Three Team Trade Sends Kevin Love to Cavs, Wolves Get A Solid Return

Kevin Love was supposed to be the next savior for the Wolves and that never came to fruition.  (John Autey, Pioneer Press)

Kevin Love was supposed to be the next savior for the Wolves and that never came to fruition. (John Autey, Pioneer Press)

It is August 23rd and the Wolves are back in the news, as it is now 30 days since Andrew Wiggins signed his NBA rookie contract and can now be traded.  It didn’t take long for today’s announcement, as Wiggins and Anthony Bennett are on their way to Minnesota for three time All Star, Kevin Love.  As had been rumored for weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers worked their way into the deal and will send PF Thad Young to the Wolves.  In return, the 76ers will receive Alexey Shved, LRMAM, and Miami’s 2015 #1 pick.

There are a number of pieces to this puzzle worth commenting on, so I’m going to break this up a bit.  The future of the Timberwolves is now much clearer and there is some strange light that I’m seeing in the distance.

Au revoir Kevin Love

First and foremost, I think the Wolves did a great job in finding a new home for Kevin Love when all things are considered.  He wanted to go play in a specific city and the Wolves found themselves able to acquire a decent haul that provides them with both talent and flexibility moving forward.  Love has never been able to get the Timberwolves into the playoffs, has occasionally been considered a stats-focused player, and certainly has limitations on the defensive end of the floor.  That said, he is an all-world rebounder, fantastic offensive player and is, in my opinion, the best PF in the game today.

Love has been the face of the franchise since 2010/11 when he became the teams go-to player.  Statistically speaking, he hasn’t disappointed.  In the four seasons as a regular starter, Love has averaged over 22ppg and almost 14rpg and that includes an injury riddled – knuckle push-ups led – 2012/13 season.  While he has been the most marketable player for the franchise, he has not been able to get the club back into the playoffs.  There are any number of caveats that can be thrown on this statement, but the fact remains that the Wolves did not make the playoffs during Love’s tenure with the club.  His attitude has been called into question and the quotes provided to the media left a lot to be desired.

It was time to move on and we should all do the same.  Kevin Love was not the next Kevin Garnett.  He was the first Kevin Love, an exciting player that brought some attention to the franchise.  Let’s not forget that a lot of this may have been avoided if David Kahn and Glen Taylor just gave Love the max-max deal and/or didn’t agree to his opt-out clause in his current contract.

The franchise core moving forward

Flip Saunders now turns his attention to rebuilding the Wolves once again.  There are certainly pieces to work with, including Ricky Rubio, last year’s 1st round pick Gorgui Dieng, and this year’s selection, Zach LaVine.  When you throw in Wiggins, there is a lot of promise and potential in the Twin Cities.  This is certainly a core group that Wolves’ fans can get excited about and it is a group of players that should be able to grow together with extended minutes on the court next season.

There is one glaring need when looking at that core of four and it is outside shooting.  That is where the remaining flexibility that Flip has, or will have in the coming 18 months, needs to be  focused on.  For those wondering, no, Kevin Martin is not the answer here.  He and JJ Barea are the next two players that need to be moved to another city.

The remaining pieces of the Wolves roster

Anthony Bennett had a terrible rookie season, averaging 4.2ppg and 3rpg in under 13mpg.  However, he is 21 years old and now has a season under his belt.  I’m glad he is staying with the Wolves and was not part of the package that went to Philadelphia, based simply on a “let’s roll the dice and see what we have with him” philosophy.  He may not get much better, but he’s one year into his rookie contract so there isn’t much to lose in this situation.

Thad Young just turned 26 years old this summer but has seven years of NBA experience.  He is a fantastic athlete who averaged 17.9ppg and 6rpg last season on the 76ers.  I’m skeptical as to what Flip Saunders thinks he is getting in Young, but for what the Wolves gave up to acquire him, this was a no-brainer.

(You can pretty much assume that Chris Bosh gets injured this coming season, the Heat sit Wade once this happens and Miami wins the NBA lottery, thereby giving the Sixers this pick.  This is what happens when the Wolves are involved in the lottery.  The title of a novel based on the Wolves’ history in the lottery would be rightfully named “The Worst”.)

The only other player on the Wolves roster that warrants mentioning here is Corey Brewer.  He is likely the only other (relevant) Pup that I see being with the Wolves 24 months from now.  His ideal role is an off-the-bench, energy guy in a 8 or 9 man rotation.  Assuming Coach Flip doesn’t have a “we must win this game” mentality next season, Brewer should start to become acclimated to this role.

In summary

Pinch me, but I think the Wolves received quite the return package for a player that wasn’t going to be here much longer and two guys that underachieved and/or underwhelmed during their tenure in Minnesota.

