Kevin Love: Trade-or-Stay Scenario Remains Unclear

The 2014 NBA Draft has come and gone. Many people figured that a transaction involving Kevin Love would be almost certain on Draft Night, and yet the All-Star forward is still very much in Minnesota.

With the summer league games approaching and various other trade rumors floating about the league, what is the latest buzz when it comes to K-Love?

(photo credit: dimemag.com)

(photo credit: dimemag.com)

Golden State out of the Picture?

The Warriors initially looked like a probable trade partner for Minnesota, as the two teams were in discussions about a deal that would involve Kevin Martin and Love in exchange David Lee, Klay Thompson and draft picks from GS. However, the two squads reached a stand still when Golden State decided it was not willing to part with Thompson as part of the deal.

Part of the problem may be this: whatever team acquires Love will take on his contract, which includes runs only through the end of the upcoming season. Should the Warriors—or any other team—grab Love for 2014, they would want some sort of reassurance that the forward will not walk after one season anyway. ESPN said the following:

“Any team that trades for Love […] will need assurances that the 25-year-old is prepared to stay there for the long term. Love’s intent to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2015 is the reason Minnesota has been forced to consider trading him and makes it highly unlikely any potential suitor would offer anything of value to the Wolves without assurances Love wants to sign a new contract with them.”

 

Other Big Names Affecting the Trade Scene

One thing is for sure: Love is not the only big name looking for a new deal and a possible new home. When the news surfaced that LeBron James would exercise his early-termination option, Love found himself no longer the headline on the SportsCenter sidebar. While many feel that James will ultimately end up re-signing with Miami, that doesn’t stop the slew of teams from offering deals and hoping to land the star. Some of the squads—Houston, LA, Chicago—have also been mentioned as prospective teams for Love, and it seems likely that conversation with him will be on hold until it becomes clear where James will end up. 

Carmelo Anthony is also looking to leave his current roster. The forward averaged 27 PPG for New York last season, and he is certainly a hot ticket item as well. Although Love and Anthony play different spots, it seems more probable that a team will make the run for a LeBron/Anthony deal rather than a Love/Anthony deal. In addition, the number of franchises who could afford to add more than one of these names to their roster is incredibly low.

And, just to add one more complication into the mix, it was reported today that Houston is offering a four-year, $88-million deal to Miami Center Chris Bosh.  Bosh’s decision will certainly affect James’ (or vice versa), and I have a feeling that things will start falling into place very quickly when the 2014-2015 Heat roster is established.

One interesting option here would be Love and James playing together. Although it may seem a bit far-fetched, NBA fans can’t dismiss this idea completely. According to Fox Sports, “if James chooses to leave Miami and return to Cleveland, the Cavs still feel they can obtain […] Love in a trade if need be.”

Until James and Co. makes the call, Love will either have to settle for a city not in the hunt for LeBron, or be patient—not something he holds a strong record with.

 

 

 

 

On the Air and On the Trail: The Man Behind the Microphone

MN Timberwolves & Lynx’s John Focke on Radio & Running

For Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx fans, the name—and voice—of John Focke is fondly familiar. Currently serving as Executive Producer & Studio Host for the Timberwolves/Lynx radio network, Focke has been a voice of the organization for just over seven years.

Focke has always been passionate about basketball, knowing from an early age that he wanted to be a play-by-play announcer for the NBA. He remembers being eight or nine years old, watching the Pistons and Bulls compete in the Eastern Conference Finals, and one thing stood out to him – watching Marv Albert open the show and interact on television. Every big game, every highlight play, Marv was there. “I was young enough that you still think you could play in the NBA,” laughed Focke, “but that was the moment I remember thinking, ‘That is what I want to do.’”

At only 13 years old, Focke’s natural “on-air” voice was noticed. He tried his hand at acting when he auditioned for a Gatorade commercial. The acting part didn’t pan out – but when he was given the script, he read it like he heard TV and radio announcers speak. The talent agency affirmed his speaking skills, and the rest is history.

