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.”

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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.  

 

Flip It Over

Yesterday, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped some insight on the Minnesota Timberwolves, with specific indications of what the team intends to do with Kevin Love. Love has one year remaining on his contract, and he will be a free agent at the end of the 2014-2015 season.

On April 21st, Saunders addressed the media after Rick Adelman announced his retirement as head coach. “Flip” was faced with questions in regards to how he planned to execute a search for a replacement. When listening to this video from the Timberwolves webpage, a voice clearly states, to Saunders, “Surly by the draft…”

“Ideally you’d like to [have a coach in place by the draft] but a lot just depends. You don’t know what’s going to happen with playoff situations,” Saunders replied, “and with what people you might have interest in; I’m not going to put a date on that [hiring a new coach]. I believe we’ll have people that will be able to start working with players. Those that we have in development. Having been a coach myself, I believe we can lead through this transition period.”

Saunders would go on to mention that two assistants, David and R.J. Adelman, son of former head coach Rick Adelman, would remain on-staff for the final season of their contract.

“I do have a vision on how I believe a team needs to be successful.” Saunders told media,” It’s matter of having someone with that same vision.”

Dave Joerger, who spent time at Timberwolves practices during the time Saunders was head coach, was an obvious candidate the moment word broke the Memphis Grizzly’s would make Joerger available. The Wolves were granted permission to interview Joerger, but Robert Pera, who owns the Grizzly’s, held the leverage in the negotiations that preceded the interview.

Pera, who had yet to fire Joerger, formulated an offer with the Wolves front-office. If Saunders wished to hire Joerger, Minnesota would need to swap first round selections with the Grizzly’s in the upcoming draft, in addition to giving up a future-second round selection.

Saunders scoffed at the idea, and Joerger returned to Memphis where he was rightfully greeted with a contract extension. After utilizing his head coach as a bargaining chip. Pera may have had leverage over the Wolves, but it came at the price of Joerger’s two-million dollar contract extension.

Today, back in Minnesota, Saunders appointed himself as the Wolves new head coach.

George Karl has stated that he would be willing to take Wolves job, although he was never interviewed for the position. Some fans in Minnesota may have coveted Karl as their new head coach, but not all would have been open to the idea. Karl, 62, has a history of health problems. Considering the recent experience Minnesota had with Adelman, hiring another well seasoned guy may not seem so appealing.

The Wolves also interviewed Lionel Hollins, Vinny Del Negro, and Scott Skiles for the the position.

Now what?

Clearly, none of the aforementioned candidates shared the same vision as Saunders has for Minnesota going forward.

Saunders quote, “I believe we can lead through this transition period,” albeit in a broad statement made in a different context, indicates that this isn’t a long-term assignment for him. There is no timetable for how long Saunders intends to coach the team. According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, Saunders’ staff is expected to include former Wolves players Sam Mitchell and Sidney Lowe, although it’s not certain yet if either is a coach-in-waiting to take the job next.

“There’s no question that there’s a lot of work ahead with this team. And what I mean by that is that when a team has been to the lottery for eight straight years and won 31 games, you have work to do.” Saunders told media after being introduced as the Wolves President of Basketball Operations. “So we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and do that, but that’s what Minnesota people do.”

Since joining the Wolves last Summer, Saunders implemented capable roll players surrounding Love; appeasing Minnesota’s superstar. Now, after appointing himself as the team’s head coach; If the Wolves are unable to trade Love, or elect not to, they’ll have one more season with a top-five NBA player to show they can become a contender in a Western Conference loaded with talented teams.

In that instance, Love would likely walk away from Minnesota and sign with another team when he becomes a free agent at the end of next season.

We’ll just keep waiting to see what happens, but from what we can tell, Saunders is rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. What he envisions going forward remains to be seen. Look for the introductory press conference tomorrow.

 

zb

 

 

“Life After Love”

Well, here we are. Life without Kevin Love is a growing possibility, although, despite all the same rumors from the same sources, he remains with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Cast Love aside for a minute, let’s look at what’s been built around him. The Timberwolves are fighting to refrain from encroaching the Luxury Tax.

From www.cbafaq.com, question #21; The luxury tax is a mechanism that helps control team spending. While it is commonly referred to as a “luxury tax,” the CBA simply calls it a “tax” or a “team payment.” It is paid by high spending teams — those with a team salary exceeding a predetermined tax level. These teams pay a penalty for each dollar their team salary (with a few exceptions) exceeds the tax level. The tax level is determined prior to the season.

