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.
We're less than 24 hours from seeing these Rick Adelman-coached Timberwolves play at Target Center for the first time.
I asked Adelman this morning if he's got the concept of a starting lineup in his mind and he said, "Not really, no. I really don't."
He said he'd rather figure out a finishing unit that's going to win games at both ends of the floor.
Here's my best guess: Beasley and Love at the forwards, Pekovic at center, Rubio and Barea at guards.
* I think Adelman is so concerned about that lack of ball-handling and playmaking everywhere but point guard that he's going to look hard at Barea starting and playing a lot with the other two point guards. If you wondered why they went out and signed him, that's why.
* If you're going to go that small in the backcourt, you probably want to be big elsewhere.
Andrew Bogut's presence is one reason why I don't think Kevin Love starts there. I don't think Adelman really wants to start him at center, even though he will play there some obviously.
The way Adelman has harped about the team's turnover tendencies and how little he has talked about Darko...I just get the feeling that he's going to go for Pek's fundamentals, physical presence and dependability over Darko's potential and possibilities.
This guy's going to go for chemistry and guys he thinks are will win.
He's said not he's not concerned with developing young players.
That's another reason why I'm not penciling Wes Johnson in at starting shooting guard, like you might have assumed before training camp began.
Now how he'll find time for all these point guards, small forwards and power forwards....well, I have no idea.
That's why he's getting the $5M a year.
He did say he'll probably play 10 guys Saturday night because he wants those he does play to have the chance to develop a rhythm.
It'll going to be fascinating to see what this thing looks like tomorrow night.
Here's the story for Saturday's paper that I wrote about the two point-guard backcourt and Luke Ridnour's thoughts about it after he had gone silent since Barea's signing became imminent.
You'll find it here.
And here's the notebook led by Ricky Rubio talking about his first game at Target Center.
That's all from this brief trip to Mankato.
Next stop: Target Center.
Blog at you Saturday with all the tantalizing details.
Not really, no,” he said. “I really don’t
The Timberwolves took training camp to Mankato Thursday for a two-day getaway that will include two practices at Minnesota State-Mankato and offered a lasagna dinner at owner Glen Taylor's home Thursday night.
They'll practice there Friday morning and then head back to the Twin Cities for Saturday night's preseason opener.
Here's the story I wrote from here for Friday's paper about the team's point-guard lineage, from head coach Rick Adelman to top assistant Terry Porter to rookie Ricky Rubio.
And here's the notebook that touches on a wide range of subjects, starting to Adelman's admission that has no idea yet who his starting center is.
Adelman started to shorten practices a bit today and will do so again on Friday, when the Wolves are expected to work out for only about 90 minutes after putting in 3 to 4 hour practices in the past week.
He also says he's starting to put together groups he envisions playing together in these two short, sweet preseason games his team has to prepare for its Dec. 26 opener against Oklahoma City.
Here's the way he divided them Thursday for scrimmaging:
White team -- Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Nikola Pekovic and Wayne Ellington.
Black team -- Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Darko Milicic, Luc Ridnour, Bonzi Wells, Anthony Tolliver and Malcolm Lee.
Got any hunches that your starting lineup will come somewhere from that white team?
At least a good bit of it, although I'm still wondering not only what they'll do at center who how shooting guard will shake out.
Barea played off the ball there a good bit Thursday with Rubio, but Adelman said he'll probably switch it up and play Ridnour with either Rubio or Barea on Friday.
I found it intriguing to Pekovic and Ellington played on that white team.
Are they deep reserves attached to five starters or possible starters themselves?
Afterward, Adelman praised Pekovic's strength, fundamentals, pick-and-roll play and positioning even though he's not a pure shot blocker like Milicic is.
(Adelman has been pretty reserved commenting on Milicic so far this camp.)
Williams continued to work exclusively at power forward on Thursday, and that will continue for the foreseeable future. Adelman praised Williams' shooting Thursday, but said it's best for now to limit his learning curve to that 4 spot rather than try to get him to learn both the small and power forward spots.
How are they going to split those minutes between all those forwards and centers and who inevitable is going to be unhappy?
That's a BIG question.
Adelman said once again that Love and Randolph most will play some center and said Love could start at center some nights depending on the matchup.
But he said he'll likely have to pick and choose those spots because he's concerned Love will get into early foul trouble the nights he's matched against an old-fashioned, real NBA center, of which there are only a handful.
Maybe I'm ready too much into Thursday's lineup but I got a hunch that Pek could begin the season as starting center.