From that point on, Focke seized every opportunity he could – hosting high school events, announcing baseball games, and eventually majoring in video production at Ohio University. “Every chance I got, I was in front of a microphone.”

Focke nabbed an internship with KFAN in 2001-2002, and it was that position that finalized his career goal. Although previously considering a television sportscaster, he much preferred the challenge and on-air time of a radio personality.

“I [worked] on the PA Show or the PowerTrip when it first got started, and we had three hours of content we had to fill,” explained Focke. “That was way more enticing than spending all day for two minutes of television time.”

Focke landed his first job in Albert Lea, where he covered high school sports and gathered additional experience. Following that gig, he went to Northern Michigan University, where he covered play-by-play for the Division I hockey team.

It was from NMU that Focke moved directly into the Timberwolves & Lynx job in 2007. In addition to his duties as studio host for both the Wolves and Lynx, Focke serves as the radio play-by-play voice for the Lynx during road games. Fans will also recognize him as the voice of the popular “Wolves Minute” audio bits during the NBA season.

Alan Horton, Timberolves play-by-play announcer, weighed in: “[Focke]’s been an integral part of everything we’ve done over the last 7 seasons. His ability to handle all the things that go on behind-the-scenes as well as focus on his studio hosting and play-by-play roles is what makes him so valuable, and he is a big reason why I think we have one of the best broadcasts in the NBA & WNBA.”

***

Most Timberwolves fans are well-acquainted with Focke’s colorful commentary and deep knowledge of basketball. What many may not know, however, is the man behind the microphone.

Meet John Focke, the runner.

And when I say runner, I mean runner. Not only has Focke competed in numerous marathons, but he is now an avid ultra runner. The standard definition of an “ultra run” is anything past the marathon, or 26.2 miles. However, the shortest standard distance that is considered an ultra is the 50 kilometer distance, or 31.07 miles. Ultra courses Focke has completed over the past couple years include the Voyageur 50, the Mount Hood 50-mile race in Oregon (twice!), a self-supported run around the Grand Canyon,[1] and the Patagonia 63K.

How did he get here? Eight years ago, Focke ran his first marathon.

And although he had always been an athlete, a lover of sports, it wasn’t until 2006 that Focke took up endurance running.

“I always said I could [run a marathon],” he said. “Even when there was no way I could even run a mile […] and then one day, I decided to do it.”

Focke planned to run the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon, but landing the job in Michigan changed those plans and extended his training period—something that, in hindsight, proved beneficial. “It was almost a blessing in disguise. I had never run like that before, and I didn’t know what I was doing.” Focke laughs now at his rudimentary attempt at preparing for the race, training inconsistently and eating loaves of crazy bread from Little Caesar’s on his way up to Duluth – “you know, carb loading.”

Focke ran Grandma’s Marathon with his brother Alex; according to John, the race went terribly. He said the following:

“We killed the first 18 miles. We were flying. And then the wheels came off. For both of us. We weren’t running together when they came off, but they came off […] it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. You can read all the books, read all the training stuff, but there’s no way you can actually wrap your mind around it.”

Whereas many people might have found the experience overwhelming and called it their first and last marathon, Focke had other ideas. “I made the decision that I could do it, and it was through the failure that caused me to wonder what I did wrong.” Determined, he continued to train and improve, all the while learning to enjoy the running experience as a whole. Focke enjoyed having an outlet to both exercise and enjoy time to himself after a busy work schedule that often began at 4 a.m. but allowed him a whole afternoon free.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s a break in the day. My job is listening to people talk and talking myself, so for me it’s time to put on music or just be silent and go out for an hour, two hours, three hours—and just be.”

Focke’s original motivation was to increase speed, get the numbers. “I thought I could run fast. I thought if I trained right I would be able to qualify for Boston [Marathon].” Soon, however, running  became less of a goal and more of a passion.