On June 30th, 2014, which the current [13-14] season technically ends, these changes are certain.

  • Dante Cunningham becomes an unrestricted free-agent, unless he is resigned [unlikely], his time with the Wolves has ended.
  • Robbie Hummel‘s contract turns into a team option, he’ll have to make the 15-man roster to earn $1,016,482 throughout next season.

Current pieces

  • Nikola Pekovic will make $12,100,000 through the 2015-2016 season, and is due $11,600,00 in 2017-2018.
  • Kevin Martin is owed $6,792,500 for his services next season, $7,085,000 during ’15-’16, and $7,377,500 through the end of ’16-’17, before his contract expires.
  • Corey Brewer is due $4,702,500 this season, and $4,905,000 through ’15-’16.

Expiring Contracts that will become Unrestricted Free Agents, after the 2014-2015 season, and what they’ll be earning this year. These contracts are tradeable, for the recipient would only retain the player[s] for the upcoming season before they become free agents. However, Mbah a Moute is a one-way player, Barea, well — he’s Barea — and Turiaf struggled to stay healthy and is entering his 10th NBA season. Old, or overpaid, these players aren’t coveted by many other teams. 

  • J.J. Barea – $4,519,500
  • Luc Mbah a Moute – $4,382,576
  • Ronny Turiaf – $1,500,000

Rookies Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng will enter the second year of their rookie contracts. [[Shabazz -- $1,971,960, and Dieng -- $1,413,480]] Terms of rookie deals are dependent on when each player is drafted, in addition to the position as they are listed.

Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved will enter the final season of each of their first, NBA contracts, and will be dependent on the Wolves extended offers to keep them with the team beyond that. Rubio — $4,660,479, and Shved — $3,282,056.

Chase Budinger is contracted for the ’14-’15 season [$5,000,000] and can sign for an additional year at the same rate, next season, if he so chooses. He and Love have the same decision to make, assuming Love is with the Wolves for another year, at the end of next season.

Keeping things short-term, the Wolves will retain 11 players from last season — 12 including Love. Those 11 are due ~~ $50,325,051, collectively, through the ’14-’15 season. Throw Love’s $15,719,062 salary in there and you’ve got $66,044,113 in player-payouts. This leaves ~$5,703,887 to fill three roster slots and pay rookies acquired by way of the 2014 NBA Draft. So, assume those are fulfilled by Hummel [1,016,482] and two-draft selections.

The Wolves have the 13th overall selection, along with three, second round picks in the upcoming draft. Muhammad was selected at 14th overall, last season, and Dieng followed behind him in the opening round at 22. Together, those two were worth, a combined, 3,239,760 in their first year as NBA players. Because I can’t account for who the Wolves will elect in the draft, or future trades, signing Hummel and two draft selections for the noted prices would cost the team $4,256,242 next season — $1,447,645 under the Luxury Tax.

What if Kevin Love remains for the 2014-2015 season, only to sign somewhere else next Summer? There are a lot of variables involved here, so a lot of assuming is done when determining what the roster will look liking moving forward in the future. Love would be walking away from his one-year player option worth $16,744,218

  • Barea, Mbah a Moute, Turiaf all become unrestricted free agents. The Wolves drop $10,402,076 in salary
  • Budinger is retained, assuming he accepts his player-option [likely, very likely] +$5,000,000
  • Brewer, Martin and Pekovic are owed a collective $24,090,000 in ’15-’16
  • Assume Rubio is retained, but Shved is not offered a deal. The net of these two contracts in this scenario ~ +$2,621,160
  • Sign Shabazz and Dieng on rookie extensions + $3,531,360

We must account for the second year of the two, hypothetical rookies that have not been drafted — nor signed — to contracts as of yet. We determined their worth at $3,239,760 during year one. These contracts would pay each player more in their second season, but I’ll refrain from doing the math as the increase in their contracts will equal-out the salary cap expected increase.

If Love were to leave the Wolves next summer, he’d be leaving seven players worth ~$35,242,520. This number is $36,505,480 less than the current $71,748,000 Luxury Tax threshold. In this situation, Flip Saunders would need evaluate his remaining pieces and determine whether the plan is to structure around them — or go into rebuilding mode.

Assessing Assets. Let’s create a roster with the seven remaining players and determine needs.

