Greg Stiemsma Timberwolves Press Conference Notes

On Thursday, the Timberwolves introduced yet another free agent signing as they introduced new backup center Greg Stiemsma. The contract is for two years and approximately $2.6 million, with the first year being guaranteed. To view the entire press conference you can watch it here, otherwise here are some notes and thoughts about Thursday’s proceedings.

  • Stiemsma will be wearing jersey number 34. He had previously been with the Timberwolves D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, during the 2009-10 season, and played professional stints in Turkey, South Korea, and most recently for the Boston Celtics last season. This season he became a significant rotation player for the Celtics while gaining valuable playoff experience.
  • The “Stiemer” brings a shot-blocking ability that the Wolves so notably lacked last season. Stiemsma was second in the league in blocks per minute this past season, second only to Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka.
  • Stiemsma explained that he is very excited to be back in Minneapolis, and mentioned how much the organization has grown since last time he was here. A Randolph, Wisconsin native, Stiemsma played four years for the University of Wisconsin and is only a three and a half hour drive away from Minneapolis. He said that it feels good to be close to home and close to where he played college basketball, and he looks to play a similar role of consistency on defense that he did for Boston and to be a “presence inside” for the Wolves.
  • David Kahn explained how Stiemsma was the only free agent who was meeting with the Timberwolves who drove, not flew, to Minneapolis for free agent visits.
  • Stiemsma was very thankful and complimentary of the Celtics organization, players, and coaching staff. He learned a lot through the playoff run with the Celtics, and explained how tough you have to be mentally to play in a seven game series, and how you “have to bring it every possession.”
  • When asked about how it feels to be pursued by NBA teams in free agency after previously failing to make NBA rosters, he stated, “it feels good to be wanted” and “it feels good to have your hard work pay off.”
  • Although he was invited to play for the US Select Team this summer, he chose not to play as he had been recovering from Plantar Fasciitis in his left foot, and he deferred playing with the team with long-term NBA goals in mind. He stated that he has been cranking it up in the weight room the last few weeks, and has not felt limited in workouts at all.
  • A very interesting thing that Stiemsma talked about was the importance of Kevin Garnett in his development as a player during his sole season for the Celtics. He said that “KG was great for me” and “more or less took me under his wing.” Stiemsma explained that KG was “always willing to teach” and “always willing to explain things.”
  • “Minneapolis was not a hard sell for me.”

Photo Credits: NBAE/Getty Images

How Andrei Kirilenko Transforms the Timberwolves Into a Playoff Team

Yesterday, on a phone teleconference, Wolves GM David Kahn officially announced the signing of former Utah Jazz standout Andrei Kirilenko to a two-year, $20 million pact after previously missing out on top free agent target Nicolas Batum. Kirilenko, 31, played this most recent season for CKSA Moscow following a decade of play for Utah. During his sole season with the Russian club, Kirilenko earned Euroleague MVP and top defender honors, demonstrating that he has not lost a step and is clearly still an elite defender as well as a polished all around player. As a former three-time NBA All-Star and three-time All-NBA defender, Kirilenko brings a little bit of everything to a Wolves frontcourt that has been previously plagued by the play of now former Wolves Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley.

In order to free up the necessary cap space to sign AK-47, the Timberwolves sent now official draft bust Wes Johnson and a future first-round draft pick to Phoenix in a three team trade that also involved the New Orleans Hornets. As a part of the trade, Minnesota received three future second-round draft choices but most importantly, the cap space to sign the Russian superstar. Wes Johnson had a tumultuous two year career with the Timberwolves and failed to even remotely live up to the hype of being selected 4th overall in the 2010 draft, while being selected in front of the likes of Demarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, and Paul George, among others. Johnson comes off as having very unstable confidence and his dribbling skills remain unacceptable for an NBA small forward, and as he is now 25-years-old he can no longer be looked at as simply a high upside prospect. The former Syracuse star now joins fellow former Timberwolf Micheal Beasley in Phoenix in what will most likely be a rebuilding year for the Steve Nash-less Suns.
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Timberwolves Waive Martell Webster, Trade Brad Miller

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As the hope for a sign-and-trade with Portland for Nicolas Batum dwindles, the Timberwolves were busy yesterday clearing cap space with the casualties being Martell Webster and Brad Miller. Webster was waived and bought out for a total of $600,000, ending a mediocre tenure on Minnesota. Bothered with multiple back surgeries spanning his 7-year career, Webster was originally acquired by Minnesota for the 16th overall selection in the 2010 draft. Originally taken with the 6th overall pick out of Seattle Preparatory High School, the hyper-athletic swingman was unable to live up to his lofty expectations while primarily serving as backup to Brandon Roy, and David Kahn saw him as worth the gamble. Fortunately for Minnesota, Luke Babbitt, Portland’s end of the 2010 trade, has averaged a miserable 3.7 PPG thus far into his short NBA career. If the Wolves would have not bought out Webster, he would have been due a $5.7 million team option, a price tag his 10.02 Player Efficiency Rating is undoubtedly not worth.

