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.
Yep, with the first pick now just about an hour away, it's looking like the Timberwolves will select the Arizona forward with the second pick in tonight's NBA draft, choose the best player (preferably a shooting guard) with their 20th pick and go quietly into the good night.
Unless, that is, somebody makes them an offer tonight that they haven't received thus far.
After all the chatter -- Wolves are gonna deal for Pau Gasol, no Andrew Bynum, no Andrew Bogut or Roy Hibbert or Andre Iguodala or Josh Smith -- about the team trading that No. 2 pick for a veteran player, expect the Wolves to take Williams and then waiting for the NBA's labor issue to be resolved.
Whenever that is.
Why, quite possibly, no deals?
No. 1/ Timberwolves believe that No. 2 pick is worth a lot more than anybody does.
No. 2/ They sure seem convinced that the new salary cap is going to be restrictive right away and that teams with high payrolls now are going to have to dump at least some salary right away to join the new world.
So, the thinking goes, gather all the young, cheap assets you can and then go into the new season with new rules with a shopping of list of veteran players you can get for a handful of your young guys.
Sort of like what Danny Ainge did with the Celtics all those years before landing Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett within six weeks of each other to go with Paul Pierce.
Now, I'm not saying the Wolves will get a veteran Big Three like that, but I think they're positioning themselves to grab at least one big salary guy -- a guy like a Bynum, a Gasol, a Chris Bosh or maybe even my guy Josh Smith -- for a bargain trade price.
Well, the first pick is coming up soon.
I probably won't be contributing much to the blog here tonight, but for updates follow me on Twitter @JerryZgoda.
It's much easier to fire off updates and newsy tidbits there than update the blog regularly.
For an ongoing discussion, join our Howard Sinker on a live chat at www.startribune.com
You just can't make this stuff up.
One day after Ricky Rubio charmed them at his introductory news conference and one day before the Wolves presumably exercise the highest draft pick in their history, Yahoo! Sports Wednesday night reported what has seemed to be not a matter of if but when since the season ended more than two months ago.
David Kahn has decided to fire Kurt Rambis, but it won't be done or announced until after the draft.
So much for taking the shine off what could have been a rare, victorious week for the Wolves by overshadowing it all with a matter that should have long ago been resolved by now.
Rambis' agent said Wednesday that he and his client haven't been told that, and agent Warren LeGarie said he had gotten off the phone with Kahn.
Yahoo also reported Kahn has been collecting information on University of Washington coach Lorenzo Romar for weeks and will consider him as a candidate, but also reported that Portland assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff will be targeted with the possibility that he'd be head coach until his son, Wolves assistant J.B. Bickerstaff, is ready to take over the head job.
At least Danny Olsen should be happy with that news.
He's a Target Corporation employee from Eden Prairie who has started a Facebook page called "Hire J.B.!" for Wolves head coach.
Bernie Bickerstaff is 67 and has an all-time 415-517 record in 14 seasons with Seattle, Denver, Washington and Charlotte.
He hasn't been a head coach since he went 33-49 with Charlotte in the 2006-07 season.
J.B., the former Gophers player, is 32 and those in the know for some time have envisioned him as a future head coach.
Then the question is, just when will he be ready?
That time fairly soon could be coming.
As for Romar, it sure sounds like he's quite happy at his alma mater and soon probably will announce he's officially not interested.
He told told the Seattle Times Wednesday night he felt uncomfortable discussing the Yahoo report because Rambis still is the Wolves' coach.
"It's awkward, maybe, more than flattering," Romar said. "For one, there is a current coach there. So that makes it awkward."
Romar signed a 10-year contract extension last year that pays him $1.7 million annually, not including bonuses.
Why the interest in Romar when very few college coaches, if any other than Rick Pitino maybe, has made the transition to the pro game?
His teams play the kind of fast-paced, running style that Kahn believes he has built this roster to play.
That's all for Wednesday night.
Who knows what Thursday will bring with this organization?
We're into the final countdown now to tomorrow night's NBA draft and...
Tune in for a live chat tomorrow at noon on startribune.com. Get your questions ready for all things Timberwolfish and draft related. Then come back at 6:15 p.m. for another Live Chat with other Wolves fans and the Star Tribune sports staff.
Until then, expect to hear all sorts of stuff about the Wolves, who have been very active working the phones, trying to drum up a deal for that No. 2 overall pick and for just about anybody on their roster not named Love or Rubio.
As I wrote in a draft preview for today's paper, the Wolves are exploring all options that will send away the 2nd pick for a young starting center with some experience and preferably another first-round pick further down in the order.
