Notes Before Tipoff — Pups at Toronto Raptors

Monday – Unable to overcome CSKA Moscow’s red hot start, despite rallying back from almost 20-points down in the first half, the Pups were defeated in overtime — 108-106.

Ricky Rubio scooped up the tip and passed it to the wing; From there Martin then made a hesitation move, beat his man off-the-dribble and proceeded with a running jumper in the lane — the ball deflected off backboard, clanked off the rim and into the hands of CSKA’s Alexander Kaun. This about sums up how the starting offense went about their business trying to score on Monday night. Nearly four-minutes went by before the Wolves first bucket from the field, a 15-foot jumper by our beloved Spanish PG.

Positives

  • Corey Brewer made three-breakaway layups after gambling, getting behind the defense and corralling long outlet passes from Love and Rubio. He also hit a corner-three, where he’s at his best — he was 1-3 from 3pt range.
  • Nikola Pekovic, introduced as ‘The Godfather’, looked as powerful and healthy as we’ve seen him in the past — scoring 8-points on 4 of 8 shooting and grabbing 7-boards.
  • Kevin Love displayed the passing ability Rick Adelman wants to see more of this season — tallying 5-assists.
  • Though Kevin Martin was inefficient from the field (5 of 15 FG, 1 of 4 3PT) he gave fans a look at what a shooting guard is supposed to play like, he scored 15-points by being aggressive and drawing contact  — getting to the line. “K-Mart” converted 5 of 8 from the charity stripe.
  • Derrick Williams scored 21 points on 7 of 15 shooting and 7 of 12 from the charity stripe. He was the Wolves’ superstar in the fourth quarter, though he tried to make the highlight reel on a few occasions in which just making the right play would have meant points rather than a lost possession.

 

 

Will we see more from these two Rookies? (Photo Credit: Minnesota Timberwolves)

Will we see more from these two Rookies? (Photo Credit: Minnesota Timberwolves)

 

Things to know for tonight.

  • Toronto defeated the Celtics in their preseason opener, 97-89 Monday in Boston.
  • It’s expected Steve Novak will make his Raptor debut, he’s a three-point specialist coming over from the New York Knicks during the offseason.
  • Dwane Casey is head coach of the Raptors, he replaced Kevin McHale  as the Timberwolves head from 05-07 and was fired with an overall record of 53-69

The Raptors Jonas Valanciunas is a beast

  • Member of the All NBA Rookie 2nd team last season.
  • Averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds during the Las Vegas Summer League — also named MVP of LVSL
  • Led Lithuania to a Silver Medal at this summer’s Eurobasket
  • Scored 10 points and 10 rebounds in Monday’s win over the Celtics
  • Will matchup against Pek, rumor has it Raptor fans think he’s up to the task.

 

The game starts in a few minutes, though there is no local TV or Radio Broadcast.

Because we didn’t see Dante Cunningham or J.J. Barea – I expect to see them get time tonight.

Also, training camp invites A.J. Price and Othyus Jeffers played most of the fourth quarter on Monday, maybe Rick Adelman will choose to see more of Gorgui Dieng and Chris Johnson — going from guards to bigs with the playing time. Just a thought.

Follow @timberpupsblog as I’ll either be RT’ing updates or finding a stream to keep you in the know.

 

-ZB

 

 

Timberpups Preseason — The Opener

The Timberpups begin the preseason tonight, in the Target Center, at 7:00 CST vs. CSKA Moscow.

Dante Cunningham (ill) and JJ Barea (personal reasons) both questionable for tonight’s contest vs. CSKA Moscow.

— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) October 7, 2013

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Nikola Pekovic are the expected starters this season and also for tonight’s game. How many minutes will they play? I presume no more than 10-minutes, but, it’s ultimately up to Coach Rick Adelman.

After the starters sit, Alexey Shved is likely to see plenty of minutes against his former team. These quotes are from a piece written by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

‘Adelman just wants Shved to become more “engaged” when he’s playing off the ball.

“If Alexey smiles, everything else takes care of itself,” Ronnie Turiaf said. “If he doesn’t smile, he’s a different player.”

