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 are about to tip it off here in Washington against the Wizards in a game that starts another five games-in-seven days stretch.
And there's all kind of storylines here on a night when rookie Shabazz Muhammad again is unavailable because of a sprained right ankle:
Flip Saunders came in early for the game, arriving Sunday to check out the condo he still owns here from his Wizards' coaching days and to visit his son Ryan, a Wizards assistant coach.
A.J. Price is back in the arena where he played last season and hoped to return this season but the Wizards showed no such mutual inclination.
Also here is Wolves GM Milt Newton, a Wizards' executive until Flip hired him away last summer.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman is coaching against the team he once coached both as an assistant and as head coach and chatted with old friend Flip earlier today.
And Kevin Love is playing against the first guy who ever coached him in the NBA, an experience that Love didn't feel too fondly about when Wittman coached him starting in 2008.
Asked if he still hears Wittman yelling "No!" at him now when he shoots threes, Love before tonight's game said, "I'm past that now. That was a long time ago."
The Wolves open their 25th anniversary season tonight against Orlando at Target Center with all the excitement and newness that accompanies every fresh beginning.
For Ricky Rubio, it really is all new.
This will be the first time he's introduced as a starter in the season opener.
"Yeah, that's true," he said. "I didn't think about it."
He came off the bench for the first few weeks of his rookie season two years ago and was injured along with teammate Kevin Love for the opener last year.
"I remember that feeling, sitting on the side with Kevin watching the video, and I remember watching him and feeling a little painful," Rubio said. "Watching our teammates going out there and we couldn't be with them. We're going to try to get that feeling (the excitement of the season opener), not rush things but to use it as a good thing."
The Wolves tonight because another attempt at reaching the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
"We're trying to build something here," Rubio said.
In that spirit, new basketball boss Flip Saunders gave every coach, player and staff member a Timberwolves "We're Ready" coin today, a gift intended to promote team unity.
Maybe Rick Adelman will use his to flip and decided who'll start at small forward tonight.
So far, there's no definitive indication, although maybe Kevin Love let things slip when he included Corey Brewer's name with the other starter's during a shootaround conversation this morning.
We'll know more by pre-game tonight. I'll update the blog then.
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
There's a "new" Target Center coming your way Wolves Nation, in about 2 or 2 1/2 years.
They had a news conference down at Target Center this morning to announce there's finally a deal after many delays while negotiations simmered: The city of Minneapolis will contribute $48.5 million, the Wolves $43 million and AEG arena management $5.5 million. There also will be a $50 million capital improvement fund to "continue to keep the facility competitive."
The deal will extend the leases of the Wolves and Lynx to 2032.
Design work begins this winter, construction is set to start next summer with a timeline of 18 to 24 months for completion.
* Redesign of the arena's exterior.
* More gathering/meeting spaces and additional club areas.
* "Improved amenities" in both lower and upper seating areas.
* Improved pedestrian flow into, out of and throughout the arena.
* Modernized loading docks.
* Increased seating capacity for concerts and family shows.
You can also expect Glen Taylor's plans to build office and practice facilities in the mostly abandoned Block E complex to get the fast track now.
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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