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.

Posts about Rookies

Starters set for tonight's Wolves opener

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda Updated: December 26, 2011 - 12:45 PM

The Timberwolves just concluded their morning shootaround for tonight's season-opener against Oklahoma City and judging from who wore the white jersey, Rick Adelman is going with that lineup from last season that he used in the preseason:

Luke Ridnour and Wes Johnson at guard, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley at forwards, Darko! at center.

When asked how the Wolves will try to defend two-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant, assistant coach Terry Porter said they'll throw everything at him: Beasley, Derrick Williams, Wes and probably then some.

Rookie Ricky Rubio will make his NBA debut coming off the bench.

If preseason gave us an accurate preview, look for Adelman to pair Rubio with J.J. Barea most of the time. They'll probably be the first players off the bench tonight.

"It's going to be amazing," Rubio said. "After long, long two years waiting to play here, I'm finally here. It's going to be hard because we have a lot of games in a short season. I think today we'll play good. We have to think about enjoy it and try to win."

He missed the preseason finale at Milwaukee and a few days of practice because of a sprained ankle, but this morning declared himself, "Much, much better. I don't feel pain. I feel much better."

About coming off the bench, he said, "Derrick Williams and all the rookies, it's hard to start from the beginning. There's a lot of experience here like KLove and Luke Ridnour. All those players who know better than us, they have to teach us how to handle that pressure and all that stuff."

He said he believes he's ready for the NBA.

"It's a short preseason," he said. "I think that i learned fast. I learned a lot of things from my teammates, from the game with Milwaukee that we played. I think I'm ready. We'll see tonight."

Yes, we will.

Opening tap is 7 p.m. tonight against a Thunder team that reached the Western Conference finals last spring before losing to eventual champion Dallas and who dispatched Orlando with relative ease in Sunday's season opener.

A couple other things:

* Barea on watching his former Dallas team play Miami in Sunday's national TV opener: "Watched most of it. The first part of it was hard, it was hard to watch. I wish it would have been different to be there with my old teammates and try to to do it again, but nothing. I'm excited to be here. New team, it's over now. Let that one go and keep going."

* Former Gopher and TImberwolf Quincy Lewis was at shootaround this morning and will do some pre- and post-game work for FSN this season, starting tonight.

Best practice so far?

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: December 19, 2011 - 5:27 PM

After the breezy feel of the open scrimmage Monday, the Wolves got  back to work in the afternoon. And the result was what coach Rick Adelman called perhaps the best practice of camp so far.

"They had the day off yesterday, and we said we need to come today and have a really good workout today and tomorrow," Adelman said. "I think they came with that attitude."

What made it the best? To Adelman, it was the focus the players brought to the workout facility. "It might have been our best as far as them coming in and keeping their attitude right on through. Two and a half hours and they didn't break down once in their attitude. So I thought it was a very good practice."

That said, a couple players were missing. Ricky Rubio's right ankle -- turned in the preseason opener Saturday -- was still a little sore. He said he felt something when he was trying to warm up, so he sat out practice. So did guard J.J. Barea, who has a bruised thigh. Neither seems serious and Adelman described sitting the two players as  precautionary.

Other items of interest:

--Rubio, who didn't appear to be limping at all, met with two members of the Spanish language newspaper La Voz Latina, and with Kevin Friedland of the Minnesota Stars soccer team. Friedland is player/coach of the Stars, who won the 2011 North American Soccer League championship.

Friedland gave Rubio a personalized Stars jersey. Afterward Rubio was asked if he played  soccer growing up in Spain. "I was playing both basketball and soccer," he said. "I decided to play soccer, because all of my friends were playing soccer. But after two months, or a month, I went to my mom and I said I didn't like soccer, I prefer to play basketball. I think I make right decision."'

That happened when Rubio was about 10 years old. And why didn't he like soccer? "Soccer was kind of boring," Rubio said. "Because, sometimes, when you don't score, you don't touch the ball for five minutes. You're running and not touching the ball. I prefer to control to control everything. So that's why I'm a point guard in basketball."

--Rubio and Derrick Williams went along with the rookie hazing that went with the open scrimmage -- the singing and dancing -- but it sounds like they're looking forward to doing the same thing to the new rookies next season.

--Adelman said both Anthony Randolph and Nikola Pekovic will get more minutes in the preseason rematch in Milwaukee Wednesday. Also, Adelman said the starting lineup would  likely change, but that he hadn't settled on a starting five yet.

 

That's about all. Have a good night.