What do you think Wolves Nation?  Are you happy with the return or are you boycotting the Target Center next season?  I think you’ll see some exciting basketball being played on the floor, with a good number of speed bumps hit along the way.  I’m happy to see this drama resolved, that we have a core group of guys that can grow together and players that could very likely lead this team back to the playoffs one or two seasons from now.

Recap: Las Vegas Summer League – Wolves 86, Suns 77

All Gorgui Dieng did on Wednesday is grab a tournament high 19 rebounds! (Garrett Ellwood, Getty Images)

All Gorgui Dieng did on Wednesday is grab a tournament high 19 rebounds! (Garrett Ellwood, Getty Images)

The Las Vegas Summer League started the tournament portion of its competition on Wednesday, kicking off with the #9 seed Phoenix Suns against our #24 seed Timberwolves. Despite being 0-3 in its prior Summer League action, the Pups came out on Wednesday and produced a solid victory to move on in the winner’s bracket.

The Wolves opened up with Zach LaVine, Markel Starks, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, and Kyrylo Fesenko in the starting lineup. A little “twin tower” action up front for the Wolves and perhaps a preview of things to come in the 2014/15 season. Dieng, Fesenko and LaVine all started off strong, while Shabazz Muhammad got off to a 0-6 start from the field, continuing to move his shooting percentages in the wrong direction in Vegas. At the end of the 1st quarter, the Suns held a 19-14 advantage. [Read more…]

25 Moments in 25 Years

25 years of Timberwolves basketball!

25 years of Timberwolves basketball!

The 2013/14 NBA season is a time to celebrate for Minnesota Timberwolves fans, as the franchise is celebrating their silvery anniversary in the NBA.  I wanted to celebrate these 25 years with 25 special moments from the franchise’s history.  Are you ready for this?  Let’s get started with the countdown … because everything in the world today has to be done via countdown and ranking apparently.

(Quick note: YouTube clips are also hyperlinks below and will open in a separate window.)

#25 – 2008 NBA Draft night trade that yields Kevin Love for the Wolves

While I still would have demanded a PG (Lowry, it worked within the cap) in the trade, the Wolves traded OJ Mayo to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love with other pieces all around.  This trade would have been ranked higher if Mike Miller didn’t stink up the Target Center for two seasons.

#24 – Isaiah Rider’s circus shot in Sacramento

Preface: I loved Rider.  There, I said it.  You’ll see him again in this countdown.  This shot was on national TV and I talked about it for two days in school.  Have a look.

#23 – One of two 2nd round draft gems: Nikola Pekovic

Perhaps for the 30 year anniversary, this is ranked a bit higher.  You know how (12 adjectives worse than…) bad the franchise’s draft history is.  This pick also wasn’t too much of a “find” for McHale, as Pekovic was a 1st round talent that teams knew wasn’t coming over for a few years and the team swooped him up as the first pick of the 2nd round in 2008.

#22 – Two of two 2nd round draft gems: Doug West

In the franchise’s first draft (1989), the team wound up with a pretty decent backcourt consisting of Pooh Richardson and Doug West.  While his career got off to a slow start, West did overtake Tony Campbell as the franchise’s leading scorer for a while and had several solid seasons for the club.

#21 – 1992 Slam Dunk Contest w/ West

We really won’t talk too much about the early days and for good reason; Doug West simply appearing in the Slam Dunk Contest is a top 25 moment in franchise history.  Around the 8:45 mark of the clip below you will find the start of West’s performance.  However, you’ll miss Grandmama, Plastic Man, and Shawn Kemp if you skip ahead.  (In other words, watch the whole thing!)

#20 – Ricky Rubio’s first triple-double

Any time a Pup throws up a triple-double against the Spurs, you have my attention.  But when the Unicorn does so in spectacular fashion, it is a top moment for the franchise.

#19 – 2009 NBA Draft – Hello Ricky!

David Kahn somehow convinced the Washington Wizards to give up the 5th pick of the draft for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.  Sure, we picked up Stewie Griffin and a few other spare pieces, but the Wolves were able to land Ricky Rubio with the pick and the rest will become history.

Let’s forget about the 2009 draft in its entirety though: Point Guard-apolooza, Kevin Love’s “What are we doing?!?!?!” tweet, etc.  It never happened, OK?

#18 – Timberwolves fire David Kahn

Yep, this is a franchise highlight.  We’ve covered off on the 2009 draft, but we didn’t mention the selection of Wes Johnson the following year – the worst draft pick in the history of the Timberwolves.  Trust me, I’ve been watching this unfold for a long time.  There were none worse.  Throw in trying to freeze Kevin Love out of Minnesota and you have a train wreck for the ages that needed to be fixed.

#17 – Timberwolves hire Rick Adelman

Where Kahn deserves an iota of credit is in the hiring of Rick Adelman, by far the greatest basketball mind to ever grace the sidelines of the Metrodome or Target Center 41 times a season.