PG – Rubio

SG – Kevin Martin

SF – Brewer, Muhammad

PF –

C – Pekovic, Dieng

With this $35,242,520, the Wolves may attempt to rebuild if free agency can provide competent pieces. Is this a potential core, assuming the Wolves are able to obtain a starting power-forward? For the sake of this hypothetical situation, looking at those who would be available (Current Age); Zach Randolph (32), LaMarcus Aldridge (28), Carlos Boozer (32) all pass the eye-test, but as mentioned earlier — a lot of assuming is involved. Yet, I’ll continue.

Realistically; Randolph is the most viable option of the three. Aldridge likely remains in Portland as a Blazer and Boozer will be amnestied by the Chicago Bulls this summer. Henceforth, he will likely be signed by a different team and will not be available. Randolph’s current contract is considered a $16,938,333 ‘Cap Hit’. That leaves $18,304,187 to bolster the roster with a backup SG and PG, and the 11th and 12th roster slots.

Considering the circumstances, it’d be unfair to speculate beyond where I’ve gone thus far. It’s also fair to assume that Flip Saunders has an abundance of things to consider moving forward, but the most significant decision will be the first shoe that drops. First, Saunders must determine the fate of Kevin Love.

There are 29-days until the NBA Draft, and Glen Taylor was quoted saying the Timberwolves wouldn’t trade Love before the draft — but much, much more has been said — so we’ll have to see where things land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what I know about the Kevin Love situation, I think.

klovesad

JORDAN JOHNSON/GETTY IMAGES

In 2012, Minnesota Timberwolves Owner Glen Taylor and General Manager David Kahn agreed it would be best to sign Kevin Love to a four-year, $61 million dollar, contract, as opposed to a five-year deal worth a projected $80 million. He hadn’t performed well, nor often, enough to be considered an elite player worthy of a max-deal ala Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, all members of the 2008 draft class. Rose and Westbrook received five-year deals with their respective teams, but the same was not true for Love with the Timberwolves.

Love has yet to lead the Wolves to the playoffs. However, the consequences of not securing one of the league’s top-10 players started to linger over the heads of fans over the weekend after Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News published a column over the weekend, stating the following.

“Kevin Love’s people reiterated to the Timberwolves this past week that they had better trade him or else he’ll leave via free agency when his contract is up after next season. With Love looking to exit, there’s your No. 1 reason the T-wolves have not been able to find a head coach to take over for Rick Adelman. Love wants to play for the Lakers but he’s also open to coming to the Knicks”

I don’t know how long Lawrence has covered the NBA, but I hadn’t known of his existence until reading this ‘report.’ Seeing how I was a little skeptical, I found Lawrence on Twitter and exposed his account for my followers to see. Turns out someone besides myself had a few questions.

“Love wants out”. Just another baseless claim made by a writer nobody has ever heard of that’s based in the largest media-market of them all, New York City.

AP Sports Guy is a moniker for Jon Krawczynski, an NBA writer for Associated Press based in Minneapolis.

Wojnarowski dropped on of his trademarked WojBombs around 3:00AM [CST], Sunday, that a rival executive told Yahoo Sports; “For the first time, [Flip Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option.”

The gig is up. 

— Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, or “Woj,” is reputable, he’s definitely a high-profile journalist — in my opinion. At the very least, I take the work of Wojnarowski seriously — however — he’s been wrong with claims regarding Minnesota Timberwolves before.

Earlier this season, as trade-deadline loomed nearer, Wojnarowski reported the following.

As you’re probably aware, for reasons that remain unclear, no deal between the Wolves and Grizzlies occurred this season.

“We’re proceeding the same way, that Kevin is part of our team, that we have,” Saunders told WCCO, early Sunday morning, “You’re always trying to get your team better. There have been reports we’re actively trying to trade him, which isn’t true. What we’re actively trying to do is get our team better. When you do that, you look to see what’s out there no matter what it is or for anybody. We’re a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years. We’ve got to get better.”

[this according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune]

Later that day.

Glen Taylor was confronted about the idea of trading Love if someone made a compelling enough offer, just before the Minnesota Lynx took the home floor for the first time this season. Taylor said he doesn’t expect a deal to be made by the draft, nor has he discussed the idea of trading Love, with Saunders. Taylor also states that Love has not asked for or told the team to trade him. Read the column from the Star Tribune by clicking this link.

Leaky Pipes.

