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 today made it official, with training camp now just five days away: They have hired L.A.-based Mike Penberthy as a shooting coach to work with a team, particularly Ricky Rubio, who has struggled in that area in recent years.
A former Laker who played 56 NBA games more than a decade, Penberthy worked with Rubio, Chase Budinger and others over the summer. He will move back and forth from his Los Angeles-area home to work with players.
"I don't even want to pigeon-hole him as a shooting coach because i think there are other things he'll be able to help us with," Wolves coach/president Flip Saunders said. "That will be his main emphasis. Ricky enjoyed working with him, even though it was only for a week. I think if Ricky had a chance to spend a month with him or six weeks, I believe we could have seen some good changes. We'll let his role evolve. It's important for him to see how we want to play and where guys are going to get shots and how he can incorporate that into our shooting."
The Wolves also hired former Detroit director of basketball operations Jason Hervey -- no, not the Wonder Years kid -- as a scout who will work both colleges and NBA personnel.
They also announced they are promoting scout Derek Pierce from general scout to advance scout.
Here's the scoop on the Wolves' "Dunk After Dark" -- their professional version of college basketball's Midnight Madness -- set for late Monday night at Minnesota State-Mankato's Bresnan Arena:
For starters, it's free and open to the public but you need a ticket: Season-ticket holders can reverse a space in a VIP section by contacting their ticket reps. Tickets are limited to two each for Mankato-State Mankato students and four each for everybody else. They're available Thursday beginning at 11 a.m. at the university's Student Union Center and two U.S. Bank locations in Mankato, 312 Raintree Rd. and 115 E. Hickory Street.
A limited number will be available at the event.
Doors open at 11 p.m. and the Wolves will take the floor at 12:01 a.m., just after the stroke of midnight and the first legal minute they can, according to NBA rules, begin practice.
The team will play three 12-minute scrimmages starting at 12:15 a.m. and a 10-minute "freestyle" session that will include all players but you can bet will feature a dunk-off between Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine follows that.
NBA TV will carry the event live, starting at 11:30 p.m. Greg Anthony and Isiah Thomas are coming to town for it. The timberwolves.com web site also will stream it live.
The Wolves will begin full training-camp practices Tuesday afternoon. They report Monday for their annual media-day obligations at Target Center.
Reports out of Phoenix and from ESPN.com this afternoon say the Timberwolves are willing to pay restricted-free agent point guard Eric Bledsoe a maximum 4-year, $63 million contract that they aren't willing to give Ricky Rubio.
The Wolves are well over the salary cap and in no position to make such an offer outright, not without acquring Bledsoe in a sign-and-trade with his current team, the Phoenix Suns.
That's where things get tricky for a deal that doesn't seem to be there right now.
The Wolves currently are in the same situation with Rubio as the Suns are with Bledsoe, trying to reach agreement on a contract extension with a point guard whose camp believes he's worth much more than the team believes.
It's unlikely the Suns would accept Rubio back in a straight swap, especially considering they already have point guards Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas and considering they'd be back in the same situation with Rubio as they are with Bledsoe.
Bledsoe reportedly has rejected the Suns' four-year, $48 million offer and is prepared to pay out this season to become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn't get a max deal.
If the Wolves pay Bledsoe that max deal, Rubio's agents probably wouldn't accept anything less than the same.
The Wolves owe the Suns their protected first-round pick in 2015, and could reduce or eliminate that protection to help sweeten a deal that would have to includes salaries to match Bledsoe's $15 million-plus average salary. The Wolves also have a $6 million-plus trade exception gained from the Kevin Love deal they could apply to acquire Bledsoe.
The Suns don't appear to have any interest in Rubio or center Nikola Pekovic, who makes $12 million a season, and the Wolves wouldn't have any interest in surrendering any of their young players -- Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng -- that the Suns might like.
Bledsoe's name came up in trade discussions when the Suns pursue Love before the Wolves traded their three-time All Star to Cleveland last month.
The Timberwolves have completed their training camp roster by signing former Baylor guard Brady Heslip and 7-1 center Kyrylo Fesenko, who played last year in the D-league. Both players were on the Wolves’ summer league roster.
Heslip and Fesenko are among a group of players who have been working out this week at Target Center. Veterans Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin and Robbie Hummel have been joined by rookies Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Glenn Robinson III.
Wiggins and LaVine both said they have made the move to Minnesota along with their families.
“I can’t cook,’’ Wiggins said. “So whenever I need food, I can go to their house.’’
On the business side, Wolves General Manager Milt Newton said he’s “in constant contact’’ with guard Ricky Rubio’s agent.
If Rubio doesn't sign a contract extension by the end of October, he will become a restricted free agent next summer and the Wolves would have the right to match any offer he receives. Newton said the sides differ on salary numbers at the present time.
“”Until that right number comes up, I guess we’ll continue to talk,’’ he said.
Newton said signing Rubio now would be a show of “good will and trust’’ in the point guard.
“I feel optimistic,’’ Newton said. “Knowing Ricky the person, he wants to be here.’’
The Wolves have agreed to contract terms with one of the last unfinished pieces to a remade roster: A source with knowledge of the situation confirms a Yahoo!Sports report this afternoon that Robinson has agreed to a guaranteed contract.
Once considered a first-round pick, Robinson was drafted 40th overall by the Wolves in the June draft and played for their Vegas Summer League team without being signed until now.
His signing to a contract that is at least partially guaranteed means the Wolves they'll have to make a personnel move by opening night Oct. 29 to get to a 15-man roster, either by waiving Robinson if he doesn't win a spot in camp or, probably more likely by trading or buying out reserve guard J.J Barea by the start of training camp on Sept. 30 or by the season opener at Memphis.
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