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.
Well, pen hasn’t been put to paper yet. But Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders talked via phone with forward Derrick Williams today, informing him of the team’s intent to pick up his option for next season. It should be official by the end of the week. Saunders, who is on the road, will be back in town and the two will meet face-to-face Friday to seal the deal.
“It helps, (having) the security,” said Williams, whose option for the 2014-15 season will bring him close to $6.7 million. “You’re guaranteed at least one more year in the NBA. As long as you have that, I think everything is good.”
For Williams, security is a pretty big deal. It seems one rumor after another has had him out of town basically from the time he was picked second overall in the 2011 draft. Not that this will change things that much. Saunders has said from the beginning it doesn’t make sense to let assets walk away from the organization. So the team was going to pick up this option on Williams pretty much no matter what. Williams has the security of knowing his contract is guaranteed, but he doesn’t know for sure where that job will take him. Still, that guarantee is important.
Williams, entering his second season, has yet to establish himself as a starter with the Wolves. Indeed, he was challenged by the Wolves during camp, a challenge coach Rick Adelman said Williams has accepted. “I think he’s played very hard,” Adelman said. “He rebounded the ball very well the other night. It’s a process for him. It’s hard, because he has had to play two spots. He has to jump back and forth.’’
Williams has bounced between power forward and small forward. Adelman started Williams at the small forward spot in Minnesota’s preseason victory over Boston in Montreal Sunday. For Williams, the biggest challenge at the small forward position is on defense. “At that spot you’re playing a totally different player than you are at the four spot,” Adelman said.
That said, Williams – who dropped 20 pounds during the offseason trying to add more quickness, appears to be a player eager to take the next step.
“I was 20 years old when I got into the NBA and now I’m 22,” Williams said. “And I’m still growing and I’m still learning. I’ve always heard that, as you get older, you’re going to figure things out. And that’s what I’ve been doing.’’
Williams, who worked with the second unit through most of training camp, said he was a little surprised to get the start Sunday. But he said he hopes to have more going forward. “Being in the starting lineup? I think I deserve to be. That’s why they drafted me here. They didn’t draft me to come off the bench, things like that. Ultimately, it’s up to coach. I’m just here to play basketball.”
Adelman said he plans on using different starting lineups over the next two preseason games, starting Wednesday night in Philadelphia, in order to help figure out his rotations. In a perfect world, Adelman said he’d like to bring Corey Brewer off the bench rather than start him at small forward because of the energy he can bring to the game in a reserve role.
Meanwhile, the team also has until the start of the regular season to pick up Ricky Rubio’s $5 million option for next season and will do so; the decision on Rubio’s contract is nothing but a formality.
Here are some other tidbits from today’s practice:
--Adelman praised the improved consistency his starters showed Sunday, especially in the second half of the victory over Boston. “They came out and they were much more intense in that second half than they were earlier,” Adelman said.
--Adelman was asked how hard it is to be the coach of a team that travels as much or more than any other team in the league. Specifically, he was asked if he ever tried to address it with the league. “We asked the league to change it,” he deadpanned. “And they sent us to Mexico. So, don’t ask again.”
That’s about it for now. Jerry will pick up the team in Philly.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman is back at work this morning, coaching practice at Target Center.
Adelman missed nearly three weeks while attending to his wife, Mary Kay, as doctors worked to find out what was causing her seizures.
"It's hard," Adelman said after practice. "Obviously, I've never done this. It's never happened. But there are some things more important than basketball or anything else and I think the team understands that. Hopefully things will settle down."
Adelman missed 11 games, and the team was 2-9 without him. Top assistant Terry Porter ran the team in Adelman's absence.
Starting center Nikola Pekovic and starting shooting guard Alexey Shved were both back and participating in practice on Monday morning as well.
Adelman said his wife has returned home.
"Things are looking better," he said. "We're going to take things as it comes each day."
Barring any new developments with his wife's health, Adelman intends to coach the team Wednesday night when it plays the Clippers at Target Center.
"I plan on it," he said. "If they'll let me."
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.”
Rick Adelman has missed the past two Wolves games because of a family matter. The team announced today that Adelman's wife, Mary Kay, has been hospitalized.
The team said Adelman's status is day-by-day, and he would return as soon as he is able.
Terry Porter will continue to serve as acting head coach.
Just as he appeared to have rediscovered his shooting touch, Timberwolves forward Kevin Love has had another injury setback.
Love got poked in the eye late in the Wolves’ victory over Oklahoma City Thursday at Target Center. He will not travel with the team to New York and will miss Sunday’s game against the Knicks.
“He has to be careful the next few days to make sure he doesn’t do anything that causes pressure in his eye,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that happened near the end of the game. But, hopefully, if he rests and doesn’t do anything, we’ll see how he is after Christmas.”
It is the latest in a series of injuries and illnesses for Love, who missed the team’s first nine games after breaking two bones in his right hand while doing knuckle pushups at his home. Love also injured his thumb in a victory at New Orleans Dec. 14. He was set to return the following night, but missed Ricky Rubio’s return – and the Wolves’ overtime victory over Dallas – with an illness.
The hope is Love will be able to return for the Wolves’ home game with Houston Wednesday.
In other news:
--Guard Brandon Roy returned, full-time, to practice Saturday for the first time since Nov. 19 arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He said he felt good, and Adelman said he looked good. Adelman said a timetable for Roy’s return to action could come after he takes part in another high-intensity workout following Wednesday’s game.
--Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said the team worked out a player Saturday and would work out another on Wednesday, but did not disclose the names of those players. The Wolves are looking for a player who can play both the small forward and shooting guard position in the wake to injuries to Malcolm Lee and Josh Howard.
--Kahn said Lee is contemplating surgery on his injured knee, but hasn’t made a final decision yet. Lee was in New York this past week meeting with specialists, who recommended surgery, Kahn said. In any case, Kahn said Lee is likely done for the season.
--Both Kahn and Adelman said Rubio has not suffered any setbacks and could see his minutes increase, as early as Sunday.
That’s about it right now. Have a good weekend.
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