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.
Representatives from 25 other NBA teams attended the Wolves' two-day group workouts that ended this afternoon at Target Center.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was here, too.
He's serving as something of a draft adviser to pal Flip Saunders, the Wolves' new president of basketball operations.
"He's good because he has seen a lot of these guys play, recruited a lot of these players," Flip said. "Him coming in to look and talk just helps, gives you insight. One of the biggest things you want to do is background checks, so you know as much about players and where they were four or five years ago and what improvement they've made. Have they reached their full potential or do they have a lot more to go. He helps with that."
Other bits of this and that from these first workouts as the June 27 draft approaches:
* Rick Adelman did come to town -- I didn't see him there yesterday -- for these two days of workouts and Thursday's first individual workouts and he chatted with Kevin Love high up in the Target Center stands at the end of today's second session.
* Those first individual workouts on Thursday are scheduled to feature shooting guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Allen Crabbe (Cal) and Ricky Ledo (Providence) in a six-player group.
Caldwell-Pope is perhaps the leading possibility for that 9th overall pick. The other two guys are candidates for the Wolves' second first-round pick, 26th overall.
Those Thursday workouts are the last until after Saunders returns the second week of June from Italy for the annual Eurocamp.
* Flip will leave after Thursday's workouts for Las Vegas and will watch Russian prospect Sergey Karasev -- a 6-7 shooting swingman who the Wolves will consider with that 9th pick -- in a pro day there on Friday.
He'll then fly to Miami to meet with Ricky Rubio on Saturday.
* While in Europe, Flip also hopes to meet with Alexey Shved -- as well as Nikola Pekovic -- before he returns to Minnesota to continue workouts starting June 12 most likely.
* Flip says he has talked to many candidates -- above and beyond the names of Washington's Milt Newton and New Orleans' Tim Connelly -- for a front-office position but say he won't do anything (if he does anything) until after the draft.
"I've talked to a lot of people about a lot of things," he said. "We're going to wait until after, to see where we are. If I feel comfortable where we're at, we'll continue as is. If I feel we need to bring in somebody else, we'll do that."
He said he wants to streamline the scouting operation and intends to have regional scouts Milt Barnes and Derek Pierce do more extensive pro scouting. He also wants to build a more extensive NBA scouting database.
He wants other front-office personnel based in Minneapolis so they can see the team practice and play daily. There's a chance a guy like longtime international scout Zarko Durisic could move back to the Twin Cities from Los Angeles.
* Flip said he'll bring former Gophers Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe in for individual workouts as the draft approaches.
Williams was in Wednesday's first group of workout and Flip was rather blunt about Williams' NBA prospects at this point.
When asked what parts of Williams' game translate to this next level, he said, "Right now, nothing...Everybody knows he's a great athlete, but at this level you don't just get by with athleticism. There are players in our league who are athletic. Your other skills have to develop. With Rodney, can he make that transition over the next three weeks and use his athleticism defensively and maybe tickle someone's fancy with the way he plays. That's what we're going to have to see."
Flip said he's not sure what position Williams is: He played power forward in college but considers himself an NBA small forward and Flip said with Williams' size, he might have to play shooting guard instead.
"He has to become a perimeter player rather than an inside player," Flip said. "His ball skills and shooting skills have to improve."
* I asked a longtime NBA scout if he'd trade Derrick Williams to move from the ninth pick into the top four if he were the Wolves so he could take one of the two top shooting guards, Indiana's Victor Oladipo or Kansas' Ben McLemore.
No way, is what he said.
He said Williams might be better than anyone in this draft and probably would go top 4 in this draft.
The list of draft prospects -- mostly guys who will go undrafted or might slip into the second round -- for the Wolves' annual two-day camp here at Target Center this week is out.
Gophers forward Rodney Williams is there, in the Wednesday's group.
Princeton, Minn.'s own Jared Berggren -- by way of Madison and the University of Wisconsin -- will work out in one of Tuesday's two groups.
Other names: Baylor guard Pierre Jackson, Illinois guard Brandon Paul, Memphis swingman D.J. Stephens, French center Mouhammadou Jaiteh and Texas A&M guard Elston Turner Jr., whose dad could end back on Rick Adelman's coaching staff after a couple years away.
There's nobody whose names you are going to hear when the Wolves make their two first-round picks in June.
But just to cover all their bases for the draft's second round and summer-league rosters, the Wolves are bringing these guys in on Tuesday and Wednesday for annual workouts attended by scouts from just about every other NBA team:
Anthony Marshall, G UNLV
Kenny Boynton Jr., G, Florida
DeWayne Dedmon, F, USC
Mouhammadou Jaiteh, C, France
Carrick Felix, F, Arizona State
Chris Babb, G, Iowa State
Solomon Hill, F, Arizona
Will Clyburn, G, Iowa State
Michael Snaer, G, Florida State
Brandon Paul, G, Illinois
Derrick Nix, C, Michigan State
Jared Berggren, F/C, Wisconsin
Matt Dellavedova, G, St. Mary's
Pierre Jackson, G, Baylor
Brandon Davies, F, BYU
Jackie Carmichael, F, Illinois State
D.J. Stephens, F/G, Memphis
Rodney Williams, Jr., F, Minnesota
Elston Turner, Jr., G, Texas A&M
B.J. Young, G, Arkansas
Alex Oriakhi, F, Missouri
James Southerland, F, Syracuse
Elias Harris, F, Gonzaga
Jamelle Hagins, F, Delaware
You didn't really expect anything else, did you?
The Wolves came out of Tuesday night's draft lottery right where they were slotted going into the evening -- with the ninth overall pick -- and new boss Flip Saunders said he was perfect satisfied, as long as the team didn't drop a spot to 10th (or worse).
