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.
Oklahoma City and superstar Kevin Durant are in town for tonight's game against the Wolves at Target Center.
At shootaround today, Durant talked about coming back to the NBA arena that was something of his home away from home last summer.
Durant attended at least two Lynx games to watch his fiance, Lynx guard Monica Wright.
"Yeah, I did, I spent a lot of time here so I've got some people coming to the game," he said. "I feel Iike I'm a part of the city a little bit."
Durant also worked out with Wolves star Kevin Love in Los Angeles last summer because they share the same basketball-skills coach, Rob McClanaghan.
"We have the same trainer and I've been knowing Kevin since I was 14 years old," Durant said. "We just worked on everything. He's a great guy to work out with because he's so competitive and he's always wanting to get things right. I learned a lot."
Durant was asked if Love seemed to have an edge about him last summer after he missed all but 18 games a year ago because of a hand he broke not once, but twice.
"He just wanted to play, being injured the whole season," Durant said. "A freak accident, he just wanted to play. I could tell he was anxious to get back. I'm glad he's on the court. As a guy who likes Kevin as a person, I'm glad he's back playing the game he loves. He's playing well."
Durant tonight will face former teammate Kevin Martin, with whom he played last season.
"We miss having him around, just his attitude, his demeanor," Durant said. "He set a good example for the young guys. It's going to be fun playing against him."
The Thunder are playing without All Star guard Russell Westbrook, who is missng the season's opening weeks because of knee surgery complications from last spring much like Chase Budinger is having.
Wolves coach Rick Adleman had a couple things to say about Derrick Williams. First, the third-year forward will get his chance to play. Second, we should all calm down on the issue.
“I don’t worry about him as much as you guys do,” Adelman said after Thursday’s practice. Williams, who works at both forward positions, did not play in Wednesday’s opening-night victory over Orlando. A former second-overall pick, Williams’ playing time has fluctuated since he joined the team.
“He’s going to get a chance to play when it looks like there is a good opportunity for him,” Adelman said. “But there are other guys, too. Right now Robbie Hummel’s played very well, the whole month he’s been here. It could be one of those guys. It could be (Shabazz Muhammad), who has played well. Nobody has separated himself. (Williams’) best spot is the four spot, and it’s almost impossible to get him minutes at the four spot.”
Williams, asked about his situation, said he wasn’t disappointed. “No, we won, you can’t be disappointed when we win,” he said.
But on the matter of patience? “I’ve been patient two years now,” he said. “So we’ll see. I don’t know.’’
Interestingly, Williams retweeted an item originally tweeted by Los Angeles Clippers forward Jamal Crawford Wednesday night. “Watched a bunch of games tonight,” Crawford wrote. “One thing that is clear. Situation, and opportunity has a lot to do with success in the NBA.’’
“That’s all the NBA is, opportunity,” Williams said. “That’s why I retweeted it.”
But when will his come? The power forward position is where Kevin Love plays, and Dante Cunningham is usually his backup. That leaves the small forward position. And for Williams to play there, Adelman said he needs to see the right matchup.
“I have to make a decision, is that the best thing for our team as a whole?” Adelman said. “Like I told all those guys who didn’t play last night, it’s an 82-game schedule. That’s one game. There is a lot of time left. He certainly will get his opportunity. Against (Oklahoma star Kevin) Durant you could see half the team getting an opportunity.’’
Williams could see time at the small forward position against the Knicks Sunday if Carmelo Anthony were the matchup there, for example. “It’ s just a matter of how the game goes,’’ Adelman said. “I guess I can’t answer it directly, because I’m still trying to get a feel for what’s going on and how they’re going to play. That’s the way it is.”
Said Williams: “I’m just here to play basketball. Whenever my name is called I’m going to be in there.”
In other items:
--Adelman, very pleased with how Corey Brewer played with the starting unit, pledged to keep him there going forward. “Corey really showed what he could do last night,” Adelman said.