Adelman said he'd like to play about 10 guys against the Bucks on Saturday, then maybe sub in a handful of new players and play about 10 again in the rematch Wednesday in Milwaukee.
So who's your starting lineup?
And what's your rotation?
Training camp's Day 6 has come and gone.
Here's what came and went:
* The Wolves finally introduced J.J. Barea Wednesday evening, a couple of days after it became clear he was Minnesota bound.
He spoke on a wide range of topics, from his disappointment that the Mavericks didn't offer him more than a one-year contract to his more than willingness to play off the ball with another point guard and lots of stuff in between.
I'm saving most of the personal stuff for another day's story here during the preseason and focused for Thursday's paper on why the Wolves targeted him and how they say they expect to find minutes for all three point guards now.
You can find that story here.
Here's one quote that didn't make the story about the Wolves' courtship of him, that 4-year, $19 million deal they offered and why he's here.
"Nobody came even close," Barea said. "Minnesota always wanted me the most, both money-wise and talking-wise. I thought we had a lot of talent here. We can do some good changes. The coaching staff, the sytem they play also came in (to play). I like the way he coached in Houston, the way he coached in Sacramento. I also think that made a big part of it fit."
* As I mentioned in the story, Luke Ridnour has declined interview requests the last two years.
Usually, he's pretty available, if not always the most candid interview.
I read his refusal as his unhappiness with the Wolves getting a third point guard. But as David Kahn says in the above story, Kahn said he told Ridnour the team intends to find enough minutes for everyone at both guard spots when Ridnour asked him if coaches planned to split point-guard time three ways.
* Adelman sure is a candid guy or maybe just a smart motivator..
Today's theme was well familiar to anyone who watched the Wolves last season: Adelman was more than a bit agitated at his team's careless handling of the ball and abundance of turnovers just in the first six days of camp and he said so in the aforementioned story and the notebook that accompanies it.
You can find the notebook here:
* When asked if Ridnour is here to stay even with Barea's presence, Kahn said, "Absolutely."
* Derrick Williams' NBA introduction is having its ups and down, enough so that Adelman said he's asking him now solely to focus on playing power forward.
So much for some fans' expectations I've picked up on Twitter and this here blog that he'd overtake Michael Beasley for the starting small forward job by as soon as opening night.
Remember Beasley was the second overall pick in a stronger 2008 draft and he's played three pro seasons already.
Williams is struggling with defending small forwards -- namely Beasley in practice -- out on the floor and for those who wondered at draft time how much he was a duplication of Beasley for now must ask themselves this.Is he rather a duplication of Love?
Of course, it's early and Williams is oh-so-young.
And the Wolves have plenty of other options at small forward for now: Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Wes Johnson, even Martell Webster if he gets healthy.
* Tweeps have asked me for updates on Darko and Pek.
To be honest, I haven't noticed them much in what little we get to see of scrimmages at the end of every practice.
And Adelman has been pretty blah when asked about both, other than to say Darko came to camp in pretty good shape and Pek is one strong sonofagun.
We should have a better idea of what Adelman's thinking about lineup in these next couple days.
Adelman said he's going to start cutting back on the length of his 3 to 4 hour one-a-day practice probably after Thursday practice and he says he wants to start settling on playing combinations for these two upcoming preseason games so guys have some time to get used to each other before that onrushing Dec. 26 season opener against New Orleans.
* Now that Jamal Crawford is headed elsewhere, I think this is pretty much your Wolves team come opening night, unless something comes out of nowhere.
Just like their fans, I suspect Adelman and Kahn both recognize the need to upgrade shooting guard but they couldn't get in position to upgrade their defense there (see Arron Afflalo) and concluded other options (see Crawford) weren't worth the price.
* The Wolves will hold a free public scrimmage over the lunch hour on Monday at Target Center.
The one-hour event starts at noon.
* This final item has nothing to do with anything else in this post but I overheard it Wednesday night on SportsCenter while they went on and on -- understandably -- about the big Chris Paul trade that sent the All-Star point guard from New Orleans to the Clippers.
In case you haven't noticed, Kurt Rambis is doing some work for ESPN now. The network had him break down the trade and this is the one line I heard pop out over all the others as I busy doing some other things with the TV on in the background:
"And we can't forget that first round pick from Minnesota that you know is going to be a lottery pick."
He's almost certainly right, but for some reason that line just popped out of all the other noise while I wasn't really concentrating on his studio bit.
That's it for Day 6.
More from Mankato on Thursday.
Stuff from training camp, Day 4:
* The Wolves haven't confirmed or officially announced J.J. Barea's signing yet, but...