It’s a big game for Shved, we’ve talked about him playing minutes behind Rubio at point guard this season — tonight will be a chance to see him in that role. He’ll will share minutes with Lorenzo Brown and A.J. Price, because of Barea’s absence. It’s important for Shved to play well, not only for himself, but to show the team he can change the face and be happy — there’s also two guys fighting to make the roster  playing behind him tonight.

Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press wrote a captivating story about Othyus Jeffers, quoting Flip Saunders’ opinion of the 28-year old from Chicago.

“What he’s been through is how he plays,” said Saunders, who coached Jeffers in Washington. “He’s hard-nosed, kind of a mad dog that just gets after it and really competes. He basically goes at it where he understands that nothing’s given to him.”

Here’s a little bit on the ‘Pups opponent this evening.

CSKA is coached by an Italian, Ettora Messina, who spent time with the Lakers as a technical advisor to Mike Brown in Los Angeles. Prior to L.A. Messina was head coach of Real Madrid of Spain 2009-2011, he’s on contract with CSKA for $44-million and may choose to opt-out if he’s offered a head coaching opportunity in the NBA. “However, Messina figures this to be unlikely — he’s 53 and it’s late to try and pick up the game. Read more about Coach Messina here -thanks Manuel!  (@itaTimberwolves)

The club is run similar to an NBA Franchise and is without question the powerhouse of the Russian League. CSKA has been the Russian League Champion every season dating back to 2003, in addition to winning Euroleague titles in 2006 and 2008. Shved and former Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko were two main components of the 2008 squad. In 2010, Shved helped CSKA attain the first victory on American ground by a European team in a preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It’s a good check-up for us. It’s good to see where we are and to find our game before our real season starts,” Nenad Krstic explained. “For some of our players, it’s their first time playing against an NBA team; it’s a new experience. And Minnesota has a talented team.”

Kristic is a two-time all Euroleague Center from Serbia who has played in the NBA with the Boston Celtics, New Jersey Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder. Averaging just over 15-points in Eurobasket, he’s one of the players the Wolves must focus on defending against CSKA tonight.

Shved’s intensity isn’t necessarily in question, but the team would like to see more of it. I wouldn’t expect a lackluster effort for the second-year NBA Player tonight.

“I went over to the hotel to meet with my friends and former coaches. I am happy see them here. I’m always happy to see my guys.” He also summed up how both teams feel about the contest. “They want to show that they can beat an NBA team and NBA teams don’t want to lose. Everybody is ready for this game.”

Click here for more European perspective on tonight’s matchup.

CSKA will look to slow the ball down and playing a majority of the game in the halfcourt, hoping to slow down the Wolves’ potentially potent transition offense. If the game gets wild, it’s an advantage for the home team. Hopefully the Wolves can run away with this one, without any injuries, of course. I know, I know, it’s only the preseason but we’ve waited too long and the team has worked to hard to be defeated by a weaker opponent. Look for Shved to play-with-purpose, the training camp invites to make the most of their chances and most importantly — a Timberpups victory.

 

The next preseason game is Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors, more on that soon.

 

 

Alexey Shved Update

Because of my excitement for the Shvedder this season, he deserves a second preview.

In August, I previewed Shvedder prematurely — He’s played competitive basketball since then. If you don’t feel like clicking the link, these were my thoughts then.

I’ve expressed my concern over the Twitter machine about the roster’s depth at point guard, more than just a few times. A closer look at Shved has me less worried about the offenses production while Rubio is on the bench. However, he doesn’t solve the problem completely.  He’s natural point-guard used to creating with the ball in his hand. Last year’s experience under his belt, a veteran presence he may observe play at his position (Shooting Guard), along with opportunity to play point guard (where he’s comfortable), this year may not only be a breakout season for Shved, but a valuable learning experience, too.

Shved’s EuroBasket summarized in the Final Narrative.

Shved was Russia’s top performer, averaging 16 points and 5 assist while drawing 5 fouls per game; performing valiantly in five games of group play — he was Russia’s top performer. He attacked the basket, finished around the hoop and found teammates for open looks, though his teammates didn’t often finish, but an area that Shved must improve his game: free-throw shooting. He shot 69% from the charity stripe during E.B. I can only speculate how Adelman plans to utilize the Shvedder, hopefully it’s with the opportunity to significant minutes at PG when Rubio takes a seat. His aggressiveness and creativity going toward the basket could create some decent looks for the rest of the second-unit.

