Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Final Week

 

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

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

Setting the stage:

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

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

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

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

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

Opponent to watch:

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

Predictions:

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

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

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

Opponent to watch:

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

Predictions:

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

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

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

Opponent to watch:

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

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

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

Predictions:

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

Wrap-up:

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

 

 

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.

 

 

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!

Timberwolves Ink Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin to Deals

Both Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin agreed with Minnesota on Tuesday, adding two much needed perimeter shooters to a group that ranked dead last in three-point shooting last season.

Both Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin agreed with Minnesota on Tuesday, adding two much needed perimeter shooters to a group that ranked dead last in three-point shooting last season.

Things just got very interesting for the Timberwolves only a few days into free agency. On Tuesday, Minnesota got things started by coming to terms with RFA SG/SF Chase Budinger on a three year, $16 million pact and made some noise later that day by agreeing to a four year, $28 million agreement with UFA SG Kevin Martin.

Budinger, 25, was originally acquired by the Timberwolves in a draft day trade last summer that sent Minnesota’s 18th overall pick to the Houston Rockets. The Arizona product had trouble staying on the court during his first season for the Pups, as he missed all but 23 games after tearing his meniscus just 6 games into the 2012-13 season. When healthy, he brings strong perimeter shooting and a very high competence of Rick Adelman‘s corner offense, of whom he played for in Houston for two seasons before ultimately landing in the land of 10,000 lakes. He will likely be the starter at small forward with F Derrick Williams and SF Shabazz Muhammad also seeing time at the 3. [Read more...]

The Timberwolves Newest Polarizing Player: Shabazz Muhammad

Shabazz Muhammad, 20, is one of the newest draft day additions for the Minnesota Timberwolves. How will the one-and-done swingman from UCLA fare as a role player for the Timberwolves?

Shabazz Muhammad, 20, is one of the newest draft day additions for the Minnesota Timberwolves. How will the one-and-done swingman from UCLA fare as a role player for the Timberwolves?

Following rumors that the Timberwolves were aggressively attempting to move up in Thursday’s 2013 NBA draft in hopes of selecting one of the draft’s premier shooting guards which included Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, Kansas’s Ben McLemore and Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Wolves found themselves out of luck when it came time for the 9th pick as all three prized shooting guards were off the board.

C.J. McCollum, the highly-touted 6-foot-3 PG/SG of Lehigh State, was apparently not on Flip Saunders’ radar as he ultimately passed up the scoring combo guard and instead took what he saw as the best talent available in point guard Trey Burke, despite  having no intention of keeping him. Flip immediately shipped the Michigan standout to the Utah Jazz in exchange for the 14th and 21st overall picks, despite already having the 26th pick received in a trade made last season with Memphis. Larry Fitzgerald Sr. had this to say about the move: [Read more...]

Flip Saunders to Become Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations

Washington Wizards v Atlanta HawksFollowing a tumultuous four seasons for David Kahn as president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, owner Glen Taylor has decided against exercising Kahn’s team option for the 2013-14 season thus ending his tenure with the organization. The now infamous Kahn has been the pin of jokes throughout the basketball community due to his disastrous job drafting, but let us not forget that the man was able to strike gold on franchise cornerstone Ricky Rubio and even helped to bring Rick Adelman to Minnesota and should be given credit where it is due.

Although Kahn was able to reshape the team’s roster and helped to bring excitement back to the state’s NBA team, his misfirings in the draft severely cost the organization. In 2009, Kahn drafted Jonny Flynn sixth overall over the likes of Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings and DeMar DeRozan, and drafted Ty Lawson with the eighteenth pick in the same draft, only to trade him for a future first-round selection which was ultimately traded for Martell Webster. Stephen Curry set the all-time record for three-pointers made in a season this year, and Lawson has become a fringe All-Star point guard leading the Denver Nuggets. [Read more...]