Minnesota also sent Brad Miller packing to New Orleans along with two future second-round draft picks in exchange for one conditional second-round pick. The picks Minnesota sent to the Hornets are the Nets’ 2013 second-round selection along with Minnesota’s own 2016 second-round choice. Although Miller has stated that he will not play another season and will retire this offseason, he was awaiting a $848,000 buyout before filing his retirement paperwork. The Wolves apparently did not feel comfortable keeping that buyout money on their payroll, and likewise sent out two second-round picks to cover the cost, a price some would feel that is excessive.
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Timberwolves Sign Kevin Love to 4 Year, $62 million deal: What It Means

Early Wednesday morning, Kevin Love displayed his commitment to the Timberpups by inking a max contract extension worth roughly $62 million over 4 seasons that includes an opt-out clause after the third season. The extension will begin starting next season and K-Love has certainly earned the honors of receiving a contract of its magnitude due to his stellar play this season. At 23 years old, the 6’10” Love is averaging a career high 24.9 points while pulling down 13.9 rebounds per contest. If Love finishes the season with his current statistics, he would become the first player to record those statistics since Moses Malone in 1981-82. In the last year and a half, Love has continued to make history and do things no player has done for some 30 years. He has become one of the most unique players in NBA history, possessing elite rebounding skills and having excellent range that extends out to the three-point line where he is shooting a whopping 39% this year. He remains one of the most efficient players in the NBA and was recently voted by NBA GMs as the player who is doing the most with the least, meaning he creates opportunities and is able to make dire situations productive. Love has been a major factor in returning the Timberwolves fan base to its strongest since the KG era, and it is not a stretch to say that K-Love may end up being remembered as a better player than The Big Ticket.

There remains confusion and criticism as to why Love was offered only a 4-year deal and not the possible 5-year extension worth roughly $78 million. The reason is this: with the new CBA, each team is able to have one “designated player” that can be offered a 5-year deal instead of the usual 4-year contract extension. In this way, each team has the ability to offer a soon-to-be free agent on their current roster an extra year to a contract, making it more likely teams will be able to retain their own players. If the Timberwolves were to give Love the 5-year extension, then they would only be able to offer Ricky Rubio or Derrick Williams 4-year extensions in 3 years when it comes time for them to negotiate their extensions. By keeping Love with a 4-year deal, the Timberwolves save the “designated player” tag for someone else and have the most flexibility going forward. Rubio and Williams appear to have ceilings as high as any NBA player, and they may end up being more important to the team than K-Love is in 3 years.

Kevin Love had every single reason to not accept anything less than the 5-year, $78 million contract. By accepting a 4-year deal, Love is showing that he is completely devoted to the Timberwolves team and organization, enough to the point where he is willing to give up his own hard-earned dollars in order to give the Timberwolves the best situation going forward. Signing Love to a 4-year deal was the perfect move for the team, as I strongly believe Rubio is the key to bringing home a championship to Minnesota. Having the ability to offer Rubio a 5-year deal will make it more likely he will stay in Minnesota and not flee to New York or LA when he has the chance to. Not to knock on Love, but Rubio is the biggest game changer on our roster and has the potential to be one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game. Derrick Williams also possesses the potential to be a true go-to scorer in the NBA, being able to play both PF and SF.

Let’s not forget about GM David Kahn, head coach Rick Adelman and owner Glen Taylor, the men who made all of this possible. Glen Taylor has showed this year that he is devoted to making this Timberwolves team a winner going forward and has been spending big despite the large losses he has endured over the last several seasons. Kahn was able to convince Love to take the 4-year deal instead of 5, selling to Love that it would be in the team’s best interests going forward and would put the team in the best position to win in the future. I also believe that Love would not have signed an extension with Minnesota had it not have been for the hiring of Rick Adelman, a family friend of Love’s and one of the best head coaches in the NBA. Adelman has done a fantastic job turning this team around and the best basketball is still yet to be played by the Pups.