In the relatively short time I’ve covered Flip Saunders, I’ve learned a few things about the way he describes himself, and the way he does business. ‘Flip’ gives the impression he’s a guy always on the phone, continually conjuring transactions and scenarios within his basketball mind that would make his team better.

It look very little time for the Wolves to trade Derrick Williams for Luc Mbah a Moute, earlier this season. A column from ESPN 1500 explains that the Wolves President of Basketball Operations believed it was time to move on — but it’s this quote from Saunders that seemed to illuminate a little on his mentality working in an NBA front-office.

“What you have to do is you to look at what is the value where you’re at?” Saunders said. “What’s the value going to be at in two months? What’s the value going to be at the trade deadline? What’s it going to be next year? I just didn’t foresee Derrick being able to play much, and if a guy isn’t playing, usually your value isn’t going to go up.”

A few months ago, Saunders spoke with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd. Cowherd, of course, poked the bear by asking about questions about Love’s future in Minnesota.

Cowherd: Do you feel more empowered, or powerless, with a star player that other [specifically big-market] teams are interested in.

Saunders: “Well, I laugh. One, having had, conversations with Kevin –maybe– every week. Having a pretty good relationship with him, you understand where he’s at. There are many things that have been said about the, “Glamour Situations,” but, whereas Kevin said (referring to his recent quote in GQ Magazine); it might not be so glamourous.

“You know good players are going to be wanted. That really comes with the business, so, when you have a player that’s wanted by people; people are going to talk about them because that’s what goes on.”

 

Over the weekend and into Monday, an abundance of rumors, potential trade sceneries, and all-sorts of discussion have has swirled around Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Until Wojnarowski’s report, there had been no serious indication that Love would be on the trading block this summer.

Who we can trust remains to be seen.

I’ll reiterate that Taylor said the Wolves would not trade Love ‘by the draft,’ and I’m inclined to believe him. I’m also led to believe Saunders wouldn’t allow his greatest asset to walk away without determining its value, first.

This could all change if the right offer lands on the table, something rumors usually tend to induce. If somebody makes an offer that’s impossible to refuse, sure, I expect the Wolves to take it. However, the way I believe those close to the situation go about their business — I don’t think Love leaves Minnesota for another team this summer.

[From the Star Tribune column linked earlier]

Glen Taylor was asked in April if he now considers the decision to offer Love only the contract the team did a big mistake. He paused for five seconds before answering.

“Let’s wait one more year to answer that question,” Taylor said then. “I think it’s a good question to ask at this point because Kevin has played as well as we hoped, and maybe even better. To have him tied up long-term probably would be better than not, but we still have one more year and we’ll see. My hope is it doesn’t make any difference.”

Snow Falls in Minneapolis, Wolves Fall to Jazz; 130-136

Well, it’s over now.

Last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves dropped the season finale to the Utah Jazz, at home, and it was possibly Rick Adelman’s last game as an NBA Head Coach. What you would think would be a passionate, emotional, send-off type of performance, honoring one of the league’s greatest coaches, turned out to be just-another, underwhelming performance that ended in disappointment.

It’s been openly suggested, myself included, that Adelman may have lost the proverbial coaches-spirit long ago. The type of passion, necessary to spark an inspired, second-half run into the postseason was just not something the 68 year old was capable of doing. There are other variables at play, like player-performance and things like luck, but ultimately I believe Adelman is going to be pegged with many of the things that went awry this season. I also believe we’re going to find out that last night’s game against the Jazz was, indeed, his last game as the Wolves coach. [Read more...]

Wounded Warriors Battle Wolves, Minnesota Falls Late…..Again…

Entering Monday night’s game against the Warriors, the Minnesota Timberwolves sat on the .500 hump with two games remaining in the season. Their final opponent, the Utah Jazz, will venture to Target Center and face the Wolves on fan appreciation night. Combine the sentimental night with the notion that the Jazz have no intention, nor ability to go about winning that game — if there was a moral victory to attain it would be in the Bay Area, Monday.

The Warriors were without Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, which meant Gorgui Dieng would be the only one protecting the rim as these two, uptempo, high-scoring offenses took the floor.

First Half.

The Wolves jumped all-over the Warriors in the early going. When in the process of doubling-up GSW by the 7:10 mark in the game — 24-12 — Kevin Love buried four three’s, accounting for 16 of the Wolves total-points at that time. Conversely; as well as things seemed to be going, Stephen Curry’s status as an alien proved critical during the first quarter as he matched Love for each three-pointer that Wolves’ all-everything forward connected on. For the sixth time this season the Wolves scored 40+ points during the first frame. They led by 14; 42-28, heading into the second, but the Golden Curry’s had nearly caught the Minnesota Love’s, and the double-digit lead dissipated into a measly two points — Curry tallied 23 while Love racked up 26 points — during the final minutes of the first half.