And although he enjoyed completing marathons, it was the trail running and ultra running that truly proved rewarding for Focke:

“I love the woods. I love running. Now I can do them both together,” he said. “It pushes that line even farther to see what you’re actually capable of. There’s a physical side to it; there’s a mental side to it. It becomes a lifestyle … an holistic thing.”

Focke Pic 2

Thus far, the Patagonia 63K—in which he competed in September 2013—proves one of the most memorable races for Focke. The international competition took place in Chile, and it was Focke’s first time out of the country. “The biggest challenge was that I didn’t speak Spanish,” he acknowledged. Focke traveled on his own, and he fortunately connected with three young runners who spoke English and were able to translate all of the details and race information for Focke prior to the run. He explained both the challenge and rewarding experience of preparing for the event:

“My alarm went off at 3:30 a.m., but we didn’t start running until 8:00. It was an hour-and-a-half drive, and because they were shutting down the road [for the race], the bus had to get us there two hours early. We get there – it’s dark, and we’ve already been up for several hours. We just had to sit and wait around, and it was freezing […]. But when the sun came up and we saw where we were, it was absolutely unbelievable.”

The Patagonia event is unique in that it is completely waste free. Typically in marathons or ultra runs, aid stations will be set up along the route to provide runners with cups of water. Because this area of Chile is known to be one of the windiest places in the world, however, the organizers of the event are intentional to keep the beautiful landscape and park free from trash.

The experience was certainly a new one for Focke, but one he found entirely rewarding. An excerpt from his blog reads, “the first 20K was relatively flat, and the views were breathtaking.  We headed out away from Lago Grey only to wrap around and see the mountain range that helped contribute to that glacial runoff; the snow-covered peaks seemed to just go on and on and on, no end in sight.”[2]

Focke Pic 3

For Focke, there is also no end in sight to running and the new challenges it brings with it. His next planned run is the Voyageur Half, a marathon that will take place in Duluth in July.

And after that?

“My goal is to run a 103-mile race up on the Superior Hiking Trail,” said Focke.

The task seems impossible to most people. But for an ultra-runner, it’s just another stop on the map.

 


 

[1] The Grand Canyon run was not a race, but Focke and two friends completed the “rim to rim to rim” trek as a self-supported run – meaning there were no aid stations, and they carried everything on their back.

[2] To read more about the Patagonia 63K and Focke’s other running adventures, follow his blog at http://talesfromthefoke.blogspot.com/2013/10/patagonia.html

 

*all photos used with permission

Per Sources: Flip Saunders to Serve as Timberwolves Head Coach

Sources told the Associated Press Thursday morning that Flip Saunders will be serving as the next head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Saunders was hired as President of Basketball Operations prior to the 2013-2014 season.

As Timberwolves fans are well-familiar with, Saunders holds extensive history in Minnesota. He coached the Wolves for 10 years: from 1995 through the end of the 2005 season. During his time with Minnesota, Saunders led the Wolves to eight playoff appearances, including the Western Conference finals in 2004. Those times during Saunders’ coaching stint proved Minny’s only postseason appearances in franchise history.

Overall, Saunders holds a career record of 638-526 in 16 years as an NBA coach—411 of those wins belonged to the Timberwolves.

(photo credit: Star Tribune)

(photo credit: Star Tribune)

A hunt for a head coach has been in place since Rick Adelman retired at the end of the season. It’s no secret that a large part of the coaching search is also affected by All-Star forward Kevin Love’s uncertain future in a Wolves jersey.

Possible candidates swirled, with names such as Tom Izzo and Fred Hoiberg dropping around the Internet, but nothing came to fruition. Minnesota held conversations with Memphis coach Dave Joerger a couple weeks ago, but Joerger eventually turned the offer down.

With Love vocalizing a desire to leave the Wolves and trade rumors persisting, it’s possible that head coach candidates see a red flag in Minnesota.

Saunders is expected to maintain final say over all personnel decisions while continuing to share that charge with general manager Milt Newton.