Shved’s potential role is becoming more defined.

Guards Lorenzo Brown and A.J. Price start competing at camp with Robbie Hummel and Othyus Jeffers for the final few chairs at the Timberwolves Table. Price was recently invited to camp Brown was a 2nd-round draft selection; both are PG’s, indicating the Wolves are window shopping point guards. Is the team worried about Shved? We don’t know, yet.

J.J. Barea is another player potentially threatening Shved’s minutes. From what I’ve seen this offseason, Shved is the ideal backup point guard to Rubio, granted, I’m not Rick Adelman or Flip Saunders so here’s the question — Is Shved ready?

To bring some more perspective on our beloved Shvedder, I’ve asked for help.

First off, thank you for the opportunity to talk about our beloved  Timberwolves.

I believe Alexey Shved is a great player. Here in Europe we know him well after watching him play his years as a member of CSKA Jersey.

I had doubts  he could adapt to the NBA style of play, two of those doubts were his mental and physical toughness.

The Russian League is a League where CSKA only lost at two or three games a year — at the most. The most challenging games for players on these type of teams are the Euroleague matches.  The NBA is different. You play every two days and, if you’re a rookie, in every game you have to prove that you’re worth the minute you play. It’s easy to make mistakes and end up on the bottom of the bench. Alexey’s managed some worthwhile contributions thus far and though he could have performed better during All Star Weekend last season, to have invited must be an honor . I am amazed to see how his game integrated with the Wolves roster and how Rick Adelman’s applies Alexey to his coaching scheme. 

It’s hard to make predictions about of Alexey’s future. One year of experience will serve him well, although I the loss of his Russian Friend and former teammate, AK 47, in the locker room will be felt under the human element of things.

Both on Team Russia to CSKA he played only a very few minutes in PG as those roles were already covered by J.r. Holden and Milos Teodosic. However he still managed to show-off the ability to pass the ball which may allow him, as Zach has said, to play some minutes at PG behind Rubio off the bench.

The European Championships were disastrous for Team Russia, who is are usually among the  favorites. Because of injured players  and absentees Kirilenko, Viktor Khryapa, Alexander Kaun, Timothy Mozgov, Andre Vorontsevich and Sergey Bykov Alexey was only able to lead his team to 21st place. Despite this, Alexey played a European where-at times-has proven to be NBA level player.

Alexey showed good skills playing PG.


All this will be enough? Who knows …in the meanwhile….

Alexey, change face – be happy.

 

Follow and talk with Manuel yourself – @itaTimberwolves. In the meantime, he’ll continue to join Timberpups by helping me finish the player previews for this season.

 

Here are some Shved quotes from Wolves Media Day!

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Chase Budinger Injures Left Knee

Well, here we are again. Per @Twolves_PR: Chase Budinger has sustained a cartilage injury to his left knee. Budinger signed a contract extension worth an estimated $18-million dollars for his services over the next three-years —   he was excited about returning this season.

 

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Dr. Andrews is arguably the most renowned orthopedic surgeons in the country, he’s worked with multiple famous athletes —  Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter to name a few.

Budinger has been optimistic about the knee during the offseason. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune wrote a column July 13th regarding Budinger’s excitement for the upcoming season, in the article Budinger tells Zgoda —

 “I want to come back and show everybody the kind of player I’m capable of being.”

“The best thing this summer is I’m able to jump again, which I couldn’t do at the end of last season,” he said. “I’m happy to be able to jump and dunk again.”

Until this point, Budinger has been optimistic about the knee this offseason. I don’t believe him or the Wolves would warrant a visit to Dr. Andrews, founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute, unless it is worth his time — the injury could be devastating.

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We’ll keep you in the know.

 

Get better, Chase. Stay healthy, Wolves.

David Sherman: Getty Images

David Sherman: Getty Images

 

 

 

The Final Narrative

I didn’t count how many times I wrote,”..because of injuries last season,” for good reason — it was frequently. I’m certain there are others who wrote it more than I did, what’s even worse? Fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to hear it more and more. “..because of injuries last season” is a phrase included within many articles written to summarize the type of year the Wolves had last season. It’s because of injuries last season that the Wolves didn’t have a good year; this is the narrative fans were left with. It continues this season, Dave Benz and Jim Peterson will say because of injuries last season on Fox Sports North; Alan Horton on Wolves Radio 830AM-WCCO broadcasts will say the phrase, too. John Focke will have a chance to remind everyone prior to Benz, Peterson and Horton before tip-off during the Wolves Live program.

