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.
I sat down with Flip Saunders on Thursday afternoon to do reporting for my Sunday draft preview story and pieces that will run next week leading up to next Thursday's draft.
I'm saving all the Kevin Love and draft-specific stuff until then, but here's a bunch of this and that from our conversation:
* I asked him if he's going to need to move players other than Love because, with players still to be added through a Love trade and the draft, of a surplus of players at, say, small forward.
"It depends," he said. "Is Luc Mbah a Moute a small forward or a power forward? The other small forward basically are '2' guards: Corey, Bud, Shabazz, Kevin Martin and then Luc slides over (to power forward). You look at Alexey. He can probably play both (guard spots) and you have the two point guards. I don't think our roster is overly unbalanced now. We've got three guys who are basically centers."
* He said he envisions centers Gorgui Dieng and Ronny Turiaf both playing some at power forward and said he thinks Nikola Pekovic and Dieng can play together some, with Pek at center and Dieng mobile enough to defend out on the floor at the power-forward spot.
"I think you can play them (together),' he said. "I think that's probably something we've work on a lot this summer, to see Gorgui's ability to play out on the floor a little bit more. I always say what position you are is who you can guard and I think he can guard 4s."
* Saunders said he expects Dieng, Shved and Muhammad to play at Vegas Summer League next month. He also wants Chase Budinger to come to Minneapolis for three days of practice before and possibly even play a couple games in Vegas so Saunders and his staff can see how Budinger's knee rehab is going.
"We've had a long talk about things," Saunders said. "As I told him, we probably did him an injustice. Everyone was so anxious to get him back (from October knee surgery, his second in 11 months), Rick wanted him back. We probably should have put him in the D League for a couple weeks because what happens is, he came back and the other team was running the 220 (yard) sprint) and got around to the 110 (mark) and Chase was at a standstill. They went by him and he could never catch 'em. We needed to put him where he could get his confidence going and when he did get it going, then the next game he sprained his ankle the last couple weeks of the season."
* Saunders said Dieng has gained weight -- some 10, 15 pounds -- and Muhammad has lost some (7 or 8 pounds) and he'd like to see both continue to progress in that area.
* He said he hasn't decided who will coach the Vegas games, but added they'll probably switch the duties around. That could mean just-named assistants Sidney Lowe and Sam Mitchell could coach a game or two, as could Saunders' son Ryan, who hasn't been officially hired yet.
He said David Adelman, who has a year left on his contract, will be on the staff but hasn't decided yet whether Bobby Jackson will be back as player development coach or who might fill that role or roles.
* He did confirm he went to Chicago Tuesday to watch Creighton small forward Doug McDermott and Michigan guard Nik Stauskas work out and said he has gone to see other prospect(s) work out but wouldn't say who.
* A bit more about when I asked him if there's a chance he'll trade that 13th overall pick.
"No," he said. "I shouldn't say no. Let me put it this way: You can always trade a pick. That hasn't entered my mind. I didn't think I was going to trade me pick last year (when he swapped No. 9 for 14 and 21 and took Muhammad and Dieng). Things can happen. I do think there's more of a box now (of possible players to pick) than I did before. This morning I got something from somebody that (top 3 prospect Joel) Embiid broke his foot and (European prospect Dario) Saric is going back to Europe for two more years. If Saric goes back, he maybe falls and keeps on falling. You never know what will happen."
* He appears to be targeting shooting -- I hear McDermott, Stauskas and Adreian Payne all are high on his list -- but reiterated that he feels the team needs to add two-way players -- i.e. guys who can play defense, too -- most to this roster.
"You still need to add shooting, you can never have too much shooting," he said. "I mean, you can look at it different ways. We had trouble shooting last year but we scored a lot of points. We may have had trouble shooting, but we rebounded the hell out of it and we got to the free-throw line. You want to find that balance. I don't think you totally want to substitute shooting where we have one-way type players, though."
* One last thing from me: If Wolves try to clear roster spots and decided to do so by finding a new home for Shved, don't be surprised if Cleveland is such a home. The Cavs were one of the finalists to sign him in 2011 and chosen coach Dave Blatt coached him with the Russian Olympic team in London in 2012.
We're a week away from next Thursday night's NBA draft and that Kevin Love trade talk is heating up.