That's why in recent days you've heard them linked to proposals with the Lakers for Andrew Bynum, with Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut, with Indiana for Roy Hibbert, with Phoenix for Marcin Gortat, with Washington for JaVale McGee.
They're aiming high, which probably means they'll end up taking the best player -- presumably Derrick Williams -- and keeping him, for now.
Wouldn't completely stun me, though, if they went and took Enes Kanter second if they can make a deal for a more experience, a position I think they consider their biggest need.
Bynum would be great -- 23, long, athletic, huge upside -- despite all the injury concerns but I can't see Jim Buss trading him.
At least, though, that idea makes more sense than trading for 31-year-old Pau Gasol, even if he'd help Ricky Rubio's transition to the NBA and America.
Particularly if the Lakers really were asking for both Kevin Love and the No. 2.
David Kahn yesterday at Ricky Rubio's introductory news conference said adamantly that there's no way, no how he's trading either Rubio or Love.
Btw, Rubio learned over up at the podium during the news conference when Kahn said that about him and said, "Thank you."
Bynum rumors were the hot ones yesterday.
Today it's the Steve Nash stuff revisited.
I wrote weeks ago to expect the Wolves to call again about Nash, as they did at the trading deadline.
According to ESPN, they did. The idea, of course, is to add a stablizing veteran to a team that desperately needs one and to give Rubio a mentor to start his NBA career.
Fine idea, but so many problems with the details, namely...he's 37 and there's no way in heck Nash would want to come here at the end of his MVP career.
If he's leaving Phoenix, he wants to go to a team that can win a title...and I don't think he's planning to play until he's 47.
If the Wolves trade the No. 2 pick for a 37-year-old guy, well...no need for further elaboration on that one.
Right now, I'd say it's maybe slightly less than 50/50 that the Wolves trade that pick by tomorrow night, but not from a lack of trying.
I just think the value they place on that pick is way more than other teams do, but we'll see.
The best move: Just take the best player, of course.
This time, that's supposed to be Derrick Williams.
So what if Cleveland surprises and takes Williams first.
Then, Kahn says flat out, they'll take Kyrie Irving and figure out what to do with the best asset left in the draft.
After the last three days, it's obvious: The Wolves have placed the franchise's keys into Ricky Rubio's hands and there's no turning back now.
One other thing of note:
Kurt Rambis wasn't at Rubio's press conference and Kahn said he "doubts" Rambis will be at the draft, although he says the two are working closely together on it.
Kahn said he hopes to talk with Glen Taylor about the matter sometime this week.
Stay tuned. We're about 30 hours away and counting...
Ricky Rubio has spoken today in Barcelona -- yes, he announced he's headed to Minnesota and the NBA -- and the Timberwolves, after a two-year wait, will introduce him officially Tuesday, presumably at Target Center.
And, hey, you can buy season tickets for next season now for $9 for a pair. That's $387 for the season.
He wears No. 9, get it?
(No, it's not as KFAN's Dan Barreiro tweeted back to me this morning a promotion linked to Rubio's three-point shooting percentage. That'd be a $22 ticket special.)
Here's some of what Rubio had to say at a packed news conference where he said adios to his Regal Barcelona team and his European career that started at age 14.
"I have finally decided to start the journey...It is my dream and I want to fulfill it. After thinking about it a lot, the time has arrived."
"I think all that I have won here gives me strength to go."
"Individually, I could have done things better, but it is a team sport and we had success. I am going because I feel prepared," Rubio said. "I want to play against the best players in the world."
"It will mean a change of mentality. Perhaps we won't be fighting for the title, but we will have other goals. I am willing to do whatever the team needs to win as many games as possible."
The Wolves released a statement at 6 this morning announcing Rubio's signing to a mutli-year contract. David Kahn said in it, "This is a day our organization and our fans have been eagerly awaiting from the moment we drafted him and I couldn't be more pleased to welcome Ricky to Minnesota."
Kahn will speak to reporters this morning after pre-draft workouts at Target Center.
The draft is now less than a week away and counting and there's news, news, news everywhere you look around here.
On Thursday alone...
* David Kahn and Kurt Rambis met for talks that are expected to continue to Friday. This is their first in-depth conversation since the season ended two months ago and it likely will produce a decision on Rambis' future as coach, one way or the other.
* Ricky Rubio called a press conference in Barcelona for Friday afternoon (5 a.m. Twin Cities time) when he will announce he's headed to the NBA and the Timberwolves now that his European season is over and all the paperwork regarding his buyout from Regal Barcelona has been processed through FIBA and NBA offices.