Mention of the the injuries last season will continue until the Wolves are able to give fans something else to remember. For reasons that go beyond the injuries suffered last season, there’s pressure on the Wolves to make the playoffs this season.

This will be the last narrative I write about the Wolves this offseason — I promise. 

The Twin Cities need something to take pride in; the Vikings are 0 and 3 and the Twins are, well, I can’t tell you, but it’s bad — real bad. The Vikings piled onto the usual misery with a loss to the Cleveland Browns in the Metrodome over the weekend. The Purple will avoid local media this week as the Vikings face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Fans root-root-rooting for the home team at Target Field are doing so because the stadium’s amenities still provide reason to take someone out to the ballgame. The truth is – the Twins aren’t winning many games this season and it’s a shame.

Thinking about the Vikings, Twins, Wolves and even the Wild’s recent success is painful. Some fans that are unable to let-go remain obsessed over the Kevin Garnett Era, Brett Favre’s run at the Superbowl and cling to newfound hope that Zach Parise will bring Lord Stanley’s Cup home to the State of Hockey.

Jon Krawczynski is an AP Sports Writer based in Minneapolis covering the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Gophers and Wild.

Jon Krawczynski is an AP Sports Writer based in Minneapolis covering the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Gophers and Wild.

No NBA franchise hopes to be absent from the postseason for an entire decade, however, this could be the team’s fate this season. It’s been nine-years since the last Wolves postseason appearance. Ten-years ago at 13 years-old, I just received my first cellphone and was entering my freshman year of high school. Now 23, I’m five-years removed from moving out of my mother’s home, living in an apartment not far from where I grew up and have a job managing a small business 50-hours a week and writing when I have the time, my phone is an iphone5. Where were you the last time the Pups made the playoffs?

This offseason the Wolves:

  • Rid their hands of David Kahn, brought in Flip Saunders to be the President of Basketball Operations
  • Made other staff changes
  • Waived Greg Stiemsma and Mickael Gelabale
  • Resigned and signed Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin, respectively
  • Drafted Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Lorenzo Brown
  • Signed Corey Brewer and Ronnie Turiaf 
  • After what felt like a lifetime, resigned Nikola Pekovic
  • Made a one-year offer to Andrei Kirilenko, which he denied, AK47 is now with the Brooklyn Nets

Sorry, I’m going to remind you one more time; because of the injuries sustained over the course of this previous year, it wasn’t a very good season for the Timberwolves. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love went down, so did Brandon Roy — it took only five games for his track record of injuries to catch up with him, ending Roy’s season and his career (again). Budinger never got things going, appearing in only 23-Loveless games or – games that didn’t include K-Love. Love and Rubio were on and off; more on than off, Rubio played in 57 and Love appeared in 18 games, the duo only played three-games together.

The loss of AK47 hurts the team defensively and I should probably miss his presence more than I do, however, attaining Brewer from Denver was an excellent move that can compensate for some of what the Wolves lost with Kirilenko.

It’s unrealistic to think there won’t be any injuries suffered during the course of the season — not every player can play every game. However, because of the injuries last season, if any of them do go down there’s an adept, experienced teammate to take their place. As an optimist I believe that something positive can be taken always be taken from any form of adversity. Last year; Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham both gained valuable experience playing expanded roles, we also learned a little more about former 2nd-overall pick Derrick Williams.

Watching Shved play with Russia in FIBA’s EuroBasket, I’ve grown fond of his game. Shved played significant minutes at shooting guard last season but he plays his best basketball as a point guard. Because PG was played mostly by Ridnour and Barea, Shved was forced to play off-the-ball for the majority of the season, this was very unusual for him; his natural position is at the point leading the offense. At EuroBasket, Shved was Russia’s top performer, averaging 16 points and 5 assist while drawing 5 fouls per game; performing valiantly in five games of group play — he was Russia’s top performer. He attacked the basket, finished around the hoop and found teammates for open looks, though his teammates didn’t often finish, but an area that Shved must improve his game: free-throw shooting. He shot 69% from the charity stripe during E.B. I can only speculate how Adelman plans to utilize the Shvedder, but I’m hoping that provide him the opportunity to play most of the minutes at PG when Rubio takes a seat. His aggressiveness and creativity going toward the basket could create some decent looks for the rest of the second-unit.

