Hartman: Saunders believes pieces will all fit with Wolves

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2013 - 11:56 PM

Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love celebrated in a victory over Houston in February 2012 at Target Center. The two Wolves stars never had a chance to do this in 2012-13; they played only one game together all season, a Dec. 26 loss to the Rockets.

Photo: File photo by DAVID JOLES • djoles@startribune.com,

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Flip Saunders, as the new Timberwolves president of basketball operations, was in a unique position when he accepted his new position because all last season he had the advantage of either watching Wolves games on TV or in his job as a commentator on ESPN.

Because of that, he could study all the strengths and weaknesses of the Rick Adelman-coached team.

“One of the biggest things I talked about was getting the team balanced, getting the roster balanced, increased three-point shooting percentages, and getting some offensive wing-type players in,” Saunders said.

Saunders learned how important it is for the team to stay healthy, and having Ricky Rubio and then Kevin Love sidelined by injuries made it clear how much worse off the team was when its stars weren’t healthy.

“It’s a matter now of building around [Rubio and Love] and with the players we’ve brought in, they can make [them] better,” Saunders said. “Many times, you bring players in and you’re hoping that your main player can make those guys better, I believe the players we have coming in will make Kevin and Ricky better.”

Saunders was asked what his thinking was bringing back Corey Brewer.

“One, he won a championship [with Dallas in 2011] and he got thrust into a trade-type situation, but he has continued to improve,” Saunders said. “This past year he averaged over 12 points a game on a team that won 57 games. He played 27 minutes a game. He was one of their key ingredients on how Denver played this year.

“We looked at him not as the guy that was here in Minnesota when he was the seventh pick, we look at a guy that averaged 12 a game last year and is improving. What he does is that he can run and defend, and that’s what we need. He was the best guy that we thought would fit within our system.”

The Wolves have 13 players on their roster, and Saunders said he is confident Nikola Pekovic will be the 14th.

“We’ve had talks, we’re progressing, and I really believe Pekovic is going to be here. I don’t have any doubts with that,” said Saunders.

“We have one roster spot that is available [if Pekovic signs] and we’ll let that sit there and see through the summer how our rookie Lorenzo Brown plays, if he’s going to be a guy that can fill that role, or see if someone else pops in.”

Saunders expects the additions he has made will make the team competitive. “I think the team can be really good,” he said. “I look at the Western Conference and it’s stacked, a lot of good teams, but when you look at a team that can put both size, scoring ability and flexibility, I believe we can be one of the top teams. We should be a team that, if we stay healthy, can compete for a playoff spot, no question, and maybe even better.”

Partners opt out of Wolves

Glen Taylor reported that former Wolves minority owners that he bought out include Dennis Frandsen; the Moore brothers, and Fred Lutz. In addition, Burt McGlynn died in December 2011, and his partnership was in an estate, which his family decided to sell to Taylor.

But Taylor, the Wolves majority owner, said he will not be doing any more buying out in the foreseeable future.

Yankees injuries are numerous

While the Twins have suffered from a glut of injuries the past couple of years, surely their opponent this weekend, the Yankees, is suffering about as bad a season for injuries as any team in recent memory.

They are missing $275 million third baseman Alex Rodriguez; first baseman Mark Teixeira, who is out for the year; Kevin Youkilis, who was supposed to replace Rodriguez at third; outfielder Curtis Granderson, who has played only eight games this season; pitcher Michael Pineda, who has yet to pitch in a Yankees uniform since they traded for him last year; starting catcher Francisco Cervelli; and infielder Eduardo Nunez.

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