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.
You didn't really expect anything else, did you?
The Wolves came out of Tuesday night's draft lottery right where they were slotted going into the evening -- with the ninth overall pick -- and new boss Flip Saunders said he was perfect satisfied, as long as the team didn't drop a spot to 10th (or worse).
Saunders doesn't agree with the notion that this is a lousy draft. But it has been perceived as that, he says, because it lacks top-end superstar power yet has the kind of depth in which a team picking 12th might get as good a player as one picked sixth.
So he says he's perfectly fine picking ninth.
The Wolves' most glaring need is shooting guard, so they'll take a shooting guard, right?
Not so fast.
Oh, the Wolves will have their options, even after the top shooting guards -- Kansas' Ben McLemore and Indiana's Victor Oladipo -- go top 5 probably.
They could choose Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, who's a great shooter but is point-guard sized at 6-3, or Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who would fill Wolves need for both shooters and real 2-guard size.
But don't be surprised if the Wolves end up going for a shotblocker -- Maryland center Alex Len if he drops that far, or maybe 7-2 French center Rudy Gobert -- for a team that lacks a rim defender.
The Wolves could go that route if they think they can add a veteran shooting guard through a trade (Boston's Courtney Lee perhaps?) or free agency (J.J. Redick, O.J. Mayo and Kyle Korver all will be on the market, but can the Wolves afford any of the three).
Saunders mentions backup center and rim protector as the obvious need for a shooting guard who's bigger than 6-1.
Current backup center Greg Stiemsma's contract isn't guaranteed for next year -- I believe the Wolves have until mid July to make it so -- and Saunders is keeping all options open.
"No decisions have been made," he said.
Saunders said teams always look to add size, particularly if you want to compete in the West where the Spurs have Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, Memphis has Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and the Clippers have Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
"There will be movement on the roster," Saunders said. "If that happens, it could open up a spot. We really don't have a big who protects the rim."
Saunders then mentioned Kevin Love and NIkola Pekovic, neither of whom is a natural shot blocker.
Is Stiemsma as much of a shot blocker as the Wolves have.
"He's a little bit," Saunder said. "We'll evaluate everything. When you win 31 games, you pretty much put everything on the table. We like Greg a lot, but you have to look and see what's available. Right now, he's No. 2 on the depth chart. That doesn't mean he's out. Other things can happen, but if we can find somebody somebody at any position....power forward, shooting guard, the only position we really have log-jammed is point guard."
Arrived in Chicago not too long ago for the NBA's annual draft combine these next two days.
Danny Ainge and Mitch Kupchak are here. So are Mike D'Antoni, Ty Corbin, Rick Carlisle, even unemployed/retired coach Jerry Sloan.
And, of course, Flip Saunders is here, too.
It's part player workouts/interviews, part job fair for the former NBA head coach now turned Wolves basketball boss.
Flip is leading a seven-person Wolves front-office party here in Chicago.
Player personnel guy R.J. Adelman is here, but his dad Rick is not.
He's earned the right not to be here, I guess, after 30 years in the league.
About 60 draft prospects are here for drills, exams and interviews with teams.
Expect the Wolves to focus on shooting guards and centers -- their two biggest areas of need -- in this draft process.
Of the players in early to talk to the media today, UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammad and Ohio State small forward Deshaun Thomas say they interviewed with the Wolves last night.
Players with local connections here are former Gophers forward Trevor Mwabke, former Gopher Colton Iverson, Bucknell center (by way of Roseville) Mike Muscala and South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters.
No surprise except at maybe the timing, but...
The Wolves today announced they have waived the three-time All Star guard, ending their brief and failed experiment with him after just five games played last season.
Incoming president of basketball operations Flip Saunders wiped away the whole glorious BRoy era -- waiving the former superstar with bad knees while also clearing buddies Will Conroy and Steve Gordon from the scouting payroll -- in his first full week on the job this week after he replaced David Kahn last week.
Why waive him now rather than keep his contract -- which has one more non-guaranteed year at $5 million plus -- on the books in case they can use it in a bigger trade?
Obviously, Flip concluded that it had little or no value.
The Wolves signed Roy last summer to a two-year, $10 million-plus deal after they "won" the free-agent sweepstakes for him.
He also had discussions with such teams as Dallas, Chicago, Golden State and Indiana, but signed with the Wolves after Kahn, owner Glen Taylor, coach Rick Adelman and the team's athletic trainer flew to Seattle to woo him. They also later brought pal Conroy to training camp and kept him on the team early in the season before waiving him and bringing him back in a special-assignment scouting position.
Roy, 28, stayed healthy through training camp, but played just those five games early in the season before needing yet another knee procedure and never played again, even though he kept saying he intended to return to action.
They say the new guy always wants to bring in his own guys...
Well, Flip Saunders started to do that today.
He fired five scouts -- international scouting director/player personnel Pete Philo, regional scouts J.T. Prada, Curtis Crawford and Steve Gordon as well as special-assignment scout Will Conroy -- today in his first full week on the job as president of basketball operations.
All four either had contracts expiring thissummer and were working without contracts.
It looks like scouts with years remaining on their contracts -- Milt Barnes, Derek Pierce -- will remain.
How Flip re-makes that front office with just seven weeks left before a draft in which the Wolves will have two first-round picks and two second-rounders, well, we'll see.
The general manager's job is open as now is most of the scouting staff.
Flip said at his introductory press conference last week that he intends to re-work the scouting system, going away from the regional-scouting system that predecessor David Kahn set up.
Philo had been with the team the longest -- eight seasons -- and his knowledge in international scouting helped reshape the Wolves roster into one that's now filled with players and prospects from Europe and South America.
He ran the annual pre-draft EuroCamp for years -- and he had a young player named Alexey Shved there for three straight years.
The Wolves, of course, last summer signed Shved to a three-year contract..
He also was instrumental in wooing Ricky Rubio to sign with the Wolves after the team drafted him in June 2009 and influenced decisions to draft European players Nemanja Bjelica and Henk Norel as well as international prospects Paolo Prestes and Tanguy Ngombo.
Philo called himself a "little bit shook up" by the brief call from Saunders informing him today and said "what hurts most" is all the "great" seasons that wait ahead for a team he and fired president of basketball operations David Kakn helped assemble.
He said he is "very, very thankful" to the organization for the opportunity.
"It hurts to go through all those years, painful seasons, knowing we had a plan and things started to shape up,'" he said. "I'm very proud to be part of that. It was a lot of hard work and now not to be part of it..."
Flip, btw, spent much of today in meetings here with coach Rick Adelman when he wasn't on the phone firing guys today.
The Timberwolves will introduce new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders at a 10:30 a.m. news conference at Target Center.
Or should I say re-introduce the former Wolves coach?
But before we get to that...
I had a long conversation with outgoing GM David Kahn yesterday after he was told his contract isn't being renewed. I give him credit for making the media rounds on radio with KFAN and ESPN 1500 and with a print guy.
You can read the chat in its four-part entirety -- dont worry, it's a fairly quick read -- by following this link.
Think of it as our very own exit interview with the guy.
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