Cunningham played in 80 games last season, though only averaging 9 points and 5 boards he made those most of every minute — leaving everything out on the floor. Cunningham averaged 25 minutes per game last season, a sign he’s earned Adelman’s trust. If, and it’s a big if, Love is able to stay healthy and Williams continues to improve or have a breakout season, D.C. won’t play anywhere close to the amount of minutes he did last season.

Here are Love’s career averages.

Stats from Basketball Reference

Stats from Basketball Reference

Last year was only a small sample, his 22-percent 3-point shooting was on 20 of 92 attempts. Hopefully, Love is able to stay healthy and get back into the 37-42 percent range we know he’s capable of.

It wasn’t just Love not shooting well from behind-the-arc last season, the entire team was abysmal. The Wolves shot 31 percent from three-point range, dead last in the NBA — something that won’t happen again this season.

The first reason, Brewer and his ability to hit the corner three.

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If you don’t see where he’s at his best, it’s in the left corner when facing the basket. Brewer is a little over 41 percent on 49 of 119 shooting from that spot, he’s 42 of 176 from everywhere else. Adelman’s Princeton offense is dependent on players who can stretch the floor and shoot from the outside, Brewer can be successful playing within the system if he converts on the looks created for him in the corner.

Additionally, he’ll contribute when in transition. Brewer has a knack for sneaking behind defenses — essentially stealing points by cherry picking, Here’s where CBS’s Zach Harper explains it in detail. This will theoretically work hand-in-hand with the crafty outlet passes Love is notorious for, such as this one.

Kevin Love Outlet Pass

Two other reasons I believe the Wolves will shoot better from behind the line; Budinger and Martin are both knockdown jump shooters. Martin was 43 percent with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season and is 39 percent lifetime, Budinger’s lifetime average is 36 percent. Not only are Budinger and Martin lights-out shooting the ball, they’re familiar with the system — Adelman coached both players during the trio’s time spent together with the Houston Rockets.

Has Rubio improved his jump shot? It’s tough to tell. Here’s are his averages and game-by-game numbers recorded at EuroBasket.

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Looking at the accumulated statistics, Rubio ended EuroBasket shooting 46 percent from the field and 44 percent from the field; both are better than his two-year averages with the Wolves, though it is a smaller sample.

Here are his numbers with the Wolves.

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I wrote a column for HoopsHabit checking in with Rubio’s jumper, going a little further in depth than just box scores.

The following statistics represent Rubio’s numbers through Spain’s first eight-games of EuroBasket.

“Rubio is successful in the mid-range area; the middle of the lane extending past the free-throw line and before the 3-point stripe. He looks comfortable pulling up off the dribble into a jump shot near the foul line. He’s 5-of-12 thus far through the tournament in this area, which is a little over 41 percent. This is higher than Rubio’s 37 percent average from the field through two years playing in Minnesota.

Of the 12 attempts inside the lane, Rubio has made four of them. We established that he struggles around the rim — It’s as worrisome as it is curious, but from watching Rubio compete the attempts within the lane are contested and some of them have been late in the shot clock. Shooting 33 percent inside the lane isn’t going produce well enough by any league’s standards.

Shooting the ball from spots near the top of the key between the 3-point line and the free-throw line are where Rubio is comfortable. But just being comfortable in these areas won’t be enough if he wants to remain in the circle with the elite class of NBA point guards. Rubio needs to improve upon his strengths, but must also work to eliminate the current weaknesses to an adequate level if he hopes to improve as a scorer, and in turn, a better player overall.”

 

On June 30th John made a checklist of what plans the Wolves should or could have during the free agency period, I felt he was spot on.

