from Love’s television and Youtube appearances recently:
The guy’s lost a little weight.
“A little?” Wright asked. “He’s lost a lot of weight. He looks real good. I’m happy for him. He’s coming off a real good year and it’s just going to give him longevity. It’s not for now. It’s for four or five years down the road in this league. That’s a lot of hard work and dedication right there. You’ve got to be really focused on your diet and stay strong. I’m a skinny dude but I like to eat snacks. I know that’s a lot of discipline right there.”
* None of the Wolves present on Friday have seen Ricky Rubio since he arrived in L.A. for workouts a couple weeks ago, but he made an impression on Wes Johnson when the two played in pickup games at Target Center after the draft in June.
“I mean his passes are incredible,” Johnson said. “The passes he made, it’s going to be fun to play with him. He told me to be ready for them. He kept calling my name, `Wes, be ready.’ I was ready.”
Johnson has gotten a much better look at Derrick Williams.
Johnson, Hayward and Williams worked out together throughout the summer.
“What people don’t know is his skill level is really high,” Johnson said. “He can play with his back to the basket and he can shoot it real good, too.”
And Beasley will attest to Williams’ work ethic.
“He’s really a workaholic,” Beasley said. “If you want to see that guy, you’ve got to meet him at the gym.”
Kevin Love isn't coming, but Michael Beasley added Wolves teammates Anthony Randolph, Wayne Ellington and Lazar Hayward along with Wes Johnson for Friday's game in Osseo.
Derrick Williams has been listed all along, too, but he just tweeted back to Tolliver late tonight that he'll be in Arizona and not Minnesota Friday night.
Whoever does show to play...this may be the only NBA ball you're going to see for quite awhile longer after owners and players abruptly ended their negotiations in New York City tonight and promptly busted the gag order put forth by the federal mediator.
And boy, did they bust it with a pair of separate news conference that included the players, led by Derek Fisher, calling the owners a bunch of liars.
But back to Friday's game...
I asked Beasley how he planned to pick teams for the game.
"That's easy," he said. "It's going to be Minnesota Timberwolves against everybody else."
Now if only Ricky Rubio would show up...
"I've heard he's in the States, but I haven't really been in contact with him," said Beasley, who appealed to Rubio on Twitter recently to come play in his game. "He's a tough person to get ahold of."
The lineup of players committed to play has gone through several revisions. The rest of the lineup at this point should look like this: DeMarcus Cousins, Sam Young, Josh Howard, Keith Bogans, Mario Chalmers, Dorell Wright, Derrick Caracter. Pops Mensah-Bonsu, DaeQuan Cook, Bobby Maze and Jimmy Butler.
Adrian Peterson and former Lakers guard Norm Nixon still are on as celebrity coaches.
Here's more from Beasley from the story I wrote for the Friday paper.
They can't get into Target Center these days, so NBA stars John Wall, Joakim Noah and DeMarcus Cousins are among those expected to play in Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley's "All Star Classic" at Osseo High School -- of all places -- next week.
Beasley's Wolves teammates Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington and former Wolf Sebastian Telfair are scheduled to play as well in the Friday night, Oct. 21 exhibition game.
So, too, are Boston's Jeff Green, Detroit's Greg Monroe, L.A. Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, Chicago's Keith Bogans and Beasley's longtime pal, former Dukie Nolan Smith.
Missing from the list -- at least for now -- is childhood buddy Kevin Durant.
More details -- including ticket prices ranging from $50 for general admission $100 for VIP reserved and $200 for courtside seats -- can be found here.
For comparsion, Durant's charity game at a bigger venue in Oklahoma City two days later featuring former Oklahoma star Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Green has priced its tickets from $29 to $89 -- there's some $199 courtside seats as well -- with the average price right around $50.
The Beasley All-Star Classic web site says all net proceeds -- and what that means and how much players get for their presence, I'm not sure -- will go to Beasley's foundation that benefits St. Jude's and three Minneapolis charities.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and former Lakers star Norm Nixon, who has been working out Beasley and mentoring him this off-season, will be celebrity coaches.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and tip is at 7 p.m.
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