One day after we learned Denver is in pursuit, former Gophers star Mychal Thompson on L.A. radio station ESPN 710 Thursday said he has inside information from up in Oakland that the Warriors are close to trading his son Klay to the Wolves along with David Lee and a future first-round pick to the Wolves for their two Kevins, Love and Martin.
Later off the air, Thompson told a Bay Area reporter his source was someone from ESPN.
ESPN's Marc Stein, who's based in Dallas not in Oakland, cited sources as saying the Warriors indeed now are willing to include Klay Thompson in a trade.
ESPN's Chris Broussard then added in a tweet that the trade possibly could be Love, Kevin Martin, J.J. Barea and the Wolves' 13th pick for Thompson and Lee.
Again, it's more anonymously sourced chatter but you can see where this is going: The Warriors always have, in my book, been among the favorites, probably the favorite, because they have the assets if they were willing to include Klay Thompson, they satisfy Love's desire to go to a place where he can win now, their owner is highly motivated and Love would likely re-sign there.
I don't think Thompson being suddenly available is new. I think the Warriors always have known he'll have to be part of the deal if they want Love.
That said, Thompson and Lee likely isn't enough in return for Love. Taking back Kevin Martin's three years and $21 million remaining on his contract helps, but taking on Lee's two years' left at $15 million per isn't any favor the Warriors are doing the Wolves. You can bet Flip Saunders is saying, OK, he'll take Lee back but he'll want a third piece, either Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green.
Flip told me pretty flat-out today that he's not trading his 13th overall pick, and seemed taken aback a bit when I asked him about it.
It's a dance and there still is seven days before draft night. And with a draft like this where likely no draft picks will be involved, there's no reason this has to, or will, get done by draft night.
In revealing a trade prosposal he said believes will happen, Mychal Thompson on his radio show said at first he was "too depressed" to talk about it and then added that he'd have to talk his son "down off the ledge" if the trade comes to be because Klay was looking forward to playing alongside Love in Oakland.
"It's going to cost my son a chance to play with his former childhood playmate," said Mychal Thompson, who added his son and Love played together as youngsters. "It's disappointing because Klay and I have been talking about this all summer, the possibility of this happening, him and Kevin being on the same team along with Steph Curry. He was really looking forward to that. He thought if you added Love to the Splash Brothers (Curry and Thompson) with Bogut and Iguodala and you tweak the bench, they had a chance to the West final next year. That was what he was really pumped up about."
Don't forget that Thompson played with Flip with the Gophers and Klay Thompson's agent, Bill Duffy, was a college pal of both Saunders and Kevin McHale.
"Flip Saunders is a good coach," Mychal Thompson said. :I like him as a human being. He's a good guy. He was my teammate. I like Minnesota, it's great, except for the winters. You've got to look at the positives for Klay if this deal goes through. You get to play with Ricky Rubio, who's one of the best passers in the game. You're playing for a good coach in Flip Saunders. He'll take a step back career-wise as far as the playoffs are concerned."
One other thing not to forget: Thompson is due to get paid. He's eligible to sign a contract extension starting July 1 and will be a restricted free agent next summer if he doesn't reach agreement on a new contract by October's end.
You can expect Duffy to push for a max deal for his client -- not saying he'll come near to getting one, but he'll surely try -- and I'm sure the Warriors know they must prioritize their payroll. They're already paying Bogut, Lee, Iguodala and Curry all nearly $10 million each or more a year.
An update to Wednesday's post on Denver emerging as pursuers in the Kevin Love sweepstakes.
The Boston Herald reported later Wednesday that the Nuggets have offered power forward Kenneth Faried, small forward Wilson Chandler and propose to go out and get Orlando's Arron Afflalo for the Wolves in exchange for their three-time All Star.
According to that report, the Nuggets' 11th overall pick in next week's draft wouldn't be included in the trade, although perhaps that is what Denver would use in order to acquire Afflalo from the Magic.
ESPN's Chad Ford late Wednesday night tweeted that the Wolves, Nuggets, Kings and Warriors all watched Creighton's Doug McDermott and Michigan's Nik Stauskas work out Tuesday in Chicago.
The interesting bit there, of course, is that the Warriors don't have a first-round pick, but the Wolves do, with that 13th overall pick.