#16 – Isaiah Rider blocks Patrick Ewing

Earlier I mentioned talking about Rider’s shot in Sacramento for two days.  Being from the NY area, this play allowed me a full week of gloating in high school.  This was AWESOME

#15 – “Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, … Winner!” – The Timberwolves select Christian Laettner in the 1992 NBA Draft

Look, everyone will focus on the negative: we missed out on Shaq and Zo, Laettner was a locker room cancer (as referenced above perhaps?), that he wasn’t around for the long term, etc.  All of this is valid.  However, where would I be without the Wolves selecting Laettner in 1992?  I can assure you that I wouldn’t be writing for a Wolves blog.

As I started to hone in on the NBA around 5th-6th grade, the franchise came into existence.  That was a nice way for me to get a fresh start on a new NBA team.  What distinguished the Wolves over the three other new teams?  1. Team colors and 2. My dad was making business trips to the area every month and could bring home souvenirs.  Relatively sold, but not completely …

What took my fandom to the next level?  “With the third pick of the NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select … Christian Laettner from Duke University” – Stern, David.  How is this for a history lesson?

There is one more thing I want to cover here, completely realizing that I’ve already spent too much time on #15 in this list.  How is this locker room speech not more popular than Derrick Coleman’s “Whoopty-damn-doo”?  I mean, this should really be closer to Iverson’s “We talkin’ ‘bout practice?!  Not a game, not a game, but practice!”  Honestly, this can be used in so many aspects of life, at the very least in Minnesota.  Example: imagine giving the “Loser, Loser … Winner” speech for any of the following:

  1. Leaving a board meeting
  2. Quitting a job
  3. Leaving the bar
  4. Exiting a holiday house party
  5. Deflecting blame when caught by multiple boy/girl-friends

Seriously, this needs to become a more acceptable way of living your life.  Do it!  Vine it!  I will pay you at least $1.

#14 – Final home game of 1990 at the Metrodome

The third largest NBA crowd (49,551) packed the Metrodome for the last home game of the inaugural, 89/90 season.  The Wolves drew over 1 million fans into the stadium for the season!

#13 – First Franchise Win – 11/10/89

It took four tries and overtime, but the Timberwolves earned their first win in franchise history on 11/10/89 against the Philadelphia 76ers, 125-118.  Tony Campbell and Tyrone Corbin = Monsters!

#12 – Michael Williams Free Throw Record

What better way to get a jolt through your body than covering off on one of the few places you will find a Pup in the record books?  In 1993, the PG broke the record for the most FT’s hit in a row, finally ending the streak at 97.  (More fun facts on free throws)

#11 – Kevin Love’s double-double streak

Continuing a run of streaks (ba-da-bum) there aren’t many more impressive performances compared to the 53 games in a row in which Love put up a double-double.  From November 2010 through March 2011, Love poured it on night in and night out.  However, the run came to an end against the Warriors.   Oddly enough, the streak ended because Love only scored 6 points in a blowout loss.

#10 – A double overtime loss to OKC – 3/23/12

Wow, a loss winds up being a top moment in franchise history.  Why?  This is my list and I’ll do as I please.  This is the best regular season game I can remember.  From the opponent’s side, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each went for 40+ points.  JJ Barea put up a triple double.  Kevin Love put up a modest 51 and 14.  This game was spectacular … including Wesley Johnson’s 0-1, 0 points effort.  Have I talked about him before?

#9 – Glen Taylor saves the Timberwolves

Say what you will about Taylor, and you have/will, but he saved this franchise back in 1995.  With the owners looking to sell the team to a group down in New Orleans, Taylor swooped in to purchase the club and leaving it in the Twin Cities.

#8 – Timberwolves retire Malik Sealy’s jersey

I debated whether or not this belonged in the countdown because the reasons that led to the jersey retirement suck, but also thought it might provide some perspective for some of the younger fans as to why the #2 hangs in the rafters.  We covered this tragedy in a VOTW last year.

(I’m still surprised that the entire halftime ceremony isn’t on YouTube.)

#7 – The original Big Three?  KG, Marbury, and Gugliotta

A second VOTW of focus in the top 10 … of course!  Before he ate a jar of Vaseline on YouTube, Stephon Marbury was a phenomenal addition to the KG-led Wolves.  Therein lied the problem, it was KG’s team and ‘Starbury’ wanted nothing to do with that.  Naturally, before a resolution could be found there, Tom Gugliotta decided that he had enough and went to greener pastures.  But before all of this … these three were awesome!  (Where are my Tums?!)

#6 – 1997 – Playoffs?  Playoffs?!  You kidding me?!

It took a while, but the Timberwolves made their first trip to the playoffs in 1997.  The team was quickly swept off the floor by the Rockets … but still … progress!