  1. Resign Pek
  2. Sign a shooting guard
  3. Resign Budinger
  4. Balance the roster

Other than the order of which each occurred, Flip managed accomplished all of the above in somewhat of an efficient manner. Some may believe $60 million may be too much for Pek and that Martin is washed-up, however, the front-office did what was needed in order for the Wolves to compete for a playoff spot this year.

 

Last Friday in an interview with HoopsHype, Rubio was asked; “Is it playoffs or bust?”.

His response was this, “Too early to say if the playoffs are the goal. Let’s see how things go in training camp and how the new pieces fit in. Then we’ll see how things evolve during the season, it’s too early to talk about playoffs.”

From the coaches and players standpoint, Rubio’s right; It’s too early to talk about playoffs, but what about from the perspective of a fan? It’s tough to argue that the Wolves didn’t do all the right things this offseason, I believe they did, but when Timberpups looked at how the Wolves stack up in the Western Conference, Drew told us that there’s enough talent between the Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and the Denver Nuggets to keep Minnesota out of the playoffs. If the team isn’t poised for a playoff run this season — will it ever be? Has Flip made plans in preparation for the long-term? I don’t possess the knowledge. What I do know is that Minnesota has restructured and re enforced their roster — the Timberwolves are capable of not only of qualifying for the postseason this year, but becoming a perennial playoff team in the Western Conference…. assuming they’re able to stay healthy, of course….


 

Changes in the Twolves Staff

Back in charge ... (Photo credit: Star Tribune)

Back in charge …
(Photo credit: Star Tribune)

To say this offseason has been a busy one for the Timberwolves would be a bit of an understatement.  However, it hasn’t just been the roster and the guys that will taking to the Target Center floor in a few weeks.  The Pups front office and coaching staff has also seen a bevy of changes take place, all starting with the firing of David Kahn and the hiring (and return) of Flip Saunders as the team’s new President of Basketball Operations.

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.

In July, the Pups probably saw their biggest loss to date this offseason, when Bill Bayno decided to leave the coaching staff to become the right hand man for Dwane Casey in Toronto.

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.

A little over one week ago, Flip Saunders named Milt Newton the new General Manager of the Timberwolves.  Milt and Flip were together in Washington and seem to have a mutual respect for one another.  By most, if not all accords, the hiring of Milt puts another voice in the room for personnel decisions, but he will not have the final say on those decisions, as that will remain with Flip.

Opinion: This announcement had been rumored for weeks and I have to say that I’m a little skeptical.  There continues to be this overriding theme of staying in your respective comfort zone when Glen Taylor and Flip are doing the hiring.  It isn’t like the Wizards were the gold (or bronze) standard of the NBA during Milt’s tenure.  All of that said, this tweet from Jon Krawczynski pretty much says it all:

 

With Bayno gone, the coaching staff needed to be tinkered with and earlier this week, the Wolves made several expected moves official, naming David Adelman as an Assistant Coach and hiring Bobby Jackson as Player Development Coach.  The latter signaled the end of Shawn Respert’s tenure with the Pups in the same position.

Opinion: The official hiring of the younger Adelman wasn’t a surprise to anyone.  In fact, it makes me feel a lot better about the return of his father (still a few minutes away, patience please) to the sidelines.  David coached the Wolves Summer League team in Las Vegas.  I’m a little surprised about the shift from Shawn Respert to Bobby Jackson and have a real hard time believing this isn’t part of the aforementioned “comfort zone”.  Respert seemed to be well respected in the locker room and by the local media.  Jackson, of course, is a former Golden Gopher icon and PG for the Pups.

As hinted at several times above, there is one name missing from the official newswire and he is the most important part: Coach Rick Adelman.  While everyone assumes he will be back to lead the Wolves next season, I’m just a little anxious that it hasn’t been made official.  Adelman truly is the glue to this franchise right now.  Look at the free agent signings, they all have Adelman’s fingerprints on them.  Look at the attempt to repair the relationship with Kevin Love.  Same overarching thought.  This team needs Rick Adelman on the sidelines to maximize its potential this coming season.

Here’s to hoping that announcement comes soon.  Like, today or tomorrow.  Let’s go Wolves!

Developing Affiliations.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are set to play the Milwaukee Bucks October 11th at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  It’s the team’s last preseason game.  Fans residing in Minnesota and Wisconsin hoping to catch their squad’s final tuneup before the season must put six-or-so-hours of mileage on their own vehicle, if departing from the Twin Cities. The drive, accordingly, is further from Wisconsin.

