Ex-Wolves connection puts White in Houston

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 28, 2012 - 9:57 PM

His college coach's NBA connections paid off for Minnesota's own Royce White in Thursday night's draft, but it was Fred Hoiberg's friendship with an old friend and not his old team that got the Iowa State point forward selected with the 16th overall pick.

Hoiberg's relationship with former Timberwolves boss Kevin McHale helped persuade the Houston Rockets to select White with one of three picks they had accumulated in a seven-pick stretch midway through Thursday's first round.

The Rockets weighed White's anxiety disorder, his fear of flying and a 2009 shoplifting arrest at the Mall of America that changed his future -- leading to a transfer from the Gophers to Iowa State -- and decided his unique playmaking ability for a 6-8 guy built like a tight end trumps all.

"The more I talked to Freddie, the more I talked to Royce, the more you get a comfort level that he's addressed a lot of issues and is ready to move on and become a productive NBA player," McHale told ESPN.

White was one of three potential picks the Wolves brought to Target Center when they were contemplating the 18th pick, a choice they traded Tuesday to Houston for swingman Chase Budinger.

McHale will coach him now instead unless, of course, the Rockets swing a blockbuster deal for Orlando superstar Dwight Howard or Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol.

"Very unique," McHale said of White. "He's a hard guy to put into a box. He doesn't fit into a mold in the NBA, but I really like the way he plays."

Traveling with Ricky

The Wolves have sent a physical therapist to Spain with Ricky Rubio to be with him every day for the next month as he continues his rehabilitation from March knee surgery. He left this week for the first time since he tore knee ligaments in a March 9 game and will return for another surgeon's checkup in Vail, Colo., in late July.

"You just can't take chances," said Timberwolves vice president David Kahn, who suggested expecting Rubio to be ready for the start of training camp in late September is "accelerated."

Howdy-do

The Timberwolves have brought European prospects Nemanja Bjelica and Henk Norel into the Twin Cities this week to meet and work out with the coaching staff.

Norel, a former teammate of Rubio's at DKV Joventut in Spain, was a second-round pick in 2009. Bjelica, who also plays in Spain, was a 2010 second-round pick.

Neither is expected to sign with the team for next season.

Shrinking man

Second-year forward Derrick Williams had two or three nose fractures repaired last month that the Wolves hope will help his breathing, Kahn said. Williams, who weighed 233 pounds last week, played last season in the low 240s, unaware of his septum problems, but hopes to get to 225 this summer so he can better adapt to playing more at small forward.

"That's not a mandate from us," Kahn said. "That's what Derrick wants. We are supportive of that."

Reunited

Budinger knows Williams because both played at Arizona -- although Williams arrived the year Budinger left for the NBA -- and Budinger played on a high school club team with Kevin Love.

"I just remember back then, how incredible his outlet passes were," Budinger said of Love. "It was me, him and Brandon Jennings and it was a fast breakathon."

Final words

Budinger on his new team: "This team feels like the new Oklahoma. It's a young team, a lot of young, great, athletic-type players. And I feel that everybody on this team could really get better together and really win a championship down the road."

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