According to the Star Tribune, Saunders may add assistants to his coaching staff who would potentially take over down the road. Former Timberwolves player Sam Mitchell is one such option. Mitchell played for Saunders from 1995-2002.

For now, Timberwolves fans will welcome a familiar face back to the sidelines and see where the season takes us.

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves will host a press conference on Friday to introduce the team’s new head coach. The press conference will take place at the Target Center and will start at 1 p.m. It will be streamed live on Timberwolves.com. This story will be updated with press conference content at a later time.  

 

Minnesota Acts as Spoiler, Takes Down Grizzlies 102-88

After back-to-back losses to Brooklyn and the Clippers, the Timberwolves rolled to an easy home win over Memphis Wednesday night. The Wolves continued their season trend of hitting 100+ points, and Kevin Love notched his third triple-double of the year with 24 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. Kevin Martin added 21 to the board. The 102-88 final score brought Minnesota’s record to 37-37, and the Grizzlies are barely clinging to that No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Memphis came in to the Target Center for the last of a five-game road trip, and the Wolves took advantage of this.

Minnesota shot an impressive 53.1 percent from the floor, and the team also grabbed five three-point buckets on the night. Fan favorite Ronny Turiaf made his return Wednesday, and the big guy added the energy and enthusiasm needed for the Wolves, who are out of the playoffs and just fighting for a strong end to the season. Turiaf was 100 percent from the field, tallying 11 points, seven points and three blocked shots. There’s no doubt about it, having Turiaf back immediately improved Minnesota’s defensive game.

(photo credit: knoxnews.com)

(photo credit: knoxnews.com)

Head coach Rick Adelman said the following after the game:

“Just a quality win against a quality team. It is nice to see us play a team that grinds it out and we were able to do the same thing back to them, defend them well and executed offensively. Thirty-one assists. And I thought Gorgui (Dieng) and Ronny were terrific at protecting the basket. And, of course, Kevin had a triple-double. It was a nice solid win.”

Rookie Shabazz Muhammad also had another solid performance.  The 21-year-old went 4-for-5 to tally eight points in just 14 minutes on the floor. Those numbers combine with his last four home games for a very impressive stat: 13/14 shots for 93 percent shooting. Since Muhammad has gotten more playing time in the last few weeks, he has certainly showed the potential for which he was drafted. Point guard Ricky Rubio also pulled his weight on scoring, grabbing 14 points and dishing out seven assists. Rubio tends to play inconsistently, but he found his groove–for the time being–against Memphis.

In contrast to Minnesota’s offensive effort, the Grizzlies appeared disjointed and sluggish. The team didn’t play well together, and the players collectively made petty errors that kept them out of the game.

“A lot of time zones. A lot of traveling. A lot of battles,” said Memphis’ Mike Conley. Conley, who is currently averaging 17.1 PPG and is historically one of the biggest threats against Minny, shot only 20 percent and finished the contest with seven points.

kevin love_memphis

Overall, Wednesday was a win the Wolves needed to keep team morale high. Despite being out of the playoffs themselves, the team can now act as a spoiler. If nothing else, the fact that the Grizzlies were one of the Wolves main competitors for the postseason gave them an extra drive for the “W.”

“We wanted to find some sense of motivation and that’s what we found tonight,” Love said. “We just wanted to knock off a team that is fighting right now.”

Adelman echoed the idea, saying, “”Everybody else has something on the line […] So we want to go out and play as well as we can and spoil it for them and see if we can’t be a factor in it.”

The Grizzlies will return home to face Denver Friday night, while Minnesota will head south to take on LeBron James and the Heat Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m.

Timberwolves Struggle in Third Quarter, Fall 104-114 to Griffin-less Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers have won 16 of their past 18 games, and their momentum didn’t slow when they rolled into Target Center Monday evening.  Both teams lived up to their high-scoring reputations, but in the end Minny ended up on the short end of the 114-104 final score. Kevin Love led the team with 20 points and 13 rebounds. On the other end, Darren Collison exploded with 28 points and seven assists.

