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 are having their media day this afternoon before practice, and it's a parade of players to the podium here at Target Center.
Among the highlights:
Coach Rick Adelman said cleaning up the team starts at the defensive end, where it was "horrendous" last season.
Kevin Love said he was impressed with new teammate Ricky Rubio ... "he can pass the poop out of the ball" except he didn't say poop.
When Rubio got to the locker room, he texted a picture of his jersey to his friends back in Spain. He also said it was good for him to hang around with his European teammates, Darko Milicic and Niko Pekovic in case "some big American guy" comes along. He was also amazed at the catching ability of his teammates during their informal scrimmage on Thursday.
Michael Bealey said he would "love" to sign a contract extension with the Wolves, but said he isn't thinking or talking about it any more. He also said "I'm not here to talk about past issues" when asked about summer trouble, and when asked what he had to say to the fans: "Hi, fans."
And a newsy note: Martell Webster is out indefinitely. He had microdiscectomy surgery on Sept. 28.
The lockout is over. So, too, is the NBA’s gag order on executives and coaches.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor -- influential in negotiations because of his position as Board of Governor’s chairman – spoke on Wednesday in his first comments in months and months during a conversation I had with him by phone from his office in Mankato.
Here’s the story I wrote for the Thursday paper and the web site on his thoughts about the new deal, how he thinks Wolves fans are curious enough and excited enough about this young team to come back even after two months’ missed and other things from the 149-day lockout.
As always, there was LOTS from our conversation that didn’t make the paper. So here’s a good bit of the leftovers:
* He never commented on the hiring of Rick Adelman two months ago, so now….
“We had the chance to interview six coaches with experience on this thing. I just think it ended up with Rick’s experience and track record that he came out on top of a group of other very good candidates. “I liked him personally. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the other guys, I just think after interviewing them all, David and I, it was a fairly easy choice for us to pick Rick based on his experience.”
* I asked him if he had to sell Adelman on the job?
“No, not in that way,” he said. “At the very beginning when we first contacted him, he just said he needed time and he wanted to talk to his family and those things. We didn’t pressure him. We were just patient. When we finally came back to him, it wasn’t like we had to talk him into anything. He and I had never met before and had a dinner conversation or anything. The most we had ever said to each other was `Hi,’ before and it was an opportunity to get to know each other. “Now it was different with David. David knew him and he knew David very well, so they were able to just sort of pick up on that.”
* I asked him about that Yahoo!Sports column that said Taylor had to sell Adelman on the job and close the deal because Adelman wanted nothing to do with dealing with Kahn.
“I didn’t see that at all, that Rick wasn’t favorably impressed with David,” Taylor said. “I sat in a couple meetings with the three of us together. He was very supportive of David and David of him. I don’t know where that came from. I didn’t see it all. It didn’t appear to me that there was anything but respect for each other.” ·
* Kahn has just this season left on his three-year contract. I asked him has offered or is considering an extension for him.
“No, he hasn’t asked for it and we haven’t brought it up because, just because we have more important thing to do worrying about our play,” he said.
* He said he is hopeful the team can sign Kevin Love to a contract extension.
The Wolves can sign him to a four-year extension starting Dec. 9 unless they make him a maximum-salary Designated Player. Each team now can offer one player that designation and a five-year extension, but they can only have one such player on their roster and it’s not likely the Wolves will offer Love a max contract. In any other season, teams had until Oct. 31 to re-sign a fourth-year player still on his rookie contract or risk having him become a restricted free agent the next summer.
This year’s deadline apparently is one of the many details not yet worked out. We’ll see what David Kahn has to say about it Thursday morning when he addresses the media for the first time on player matters since the lockout began July 1.
* He said the team still could hold training camp in Mankato because Kahn likes the idea of taking the team – particularly one with two important new players and a new coach – away from the Twin Cities for camp. You’d think this shortened two-week preseason hurts a young team with new players and new coach more than most teams, but Taylor said the way he looks at it, the Wolves have one thing going for them.
“A team like us, we’ve got our guys signed up and we don’t really have much time to explore trades and these types of things. There are other teams that only have 5 guys signed and so they can’t really do anything until we get a contract signed with the union. They can’t really do anything until then, so those teams will be really compressed and have a lot of things to do on the 9th, 10th and 11th.”
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.
Here's some this and that left in my notebook from Wednesday's news conference that introduced Rick Adelman as the next Timberwolves coach:
* Here's the story for Thursday's paper that touches on a variety of things, including the relationship between Adelman and Kahn that has been a talking point since that Yahoo!Sports column a few weeks back.
* The contract is worth a bit more than $20 million for four years. Each side has an option for the final season so if both Adelman and the team agree, they could end it after three years. But if he wants the entire $20M, it’s his.
Asked if the money was what convinced him to take the job, he said, “I think anybody who’s working, money is a factor for sure. But I would not say it was the tipping point.”
* First priority: Completing the coaching staff.
Two of Adelman’s sons – R.J., who was on his staff in Houston, and David, who just quit his job coaching a Portland, Ore., area high school team – are coming with him.
Former UNLV head coach and former Trail Blazers Bill Bayno will be hired.
Jack Sikma and T.R. Dunn – two of his assistants in Houston – likely will be hired but that might not be finalized until it looks like a labor deal is close.