Second Half.

While it felt as if Curry was going to keep the Warriors in the game, the Wolves didn’t — and haven’t really done so at all this season — to assert themselves as the team that would ultimately win the game. As I watched the Warriors broadcast during the third quarter (no offense, Dave, Jim and Alan) the phrases, such as “there’s no desire to play any defense, this isn’t basketball,” used to describe the Wolves effort outside of scoring were quite entertaining. Usually, these type of things would irritate myself, or the common fan, but when there’s very little remaining to aspire to other than winning — sometimes teams will only look to outscore their opponents.

This was certainly the case, last night.

The bright side in the Wolves, 120-130, defeat at the hands of the Warriors — Kevin Love. Love surpassed Kevin Garnett on the all-time single season scoring list, adding his name to another to the top of another list of franchise records. However, most of the story within the game was just like a majority of other outings this season; bench woes, injuries, and questionable rotations kept the Wolves from jockeying for position to pull-ahead of Golden State before the game was over. No Wolves bench player tallied a double-digit point total, Love, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin played a majority of the third quarter (and the fourth; overuse) and the absence of a floor-stretching “Three and D[efence]” player all factored into, yet another, close loss.

Tomorrow, in Minneapolis, at Target Center the Wolves have a chance to end the season on a high-note against an abysmal opponent. There’s an uncertain future, with potentially cataclysmic possibilities in-terms of personnel restructure, but things will ultimately be O.K. The 40 win season is arguably the best the team’s had since the departure of Garnett, who was the only superstar to play for the franchise prior to the arrival of Kevin Love.

Three Stars

  • Kevin Love [man] — 40 points, 14 rebounds, and the new Timberwolves all-time single season record holder for points scored.
  • Gorgui Dieng – 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field, in addition to grabbing 11 rebounds. Jim Peterson mentioned during the broadcast this point — “If you were to redraft, last summer’s draft, at the end of the year — when does Dieng go off the board? The expectations will only grow during the offseason, higher than they already are, so it’s important to remember that he’s still a young, developing player — but man — we can enjoy what he’s brought us, thus far.
  • Stephen Curry – He’s an alien that scored 32 points and dished out 15 assist. Needless to mention, he’s the only player that I will look back upon and feel sorrow in remembrance of the Wolves failing to draft the guy. Not to bring up the negative of things, but this could ultimately be one of the game’s best scoring point-guards to ever play in the NBA.

Kings Overcome Love’s 43 points, Defeat Wolves 106-103

The Kings held off a tremendous individual performance by Kevin Love and went on to defeat the Wolves in Sacramento, thanks largely to the play of their man in the middle, DeMarcus Cousins. Despite leading by as many as 11 in the third quarter and getting 30 second-half points from K-Love, the Wolves fell to 16-24 on the road this season and dropped yet another game to a team that will be vying for a top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Between Love and center Gorgui Dieng, the Wolves’ starting frontcourt recorded 64 points and 25 rebounds. However, Corey Brewer (2-8 FG), Ricky Rubio (0-4 FG) and Kevin Martin (0-8 FG) combined for a lousy 12 points which went a long ways towards nullifying the exceptional performances of Love and Dieng.

The lengthy Ricky Rubio matched up against the shifty 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas, and failed to score a single point in 32 minutes while notching 11 assists. Despite possessing a significant size advantage, Ricky lacked aggressiveness on the offensive end as shown by his zero free throws attempted. Thomas, on the other end, had an off-game himself but was still able to weather through the storm and got the better of the matchup posting 14 points (6-13 FG) and 4 assists in 30 minutes.

After being taken with the 7th overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, Ben McLemore fell way short of expectations this season as he recorded horrific advanced statistics despite having started 54 games and playing an average of 26.5 minutes per night. Having a reputation as a dynamic scorer coming out of Kansas, McLemore has shot just 37% from the field while sporting a 7.45 PER (15 is indicative of “average”). With how terribly this rookie season has gone for him, he had every reason to be nonexistent in Sunday night’s game against Minnesota. Instead, he came out and had one of his best performances of the season. McLemore made Martin look like the struggling rookie, scoring 19 points on 6-11 shooting (3-6 3pt) while turning the ball over only once. On the defensive end, he held Martin to only 2 points.

