Changes in the Twolves Staff, Again

Last year, John wrote about the changes made within the Minnesota Timberwolves front-office. Below is an excerpt from that post. I’m showing you this because I plan to ultimately use the same format as John did last summer.

Since the return of Flip, the news hasn’t really slowed down.  Days after being hired in May, Flip fired Pete Philo, the Wolves international scouting coordinator, along with Curtis Crawford and Will Conroy.  Conroy, of course, was Brandon Roy’s best friend that David Kahn gave a contract to prior to last season.  Crawford was an actual scout for the team.

Opinion: Given the lack of overall success in the franchise’s draft history and ability to find many hidden gems overseas, this was a good starting point for the team.  Hopefully, Glen Taylor and Flip use the appropriate amount of resources to maximize the potential of hitting a home run in the future through the appropriate scouting channels.

The Wolves roster is frozen until June 30th, the team cannot make personnel changes until the 2013-2014 season has officially ended. Kevin Love remains with the team albeit the vast amount of rumors swirling regarding his inevitable departure. It’s difficult to interpret appropriate expectations for a coaching staff if the roster isn’t firm, which for the Wolves — it’s not — so there’s a bit of uncertainty to take into account. That said, I’ll do my worst.

By now you’ve heard that Flip Saunders appointed himself as the new head coach. From what I understand to be the consensus, it’s not Flip the coach that concerns fans, but rather, the process in which Glen Taylor sat by, begrudgedly, while Saunders interviewed lesser-qualified candidates to make himself look like the best man for the job.

Opinion: Flip the hire bugs me, too, but in his defense — it remains to be seen how long Saunders intends to coach the Wolves. Will this be a temporary gig? Is Flip’s plan to pocket a few million dollars, that would have gone to someone like George Karl, Lionel Hollins, or Vinny Del Negro [who rank 'meh,' 'eh,' and ick, respectfully], or is it Flip’s intention to become a Gregg Popovich type presence among the Wolves organization? Popovich — with a little help from General Manager R.C. Buford — is the law, law-enforcement, judge, and prison guard of the San Antonio Spurs organization. 

Perhaps a more appropriate comparison for Flip and the Wolves front-office would be Stan Van Gundy, who was recently hired by the Detroit Pistons to become the head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Although, admittedly, as bad as things are believed to be in Minnesota, the Pistons former President of B-Ball Ops., Joe Dumars, left Van Gundy in an ugly situation after signing unproven talents pretentious wannabe-superstars Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to egregious contracts.

The following is from the Wolves press release, announcing the addition of Sidney Lowe as an assistant coach on Flip’s staff.

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced Sidney Lowe as an assistant coach on head coach Flip Saunders staff. This will be Lowe’s fourth time coaching alongside Saunders, previously serving as an assistant under him in Minnesota both from 1999-2000 and 2003-05, and in Detroit from 2005-06. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not announced.

“We are excited to add Sid Lowe to our coaching staff,” said head coach Flip Saunders. “I have great respect for Sid. He has a great basketball mind and an extensive coaching background as a head and assistant coach in both the NBA and collegiate levels, which will be extremely valuable on our staff. Sid relates well with players and will play an important role in the development of talent on our roster.”

Last year, in John’s article titled Changes in the TWolves Staff, alluded to Glen Taylor and Flip staying within their comfort zone after they hired Milt Newton to become General Manager. John was being nice, as it’s no secret the local media refers to this comfort zone as the proverbial Country Club, and, thus far this summer, that zone, or club, is only growing in numbers.

 

Mitchell spent four-full seasons as head coach of the Toronto Raptors from 2004-2008. Two years after being crowned NBA Coach of the Year, Mitchell was fired 17 games into the ’08-’09 season. The Raptors were 8-9 at the time of his termination, and Mitchell was replaced by his assistant coach, Jay Triano. Toronto finished the ’08-’09 season 25-40.

Opinion: Admittedly, I didn’t find Mitchell’s work as an analyst with TNT this season all too admirable, but I am a mere blogger and wouldn’t dare compare my basketball mind to a former NBA Coach of the Year. My only fear is that Mitchell may someday want to become a head coach again, henceforth, how he plans to deal with potential disagreements between himself and Coach Flip is a concern I have with Mitchell on the staff. Also, I don’t believe Mitchell is too keen on his teams attempting copious amounts of three-pointers– which could be death sentence when trying to compete in today’s NBA.