Saunders doesn't agree with the notion that this is a lousy draft. But it has been perceived as that, he says, because it lacks top-end superstar power yet has the kind of depth in which a team picking 12th might get as good a player as one picked sixth.
So he says he's perfectly fine picking ninth.
The Wolves' most glaring need is shooting guard, so they'll take a shooting guard, right?
Not so fast.
Oh, the Wolves will have their options, even after the top shooting guards -- Kansas' Ben McLemore and Indiana's Victor Oladipo -- go top 5 probably.
They could choose Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, who's a great shooter but is point-guard sized at 6-3, or Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who would fill Wolves need for both shooters and real 2-guard size.
But don't be surprised if the Wolves end up going for a shotblocker -- Maryland center Alex Len if he drops that far, or maybe 7-2 French center Rudy Gobert -- for a team that lacks a rim defender.
The Wolves could go that route if they think they can add a veteran shooting guard through a trade (Boston's Courtney Lee perhaps?) or free agency (J.J. Redick, O.J. Mayo and Kyle Korver all will be on the market, but can the Wolves afford any of the three).
Saunders mentions backup center and rim protector as the obvious need for a shooting guard who's bigger than 6-1.
Current backup center Greg Stiemsma's contract isn't guaranteed for next year -- I believe the Wolves have until mid July to make it so -- and Saunders is keeping all options open.
"No decisions have been made," he said.
Saunders said teams always look to add size, particularly if you want to compete in the West where the Spurs have Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, Memphis has Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and the Clippers have Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
"There will be movement on the roster," Saunders said. "If that happens, it could open up a spot. We really don't have a big who protects the rim."
Saunders then mentioned Kevin Love and NIkola Pekovic, neither of whom is a natural shot blocker.
Is Stiemsma as much of a shot blocker as the Wolves have.
"He's a little bit," Saunder said. "We'll evaluate everything. When you win 31 games, you pretty much put everything on the table. We like Greg a lot, but you have to look and see what's available. Right now, he's No. 2 on the depth chart. That doesn't mean he's out. Other things can happen, but if we can find somebody somebody at any position....power forward, shooting guard, the only position we really have log-jammed is point guard."
Robbie Hummel, the Timberwolves' only pick in the NBA draft in June, said he will play in Europe next year.
Hummel told the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier he will play in Spain for El Obradoiro.
He was taken 58th overall in the draft after a storied career at Purdue that was marred by ACL surgeries in his right knee two times in one year. Hummel said he didn't feel 100 percent last season, his senior year with the Boilermakers.
Hummel told the newspaper that he has the Timberwolves' blessing to play abroad.
He is already listed on El Obradoiro's roster.
According to Mark Bartelstein, Hummel's agent, the decision was made "in conjunction" with the Wolves and was made with playing time in mind. Hummel was going to have a difficult time getting minutes this season, and extended playing time is crucial for the 6-8 forward right now. While Hummel wasn't 100 percent as a senior at Purdue, he is back to 100 percent now, Bartelstein said. But he needs minutes to get his complete game back.
"It's always the second year after a torn ACL that you get your game back at a high level," Bartelstein said. "Now he's entering that phase, getting back to being an elite-level player again."
Draft night has come and gone and the Wolves walked away Thursday without making a deal to get back into the first round or without pulling off any other deals, including one they continue to pursue to bring them Pau Gasol.
Instead, they waited all night, until the third from final pick before they took Purdue senior Robbie Hummel with the 58th pick.
David Kahn said the team contemplated making a deal to get a player they targeted late in the first round -- he wouldn't say who, but it was Duke center Miles Plumlee, who they brought to Target Center for a second workout on Tuesday -- but they didn't succeed when Indiana took him 26th.
So they waited another couple hours and took Hummel, a 6-8 shooting small forward who Kahn deemed would have been a first-round pick if his career hadn't been detoured by two torn ACLs within 10 months of each other in 2010.
If you're keeping score at home, Hummel's arrival now gives the Wolves eight white guys currently on their roster.
Kahn said they drafted Hummel intending he will compete for a roster spot this fall if he continues his progress back from those two surgeries.
So it was a quiet night.
As for those additional moves Kahn promised?
The Associated Press reported that the Wolves offer of Derrick Williams to Charlotte for the Bobcats' second overall pick was part of a bigger deal that would bring Gasol to Minnesota, where he'd join Spanish national teammate and pal Ricky Rubio.
The Bobcats refused the offer and took Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead.
The Lakers have been shopping Gasol and the $37 million left on his contract. They reportedly sought a Top 10 pick in Thursday's draft and an established player.
The Wolves have pursued Gasol since last year's draft and are interested in a 32-year-old with a huge contract probably because Rick Adelman is 66, Glen Taylor probably won't own the team for more than three or four more years and Kahn needs to get this team to the playoffs to keep his job.
They're probably figuring a core of Gasol, Rubio and Love could win 50 games and not only getting them into the playoffs, but well into them.
The Lakers also have interest Michael Beasley, who could be the established player in such a deal.
If such a trade for Gasol is made, it might come closer to training camp than draft night, but we'll see.
I''m not sure how to read this latest development: Is it a sign of movement toward a deal or an indication that one could be hard to strike if the Lakers aren't interested in Williams himself.
Meanwhile, the Wolves move on from Thursday toward the start of free agency on Sunday.
On Friday we should find out if Portland shooting guard Jamal Crawford has opted out of his contract for next season and if the Wolves will pursue signing him along with Brandon Roy when free agency begins Sunday.
Someone, including the Wolves, could still trade for him before that decision comes, too.
If the Wolves are able to pull off a deal for such a big salaried player as Gasol, they'd try for that shooting guard upgrade by signing a Crawford or Roy for the team's mid-level or mini mid-level exceptions.
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