#5 – KG leads the Timberwolves in … everything in ‘02/’03

For just the third time in NBA history, a player led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks for the season.  KG was good.

#4 – Kevin Love’s 30/30 game against the Knicks

The only reason this is #4 and KG’s season above is listed at #5 is because it was against the Knicks.  I’ve never claimed to be fair or unbiased.  Early on in the 2010 season, Kevin Love went off … way off … on the Knicks, to the tune of 31 points and 31 rebounds.  I don’t think this needs any further description.

#3 – The ‘East Bay Funk Dunk’

The NBA All-Star Weekend came to Minneapolis in 1994 and Isaiah Rider stole the show, winning the Slam Dunk Contest with his ‘East Bay Funk Dunk’.  A crowning achievement for the franchise who had yet to make the playoffs.  This too was awesome!

#2 – The 2004 Playoffs

Since 1989, the Timberwolves were the team to beat in the NBA exactly once, in ‘03/’04.  Everything was in place for a deep playoff run and more.  The team disposed of the Nuggets rather easily and then had an epic battle against the Kings.  KG jumping on the top of the scorer’s table after game 7 anyone?!  I still remember these series and locking myself in my Hoboken apartment.  With the great, however, came the ultimate disappointment in that Sam Cassell’s injured hip was not going to make a miraculous recovery for the series against the Lakers.  The Wolves didn’t have enough to compete with Shaq and Kobe.

However, if Sam was healthy, this team was going to the Finals and winning it all.  That injury still haunts me.  That injury also prevents the ‘03/’04 season from being #1 on this list.  If the team had at least the Conference Championship, it would be #1.  Alas …

#1 – The 1995 Draft

Before he was “The Big Ticket”, he was “The Kid”.  The Timberwolves selected KG with the 5th pick of the 1995 draft and the franchise was altered for a decade (and you could argue more, but we won’t).  There isn’t anything to say about KG that won’t ruin a future post about his career.  KG provided more than enough memories.  I rarely care about a player when they leave one of my favorite teams.  I became a Celtics fan so that KG could get a ring.  Best of luck to “The Kid” this season in Brooklyn and quite simply, “Thank you!”

So there you have it, 25 memories from 25 years of Timberwolves basketball.  What moments stick out the most to you?

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!

Ricky Rubio Injury Update: Ahead of Schedule?

Nearly 6 months following that wretched March 9 game against the Lakers, which culminated in Minnesota losing it’s new favorite sports star to a torn ACL, it appears that we may have some good news to report on Ricky Rubio’s recovery from knee surgery that was originally expected to keep him off the court for an estimated 6-9 months. As reported by the Pioneer Press, after meeting with his doctors in Vail for one of his regular post-surgery checkups, Tricky Ricky appears to be well ahead of schedule. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor in a recent interview said:

“The doctors said he was progressing faster than normal, and normal was supposed to be in January,” Taylor said Tuesday, Aug. 14, a day before heading to China on a two-week charity mission. “Faster than normal would be December. He’s going to start running and stuff in a few weeks.”

Although there is still much uncertainty and obstacles for Rubio’s remaining rehabilitation, this is great news for Timberwolves and NBA fans alike, and it is not overly optimistic to think that we could potentially see La Pistola on the court by the end of November or beginning of December. Timberwolves team doctors and coaches remain adamant that they will not compromise Rubio’s recovery by rushing him onto the floor too soon, or even before he is completely 100% to play. That is a good call considering the Spaniard turns a mere 22 years of age in October, and barring any serious setbacks to his knee, he should have many successful seasons for years to come in the NBA. Taylor, when asked about the Wolves playoff chances for this coming season following the acquisitions of Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, Brandon Roy, and others, had this to say: [Read more…]

Timberwolves: Implications of a Batum Signing

The Timberwolves began NBA free agency in frenzy as the clock struck midnight on July 1, commencing their quest for veteran additions to their current nucleus by scheduling meetings with SG-SF Nicolas Batum, C Greg Stiemsma, former Portland SG Brandon Roy, and PF-C Jordan Hill. The Timberpups also reached out to the likes of SG Jamal Crawford, SG OJ Mayo, while remaining extremely active in trade discussions with the Los Angeles Lakers in hopes of landing PF Pau Gasol.

It appears that the Pups are as dedicated as any team in the NBA to land multiple high-profile players NOW, greatly reflecting their urgency to “win now,” as Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman is 66 and is likely in the middle of his final contract of his life, while Pups owner Glen Taylor is 71 and wants to see how far his current core group of players can take him before he sells the team in a few years. Whatever the sole cause, it is very uncharacteristic of the Wolves to be so very active in free agency while placing such great importance on attracting marquee names to the land of 10,000 lakes, and the Minnesota front office and coaching staff deserves much credit for their persistent efforts thus far. [Read more…]