These exhibitions provide opportunity to get closer to witnessing professionals without thinning the wallet and sneaking closer to an open seat spotted from the nosebleeds. Aspiring journalists like myself, along with fans, lose the convenience of attending the game had the location been Minneapolis or Milwaukee.  I asked Eric Buenning, staff writer for SB Nation’s Brewhoop.com, a Milwaukee Bucks blog,  if he would consider attending the game had the location not been in the Falls. “Absolutely”. Buenning has no intentions of attending the game.

 

Moving beyond frustrations attributed from the location of the Wolves-Bucks matchup.

 

The Pentagon is used as the home floor of the Falls Skyforce, an NBA Development-League club owned by the Miami Heat.  The Heat made the Skyforce their own this off-season, leaving the Wolves in search of a home to develop players.  The Iowa Energy became the new D-League affiliation.

Would the Wolves would benefit by possessing a developmental squad of their own?  How’s this; The Spurs, Lakers, Celtics, Thunder and Rockets don’t share prospects with anyone.  If prominent organizations are doing it, why wouldn’t the smaller clubs, like the Wolves, covet an infrastructure intended to benefit their largest product?

In an interview with the Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda, Flip Saunders had this to say on the Wolves use of the D-League.

Zgoda: How probable is it that Shabazz Muhammed and Gorgui Dieng spend time in the D-League?

Flip“I’m a proponent of minor leagues. I was there seven years and had 21 guys called up. It’s a good development league, it’s not a punishment league. Guys can get better and gain confidence. We’re going to try to utilize it. I don’t think we’ve used it very much here in the past. If we send somebody down, we’ll send somebody from our staff with them so they don’t feel we’ve forgotten about them. That’s the biggest thing: You don’t want anyone that goes there to feel they’ve been forgotten.”

“Now saying that, we might not have anyone go down there this year, but we are very open about it and we’re going to have a very good relationship with our Iowa team. I’ve talked with Glen. We’re going to entertain the opportunity a year or two down the road here of purchasing a hybrid NBDL team.” 

The minor league Flip himself spent time with is the Continental Basketball Association or CBA, which has since disbanded. His accolades go further than a number developed ‘call-ups’.  He tallied 253 coaching victories, third highest in the league’s history, and led the LaCrosse Catbirds to CBA Championships while earning Coach of the Year honors in the ‘90 and in ’92 seasons.  Prior to arriving in the CBA, Flip worked as an assistant with the University of Minnesota and the University of Tulsa.  With achievements to use as credentials he found a place on an NBA sideline in ’95 with the Wolves.

In addition to Shabazz and Dieng, Robbie Hummel and Lorenzo Brown will also participate in training camp activities. Hummel, who showed improvement in the Las Vegas Summer League, has worked to rid himself from an injury bug that’s affected parts of his career.  With no intentions of returning to Spain where he played 30 games for Blusens (Obradoiro) last season, Hummel’s game must flow through the log-jam of forwards (Derrick Williams, Shabazz, Dante Cunningham, Kevin Love, Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer) in order to make the 15-man roster.

Brown, the Pups 2nd round selection, missed only two games during his third and final season at North Carolina State. He averaged just over seven assists in his junior campaign and played the primary facilitator in the Wolfpack’s offense. Playing 19.2 minutes per game in LVSL, Brown’s 50 percent from 3pt-range was impressive, but, he only managed 38% from the field. His 2.2 assists per game were negated by averaging 1.8 turnovers per game.  With the minutes available between Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved and Barea at point guard, I would be shocked if Brown claimed a spot running with this pack of Wolves.

It’s worth noting that each of the teams competing in the Finals going back to the 2006 season have included at least one former D-Leaguer on their roster.  Here’s a few recent developmental success stories.

  • J.J. Barea played eight games with the Fort Worth Flyers in the 2006-2007 season before being added to the Dallas Mavericks roster.  He averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists for the Mavs during the 2011 postseason and helped defeat the Miami Heat enroute to a championship.

