Minnesota Timberwolves Announce Preseason Schedule

Zach LaVine will help lead the Wolves into the 2014/15 season (NBAE/Getty Images)

Zach LaVine will help lead the Wolves into the 2014/15 season (NBAE/Getty Images)

The Timberwolves announced their preseason schedule earlier today and it includes seven games against five different opponents.   Taking a quick look at the opponents you will find teams in very, very different positions when it comes to competing for an NBA Championship this coming season.

The Wolves will be listed as the home team in three of the seven games (see below).  The preseason kicks off on Tuesday, October 7th against the Indiana Pacers.  The first home game action that fans will get to see at the Target Center will be on Friday, October 10th against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and Chicago are the other opponents on the preseason schedule.  There isn’t a particular team or game that catches my attention aside from the fact that the start of the NBA season is just around the corner.  However, what I would like to see is the youngsters receiving playing time on the floor together, similar to how Flip foresees using his rotations in the regular season (injuries, etc. aside).  I want to see Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine on the floor together, but I also want to see LaVine see minutes as the PG.

As we all know, there may or may not be a few moving pieces in the coming weeks.  With rumors continuing to swirl, it is just a matter of when Kevin Love will land with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  More importantly, who will the Pups wind up with?  It sounds like #1 pick Andrew Wiggins is/will be included.  From there, things get a little dicey.  The Wolves may get back Michael Bennett or Thad Young and then a few random pieces.

Assuming Wiggins winds up in Minneapolis it will be important for him to receiving playing time with the Wolves’ starters and 8 or 9 man rotation.  He obviously played for the Cavs in the Las Vegas Summer League so it is important for him to start building a repoirte with his new teammates.

What game or games have your attention?  Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves.com

Timberwolves.com

Wolves Sign Zach LaVine

A happier moment for Zach LaVine at the 2014 NBA Draft (Brad Penner, USA Today Sports)

A happier moment for Zach LaVine at the 2014 NBA Draft (Brad Penner, USA Today Sports)

On Monday, the Timberwolves announced that they officially signed 1st round draft selection, Zach LaVine, to his rookie contract:

While official team rules don’t allow for it, a little digging suggests that the deal would likely be worth a little under $5.4 million for the next three seasons, with the following breakdown: $1,713,200 in 2014/15, $1,884,600 in 2015/16, and $1,965,700 in 2016/17. The new CBA calls for a 4th year option and a 5th year Qualifying Offer. As the 13th pick in the draft, the Wolves would owe LaVine a 42.9% increase on his official third year salary with that 4th year option and then a 38.3% increase on top of his official fourth year salary for his Qualifying Offer. [Read more…]

Glenn Robinson III Shows Strong Potential for Wolves

(photo credit: lockerdome.com)

(photo credit: lockerdome.com)Am

Among the seven rookies slated as part of the Timberwolves’ summer league roster is second-round draft pick Glenn Robinson III. The forward’s physicality was raved about prior to the Draft, and although only in his first week of practice, he looks to make a big impact with the Minnesota squad. Robinson III does have some areas to improve upon technicality-wise, but his athleticism and energy are exactly what head coach Flip Saunders aimed at.

“They add a lot of excitement to our team,” Saunders said of Robinson III and first-round pick Zach Lavine. “They’re going to become fan favorites. They’re our two highest-jumping guys right now — I do know that. We want to take that athleticism and turn them into basketball players … and with our team they’ll have good success.”

Robinson III started all 76 games of his two-year stint with the University of Michigan. During that time, he averaged 12 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. At the end of his sophomore year, Robinson III had totaled 912 career points. The forward is no stranger to pressure, as he  helped U-M to its first outright Big Ten regular-season title in 28 years. 

Now, at just 20 years old, Robinson III is taking in the NBA experience. He posted the following on Twitter Monday:

GRIIITweet

Timberwolves web editor Dane Mizutani gave a recap of the first offseason practice, saying it was far from “a casual offseason workout.”

“I’ve always believed that basketball is a game of reaction,” Saunders said. “We have to simulate pressure and demands of what’s going to happen in a game in a practice. We try to make it as difficult as we can to try and make it as close to a game time setting as possible.”

Practice ended with a scrimmage between the summer league starters and the summer league reserves, and Mizutani reported that the competition level was high. In the end it was the startersRobinson III, Lavine, Alexey Shved, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammedwho took the game.

“It’s a whole different level … and this is definitely the most competitive and amped-up practice [I’ve been a part of] physically and mentally,” Robinson III said. “It’ll take a little adjustment to get to but I thought we all did fine.”

The newbies will have the next two weeks or so to find their groove and become accustomed to Saunders’ coaching style. They will play with and take passes from more seasoned bench players, and now is their chance to prepare before they start practicing with starting point guard Ricky Rubio. Robinson III said he has spent a considerable amount of time viewing tape of Rubio’s technique and highlights, and he is looking forward to playing alongside him when preseason starts up in October.

There’s no guarantee that either Lavine or Robinson III will start, as the Wolves also carry veterans Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer who each have considerable experience running the floor with Rubio. However, it’s clear that Saunders has a long-term plan in mind for this year’s draft picks—and it involves regular-game minutes. 

According to the Star Tribune‘s Jerry Zgoda, Robinson III “believes both he and LaVine can help the Wolves ‘speed the tempo up a little bit’ with the Rubio running the show with the ball in his hands.”

Come October, it will be interesting to see how this new-look squad operates under Saunders’ return.

Wolves NBA Summer League Preview 2014

Our Pups will be participating in the Las Vegas edition of the NBA's Summer League again this season. (Photo: NBA.com)

Our Pups will be participating in the Las Vegas edition of the NBA’s Summer League again this season. (Photo: NBA.com)

(UPDATED 7/6 for final roster announcement)

The Minnesota Timberwolves will return to Las Vegas for their NBA Summer League action. Summer League play officially kicks off in Orlando from 7/5 – 7/11, which then runs right into the start of the action in Las Vegas. The Vegas league runs from 7/11 – 7/21 later this month.

Similar to last year’s Vegas league, each team will play three games and then be seeded accordingly based on their record for tournament style play. All of the action can be seen on NBA Digital and/or the NBA Summer League app. [Read more…]

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