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.
Kevin Love achieved his goal: He didn't become a viral YouTube sensation when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before today's Twins-Yankees game at Target Field.
Not like John Wall did last summer at Washington Nationals game.
Wall wildly bounced his pitch low and wide in a throwing exhibition that has received nearly a million hits on one YouTube entry.
Love's throw easily made it to catcher Justin Morneau -- outside and high, though -- but he probably made the right decision when he gave up baseball and his pitching career for hoops in the ninth grade.
One highly placed Twins official watched Love warm up and remarked, "He's a pie thrower."
Love took some cuts in the batting cage underneath Target Field and by all accounts, fared well against the batting-practice coach and not so well against the pitching machine.
He vows to come back to take live batting practice before Friday's game against the Tigers and has made a bet with his buddies that he'll hit one of the park.
He'll get back to his day job Tuesday, when training camp opens in Mankato, Minn.
On Tuesday, he appeared at a Target Center news conference with his Olympic gold medal and talked about his summer, the team's off-season moves and the upcoming season.
In case you missed it, you'll find the notebook from that presser here.
Photo: Andrei Kirilenko working with kids during the NBA FIT Clinic at School 59 yesterday (credit: Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE).
New Timberwolves Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved today finish up the four-day Basketball Without Borders camp they are working in Moscow with Wolves player development coach David Adelman and fellow NBA players Timofey Mozgov, MarShon Brooks, Danny Green and Brian Cardinal.
Next stop: Target Center.
Kirilenko plans to arrive in about 10 days for training camp that begins in Mankato on Oct. 2.
Until then, he will spend these final days of summer at home in Russia, where he, Shved and their national team teammates brought home the Olympic bronze medal last month.
That performance sent them to the Kremlin and a visit with Russian president Vladimir Putin that delayed Kirilenko’s introductory Target Center news conference until he arrives here the last week of September for camp.
He has spent these last four days in what he calls “giving back” to the game that already has given him a 10-year NBA career and now leads him to Minnesota and a two-year, $20 million contract and to his home country where basketball now has produced its first Olympic medal in the sport since the Soviet Union’s breakup and this season is sending countryman Shved to the NBA as well.
Basketball Without Borders is the joint community outreach venture between the NBA and FIBA intended to grow the game globally.
The program has presented 30 camps for promising young players in 15 countries since its inception in 2001. Since then, 21 players who participated have been drafted into the NBA, including Johan Petro, Andrea Bargnani, Marc Gasol, Nicolas Batum, Danilo Gallinari, Luc Mbah a Moute, Omri Casspi, Enes Kanter, Donatas Montiejunas and Jonas Valanciunas.
This is its first camp ever held in Russia.
Kirilenko today helped unveil a basketball court at a Moscow orphanage that was refurbished in partnership with his “Kirilenko’s Kids” foundation program.
“So much has been going on in Russia with basketball during those 12 years,” he said, referring to when he entered the NBA. “I had a great career and it’s going. I like the way it developed. I’ve been in a lot of places, met a lot of people. Basketball Without Borders is one of those programs you cannot ignore or stay away from. Twenty-one players who have gone through it to the NBA, that’s a huge number.
“NBA players, coaches – some of them legends – they have a chance to share some knowledge and time with a young generation. These young players, they’re picking up those little things which you cannot get otherwise. They’re getting it straight from the game, straight from guys who know. Those little things really help guys improve. They can see how to work hard and how to be successful players. We’ll be seeing some of these guys again (in the NBA).”
Kirilenko will spend these next 10 days in Russia training and preparing to move his family to Minnesota, where he intends to get his boys (ages 10 and 5) enrolled in hockey programs, not basketball.
Shved will arrive with his brother, who is fluent in English and who along with Kirilenko will help Shved adapt to a foreign and a different brand of basketball.
Kirilenko was scheduled to come to Minnesota for his introduction and a look-around in August right after the Olympics.
But then Putin called.
“It’s kind of mandatory, you have to attend,” Kirilenko said, laughing. “You know Putin, you don’t go against Putin in Russia.”
Then he paused with his laughter and made sure to add, “Just kidding.”
The Wolves have announced two preseason games at Target Center in October.
Israeli team Maccabi Bazan Haifa will visit on Oct. 16, three days after the Chicago Bulls come here on Oct. 13.
It's the first time an international team will play the Wolves at Target Center.
The only other time the Wolves have played an international team is a game against Efes Pilsen during their 2007 preseason trip to Turkey.
Maccabi also will play Golden State on its visit, on Oct. 11. The Israeli Super League team played New Jersey in Newark in 2010.
The rest of the team's preseason schedule will be announced later. Ticket sales for the two Target Center games also will be announced later.
There's a very good chance you won't see Ricky Rubio play in either game because of that season-ending knee surgery he underwent in March. He could be back anytime from the start of training camp until November or December.
Derrick Rose for sure won't play for the Bulls here in October because of that same ACL injury that Rubio sustained in a game against the Lakers.
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.
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