 

Thanking the fans and hazing the rookies

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: December 19, 2011 - 1:09 PM

 The Timberwolves' open scrimmage today -- one that about 2,000 folks showed up at Target Center for -- was more an homage to the fans than anything really basketball-related. 

And that was fine. 

It was fun, fan-friendly hour that included games of H-O-R-S-E and knockout with fans, a very loose, intensity-free 10 minutes of scrimmaging, some fun rookie hazing and a brief, three-man dunking contest.

Martell Webster was the emcee of the event, with a little help from Kevin Love. Webster thanked the fans for coming, Love promised that good things are coming this season.

Frankly, the most entertaining segment of the lunch hour came when Webster decided to do a little rookie hazing. He brought Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee out to center court, and that's where the fun started.

 Webster told the rookies to sing the National Anthem. Rubio couldn't, because he doesn't know the words. But, with the help of a ringer, Williams and Lee obliged. Then Webster brought out a gal celebrating a birthday. Rubio got down on one knee and wished her a happy birthday, then Williams and Lee sang to her. 

And then, a rookie dance contest. We were edging into cruelty here, I think, but it was fun seeing the three rooks do a little gyrating for the fans. 

After Love thanked the fans once more for coming, Michael Beasley, Lee and Williams did a few dunks. The winner, in my eyes? Williams, who took a lob pass from Rubio and did a windmill dunk. 

It's pretty clear most folks were here to watch Rubio, and he obliged with some nifty no-look passes during the actual 10-minute scrimmage.

I'll talk to the rookies today to get an idea how they felt about their pretty public hazing. Until then, have a good day.

 

NBA owners and players agree to new labor deal

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda Updated: November 26, 2011 - 3:56 AM

It is over so soon?

Yes, the NBA lockout appears to be over after a late, late night -- or early, early morning -- agreement in New York City between owners and players.

At this late hour, I'll simply cut-and-paste here the story I wrote for the web site so early Saturday morning risers will know what happened overnight....

 

 
After 149 days and many very late nights, NBA owners and players finally agreed early Saturday morning – fittingly after a 16-hour meeting that finished as dawn approached -- to a new labor deal that will have the Timberwolves back playing games at Target Center right after Christmas.
 
That means Wolves fans, after a season already delayed by two months, soon could finally see rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams as well as new coach Rick Adelman make their debuts with a team expected to look dramatically different than the one that won just 17 games last season.
 
Both the league’s 450 players and 30 team owners still must approve a resolution that neither side, particularly the players, resoundingly like.
 
Before they do, the players will have to reform their union, which they dissolved last week in what NBA commissioner David Stern dismissed simply as a “negotiating tactic.”
 
Guess he was right.
 
If both owners and players each approve the deal, it finally will end the second-longest work stoppage in league history -- a lockout of the players by owners in a dispute over billions of dollars and plenty of principles that began when the previous labor agreement expired on July 1.
 
It also will save a condensed 66-game season that is expected to begin with the league’s lucrative, nationally-televised games on Christmas day that originally was scheduled to feature Boston at New York, Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers and in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals, Miami at Dallas.
 
Free agency and training camps are expected to begin simultaneously on Dec. 9.
 
The two sides reached the handshake agreement at 3 a.m. New York City. Stern and NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter appeared at a joint news conference about 40 minutes later.
 
“The greater good required us to knock ourselves out and come to this understanding,” a weary-looking Stern said. “We’ve got fans. We’ve got players who would like to play. We’ve got others who are dependent on us and it’s always been our goal to reach a deal that is fair to both sides.”
 
At least one Timberwolf sounds prepared to start the season, and his NBA career.
 
“Minnesota,” Williams tweeted at 2:37 a.m. Minneapolis time, “I know y’all ready!!!”
 
Not long after that, star forward Kevin Love tweeted, “Is this for real?” and guard Wayne Ellington tweeted, “I really hope this is real and a FAIR deal is ready to be made!”
 
It sure appears to be real.
 
Saturday’s early-morning resolution came only after months of negotiations broke off two weeks ago and the NBA players association took the issue from Manhattan hotel ballrooms into federal court.
 
They dissolved their union in a legal maneuver and filed two antitrust lawsuits against the owners, including one in Minnesota U.S. District that -- like the NFL’s battle with its players last spring and summer – threatened to make Minneapolis the only place for any court action this winter.
 
That changed, of course, when the two sides finally came together this week for good, first with some back-channel negotiations earlier in the week that set the Thanksgiving weekend table for Friday’s 16-hour session that finally produced the handshake deal.
 
