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.
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.
Puffs of white smoke floated from the Target Center stacks early this evening. We have a decision:
Corey Brewer will start tonight at small forward, and Rick Adelman didn't even use one of those coins Flip Saunders is giving everybody today to decide.
Adelman said he reserves the right to change that starting lineup when the Wolves play Oklahoma City on Friday and at New York on Sunday, but for now Corey is your starter.
"He's played well with that first group," Adelman said. "We want to get off to a good start, use his energy and we'll go from there."
The Magic will start second-year Moe Harkless at small forward. It only gets harder this week after that.
"We only have (Kevin) Durant and (Carmelo) Anthony after that," Adelman said. "This is just the start of 82. We'll figure it out."
Adelman said he's not sure who he uses at small forward once Brewer comes out. He said that will depend on the Magic lineup: If they go small, he said he could counter by playing three guards.
The Wolves opener is one day away and coach Rick Adelman still hasn’t decided – or isn’t willing, yet, to share – who his starting small forward will be.
With such a long break between the final preseason game and Wednesday’s opener with Orlando, the subject of the starter at the position has become a daily give-and-take between Adelman and the media. The one thing that has remained constant is Adelman’s insistence that it doesn’t necessarily matter who starts as much as how the position fits into the team’s rotations.
“We’re looking at the whole thing,” Adelman said. “It’s what rotation are you going to use throughout the game?’’
As much as he would like a set starting five, and as much as he’d like to have Corey Brewer coming off the bench, Adelman is likely committed to adjusting his starting lineup game by game depending on the matchup. So the player who starts Wednesday as the team’s small forward might not start again Friday.
In other items:
--Count J.J. Barea is a certified fan of the Gophers men’s basketball team. Barea was a senior at Northeastern University during the 2005-06 season. One of the assistants on the coaching staff was Richard Pitino, who was just two years older than Barea. “He was so young, and I was a senior in college, so he couldn’t say nothing to me,” Barea joked. Pitino, the first-year coach of the Gophers, asked Barea to come over and talk to his team. And Barea said he’d be attending a few Gophers games this season.
It’s a small world. Barea played for Richard Pitino and Wolves rookie Gorgui Dieng played for Pitino’s father, Rick.
--On Dec. 11, in the Wolves’ home game with Philadelphia, Adelman will become the second most tenured coach in franchise history behind Flip Saunders. Adelman, whose 55 victories are already second most in team history, has coached in 142 games, 22 fewer than Bill Musselman and Kurt Rambis, who both coached the team in 164 games.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team starting with Wednesday morning’s shootaround
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.
The Wolves released veteran forward Othyus Jeffers and rookie Lorenzo Brown today.
They need to make at least one more roster move before Monday afternoon's deadline to submit their 15-man list to the NBA.
That leaves three guys left -- Robbie Hummel, A.J. Price and Chris Johnson -- for two remaining spots.
They'll keep Hummel and Price if they -- or rather owner Glen Taylor -- agree(s) to buy out Johnson's guaranteed $916,000 contract for this season to open up a second roster spot.
The Wolves also will scout the waiver wire to see if there might be a veteran wing out there who can defend some and shoot the three preferably.
The Wolves drafted Brown, a 6-5 guard from North Carolina State, late in the second round last summer. They lose his rights now by releasing him and he's free to sign elsewhere.
Jeffers was on a flight back home to Chicago this afternoon seated next to/near Strib's Wild beat Mike Russo, who tipped me off to Jeffers' release.
The Wolves also could officially announce today that they've picked up 2014-15 contract options on Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio.
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