Going into the contest, it Minnesota appeared to hold the advantage. The Clippers were playing the fourth game of a five-game road trip, and they were doing so without Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin, both out with injuries. The first two minutes were scoreless, and then the Wolves took an early 4-0 lead off a slam dunk and layup by forward Corey Brewer. The good feeling didn’t last, however.

LA point guard Chris Paul told his teammates the following: “Fellas, let’s be who we are. We got who we got, let’s keep the train moving […]. No excuses.”

Wolves_Clips

Despite the Timberwolves being able to make it a competitive game throughout the entire first half, the third quarter proved dismal for the midwest team. The Wolves took a 59-57 lead at the 9:26 mark of the third quarter, but any sense of control was ripped from their grasp. From that point on, Minnesota just could not score. Collison took over, and the Clips went on an unstoppable 31-5 run.

“We just went into the third quarter and it was like we missed every shot we took,” said head coach Rick Adelman. “It’s weird that we scored seven or eight points right off the bat and then we couldn’t score forever. The worst part is that it was like a three-on-two break every single time. It wasn’t like we were making them work. They were just getting layup after layup.”

The Wolves battled back in the fourth quarter, but they were unable to cut the lead to less than eight.  It was actually Minnesota’s reserves that came in and scored 38 points for their team in that final push. Chase Budinger scored 12 points off the bench, and Robbie Hummel and Shabazz Muhammad each added 11.

Nikola Pekovic started the game for the first time in several weeks, but the center played only seven minutes before re-injuring his ankle.  Fortunately for Minnesota, rookie Gorgui Dieng has been playing extremely well since getting his chance to start in mid March. Dieng came in for Pek, and the 24-year old scored 14 points. With Pekovic struggling so consistently with the ankle injury, Wolves fans can expect Dieng to play a major role in the lineup for the remaining games.

Following the game, Love summed up the frustration surrounding the team:

“It’s definitely tough right now. We’ve got to try to finish this thing strong and just try to play well. … We’re a little beat up right now, but we still have to come and play and try to give it our best. But that’s a very good team right there.”

Up next, the Wolves will host Memphis on Wednesday evening. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Sideline Note:

According to NBA.com, with his made free throw at 2:13 in first quarter, Love passed Tom Gugliotta to become the single-season record holder for the Timberwolves. Gugliotta set his record in the 1996-1997 season.

Love has averaged 27.2 points, 15.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in the three games against the Clippers this season, but he is only averaging 16.5 ppg in the last four games and scored 20+ points for only the second time in the last five games.

 

Timberwolves Losing Steam, Fall to Grizzlies on the Road

Memphis is hot. Minnesota is not.

Last night’s road game proved brutal for the Timberwolves as they found themselves unable to keep up with Mike Conley and his crew. Although the Wolves are ranked No. 4 in the league for scoring and are averaging 106.5 points per game, Memphis held them to just 92 points while taking the win with 109. Kevin Love led the team with lower-than-usual numbers of 16 points and seven rebounds. Rookie Gorgui Dieng delivered another strong performance with 11 points and 17 boards.

According to NBA.com, the Grizzlies are 8-0 since Dec. 25 when playing against teams who played the previous day. “We caught a good team on the second night of a back-to-back,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.

(photo credit: arizonasports.com)

(photo credit: arizonasports.com)

After playing several games in which they scored over 30 points in the first quarter, the Timberwolves tallied just 15 against Memphis. Both teams struggled a bit out of the gatesMemphis made just four of its first 15 shotsbut the Grizzlies soon found their groove. The first basket didn’t come until the 9:55 mark, but it came at the hands of the Grizzlies, and they never looked back. Conley had 23 points and six assists, and Marc Gasol added 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“We didn’t want to give them too much leeway,” Conley said. “We’ve been in the same shoes. You’re coming in off a tough game, and you kind of walk through the first part of the game.  We just wanted to jump out there as early as we could, set the tempo and try to get ahead of them.”

