Kevin McHale, the former Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations and coach who is now coach of the Houston Rockets, said his team traded Chase Budinger to the Wolves for the No. 18 overall pick not because the Rockets didn't see a good future for the former University of Arizona star but because they were trying to pile up some first-round draft choices to try to trade for available NBA veterans.
"We like Chase. I think Minnesota got a really nice player in him," McHale said. "He's a good kid who went to Arizona, can shoot the ball, has got good size. He really started defending and rebounding much better for us down here in Houston as the season progressed, and I thought really developed.
"I think from our management standpoint, they were trying to accumulate a lot of picks and trying to really put together a package to go after some veterans that were maybe available with trades. That did not work. We really, really wanted to use those picks to try to kind of move around our team a little bit, add some pieces and stuff, and that didn't work. So we ended up drafting 18, which we [got in the trade] for Chase, and I like the guys that we got in the draft."
McHale said Budinger's familiarity with Rick Adelman's system will help the Wolves.
"I think you're going to see probably Coach Adelman get back to his corner series stuff, which he runs, putting [Kevin] Love up to the elbow a little bit, especially until [Ricky] Rubio comes back [from offseason ACL surgery]," McHale said. "Budinger is very, very good in a lot of the offensive sets that Coach Adelman likes to run. I think he'll fit in really well, and I think with Kevin Love as a passer out high, I think it'll really help Chase out a great deal."
McHale believes Royce White, who transferred from the Gophers without playing a game to Iowa State and had a big season, really can handle the ball. The Rockets selected White with the No. 16 pick.
"He's unique, he's different," McHale said. "Royce is a guy, he's not a power forward in the typical sense. He handles the ball, he attacks, he does a lot of stuff off the dribble, he's a pass-first guy, which is unusual for that position. Usually at that position in our league now you become kind of a rebounder, shot blocker, maybe a three-point shooter to be a spread-four.
"There are very few guys who are playmakers at that spot, and he can really handle the ball. I thought [coach] Fred Hoiberg did a great job with him at Iowa State, and I spent a lot of time talking to Fred about the kid and just getting a comfort level for him.
"You know [White] had a little bit of a checkered past at Minnesota, he left, but Fred said down at Iowa State he was great. I met with the kid a couple of times and talked to him and Royce was, just talking to him, he said, 'Hey, I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger and I don't plan on making those mistakes anymore.'"
NFL drops blackouts
The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that with ticket sales slipping, the NFL no longer will force television blackouts if teams don't sell out a game.
NFL attendance is down 4.5 percent since 2007, while online and TV viewership is soaring. In 2011, the Vikings were 15th in attendance capacity with 98 percent of seats filled. Ten teams were at 100 percent capacity or better.
And for the first time this season, fans in the stadium will be able to watch the same instant replays the referees are watching on challenges.
The league also is planning to introduce wireless Internet in every stadium and to create smartphone apps that could let fans listen to players wearing microphones on the field.
• Look for the Yankees to make a strong bid to trade with the Twins for pitcher Francisco Liriano after losing veteran pitchers Andy Pettitte (fractured left fibula) for two months and CC Sabathia (strained leg muscle) for a much shorter period. The Twins are going to be in position to get a good deal for Liriano because he has pitched well lately and several contenders in both leagues need pitching.
• The Twins recently signed a 30-year contract with Lee County, operator of Hammond Stadium, to continue spring training there as long as the stadium is updated, as was the Red Sox facility recently in the same town. ... Twins assistant general manager Bill Smith just returned from Venezuela, where he scouted several players. He hopes to sign at least one in July. The new collective bargaining agreement limits clubs to spending $2.9 million on foreign players.
• Steve LaCroix, Vikings vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer, reported season ticket renewals are at 80 percent.
• Ex-Wolves forward Kevin Garnett has informed the Celtics he will not retire and will return to the team for a sixth season. ... Wolves forward Kevin Love is up for an ESPY as the best NBA player of the year. Fans can vote online at www.espn.com/ESPYS until July 9.
• Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is a great believer in giving scholarships to walk-on athletes who earn it. One of the latest to get a scholarship is redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli. "Cameron is on scholarship now, came in as a walk-on player, but he's going to be a starter for us and we're going to reward him. He's going to be a great player and we're excited about him," Kill said. Boticellli, who is from Milwaukee, played in all 12 games and recorded six tackles last year. He also was named Academic All-Big Ten.
• Trevor Plouffe's 18 home runs this season -- he hit two in the Twins' 10-8 victory over the Royals on Sunday -- already have eclipsed his career high at any professional level. The most home runs Plouffe hit in a season before this year was 15 at Class AAA Rochester in both 2010 and 2011. In 2011 he hit those 15 home runs in only 51 games, while it took 102 games in 2010.
• USA Basketball's U17 team is 3-0 in the preliminary rounds of the FIBA World Championships in Lithuania. Apple Valley standout Tyus Jones has started two games and is averaging 6.7 points, a team-high 3.6 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org