Let’s not forget, Flip isn’t the most vocal advocate of three-pointers, either, as the Wolves consistently dwelled on the bottom of the 3PT Attempt category during his previous tenure as head coach.  

I’ll parallel the potential loss of Sikma, who worked closely with Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng as an assistant, to the departure of Bill Bayno– Bayno was free to find another job at the end of last season, and ultimately joined Dwane Casey with the Raptors organization. To stress the significance Sikma’s departure may mean for the Wolves, I’ll refer back to John’s post.

Opinion: Bayno seemed to have a real strong rapport with the roster the past two years and was always well regarded by others online and in the media.  While it is being reported that this had nothing to do with money, I wish the Wolves would have countered with … something.  I would feel much better with Bill Bayno waiting behind Rick Adelman (more on this in a bit) vs. Terry Porter and others.

As a reminder, the Wolves didn’t seem to be lacking any chemistry issues within the locker room– perhaps if Bayno had been retained said issues, conflicts amongst teammates, may have been prevented.

Also expected to join Flip’s staff is his son, Ryan Saunders. The following is from NBA.com.

Saunders is instrumental in assisting with the preparation for upcoming opponents with extensive scouting reports and statistical analysis. Saunders came to the Wizards after spending a year coaching under Tubby Smith at the University of Minnesota, where he helped the Golden Gophers to an NCAA Tournament appearance. In addition to his on-court work, he helped players with their academic and social development off the court.

Before moving to the sidelines, Saunders played four seasons at Minnesota, where he was a two-time team captain, four-time scholar athlete award winner and 2006 Big Ten All-Academic selection. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in applied kinesiology.

Although most work-type environments in which the son/daughter of The Boss usually result in resentful scenarios among the employees, [Ryan] Saunders deploys a new-age role that’s important in today’s NBA. [Ryan] Saunders and his statistical expertise will provide an analytical perspective to the Wolves front-office. If there is anyone on the staff that can talk Flip and Sam Mitchell out of feebly attempting vast amounts of mid-range jumpers [considered to be the least-effective attempt to score from an efficiency standpoint] it’s going to be Ryan Saunders.

Look for an emphasis on coaching philosophy and/or tendencies from some of the new members of the Wolves coaching staff in a future post, sometime over the next few days.

-zb.

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

 

 

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.”

Offseason Update #1

The last time you heard from Timberpups, you were reading a recap of the final Minnesota Timberwolves game of the season. Remember? No? Ok, well they lost. It sent most of us into a dark place, mentally. Pair the post-season depression with other obligations and you’ll get an inactive blog. However, the show must go on.

There’s been a lot that’s happened since the end of the season, so the review will come over the next few weeks. Let’s do a quick rundown.

Record: 40-42. Third in the Northwest Division, 10th in the Western Conference — the second best team in the West that didn’t make the postseason [Phoenix Suns finished in the 9th spot out West].

Rick Adelman Retires. The moment many had been waiting for came into fruition just shortly after the season ended. Adelman leaves behind a legacy that will go somewhat unfulfilled. Although his motion-based offensive system has left remnants scattered about schemes all around the league, Adelman was never able to achieve the ultimate goal; he is not an NBA Champion, but don’t let that take away from any of Adelman’s achievements. And there are many.

I wrote some words about Adelman’s final season on an NBA sideline, and how the Wolves didn’t exactly give him a ride out of town on a horseback into the glorious sunset. Read them by clicking this link.

 

The Wolves need a new coach. Names such Fred Hoiberg, Kevin Ollie, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan, among others, have all surfaced as potential candidates. Look for more coverage from Timberpups on the search and hiring process, soon.

It should be noted that Flip Saunders has been mentioned, in some circles, as someone that may coach the Wolves next season. It’s known that team owner Glen Taylor doesn’t want this to happen. I don’t believe it will, but as each day passes I worry more and more that Flip will ultimately be coaching the Wolves next season. I’d give those odds about 10 percent, right now.

 

More to come from Timberpups.

-zb

Wolves Injury Update

Tonight, the Timberwolves are in Phoenix to take on the Suns for the third game on this a six game road trip. Still no sign of Nikola Pekovic or Kevin Martin, and Ronny Turiaf remains out indefinitely with a bruised right knee.

Before departing on this venture, Kevin Love’s Instagram account informed us that the Wolves resident Bruise Brother, Pekovic, would be returning sometime during this — pivotal — stretch of the season. Martin also remains sidelined with a broken left thumb, but saw a specialist in Los Angeles yesterday. After having things looked at Monday, as well as last Friday, @TWolves_PR has informed us that Martin is progressing well.