Expect him to be introduced at Target Center sometime next week leading up to Thursday's draft night.
* Arizona center Derrick Williams and Turkish center Enes Kanter came to town for the first -- and likely only -- big workouts by prospects whom the Wolves will choose from with that second overall pick.
Kanter worked out against others in a morning group that included a head-to-head matchup of shooting guards Alec Burks and Marshon Brooks.
Williams worked out with a group of guards, against whom the Wolves measured his perimeter skills and speed and, according to assistant GM Tony Ronzone, came away mighty impressed.
First off, Ronzone was appreciative that each player agreed with compete against other players in an age when agents for many top prospects allow their clients only to work out alone.
Ronzone said he was impressed by Williams' ball-handling skills out on the floor.
"Very talented, very skilled," he said. "What impressed me today is his handle. I mean, he has a big-time 1-on-1 handle. He shakes guys off. He goes left to right real well. He really operates on the left side of the floor rather than the right right now."
Ronzone admitted Williams' shot "is a little different, but it goes in. Same thing with Alex English, Jamaal Wilkes, (James) Worthy and those guys had."
Williams worked out with the Wolves Thursday after working out for the Cavaliers on Tuesday. He said those are the only workouts he will do. He is headed home on Friday to California, where he will hang out and wait until flying to New York City and the draft on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Kanter has worked out for the Toronto, Utah, Washington and said he will go to Cleveland on Monday for a second time to work out again and meet Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. His agent said Kanter is not going back to the Cavs to audition for that fourth pick that the Cavs also own, a suggestion that the Cavs would consider picking Kanter No. 1 overall over Williams and Duke guard Kyrie Irving.
Whether that's typical draft-time posturing remains to be seem. It did clear Thursday, though, that Kanter's agent is lobbying hard for the Wolves to draft his client second overall. He went out of his way after the workout to talk with us media weasels, enthusiastically praised the Wolves' growing collection of young talent and said the Wolves could become an "electrifying team" that might be the next coming of Oklahoma City.
The impression I got from reading between the lines on Thursday: Kanter's strength and power were obvious, but Williams made the greater impression of the two with his skills and upside.
Whether it's a smokescreen or not, Ronzone also seemed to indicate a change in the team's thinking. Until now, my impression is that the Wolves would like to trade for a veteran such as Lakers star Pau Gasol or pull off a 2-for-1 deal, swapping their second pick for a young player (DeMar DeRozan? JaVale McGee?) who has more experience than a rookie and perhaps a pick further down in the lottery.
After Williams worked out, Ronzone said the team needs to get the best talent it can obtain, even if it already has Johnson, Beasley and Anthony Randolph.
"The bottom line is, where we're at, you take the best player available," he said. "You can't pass up on guys and get creative and try to get another guy. (Williams) is someone who have to look at strongly at that spot. He's a talent. He can play well."
Now the question is whether the Cavs actually will take Irving first overall, a big if with Thursday's draft now less than a week away.
Williams has been working out with Wolves Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley and says he thinks the three -- small-forward types all -- could play together at times because of the way all three can stretch the floor and because he and Beasley in particular are capable of creating mismatches.
Both Williams and Kanter each said they're out to prove they are the best player in the draft.
Well, one of them must be wrong.
"He's a confident kid," Ronzone said of Kanter, who enrolled at Kentucky last season but was declared ineligible by the NCAA because he accepted financial benefits from his Turkish team. "Most big kids don't like playing basketball. He actually likes it. He's addicted to it. He wants to be in the gym. You can't keep him out of it. That's huge."
A couple last things:
* Ronzone said Irving's representatives haven't returned a call seeking a look at him. Irving thus far has only worked out for the Cavs, but Ronzone said the Wolves might have to push a little harder to get a look at Irving, just in case.
If Williams goes first, expect the Wolves to try to auction that pick and the right to take Irving to the highest bidder. They might do so anyway, even if the Cavs take Irving.
* Ronzone called the matchup featuring Burks and Brooks a push. Of course, he did.
Brooks was scheduled to work out Friday, but he got a wakeup call at 8 a.m. Thursday from his agent informing him to get his behind over to Target Center pronto for a matchup against Burks that reprised their meeting in Charlotte earlier this week.
That's all for Thursday.
Looks like the rest of these workouts through Monday will only be players the team might consider if they trade for a second-round pick or who they might sign for a free-agent look.
San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard was scheduled to come to town, but he cancelled because it seems obvious he will go neither second nor 20th overall, the two picks the Wolves currently own.
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