--One key to avoiding the offensive stagnation that plagued the Wolves at times Wednesday is having the point guards push the ball. Adelman said he and his staff were constantly trying to get Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea to get the ball over half court more quickly and into the offense. “They were almost at 16 seconds (on the shot clock) when they hit half court,” Adelman said. “You don’t have enough time to run anything. They have to push the ball, every time. And the ball should pass half-court at 20 seconds.’’
That’s about it for now. Jerry will pick up the team tomorrow morning.
The Wolves open their 25th anniversary season tonight against Orlando at Target Center with all the excitement and newness that accompanies every fresh beginning.
For Ricky Rubio, it really is all new.
This will be the first time he's introduced as a starter in the season opener.
"Yeah, that's true," he said. "I didn't think about it."
He came off the bench for the first few weeks of his rookie season two years ago and was injured along with teammate Kevin Love for the opener last year.
"I remember that feeling, sitting on the side with Kevin watching the video, and I remember watching him and feeling a little painful," Rubio said. "Watching our teammates going out there and we couldn't be with them. We're going to try to get that feeling (the excitement of the season opener), not rush things but to use it as a good thing."
The Wolves tonight because another attempt at reaching the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
"We're trying to build something here," Rubio said.
In that spirit, new basketball boss Flip Saunders gave every coach, player and staff member a Timberwolves "We're Ready" coin today, a gift intended to promote team unity.
Maybe Rick Adelman will use his to flip and decided who'll start at small forward tonight.
So far, there's no definitive indication, although maybe Kevin Love let things slip when he included Corey Brewer's name with the other starter's during a shootaround conversation this morning.
We'll know more by pre-game tonight. I'll update the blog then.
There's a "new" Target Center coming your way Wolves Nation, in about 2 or 2 1/2 years.
They had a news conference down at Target Center this morning to announce there's finally a deal after many delays while negotiations simmered: The city of Minneapolis will contribute $48.5 million, the Wolves $43 million and AEG arena management $5.5 million. There also will be a $50 million capital improvement fund to "continue to keep the facility competitive."
The deal will extend the leases of the Wolves and Lynx to 2032.
Design work begins this winter, construction is set to start next summer with a timeline of 18 to 24 months for completion.
* Redesign of the arena's exterior.
* More gathering/meeting spaces and additional club areas.
* "Improved amenities" in both lower and upper seating areas.
* Improved pedestrian flow into, out of and throughout the arena.
* Modernized loading docks.
* Increased seating capacity for concerts and family shows.
You can also expect Glen Taylor's plans to build office and practice facilities in the mostly abandoned Block E complex to get the fast track now.
The Wolves released center Chris Johnson Saturday. The decision was prompted both by the strong play of Robbie Hummel and A.J. Price and by the team’s depth in the post.
“We’re going in that direction,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after Saturday’s lengthy practice. “We thought Robbie and A.J. have done a really good job. They’ve earned spots. And we feel with (Nikola) Pekovic and Rony (Turiaf), they have played well, as has (Gorgui Dieng). So we’re comfortable with those guys.”
By waiving Johnson the team will have to pay off his $916,000 salary.
Johnson played sparingly during the preseason, so the move doesn’t come as a big surprise. This move, coupled with the release Friday of Othyus Jeffers and Lorenzo Brown has the team’s roster at the league-mandated 15-man limit. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of the team making a late move to augment the roster.
But Adelman said he liked his roster. “These guys have all earned their spots,” he said. “(Price and Hummel) really earned it. They played well the whole month they’ve been with us.”
In other news from today’s practice:
--The Wolves made it official, exercising the options on Ricky Rubio ($5 million) and Derrick Williams (almost $6.7 million) for the 2014-15 season.
--Adelman has still not decided on who will be his starter at the small forward position in Wednesday’s opener. Or that the Wednesday starter will be the starter going forward. “It’s not written in stone whatever happens,” Adelman said.
--The Wolves practiced extensively Saturday, and will do so again Sunday before shortening it up a bit in the two days prior to Wednesday’s opener.
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