With Rubio, Love, and Williams under team control through at least 2014-15, the team will certainly be an attractive destination for free agents looking to win. The Timberwolves young core is arguably as good as any in the NBA, and it will be very exciting to watch this team grow into a potential powerhouse in the NBA for years to come.

Why the NBA is Wrong About David Kahn

I would like to begin by saying that I am not 100% sold on David Kahn. He has done things that have left me shaking my head (Beasley marijuana comment) and his common sense may not be as sharp as most executives. He seems to wear the same smirk on his face and rarely loses composure or shows emotions. Virtually every move he has made has not been without its critics. However, as we have seen over the years with Terry Ryan for the Twins, many great moves do not appear to be so at first and necessary time is required for things to come to fruition.

In order to properly judge Kahn, it is essential to correctly define what his job is. As general manager, is his job to create a team that is continually competitive on a year-by-year basis? Or is it to put the team in the best position for long-term, continued success, while sacrificing present success? I personally believe it is a combination of both, but with much more emphasis on the latter. At this point in Kahn’s tenure, this appears to be precisely his goal, and his vision is beginning to materialize.

No NBA executive had a tougher job ahead of them than Kahn after being hired during the summer of 2009. Kevin McHale, disregarding his trade for Kevin Love, completely and utterly left the Timberwolves in a miserable state with very few pieces to build on for the future. One could argue that outside of drafting Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love, McHale did very few things right in his long tenure with the team. The other piece of the Kevin Love trade, Mike Miller, was a complete bust for the Wolves as he was acquired as a shooter but attempted to play outside of his skill set. Al Jefferson, the centerpiece of the Kevin Garnett trade, proved himself to be no more than a 20-10 player on a team without affecting the wins column. His immobility and lack of intensity/effort on defense made him a liability on one half of the floor and it became evident he would never fill the void left by KG. The loss of Garnett meant the loss of the team’s leader in the locker room and on the court, and it helped to create the culture of losing that is still present in the team today.

Kahn’s decisions in the 2009 draft are probably the most questioned and criticized of all his moves. The draft led many people to automatically dismiss him and criticize his moves and decisions going forward. Although I believe that the results of the 2009 draft were marginal, I stand by the decisions that were made at draft time. To begin, one of the most underappreciated moves the Kahn made came when he was able to snag the 5th overall pick in the draft in exchange for draft-bust Randy “Fourth Quarter” Foye and Mike Miller. This trade led to the drafting of Spanish wunderkind Ricky Rubio, considered by many to be the best player in the 2009 draft and a future Steve Nash. Questions about his contract situation in Spain caused him to slip into the Wolves hands at 5. Knowing that the chances of Rubio being able to play in the NBA immediately were slim, Kahn took another point guard in Jonny Flynn with the Timberwolves own number 6 pick. The draft offered a weak group of shooting guards (Demar Derozan having many question marks) and a plethora of high potential, able point guards. A common misconception is that the Wolves reached for Flynn at 6, however he was projected by many mock drafts to be ahead of Curry and Jennings. Knowing he could use Flynn as a trade asset when the time for Rubio came while choosing to not reach for a SG instead, Kahn kept the future of the franchise as the top priority. The potential of Jonny Flynn was considered much higher than any of the shooting guards, so if Jonny could perform well in the time before Rubio came over, he could be a greater asset to the team when it came time to trade him, giving the Timberwolves the best value. With the 18th pick Kahn took the best player available in Ty Lawson, and traded him to Denver for a first round pick in the next draft. Again, by choosing not to reach in the present, Kahn got a first round pick in the next draft where there could be a player that filled a greater need. With the 28th pick Kahn took shooting guard Wayne Ellington. The natural reaction to the Timberwolves on draft night was one of laughter, but close analysis helps explain the decisions in sensible and rational terms.

The public reaction to Kahn’s drafting of 3 point guards in the first round caused an immediate uproar and a slew of jokes directed at the Timberwolves organization. Many Timberwolves fans dismissed their franchise, choosing ignorance to their team to avoid embarrassment by association. Kahn, hearing criticism from every angle, maintained his poise and confidence in his decisions, knowing that time was necessary and that his decisions put the franchise in the best position for long-term success. The rebuilding process was begun, and although the idea of more short-term failures angered many, only Kahn and few others saw that short-terms failures would be a necessary contributor to the long-term prospects of the franchise.
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