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.
I spent Thursday in Chicago for the first day of the NBA's annual draft combine, collecting information for our draft coverage later this month.
Some of this and that from there:
* Minnesota's own Royce White and Jordan Taylor said they will work out for the Wolves at Target Center on Tuesday, when the team will continue pre-draft workouts before it sends representatives to Italy for the upcoming Eurocamp.
White is something of the draft's mystery man. Not his talent, because he proven at Iowa State that he has NBA game, but because of questions about his past and an anxiety disorder that includes a fear of flying.
Take away those questions and the former Gopher probably is a Top 10 talent.
Add those doubts among NBA executives and he still might fall no farther than Denver at No. 20 because of guard's skills in a power forward's 6-8 body.
He downplayed those issues, saying they're overblown and said he'll fly, even though it's not his favorite thing in the world.
The Wolves own the 18th pick and don't need another power forward, but they do need wing players who can handle the ball and make plays and White does both exceptionally for a big man.
And he himself says he can't decide if he's a small forward or a power forward because he thinks he's a point guard more than anything.
"I like to bring it up," he said, and he did so a lot for former Wolves player and executive Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State.
He also said he'd like to play for the Timberwolves.
Actually, he said more than that.
He said he sent a message from Hoiberg to David Kahn that he'd give his "pinky toe" to play for his hometown team.
"Doesn't matter," he said. "Either, both."
He elaborates in some video that should be embedded here in the post shortly.
Taylor was a late addition to the combine, one of the players added after European prospect Evan Fournier pulled out.
"I'm just happy I got the opportunity," said Taylor, who was Mr. Basketball at Benilde-St. Margaret 's in 2008 one year before White won the award at Hopkins High in 2009. "I'm excited. I'm always self motivated. Ever since I was a kid, they told me I was too small, too slow, can't shoot, whatever it is. I can I can play this game pretty well."
An informal sampling of players present in Chicago suggests the Wolves indeed are focusing on wing players -- shooting guards and small forwards -- and shot-blocking bigs in their draft preparations.
Washington shooting guard Terrence Ross, St. John's small forward Moe Harkless and Syracuse center Fab Melo all said Thursday they either have interviewed or will interview with the Wolves before they leave Chicago.
Ross very well could be gone by No. 18, but when asked where he'd like to go in the draft, the Wolves were the first team out of his mouth because he said he knows they need a shooting guard.
Duke's Austin Rivers is working out for lottery teams, but should he somehow drop to No. 18 -- as some early mock drafts predict -- I asked the son of Boston coach Doc Rivers how he'd play with a guy like Ricky Rubio after Rivers had the ball in his hands all the time during his one college season.
"That's fine," he said. "At the end of the day you have to learn to play with people and Rubio’s a great point guard, a rising point guard in the league. You just have to pick your spots and maintain your aggressiveness.It's not about having the ball or starting, it's about finishing the game and making the right play and doing everything you can to make an immediate impact. That’s my main goal right now.
"He's a guy who dribbles the ball a lot. I would just come in and I think we can both have the ball. In my opinion, I can get the rebound and push it up and if he’s ahead of me, I throw it up to him. Or if I’m ahead of him, he can throw it up to me and we can just make plays. It's not about who get more dribbles. It's about doing everything you can to win."
A couple other tidbits from Chicago:
* If you're a draft geek hoping Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters falls to No. 18...he cancelled on Thursday all his interviews and workouts with teams, creating rampant speculation that he has received a guarantee he'll be picked by a team in the top 11.
* European prospect Tomas Satoransky says he pulled out of the two-day camp the Wolves held at Target Center last week because he just completed a long season & his agent didn't think his body was ready to play.
Kahn spent 11 days scouting in Europe recently, but Satoransky said he didn't know of any special interest the Wolves have in him and said he didn't think he's scheduled to work out for the Wolves.
* Harkless -- a 6-8 freshman scorer -- said he interviewed with Wolves, including coach Rick Adelman, last night but said he'll have to huddle up with his agent before he knows if he'll work out for them.
Having said all this, I still expect the Wolves to mightily try to trade that No. 18 pick to get an experienced shooting guard or small forward -- a Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin -- who can make an immediate impact.
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.
The NBA will conduct its annual game of chance tonight before the Heat-Celtics game, only this time for the first time in eight years the Wolves and their fans won't have a rooting interest.
Unless, of course, it's rooting against New Orleans and its 1.1 percent chance to winning the No. 1 pick with the draft choice it received from the Wolves via the Clippers.
The Wolves traded that pick, of course, long ago to L.A. in a deal that sent Sam Cassell out West and brought back the now long-forgotten Marko Jaric.
Given the Wolves' lottery luck, more than a few of their most loyal fans probably rate the Hornets' real odds of winning the No. 1 overall pick with that selection at about 50-50.