As for first assistant, Adelman would love to get Elston Turner, who coordinated the defense for him in Houston, back but Turner accepted a job in Phoenix earlier this summer and don’t expect the Suns to let him go. Not an impossible negotiation, mind you, but not likely.
Terry Porter, one of the seven candidates interviewed for the head job, is a possibility, too, because of his relationship with both Adelman and Kahn. (He played for Adelman in Portland on those two NBA finals teams.)
* Adelman talked a lot Wednesday about trust and how he likes to surround himself with people he’s known a long time and trusts.
The Bayno hire is interesting because the two don’t have a relationship. Bayno knows Kahn and Wolves scout Pete Philo and the hire came about that way, although obviously Adelman did his research and approved it.
Why would Adelman accept management's suggestion this time when the big reason he didn't return to Houston is the Rockets GM wanted him to hire D League coach Chris Finch?
Perhaps as simple as: You can interpret Finch as being groomed to be a successor -- the Flip Saunders to Bill Blair or Randy Wittman to Dwane Casey -- while Bayno doesn't have any such head-coach aspirations.
My hunch is that, with Bayno’s personal history with alcoholism and a form of an obsessive/compulsive disorder, he’s being brought in partly to work with Michael Beasley off the court.
* Adelman's sons each come with a history of drunken driving.
David has been arrested twice on DUI charges since 2005, most recently in February 2009 but kept coaching at Lincoln High School.
R.J. took a leave of absence from the Rockets after being arrested for DUI in November 2007.
* Adelman said he didn’t talk to Kurt Rambis when he was contemplating taking the job and doesn’t plan on doing so now.
“Everybody has their own situation,” he said. “Next year’s not going to be the same as the previous years. I think you have to formulate your own answers and your own questions about the team. I think that’s the best way to do it. I don’t think when I left a team the coach who took over after me ever called me. They want to do it their own way. I think that’s how I’ll do it. It’s not going to be the same.”
* He was asked about how this situation compares to the two losing seasons he had with Golden State in the 1990s.
“This team is so much younger. I was really surprised when I really started getting into it, the age of this team. There are so many guys who are just getting out of college, or should be. Whereas there, we had a lot of veterans and we had some free agents that we were going to lose so we made some trades and nothing worked out.
“But this group, there’s young guys here. The biggest challenge for us is going to be evaluating those guys and (determining) who is going to be the key guys here. Everybody knows we have some big numbers at some positions and we won’t have minutes for everybody. So that’s going to be a challenge.
“And I’ve got to find out and I’ve got to find it out quick.”
I tweeted a bit of that quote Wednesday and somebody tweeted back how refreshing it is to hear him say he’s got to find it out quick after listening to Rambis talk constantly about how it takes years and years for young players to develop.
* Adelman said he doesn’t need or want a “bunch of power or a big voice” in personnel decisions, but he said he needs everyone in the organization.
“I just want a situation where we’re all after the same thing. The places I’ve been really successful at, I’ve always been in tune with the guys in the front office. If I see something on our team, I’ll tell him (Kahn) about it. But I’m not going to be a guy who’s going to go in there demanding that we get rid of a guy. You’ve got to do it for a reason.
“I’ve got to coach the guys that I have, but you have to be on the same page. If the players don’t sense you’re on the same page, you’re going to lose it. If one guy’s telling them one thing and one guy’s telling them another, it’s not going to work.”
When asked about the team’s needs for some veterans, he said that has been discussed.
“I certainly gave my opinion on that,” he said simply.
Kahn said Adelman won’t be involved in replacing assistant GM Tony Ronzone in the front office – whenever that happens – other than to perhaps have lunch with the guy before he’s hired. Kahn said filling out the coaching staff is the first priority.
* The guy’s only had two losing seasons in his 20 full seasons in the league. How will he handle the losing?
“I’ve thought a lot about that,” he said. “I guess you have to go into it to feel like you can make a difference. If that’s the way it’s going to be, you have to be resilient enough to show them that we’re going to get through this.
“Last year, this team lost 15 in a row or whatever. Those are the streaks that try you. You’ve got to try to avoid those. And I think you can avoid them if you keep guys going in the right direction. But it’s going to be hard. I’m the first to admit it. You can ask my wife. I’m not real easy to be around when we start losing a lot. But it’s part of the game in the NBA.”
·* He said he learned a lot about resiliency and temperament from working for Jack Ramsay in Portland all those years ago in the 1980s.
“I’m pretty even keel,” he said. “But when you’re losing, I’m not that even keel.”
* He mentioned Dr. Jack, Dick Motta and a guy named Rolland Todd – who coached him during the Trail Blazers’ inaugural season – when asked about his coaching influences.
He came across Wednesday as a mostly hands-off guy who wants to let his players play.
“When I played, I knew how I liked to be coached and how I didn’t like to be coached. I had some guys who kind of let you play. I had a guy in Portland (Todd) when I first went there with an expansion who was the first guy who pushed the ball, played the motion (offense).He just let us play.
“I wasn’t a very good player and I averaged 12 points a game. I felt anybody can average 12 points a game if I can do it, but he let us play. I also had coaches, though, who were so restrictive that you were afraid to do anything. You just knew you were going to get in trouble if you did. I never liked that. I felt there was always a balance to that and it didn’t necessarily have to be where you’re just stepping on people. You can get them to respond in other ways, so I always tried to do that.”
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