For the first time since his Achilles surgery in April, center Nikola Pekovic did some 5-on-0 drills in practice today. It’s a relatively small step, but it is sign of continued progress. Pekovic has already done some individual drills with the team. And he has done some carefully-controlled one-one-one scrimmaging. The next step will be to gradually ramp up his participation in practices.
Here are some other notes from today's practice:
--After Wolves practice today, interim coach Sam Mitchell had Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad and Andrew Wiggins do an interesting drill. He put a big shooting dummy at the top of the key – a big, tall player-shaped prop with its arms up normally used for practicing shots in the paint. Beside it he put up some PVC pipe in the shape of a hockey goal, only bigger.
Then he had the players dribble off the supposed pick the shooting dummy represented, through the square of pipe, and then either look for a shot or look to pass to a teammate.
“They have to make better passes,” Mitchell said. “I think our young guys are good at pick and roll; they can score. But the next step is learning to get their teammates involved in pick and rolls. Because, at some point, teams are going to take (the shot) away.’’
So he had Wiggins, Muhammad and LaVine dribble off the screen and pull up for a jumper. Or send a bound pass to either Karl-Anthony Towns or Gorgui Dieng in the post. Or send a pass to the corner to an open player.
“It’s actually a hard decision, because you’re making it in real time,” Mitchell said. “You have a defender on the ball, guarding you. You have a big guy either dropping or coming up. You have all these things happening.’’
The drill is designed to present those situations, so the players become more adept at making those decisions in games.
The plastic pipe is there to remind the players not to dribble upright, something Mitchell is always talking to them about. “We’re talking about being low coming off screens,” he said. “They still want to dribble upright, because it’s comfortable. But that won’t get it done. You’re not going to be as quick, and the defender will be able to control you if you’re too upright.’’
--Mitchell joked that, in his day, that pipe would have been metal. "You'd have cracked yourself in the forehead one time," he joked. "With these guys, we'll put some PVC pipe up there.''
--A funny moment: Sam Mitchell, during the aforementioned drill work, was backpedaling at one point and he tripped and fell, much to the amusement of just about everyone. “I’m getting old,’’ he joked.
That’s about it for now. Have a good rest of your day.