The prize to the winner is the right to select Kentucky forward Anthony Davis.
On Thursday, the draft process continues at Target Center, where the Wolves and other NBA teams will have scouting representatives for the first of two days of pre-draft workouts.
These workouts will consists of players expected to go in the second round and go undrafted.
The Wolves will bring in prospects they're considering for the 18th overall pick as the June 28 draft approaches.
Here's the list of players due in Thursday, and, as always, the list is subject to change:
Morning session: Texas guard J'Covan Brown, New Mexico forward Drew Gordon, Duke center Miles Plumlee, Spanish guard Tomas Satoransky, Northwestern forward John Shurna, Memphis forward Wesley Witherspoon.
Afternoon session: Baylor forward Quincy Acy, Marquette forward Jae Crowder, Iona guard Scott Machado, Temple guard Ramone Moore, Tennessee Tech guard Kevin Murphy and Long Beach State guard Casper Ware.
The Wolves scouting staff travels to Chicago next week for interviews with draft prospects at the NBA's annual draft combine and after that, they'll bring in prospects for that 18th overall pick, guys like Washington's Terrence Ross, Kentucky's Doron Lamb, Iowa State's Royce White and others.
I almost literally ran into Rick Adelman after Thursday night's season-ending loss to Denver at Target Center.
I was rushing back from press row, my computer and a stack of game notes and stat sheets bundled in my arms, into the press room in time for Adelman's postgame address when he was just walking in.
I stopped and gestured for him to proceed.
He did the same to me, then won me by saying, "Go ahead, people have been blowing by us all night."
And true, too.
He called this one a "statement game" that only "reinforces" thoughts he has had about how this team's roster must change this summer.
Here's the game story from Thursday's game in which I contrast Brad Miller's tearful goodbye to the game after a 14-year NBA career with several of his teammates who played as if they didn't care a bit.
And here's another piece for Friday's paper in which Adelman talks about the future and how he expects his voice to be heard loud and clear as the team enters a crucial summer in which he vows they will be aggressive in improving this team either by player development, the draft, trades or all three.
There also should be video up here by morning of Miller talking about the final game of his career on a night when several teammates wore blue headbands to honor him.
The Wolves finished the season by losing 13 of their final 14 games and end with a 26-40 record in this lockout-shortened 66-game season.
That's still nine more than they won in a regular 82-game season last year.
On Friday, they will find out where that first-round draft pick they get from Utah falls.
The Jazz finished tied with Dallas and New York with 36-30 record, so there will be a blind draw Friday that detemines if the Wolves will draft 16, 17 or 18 overall with that pick.
That's all I got tonight from Target Center.
It has been a hectic season, a long, late night and I'll be at Target Center early Friday for the postseason news conference in which both Adelman and David Kahn will speak.
I'll check back with you then.
Thanks, Big Al!
Al Jefferson -- the guy the Wolves traded away for so far nothing tangible but cap space (which they didn't do anything really constructive with) -- has led the Utah Jazz into the playoffs, producing big in recent weeks and finishing off Tuesday's victory over Phoenix that clinched the West's final playoff spot.
He did his part with a 15-point, 16-rebound game that included a couple big buckets late in the game.
By doing so, he guaranteed his former franchise's June will be more interesting.
The Jazz's achievement means the Wolves get Utah's first-round pick, which if the season ended today would be the 17th overall pick.
Of course, the season doesn't end until Thursday night. By then, the pick could be anywhere between 15 and maybe (but unlikely) as high as 20, depending on how the final jockeying in records between the Jazz, Dallas, Denver, New York, Phialdelphia and Orlando finish.
So how much are the Wolves going to sell this first-rounder for?
ESPN.com's Chad Ford's latest mock draft has Illinois center Meyers Leonard going 17th overall, but that doesn't take into what the final draft order and what those teams' needs will be.
If you check out several mock drafts, the pool of players the Wolves likely will be looking at includes Duke shooting guard Austin Rivers, Washington guards' Tony Wroten Jr. and Terrance Ross, Mississippi State forward Arnett Moultrie, Iowa State's (and former Gopher) Royce White and possibly North Carolina's John Henson, if he falls that far.
There's no guarantee any of those players will end up with the Wolves. That pick gives them just another option to either use or trade as a piece in a deal for a veteran such Houston's Kevin Martin, who the Rockets are going to peddle by draft night and who Rick Adelman knows well.
The Wolves, as you might know if you haven't tried really, really hard to have forgotten, don't have their first-round pick.
They traded that away years ago to the Clippers in the deal that brought Marko Jaric to Minnesota.
New Orleans now owns that pick, which likely will be a Top 10 pick.
Given the Wolves' luck, the Hornets will beat the odds and turn a 1.1 percent chance into the draft's top pick.
Doesn't that sound just about right?
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