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.
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?
Are you getting anxious to analyze the Timberwolves' new schedule, to hear David Kahn and Rick Adelman and their plans to balance this roster and improve this season, to see slimmed-down Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams arrive in town to begin workouts.
Patience, my friends, patience.
The NBA has A LOT of work to do to get this thing up and running by Christmas Day.
Maybe even too much.
They're going to be pushing to get everything done just to open training camps and free agency on Dec. 9, and then it's really going to get crazy.
Here's the timeline Billy Hunter laid out for the players in a letter he sent that (you can find it here, courtesy of SI.com's Sam Amick):
* A settlement agreement between owners and players dismissing all lawsuits between each other is expected to be finalized by today.
* The union then will reform and begin negotiating all the "B" -- or non-economic -- issues of a new collective bargaining argreement such as drug-testing, draft eligibility, workplace rules, etc. That will begin no later than Friday.
* And finally, ratification and signing of the new deal, which won't come until next week. It could be as late as Wednesday, only two days before it's all supposed to be start.
And not until then will you probably see that new schedule.
There's also a good chance you won't hear a word from Kahn or Adelman until everybody appears for the traditional "media day" event that kicks off training camp.
And there's still a chance that camp will be held in Mankato -- owner Glen Taylor's hometown -- like usual. (Although media day will be held at Target Center either way).
So until then...
Here's what the schedule generally -- not specifically -- will look like:
* The 66-game season will start with those three Christmas Day games and end April 26, about 10-12 days later than usual. Players start just two days later.
* The league moved the draft back to June 27, so it will be at least one day after the last day the NBA Finals can possibly end.
* Every team will play at least one set and no more than three sets of back-to-back-to-back games, like they did back during the lockout-shortened 50-game season in 1998-99.
* Every team will play 48 conference games and 18 non-conference games.
* WIthin the Western conference, the Wolves will play 6 teams four times each (2 home, 2 away) and the other eight teams three times each. They'll play four of those teams at home twice and on the road once and the other four vice versa).
* The Wolves will play just three Eastern teams twice (1 home, 1 away) and the other 12 just once (6 of them home, 6 away). What do you think the odds are that one or more of those six Eastern teams who won't come to Target Center will be the Heat, Bulls, Celtics, etc?
Probably pretty good.
A little something while we wait today to see whether the owners and players really can finally pull off a new labor deal...
I'm hearing Adelman's son R.J. is not going to be an assistant coach, but rather a player personnel guy who will bring a lot of the same statistical analysis -- the same kind of stuff featured in the new film Moneyball (but without Brad Pitt) -- to the process that the Rockets use under their GM, Daryl Morey.
So rejoice, you basketball geeks who clamored for the Wolves to hire Rockets VP of basketball ops Sam Hinkie from Morey's staff instead of David Kahn two-plus years ago!
I was told yesterday that the Wolves might not hire anyone to replace departed Tony Ronzone.
I guess now that's because they've already in essence hired him, even though none of those assistant coach hires or RJ's hire will be announced and official until it's clear this lockout is ending.
The Rockets in recent years have been able to pluck Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry and Chase Budinger from the depths of the draft and trade for Kevin Martin and Luis Scola using both traditional and analytical scouting.
They also, coincidentally, acquired the draft rights to European prospect Donatas Montiejunas from the Wolves with the 20th pick in last summer's draft.
That's when the Wolves started wheeling and dealing down with move after move to raise cash, at least $4 million -- funny the same amount they owed Kurt Rambis if they were going to fire him (which they did, of course) -- even if David Kahn swore it didn't have anything to do with the money. Rather, he said, it was because the talent-loaded Wolves didn't have room to add anymore young players to the roster.
If that was the case, then why not draft and keep Montiejunas and select European prospect Nikola Mirotic with the intent of keeping that player in Europe for a couple years and then have the option of signing him or trading him?
Anyway, for those of you were skeptical that Rick Adelman would ever take this job and wondered on the blog what role he'd have in player personnel decisions if he really did...well, here's your answer.
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.”
Timberwolves assistant general manager Tony Ronzone has left the organization.
Known for his international-scouting connections, he was hired in spring 2010 just about the time Fred Hoiberg was headed for Iowa State's head-coaching job and had a voice in personnel moves that included drafting Wes Johnson and Derrick Williams as well as trading away Al Jefferson, acquiring Michael Beasley and re-signing center Darko Milicic.
The Wolves, through a spokesman, said they and Ronzone mutually have agreed to part ways and wished him good luck.
Ronzone coordinated workouts and was the franchise's public face in preparations for the June draft.
He and Wolves scout Pete Philo gave the team vast international connections and their influence was seen in its second-round selections of the last two drafts:
In 2010, the Wolves traded down with the 23rd pick to get extra picks and selected Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica and Brazilian big man Paulao Prestes in the second round.
In June, the team made trade after trade on draft night, dealing picks for cash and then striking a deal with Portland to acquire a little-known prospect playing in Qatar named Tanguy Ngombo with the 57th pick overall.
Ngombo's birthdate information for the draft said he was born in 1989, but FIBA records for a 2005 tournament listed his birth year as 1984, which made him 26 on draft night and ineligible to be selected. The Wolves will retain his draft rights, but there's a big difference in a 6-6 wing player's upside if he's 26 rather than 21, although I don't believe the matter had anything to do with his departure.
Ronzone previously was an international scout and/or front-office executive with Dallas and Detroit.
He was with the Mavericks when they made a draft-night deal to acquire some guy named Dirk Nowitzki out of Germany in 1998 and he was influential in the Pistons selecting Milicic second overall in 2003.
No word yet on how -- or if -- the Wolves will replace Ronzone.
One more thing, completely separate from his departure: If the Wolves do hire Rick Adelman, league insiders wouldn't be surprised if the team hires someone with whom Adelman has a relationship -- Terry Porter, who played for Adelman in Portland and has interviewed for this head-coaching job, perhaps? -- to be his voice in player-personnel scouting and decisions.
One thing doesn't have anything to do with another -- Ronzone isn't gone to clear room for a new hire -- but it'll be interesting to watch.
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