After all that haggling, the players finally accepted a split in basketball-related revenues between 49 and 51 percent depending on the league’s fortunes. The owners, in turn, acquiesced at least a little and softened their stance on “system” issues that they sought to help even a playing field among teams that last season saw the Lakers spend $110 on player payroll and the Sacramento Kings just $45 million.
 
ESPN reported the players will receive “slightly more” than 50 percent, but not as much as 51 percent.
Players received 57 percent of revenues in the previous labor agreement that began in 2005 and ended last summer.
 
Their acceptance of that nearly seven-percent reduction is expected to cost players – and save the NBA’s 30 teams – about $3 billion over the deal’s 10 years. It also means for them shorter contracts, smaller raises and less free-agency options.
 
The two sides met 24 times for more than 160 combined hours and finally struck a deal that apparently satisfies NBA owners’ two biggest demands:
 
·        *  It’ll put as much as $1 billion more in their pockets over the life of an expected 10-year deal after the NBA claimed 22 of 30 teams lost a combined $300 million last season.
 
·         * It will help even that playing field with a more punitive luxury tax that will prevent the richest teams from spending at will for free agents and conceivably will prevent a parade of superstars – LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard – from dictating where they will play.
 
“It will largely prevent high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market the way they have been able to in the past,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. “It’s a compromise. It’s not the system we sought out to get. We hope it’s effective. You can never be certain how a new system will work, but we feel it ultimately will give fans in every community hope that their team can compete for a championship and that their basis for believing will be a function of management rather than how deep the owner’s pockets are or how large the market is.”
 
Whether the new deal will allow the Wolves to sign Love to a contract extension and keep together its core of young players that also includes Rubio, Williams, Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Wes Johnson remains to be determined.
 
But for now, the Wolves have plenty to do.
 
Stern had set a 30-day interim to get the league back up and running again. After a ratification process that could take as long as a week, the Wolves then must:
 
·         * Finalize their roster during what will be a brief, hectic free-agency period in which they’ll sign Williams and second-round pick Malcolm Lee to rookie contracts and investigate whether they can swing a significant trade with a team looking to avoid a more punitive luxury-tax system.
 
·         * Finalize Adelman’s coaching staff by officially signing assistant coaches Terry Porter, Jack Sikma, T.R. Dunn, Bill Bayno, Adelman’s son David and by adding son R.J. to a player-personnel position in the front office.
 
·         * Integrate all the new faces in a hurried two-week training camp that probably will include at least two preseason games before the season opener.
 
All of it likely means the Wolves probably will play their first game on Dec. 26.
 
"We want to play basketball,” said San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, chairman of the NBA’s labor relations committee. “Let's go play basketball."
 

 

 

NBA players take the court in Minneapolis

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda Updated: November 16, 2011 - 2:08 AM

NBA players finally hit the court here in Minneapolis on Tuesday, but it wasn't at Target Center.

Nope, Timberwolves players Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Williams as well as Caron Butler and Ben Gordon were the four players listed as plantiffs to represent the rest of their brethern in an antitrust lawsuit the players association -- note: it's not a union anymore -- filed in U.S. District Court here today.

Those four players were chosen because they cover all the bases for all the players they represent: Free agents (Butler), players with current NBA contracts (Tolliver and Gordon) and unsigned rookies (Williams).

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the players also filed a lawsuit in Northern California court. This one listed five players as plantiffs, including superstars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.

The lawsuits basically claims the owners' lockout of players is an illegal "boycott" and they ask a judge for three times the amount of players' lost wages, a figure that could surpass $2 billion.

Hotshot lawyer David Boies -- the guy who fought for the NFL owners in their work-stoppage dispute with players last spring and summer -- told reporters in New York City that David Stern made a "mistake" for issuing last week's ultimatum, a take-it-or-leave-it offer that the players contend signal the end of collective bargaining that led them to dissolve the union on Monday.

Here's the short story I wrote for Wednesday's paper about the who and what and why the players' lawyers chose Minneapolis as one of its venues.

The NBA hopes to get this whole matter heard at home in New York City, which is why it filed a pre-emptive lawsuit agains tthe players last summer expecting something like this week's maneuver.

Boies in essence said Tuesday that the purpose of the lawsuits -- and there could be more -- is to produce an agreement with the NBA long before they ever reach litigation.

It's obvious the players don't have the months -- and years probably -- required to see this thing through in the courts.

We'll see where this gamble leas up...

 

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