  • Corey Joseph averaged 1.8ppg in a little over 7mpg in the finals this past season.  Though he didn’t contribute the most statistically, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich trusted him enough to be the floor. Joseph started 26 games for the Austin Toros and shot over 45 percent from both the field and behind the arc, averaging just under 20ppg.

  • Chris “Birdman” Andersen also didn’t do much filling of the stat-sheet but was pivotal to Miami’s success setting screens for LeBron James and doing the dirty work beneath the rim. Andersen was a member of the Fayetteville Patriots in 2001.

  • After a roster-rule exemption made by the league, Chris Johnson, previously signed to a 10-day contract, brought enthusiasm and cheers to the Target Center in the midst of a disappointing, injury plagued season.

Did the D-League help bring attention to these players while helping them sharpen the skills necessary to adequately contribute on the professional level? The D in NBA D-League, after-all, stands for development.

I recently had the pleasure of exchanging emails with Kevin Danna, broadcaster for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s unshared affiliate. He doesn’t hide his love for the D-League as it’s genuine. In our conversation I mentioned the upcoming Wolves-Bucks meeting at the Pentagon, leading my inquiry of his perspective on the S.F. Skyforce and it’s fanbase.

Kevin “I don’t know how many they usually get in South Dakota (attendance), but they are known for a strong fan base. Santa Cruz is also known for a very strong fan base; I’d argue the best in the D-League not just because I work for the Sea Dubs, but because I’ve been to 13 of the 16 (now 17) D-League gyms. Maine has passionate fans and they probably have more raw numbers because their gym is bigger, but no crowd gets loud like it does in Santa Cruz. From memory, I think Maine’s Portland Expo seats about 4,000, and they usually fill it up.”

Zach - If D-League teams have a fan base, why not have more teams?  Theoretically it’s good business.

Kevin - ” The reason the league gives for not having more D-League teams is that they want to expand slowly. The eventual goal is to have a 30-for-30 model where every D-League team has a single affiliation with an NBA team, but they don’t want to just open up 13 new franchises next year- that would be a nightmare and a half for the league to deal with.”

There are 16 teams shared between three Affiliates and 14 NBA clubs fraternize only with their own kind, making a total of 17 D-League teams.   The Energy are shared also with; the Bulls, Nuggets, Pelicans and Wizards.  This seems strange, but, D-League teams; The Bakersfield Jam and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants are also a hub for multiple NBA teams.  The Hawks, Clippers, Suns, Raptors and Jazz players play in Bakersfield, California while Fort Wayne, Indiana hosts those from the Bobcats, Bucks, Pistons, Pacers, Grizzlies and Magic.

 Danna would continue,

“It’s (D-League) entering its 13th season, and I think maybe its 8th completely under the NBA umbrella. It’s young. The league started out as 8 teams, all in the Southeast region of the United States and was completely a bus league, from what I’ve been told. It then shrunk to 6 before expanding and eventually leaving the Southeast altogether. So in the last nine seasons including this one, the D-League has gone from 6 to 17 teams; the league has indeed been expanding (albeit many of those teams were former CBA franchises and just jumped ship when the CBA imploded, but still) at a pretty good rate, and that’s with a few teams folding along the way (Arkansas RimRockers, Utah Flash (now the Delaware 87ers), and Florida Flame, for example). And the 30-for-30 model isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky idea; Orlando has come out and said they want a D-League team; I’ve heard the Nuggets are potentially interested; and there was an article in the Salt Lake Tribune not too far back about the Jazz wanting to put a D-League team in St. George.”

The schedule for the 13th D-League season was released today today. On opening night, the Energy will face the Tulsa 66’ers (Oklahoma City Thunder Affiliate) November 22nd at 7:00pm.  For more in-depth coverage, check out Ridiculous Upside. R.U., also part of SB Nation, contains the work of writers dedicated to providing accurate, current and up-to-date D-League, as well as NBA Draft, news and content.

After the Pups break camp in the fall, we’ll see which players join the Energy for the NBADL season.  This is essentially the genesis of Timberpups.com’s efforts intention to cover, not only potential Timberwolves and how they are performing in the D-League, but any and all steps forward by the organization towards obtaining it’s own Development-League affiliate.

Players, coaches, Buenning, Danna, myself, the T-Pups staff alongside fans everywhere; We are all developing as basketball continues to grow worldwide.

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