McLemore and Cousins combined to make four big free throws in the final 12 seconds, ultimately solidifying a 106-103 win for the Kings. Cousins led the way for Sacramento with 35 points (13-21 FG), 15 rebounds and 6 assists in 37 minutes. He was able to help the struggling Kings overcome a monster 43-point, 11-rebound performance from the superstar Love and showed glimpses as to why he is on his own path to superstardom. Despite his huge performance, he disqualified himself from Sacramento’s upcoming final game of the season after being called for his 16th technical foul of the season late in the fourth quarter. Due to NBA rules, Cousins must sit out the team’s final regular season game against Phoenix on Wednesday.

The Wolves will travel to Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors tonight at

Three Stars of the Game

  1. DeMarcus Cousins
  2. Kevin Love
  3. Ben McLemore

Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Final Week

 

Happier times for the Wolves 'big three' (Jim Mone/Associated Press).

Happier times for the Wolves ‘big three’ (Jim Mone/Associated Press).

Setting the stage:

Well, the end is near for our Timberpups.  The Wolves will not advance to the NBA Playoffs for the tenth straight season.  This is turning into quite the rebuild huh?  The Wolves have three games this week counting tonight’s match-up in Sacramento, tomorrow night’s game in the Bay Area and then one final game at Target Center against Utah Wednesday night.

Fans, this is likely your last opportunity to see Rick Adelman on the sidelines for the Wolves.  Who will be the next coach?  Will Flip Saunders be on the sidelines next season or will he be able to grab someone from the college ranks like Fred Hoiberg or Tom Izzo.  I would be ecstatic with either of those choices from college and mortified if Flip takes over as head coach.  Do you have any off-the-radar guesses or suggestions?

Onwards to the last three games of the 2013/14 season for the Timberwolves.  Can the team win at least one of the final three to lock in a .500 record?  Can they win two of three to finish over .500?

Game 80: Sunday, 4/13, 8pm – Timberpups @ Sacramento Kings (TV: FSN Plus)

The Kings come into Sunday’s game with a 27-53 record, having lost to the Clippers in LA on Saturday night.

Opponent to watch:

DeMarcus Cousins – While I ripped the Kings at the beginning of the season to the contract they gave Cousins, he has produced this season, leading the team in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks (22.6, 11.7, 1.5, and 1.3 respectively).  It hasn’t led to many wins though …

Predictions:

The Wolves take advantage of the Kings playing on back to back nights and guarantee themselves a .500 record for the season.  Final score: Timberwolves 108, Kings 101

Game 81: Monday, 4/14, 9:30pm – Timberpups @ Golden State Warriors (TV: FS North & NBA TV)

The Warriors are moving on to the playoffs it is just a matter of where they will be seeded with a 49-30 record going into Sunday night’s game in Portland.

Opponent to watch:

Stephen Curry – One last opportunity this season (until the playoffs start) for Wolves’ fans to curse David Kahn and his selection of Jonny Flynn over Curry.  Steph hasn’t missed a game this season and leads the Warriors in points, assists, and steals.  I would go into more detail but don’t feel like lighting myself on fire right now.

Predictions:

The Warriors will want to go into the playoffs playing good basketball and this game should be entertaining to watch.  I predict a barn burner – Final score: Warriors 124, Timberwolves 115

Game 82: Wednesday, 4/16, 7pm – Utah Jazz @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Nothing like closing the season with a win at home, right?  Right?!  The worst team in the Western Conference (although the Lakers are trying) visits the Target Center as we say “goodbye” to the Timberwolves’ season, and potentially “so long” to Rick Adelman.

Opponent to watch:

Not Applicable – For the final game of the season, let’s focus on the Wolves and not the opponent.  We’re talking about a bland Jazz team anyway.

Let’s give thanks to Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic for putting up all-star caliber numbers.  As an added bonus, Gorgui Dieng looks like a very strong third wheel for the Wolves moving forward, specifically as a defensive replacement when one is needed.

Here is to hoping that Ricky Rubio makes the much needed leap in the offseason and that we have a new backup PG behind him next season.  Finally, let’s hope that Flip can find a wing or two in order to upgrade the roster beyond Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, and/or Shabazz Muhammad.