Their website listed him on the roster for a good while on Monday night.
And Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, speaking to Dallas reporters, talked about Barea's future in Minnesota and wished his well.
See Carlisle's comments in a notebook I wrote for Tuesday's paper.
You can find it here.
* I still don't get the feeling that the Barea signing will lead immediately to other moves.
I could be wrong, but I don't think this means they're shipping out Luke Ridnour immediately. Nor do I think they're lining up to trade for Kevin Martin or sign Jamal Crawford, Rudy Fernandez or another shooting guard.
For one thing, they're pretty close up against the cap and this team at this stage probably isn't going to go noticeably over the cap unless they can use a $5 million mid-level exception for being over the cap to sign a guy like Crawford or swing a sign-and-trade that would send away Michael Beasley or Wes Johnson.
It's a condensed 66-game season and a guy like Rubio has never been through something like this before. There are going to be injuries and probably enough time for everybody if the Wolves keep all three point guards.
If they keep Ridnour for now, it puts them in a position to auction him to the highest bidding contender come March's trading deadline.
* Marc Gasol agreed to a 4-year, $57.7 million deal to stay in Memphis sort of sets the market for Kevin Love to receive a max contract, doesn't it?
Gasol took four years rather than the five he could have accepted, but that $14 million-plus average is the most the Grizzlies could have paid him. He'll get a starting salary of $12.9 million with a 7.5 percent raise each year.
The Wolves can offer a five-year extension and 7.5 percent raises if they make Love a "designated" player and offer him a max contract, which I believe will start higher than Gasol's, at more than $14 million (I think).
The Wolves have until Jan. 25 to sign Love, Beasley and Anthony Randolph to contract extension. If they don't by then, each player will become a restricted free agent next summer.
* Btw, second-round pick Malcolm Lee has agreed to a 3-year guaranteed contract, rare for an American second-round pick.
Don't know the exact money yet, but that guarantee basically gives him more of a guarantee than a guy who was taken late in the first round. (Rookie contracts run four years, but first-round picks can be cut after the second and third year).
They like the guy.
Good size (6-5) for a combo guy. He can play both, including defend both, and he shoots it pretty good, too.
Fans on Twitter and here on the blog are champing at the bit for the Wolves to trade Ridnour and acquire a legitimate shooting guard now that Barea is coming. But I get the feeling the Wolves are planning on relying on Lee more than anyone else expects they might.
He could play A LOT.
Barea's going to play some 2, too, so the Wolves have got Johnson, Lee, Barea and Wayne Ellington all can play there until the team discovers when -- or if -- Martell Webster comes back from a second back surgery.
* They've come through the first four days of camp healthy.
The ones missing are invitees Bonzi Wells and Will Conroy. Both are waiting for FIBA clearance after last playing internationally. Rick Adelman said he hopes both will be cleared to practice on Tuesday.
* The Wolves are going to Mankato Thursday and will return Friday. They'll practice once each day at Minnesota State-Mankato and have dinner at Glen Taylor's house on Thursday night. Adelman didn't want the disruption of going there for longer than that, but think the quick trip will be fine.
* Folks are Twitter are clamoring to know when Derrick Williams will replace Michael Beasley in the starting lineup at small forward and many are certain it will happen by opening night.
Don't hold your breath.
From what little we've been allowed to see of scrimmages so far, it looks to me like he's going to be best playing power forward for some time. Just doesn't look comfortable playing out on the floor at small forward.
Don't forget Beasley was the No. 2 overall pick in a much stronger draft in 2008 and he has played three NBA seasons already.
I'd like to see Williams play power forward, Love center and Beasley small forward for some extended time and see how it goes.
And we will probably see that.
* Adelman was asked after practice who has the most upside, Ricky Rubio or Williams.
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "I hope they both do, for my sake."
* And oh, here's the story I wrote for Tuesday's paper about how the days of young players earning playing time in the name of development are over and how Adelman is eager for Brad Miller's return from injury so his play can teach Love a thing or two.
You'll find the story here.
That's it for Monday, sports fans.
Blog at you Tuesday.
Day 2 of training camp has come and gone.
The big happenings:
* The Wolves are pursuing unrestricted free agent J.J. Barea.
Another point guard?
Yes, a source confirms they're in the chase. NBA.com reported Saturday night that the Knicks and the Wolves are chasing him and Internet "reports" say Barea has agreed to take New York's 2-year, $5 million "mini mid-level" although there's no sourcing to any of it and I've got nobody confirming it's a done deal.
So, why would the Wolves want to add Barea to Ricky Rubio and Luke RIdnour?
