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.
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.
Man, was I wrong on those Timberwolves starters for tonight that I tossed out on last night's blog posting.
At least for tonight I was.
Rick Adelman is going retro, starting with five guys that largely comprised last season's starting unit: Luke Ridnour, Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic and Kevin Love.
Adelman said he'd "start the group that started last year and go from there."
He also said he'll probably change the starting lineup for Wednesday's second and final preseason game, a rematch at Milwaukee.
Expect Adelman to experiment plenty tonight.
He said Ricky Rubio will play at least half of each of these two preseason games and he's probably going to play two of his three point guards together plenty just to see what he's got and if the Wolves indeed can go that way into the regular season.
The big thing to watch tonight: Who he finishes the game with the score is close.
Adelman said he hopes to settle upon a 9-man rotation as the season progresses, although he said it could grow to 10 men because of the team's roster and the grueling, shortened season.
"This is a young team, you're going to have give people chances," he said.
We're less than 24 hours from seeing these Rick Adelman-coached Timberwolves play at Target Center for the first time.
I asked Adelman this morning if he's got the concept of a starting lineup in his mind and he said, "Not really, no. I really don't."
He said he'd rather figure out a finishing unit that's going to win games at both ends of the floor.
Here's my best guess: Beasley and Love at the forwards, Pekovic at center, Rubio and Barea at guards.
* I think Adelman is so concerned about that lack of ball-handling and playmaking everywhere but point guard that he's going to look hard at Barea starting and playing a lot with the other two point guards. If you wondered why they went out and signed him, that's why.
* If you're going to go that small in the backcourt, you probably want to be big elsewhere.
Andrew Bogut's presence is one reason why I don't think Kevin Love starts there. I don't think Adelman really wants to start him at center, even though he will play there some obviously.
The way Adelman has harped about the team's turnover tendencies and how little he has talked about Darko...I just get the feeling that he's going to go for Pek's fundamentals, physical presence and dependability over Darko's potential and possibilities.
This guy's going to go for chemistry and guys he thinks are will win.
He's said not he's not concerned with developing young players.
That's another reason why I'm not penciling Wes Johnson in at starting shooting guard, like you might have assumed before training camp began.
Now how he'll find time for all these point guards, small forwards and power forwards....well, I have no idea.
That's why he's getting the $5M a year.
He did say he'll probably play 10 guys Saturday night because he wants those he does play to have the chance to develop a rhythm.
It'll going to be fascinating to see what this thing looks like tomorrow night.
Here's the story for Saturday's paper that I wrote about the two point-guard backcourt and Luke Ridnour's thoughts about it after he had gone silent since Barea's signing became imminent.
You'll find it here.
And here's the notebook led by Ricky Rubio talking about his first game at Target Center.
That's all from this brief trip to Mankato.
Next stop: Target Center.
Blog at you Saturday with all the tantalizing details.
Not really, no,” he said. “I really don’t
The Timberwolves took training camp to Mankato Thursday for a two-day getaway that will include two practices at Minnesota State-Mankato and offered a lasagna dinner at owner Glen Taylor's home Thursday night.
They'll practice there Friday morning and then head back to the Twin Cities for Saturday night's preseason opener.
Here's the story I wrote from here for Friday's paper about the team's point-guard lineage, from head coach Rick Adelman to top assistant Terry Porter to rookie Ricky Rubio.
And here's the notebook that touches on a wide range of subjects, starting to Adelman's admission that has no idea yet who his starting center is.
Adelman started to shorten practices a bit today and will do so again on Friday, when the Wolves are expected to work out for only about 90 minutes after putting in 3 to 4 hour practices in the past week.
He also says he's starting to put together groups he envisions playing together in these two short, sweet preseason games his team has to prepare for its Dec. 26 opener against Oklahoma City.
Here's the way he divided them Thursday for scrimmaging:
White team -- Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Nikola Pekovic and Wayne Ellington.
Black team -- Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Darko Milicic, Luc Ridnour, Bonzi Wells, Anthony Tolliver and Malcolm Lee.
Got any hunches that your starting lineup will come somewhere from that white team?
At least a good bit of it, although I'm still wondering not only what they'll do at center who how shooting guard will shake out.
Barea played off the ball there a good bit Thursday with Rubio, but Adelman said he'll probably switch it up and play Ridnour with either Rubio or Barea on Friday.
I found it intriguing to Pekovic and Ellington played on that white team.
Are they deep reserves attached to five starters or possible starters themselves?
Afterward, Adelman praised Pekovic's strength, fundamentals, pick-and-roll play and positioning even though he's not a pure shot blocker like Milicic is.
(Adelman has been pretty reserved commenting on Milicic so far this camp.)
Williams continued to work exclusively at power forward on Thursday, and that will continue for the foreseeable future. Adelman praised Williams' shooting Thursday, but said it's best for now to limit his learning curve to that 4 spot rather than try to get him to learn both the small and power forward spots.
How are they going to split those minutes between all those forwards and centers and who inevitable is going to be unhappy?
That's a BIG question.
Adelman said once again that Love and Randolph most will play some center and said Love could start at center some nights depending on the matchup.
But he said he'll likely have to pick and choose those spots because he's concerned Love will get into early foul trouble the nights he's matched against an old-fashioned, real NBA center, of which there are only a handful.
Maybe I'm ready too much into Thursday's lineup but I got a hunch that Pek could begin the season as starting center.
Adelman said he'd like to play about 10 guys against the Bucks on Saturday, then maybe sub in a handful of new players and play about 10 again in the rematch Wednesday in Milwaukee.
So who's your starting lineup?
And what's your rotation?
The Wolves' first two preseason games will be Dec. 17 against the Bucks and Dec. 21 at Milwaukee.
Both games will be broadcast by the team's new flagship, 830 WCCO AM.
Tickets for the Target Center game will go on sale Wednesday at 10 a.m. at www.timberwolves.com, all Ticketmaster outlets, by calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX or at the Target Center box office.
* Add Denver shooting guard Arron Afflalo to the Wolves' wish list.
ESPN.com Friday reported the Wolves are considered extending the restricted free agent an offer sheet.
Afflalo fits Wolves' need -- tough perimeter defender at shooting guard, expanding offensive game with four seasons' experience -- but it'd take a mighty sizable offer to keep the Nuggets from matching.
Especially since the Nuggets are $20 million under reaching the minimum salary payroll and half their team has been outsourced to China.
One thing to note: The rules change with this new labor deal and teams now will have just three days -- not seven -- to match any offer made to their restricted free agents.
* Chuck Hayes could make a decision in the coming days between a half dozen teams pursuing him. His agent told the Houston Chronicle that Hayes prefers to return to the Rockets, but the Wolves have made an offer and playing for Rick Adelman again probably isn't far behind his desire to stay in Houston.
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