Predictions:

Minnesota sends Wolves Nation home with a positive memory.  If they lose in Sacramento and Golden State, there will be some heavy motivation for the team to finish at .500.  If they win at least one of those games on the road, there is still motivation to finish on a positive note at home.  Final score: Timberwolves 104, Jazz 89

Wrap-up:

After recapping these final games for our Pups, we’ll be putting together thoughts on how the players looked this past season and what the team needs to do in order to finally get back into the playoffs.  For now, let’s go Wolves!

 

 

Corey Brewer Owns the Night – Timberwolves 112, Rockets 110

It's your world Corey Brewer, we're just living in it!  (Photo: Timberwolves.com)

It’s your world Corey Brewer, we’re just living in it!
(Photo: Timberwolves.com)

It feels like every Friday night the Timberwolves are back to .500 ball, entering tonight’s game against the Houston Rockets at 39-39.  The Rockets entered the game at 52-26 and in the 4th seed of the Western Conference, battling to maintain home court advantage in the first round with the Portland Blazers.

The Wolves announced that Kevin Love would not be in the lineup tonight with a hyper extended elbow.  Add in the injuries to Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and Chase Budinger and you have quite the recipe for “let’s end this season without any further injuries please”.  With all of those names out, the starting lineup consisted of Rubio, Brewer, Hummel, Cunningham, and Dieng.  Call me old fashioned, but it still doesn’t sit well with me that Dante Cunningham is in the lineup at all, let alone starting for the team at this point.  The Rockets opened up the game with Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, and Omer Asik.

First Half

If you were looking for someone to get off to a hot start for the Timberwolves, I hope you had your eyes (and money?) on Corey Brewer.  Brewer finished the 1st quarter with 16 points, leading the Wolves to a 39-32 advantage at the end of the first twelve minutes.  The Wolves actually held a 15 point lead with just about 90 seconds to go in the opening frame, but the Rockets closed the quarter on a 10-2 run, including a Jeremy Lin three pointer at the buzzer.

As goes the story of this season for our Pups, the end of the 1st quarter was a nice foreshadow of things to come in the 2nd quarter.  The Rockets stormed all the way back to take the lead about halfway through the quarter.  Going into a timeout around this same time, we saw Ricky Rubio holding his hand in pain and checked out of the game.  That pretty much sums up this season perfectly.  Thankfully, Rubio returned minutes later to close out the half.  (Phew)

At the half of this offensive juggernaut of a game, the Rockets held a 63-59 lead.  Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • Brewer … Wow!  26 points, which included a ~50 footer at the buzzer to cut into the Rockets lead!
  • Remember when David Kahn had Chandler Parsons on the Wolves?  Apparently, he does too.  18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
  • LRMAM and JJ Barea were -16 and -13 respectively in the first half.  Add in Ronny Turiaf’s -10 and you can sum this up with “bench play …”

Second Half

Normally, I would prefer to give a “how it happened” type of recap throughout the final 24 minutes of the game.  However, tonight was one of those nights and I’m not talking about this being my last recap of the season.  Tonight was special.  Why?

Corey Brewer went off.  Way off.  Off to the tune of 51 points and absolutely erupting the Target Center crowd.  Corey has been maligned since he was drafted by the Wolves many years ago and a number of fans hated when Flip resigned him to come back to Minnesota.  Tonight felt like a little bit of redemption and it is exactly why you should still attend NBA games even if your team is out of the playoff race.  Corey was 19-30 from the field, 11-15 from the FT line and added in 6 steals for good measure.

The final score of tonight’s events: Timberwolves 112, Rockets 110

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Corey Brewer – Obviously
  2. Gorgui Dieng – Somewhat unheralded given what was going on tonight, Dieng hit the final shot of the game to give the Wolves
    the win and finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds.
  3. Chandler Parsons – Huge game for Chandler who finished with 27 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals 

Key Takeaways

  • The only reason this game was still in doubt was the Timberwolves poor shooting from the FT line (27-40) and from 3PT range (3-12)
  • Ricky Rubio and Dante Cunningham each had double-doubles on the evening and they were both needed, as the Wolves got close to nothing from their bench tonight.
  • Congratulations to Corey Brewer once again for his 50+ point performance, a night he will never forget!

You want more …

Corey Brewer now averages 10.0 PPG, 5th-lowest career scoring average among players with 50 points in a game in NBA history. (@EliasSports)

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 12, 2014

Adelman on Brewer: "Theydidn't know what to do with him. And we didn't, either." #Twolves

— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) April 12, 2014