Well, there's David Kahn and his fabulous point-guard collection...
Seriously, they're looking for a ball-handling playmaking guard, this just wouldn't be the shooting guard you would have thought they'd go after.
Instead, apparently, they must think Barea -- 5-11 and 27 years old -- can play some with Rubio and perhaps Ridnour.
* Still looking for that shooting guard, the Wolves brought Bonzi Wells -- yes, Bonzi, remember him? -- to camp today.
He can't practice until FIBA clears him because he last played in Puerto Rico in 2010 Before that, he was in China.
He hasn't played in the NBA since 2008 and is now 35 and didn't play anywhere last season.
But he has played for Rick Adelman twice before -- in Sacramento and Houston -- and the Wolves are willing to take a look to see if he's in good enough to shape to help.
"I know what he can," Adelman said. "If he's in shape, he can be a factor because he's a very physical player and he's played with our stuff before. He's not a ball handler. He cuts. He's really strong around the basket. He's a handful on the boards and a handful when he posts up. He played very good for me. The case for Bonzi always is he shape and that's what we'll find out."
* The Wolves have until Monday 5 p.m. to put in a silent bid for amnestied Chauncey Billups.
He's be a near perfect fit for what the Wolves are searching -- great veteran leader, would help teach Rubio the NBA way, strong guard who can play some shooting guard even if he is another point guard --except: He doesn't want to be here, or anywhere else that isn't a contending team.
So...don't expect the Wolves to bother making a bid.
* Derrick Williams has signed his rookie contract and it's been submitted to the league. The Wolves, meanwhile, continue to negotiate with second-round pick Malcolm Lee on a contract. He has agreed to practice until that agreement is reached.
* Adelman mixed and matched players in practice groupings on Friday and Saturday, but he kept two players together both days: Rubio and Kevin Love.
"Not really," Adelman said. "I think they are a pretty good combination. You'll probably see that change some tomorrow. I'm just trying to get them all in to see who plays well together."
* If the Wolves don't find that shooting guard, they'll wait and hope Martell Webster can come back from that second back surgery in less than a year. He underwent this second microdiscectomy in late September and is aiming to be back early January.
"He's a real valuable player for us," Adelman said. "He defends. He's experienced. He can make shots. So we're hoping to get him back because he can make a good difference. He can play the 2 or the 3. But the biggest thing is he competes. He would certainly help us (with their shooting guard needs) because he's a veteran and from my understanding he was playing pretty good last year before he got hurt.
"I'm hopeful we can get him back. We're going to have to be careful with him in bringing him back so we don't have any setbacks."
* Tweeted this Friday, but forgot to put it in yesterday's blog:
Veteran center Brad Miller says he will see the doctor in the next week to 10 days and hopes to get clearance to return to the court from knee surgery by mid to late January.
Right now, he's just do cardio work on the treadmill or elliptical trainer.
* Adelman now has praised Rubio after each of camp's first two days.
"Ricky's been good the first two days," he said. "The thing I'm really impressed with, he's really a smart player. He just doesn't know what he's supposed to do. He knows what everybody else is supposed to do and where they're supposed to be. He's not afraid to talk about it. You can tell he's just a natural point guard."
Sounds like Ricky might want Adelman's job.
"There's a lot of times he can have it," Adelman said.
That's it for Day 2.
We'll see if Day 3 bring continued good luck. The Wolves have gotten through the first two days of this abbreviated preseason with everybody healthy, even if Kevin Love got a knee in the thigh Saturday.
But he's OK, Wolves fans.
He finished the practice, the only one of the day.
Adelman said his experience tells him players are fresher and recover better if they practice once a day in camp, even though the NBA will allow some two a days during this preseason.
That's all for Day 2.
Here's the story I wrote for Sunday's paper on the Wolves' defensive woes and what Adelman intends to do about them.
You can find it here.
|Vikings (12)||Wolves news (876)|
|Bears (1)||Lions (1)|
|Packers (3)||Super Bowl (2)|
|Injury report (1)||On the road (50)|
|Rookies (26)||Roster moves (3)|
|Vikings draft (41)||Vikings trade talk (2)|
|NBA playoffs (1)||Wolves coaches (69)|
|Wolves draft news (50)||Wolves guards (41)|
|Wolves injury report (308)||Wolves management (135)|
|Wolves players (466)||Wolves postgame (270)|
|Wolves practice news (138)||Wolves pre-game (318)|
|Wolves trade talk (77)||Wolves training camp (48)|
|Adrian Peterson (3)||Sidney Rice (2)|