As next week's draft approaches, it's looking more and more like Flip Saunders is looking for established players -- perhaps exclusively over draft picks -- in return for Love.
There's just eight days left until draft night and if you think the speculation is heating up now, just wait.
The Boston Celtics are frontrunners to acquire Kevin Love.
Or no, they're not.
Both opinions have swept the Internet yet today already.
ESPN's Chad Ford and Bill Simmons each maintained the Celtics are the favorites to get Love.
Ford said a good source in Minnesota told him the Celtics have made the best offer for Love and Simmons tweeted this morning that the Cetlics are the "heavy favs" because Golden State won't offer Klay Thompson and Chicago is focused on getting Carmelo Anthony, not Love.
Each man got Celtics fans all fired up on Twitter and chat pages before the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett tempered the enthusiasm, citing sources that say the Celtics' offer of the draft picks Nos. 6 and 17 as well as Jared Sullinger and/or Kelly Olynyk and future first-round pick(s)isn't nearly the best the Wolves have received or expert to receive.
I'll go with my guy Bulpett on this one.
You can read his report here. In it, Bulpett says a source told him Flip Saunders believes he can get as good a prospect later in the draft -- the Wolves have the 13th overall pick and will be offered higher picks in trade discussions -- as can be had with that No. 6 overall pick.
The Herald report said Golden State and Denver each have made more "intriguing" offers already. You also can expect the haggling won't get really serious until next week as the Thursday night draft approaches..
The Denver mention is new, so apparently add them to a listen that includes Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Phoenix, Sacramento, Houston and probably many others.
The Warriors, of course, have Klay Thompson to offer, but the big question is whether they're willing to include Thompson as well as another piece (Harrison Barnes perhaps?) and if the Wolves are willing to take back David Lee's big contract when crunch time comes.
If a Wolves source told Ford the Celtics are the frontrunner, he probably was lied to, if you believe such things happen at this time of year.
I don't believe the Celtics are the frontrunners because I think Saunders would much rather have young established players with a known NBA record rather than trade away his All Star for the hope of multiple draft picks, unless one of those is a top-three pick.
What would the Nuggets have to offer? The Boston Herald reported power forward Kenneth Faried, forward Wilson Chandler and could acquire Orlando's Arron Afflalo for them in a deal that would not include the Nuggets' No. 11 overall pick.
The question with the Nuggets is would Love re-sign there long term. Sacramento apparently is willing to deal without an assurance that Love will stay there long term. Maybe the Nuggets are willing, too.
I still make the Warriors the favorites in this derby, but don't sleep on Cleveland if the Cavs indeed offer up the No..1 overall pick.
And don't discount the chance that Flip will hold onto Love until later in the summer or until next February's trade deadline, no matter how awkward that could make next season if Love pouts because he doesn't want to be here.
I believe Flip is sincere when he says he won't trade Love just to trade him.
One other tidbit before I go:
Former Sacramento and Golden State coach Eric Musselman on Tuesday accepted an assistant's job with LSU after he had some discussions with Saunders about an assistant's job here.
With Sam Mitchell, Sidney Lowe and Ryan Saunders set for jobs here, that might leave just one spot left. David Adelman has one year left on his contract and will be part of the picture somehow, whether it's as a full bench assistant or not I'm not yet sure. It wouldn't surprise me to see Chauncey Billups added along the way if he decides to retire and doesn't pursue a front-office job.
The Wolves this afternoon officially announced, as expected, the hiring of Sam Mitchell as an assistant coach.
That follows last week's hiring of Sidney Lowe, who will be assisting Flip Saunders for the fourth time (two stints together before with the Wolves and once in Detroit).
Both are former Wolves players and former NBA head coaches. Lowe coached North Carolina State as well.
Mitchell won the 2007 NBA Coach of the Year award with Toronto and last coached in the league as a New Jersey assistant in 2011.
"It helps a great deal, having been in that seat before," Lowe said last week, referring to assistant coaches who have head-coaching experience. "You know what he's going through, what he's dealing with. We know what he needs, not just from the basketball side, working with players, developing players. We're there to take care of a lot of stuff that he doesn't need to worry about. That's our job, to assist."
Saunders' son Ryan is expected to join the coaching staff as well.
That would seem to leave one assistant's job left to fill, depending on what the team does with David Adelman, who was an assistant coach last season and has one season left on his contract.
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