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.
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.
Well, pen hasn’t been put to paper yet. But Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders talked via phone with forward Derrick Williams today, informing him of the team’s intent to pick up his option for next season. It should be official by the end of the week. Saunders, who is on the road, will be back in town and the two will meet face-to-face Friday to seal the deal.
“It helps, (having) the security,” said Williams, whose option for the 2014-15 season will bring him close to $6.7 million. “You’re guaranteed at least one more year in the NBA. As long as you have that, I think everything is good.”
For Williams, security is a pretty big deal. It seems one rumor after another has had him out of town basically from the time he was picked second overall in the 2011 draft. Not that this will change things that much. Saunders has said from the beginning it doesn’t make sense to let assets walk away from the organization. So the team was going to pick up this option on Williams pretty much no matter what. Williams has the security of knowing his contract is guaranteed, but he doesn’t know for sure where that job will take him. Still, that guarantee is important.
Williams, entering his second season, has yet to establish himself as a starter with the Wolves. Indeed, he was challenged by the Wolves during camp, a challenge coach Rick Adelman said Williams has accepted. “I think he’s played very hard,” Adelman said. “He rebounded the ball very well the other night. It’s a process for him. It’s hard, because he has had to play two spots. He has to jump back and forth.’’
Williams has bounced between power forward and small forward. Adelman started Williams at the small forward spot in Minnesota’s preseason victory over Boston in Montreal Sunday. For Williams, the biggest challenge at the small forward position is on defense. “At that spot you’re playing a totally different player than you are at the four spot,” Adelman said.
That said, Williams – who dropped 20 pounds during the offseason trying to add more quickness, appears to be a player eager to take the next step.
“I was 20 years old when I got into the NBA and now I’m 22,” Williams said. “And I’m still growing and I’m still learning. I’ve always heard that, as you get older, you’re going to figure things out. And that’s what I’ve been doing.’’
Williams, who worked with the second unit through most of training camp, said he was a little surprised to get the start Sunday. But he said he hopes to have more going forward. “Being in the starting lineup? I think I deserve to be. That’s why they drafted me here. They didn’t draft me to come off the bench, things like that. Ultimately, it’s up to coach. I’m just here to play basketball.”
Adelman said he plans on using different starting lineups over the next two preseason games, starting Wednesday night in Philadelphia, in order to help figure out his rotations. In a perfect world, Adelman said he’d like to bring Corey Brewer off the bench rather than start him at small forward because of the energy he can bring to the game in a reserve role.
Meanwhile, the team also has until the start of the regular season to pick up Ricky Rubio’s $5 million option for next season and will do so; the decision on Rubio’s contract is nothing but a formality.
Here are some other tidbits from today’s practice:
--Adelman praised the improved consistency his starters showed Sunday, especially in the second half of the victory over Boston. “They came out and they were much more intense in that second half than they were earlier,” Adelman said.
--Adelman was asked how hard it is to be the coach of a team that travels as much or more than any other team in the league. Specifically, he was asked if he ever tried to address it with the league. “We asked the league to change it,” he deadpanned. “And they sent us to Mexico. So, don’t ask again.”
That’s about it for now. Jerry will pick up the team in Philly.
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