Minnesota seemed disoriented across the board, no one player having a fantastic game. Love shot just 6-of-18 from the field, and the team as a whole shot 38 percent. The Grizzlies had complete control of the game, driving the pace and offense. At halftime, they led the Wolves 57-39.

The Timberwolves found a bit of a spark in the third, going on a 15-4 run to close the quarter and lessen the deficit. They just couldn’t keep up with their shooting, though, and Memphis drove the win home.

“They played physical,” Love said. “When you play a team like that on a back-to-back, especially this late in the season, especially without Pek and Ronny and some depth, it’s tough.”

Forwards Corey Brewer and Dante Cunningham had the best luck on the floor percentage-wise, adding 15 and nine points, respectively. It wasn’t enough, though.

Monday night’s loss pushes the Wolves seven games behind Dallas and Phoenix. At this point, it seems safe to say that finding the postseason is like a needle in a haystack for the Wolves… it’s not mathematically impossible, but losing these last two games seemed to seal Minnesota’s fate. Finishing the regular season strong is now the team’s main focus. “We just have to be competitive. That’s the biggest key right now — get through the end of the season and play each game competitively,” forward Chase Budinger said. “That’s how you have to look at it.”

Up next for the Wolves is a home game Wednesday, when they welcome Atlanta.  The Hawks are clinging to a No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the contest promises to be a close one. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Timberwolves Lose 22-Point Lead, Fall to Phoenix 120-127

In an afternoon home stand, Minnesota seemed to have a win sealed up on Sunday. At one point, the Wolves held a 22-point advantage over Phoenix. Minny knows the feeling all too well, though, of watching a victory slip through its fingers. In the end, it was the Suns’ reserves that gutted it out and came out on top of the 127-120 final score. Kevin Love led the Wolves with 36 points and 14 rebounds, followed by Kevin Martin with 25 points. At the other end, Markieff Morris led Phoenix with 25 points.

Love_Suns

Keeping up with their recent trend, the Timberwolves played an above-average first quarter and tallied 41 points. Love, Martin and Corey Brewer led the way with 10 points and nine a piece, respectively.  The Wolves were unstoppable on offense, and they appeared the overall stronger team. At halftime, Minnesota had a stable 11-point lead.

Defensively, however, Minnesota could not capitalize. Despite the double-digit lead at the half, the Wolves had also allowed the Morris twins to score a combined 24 points–shooting 9-of-12 from the field and 4-of-4 from the 3-point line. In the third quarter, the Wolves shot just 20 percent to open the half.  The Suns gained their footing and brought the deficit to five points at the 4:43 mark, but Minnesota pulled away once again to lead by 10 going into the fourth. Target Center fans breathed a momentary sigh of relief.

In the final period, though, things fell apart for the Wolves. Phoenix forward P.J. Tucker hit a jump shot to start the fourth, and the basket started a 14-3 run by the Suns to turn the game around. Minnesota stood by and watched as the lead dwindled and then disappeared.

“What was the biggest difference (between the third and fourth quarter)? We didn’t score,” head coach Rick Adelman said. “That’s probably the biggest difference.”

For each team, Sunday’s game meant a chance at the postseason. It seems to have ultimately come down to the squad who could finish the game, and Phoenix refused to let go.

“It’s unreal,” said Phoenix forward Tucker. “I don’t know what it is, but we got really slow starts. (It”s like) we have to get down first to be able to play hard and start talking and communicating and executing our game plan.”

“They are ahead of us (for the playoffs). Obviously we looked at that,” Love said post game. “That was our playoffs right there and we lost. This one hurts a lot more than all the others.”

The Timberwolves will look to finish up their season strong in the coming week. Next for the squad is a road game against Memphis Monday evening. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. While the playoffs are no longer on the table for Minnesota, the team can certainly be a spoiler. A win over Memphis could seriously jeopardize the Grizzlies’ playoff spot.