As for Pekovic, he participated in shootaround this morning in Phoenix. His status for tonight is labeled as questionable. Pekovic was active pregame in Utah before Saturday’s meeting with the Jazz, but did not play — which, admittedly, led me to believe that he would be active in Portland for the Wolves meeting with the Blazers the following evening.

This column by Mark Remme states that Pekovic isn’t feeling any more pain in his ankle, however, that does not mean the pain isn’t there. Pek is suffering from bursitis, an inflammation caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden, more serious injury. Because of abuse the game of basketball places on an athletes knees (specifically the bursa, tendons and cartilage) it’s unlikely that Pekovic, or any athlete for that matter, that suffers from bursitis will ever completely heal. Age also plays a role. As tendons age they are able to tolerate stress less, are less elastic, and are easier to tear. He can play, but that doesn’t mean it will be a painless experience.

Pekovic had this to say to media shortly after shootaround. (Per Remme Practice Report)

“I would like, if I could play minutes today, but I still have to do some things today so we’ll see how it goes.” – Pekovic

The Wolves are 5-7 since Pek was removed from the Wolves meeting with the Chicago Bulls late in January. They are 3-3 since Martin joined him on the sideline.

Gorgui Dieng, still being used sparingly, is averaging 11 minutes per game over the previous five games. Dieng is still a very raw, young, and developing player but has at least been serviceable in the absence of Pek and Turiaf. He is averaging 3 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block per game during the recent stretch.

 

 

zb

Can the Wolves Survive Without Nikola Pekovic?

 

From the classic "Where in the world is Nikola Pekovic" video

From the classic “Where in the world is Nikola Pekovic” video

In case you missed it, Nikola Pekovic left Monday night’s game in Chicago and was originally listed as “Doubtful” to return later in the game.  We now have word that Pekovic is “Out” for the next 7 to 10 days and will be reevaluated at that time due to bursitis in his right ankle.  Here is the official announcement from the team on Twitter:

 

Well, that certainly doesn’t make you feel very well, does it?  Maybe the most concerning part, beyond him definitively missing the next 7-10 days, is the “He will be sidelined indefinitely”.  Pek has missed a number of games in season’s past, but had appeared in all 44 games thus far this season, averaging a career high 18.4ppg and 9.3rpg.  As you are also well aware, Pek is in the first year of his new 5 year, $60 million contract – and if all of this doesn’t make Wolves’ fans nervous, I’m not sure what will.  (Maybe numb?)

What does this mean for the team moving forward?  Well, in the next ten days, the Wolves play seven games, starting tonight at the Target Center against the Pelicans and finishing on Saturday, 2/8, home against the Blazers.  Excluding the game on 2/1 against the Hawks, the Wolves will face foes from the Western Conference – the Pelicans twice, Grizzlies, Lakers, Thunder, and finishing up with the Blazers.  To say this is an important stretch of games for the team is an understatement, given their current 11th place seeding in the conference.  They are a game and a half behind the Grizzlies in the W/L column, so that is a huge game.  They will need to find a way to beat the Pelicans and Lakers, or at least take two of those three.  The Thunder and Blazer games might be too much to handle, but if they can split those two, that would be a plus.

Beyond the games ahead, and the uncertainty of when a much-needed Nikola Pekovic will return to the lineup, there might be one silver lining in all of this.  There is playing time to be earned from this and two of the items I mentioned in our half-season review might be coming to fruition quickly.  First, this basically forces Adelman’s hand a bit in giving some playing time to Gorgui Dieng.  While Ronny Turiaf will certainly receive extended minutes, Dieng will likely be seeing the floor more over the next two weeks and showcase his talents.  Second, we might see a bit more of Kevin Love at the Center spot, playing alongside Dante Cunningham and LRMAM.  At least one of these two is going to have to step up and play to, at least, their potential, as both have struggled mightily this season for the Pups.

I don’t want to mince words, the loss of Pek is significant.  The team must take a ‘next man up’ attitude and battle through the next few weeks.  We can hope that Pek returns in that ~10 day diagnosis, but the league isn’t going to shuffle the schedule for us and the team needs to push through this.  A couple of questions for consideration:

  • Do you think this will knock the Pups out of the playoffs?
  • Who do you envision stepping up over the next two weeks?

Let’s go Wolves!