Timberwolves basketball is back. Sort of. The Wolves first basketball game since April ended in a 103-90 loss to Indiana. Since only 14 players can dress for preseason games, Mo Williams and Nikola Pekovic sat out. Kevin Martin and Anthony Bennett were also inactive, due to minor injuries. Consequently, the majority of the Wolves minutes went to the young guys. The result was fans receiving an unobstructed view of what the future has in store.
The Timberwolves announced their preseason schedule earlier today and it includes seven games against five different opponents. Taking a quick look at the opponents you will find teams in very, very different positions when it comes to competing for an NBA Championship this coming season.
The Wolves will be listed as the home team in three of the seven games (see below). The preseason kicks off on Tuesday, October 7th against the Indiana Pacers. The first home game action that fans will get to see at the Target Center will be on Friday, October 10th against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and Chicago are the other opponents on the preseason schedule. There isn’t a particular team or game that catches my attention aside from the fact that the start of the NBA season is just around the corner. However, what I would like to see is the youngsters receiving playing time on the floor together, similar to how Flip foresees using his rotations in the regular season (injuries, etc. aside). I want to see Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine on the floor together, but I also want to see LaVine see minutes as the PG.
As we all know, there may or may not be a few moving pieces in the coming weeks. With rumors continuing to swirl, it is just a matter of when Kevin Love will land with the Cleveland Cavaliers. More importantly, who will the Pups wind up with? It sounds like #1 pick Andrew Wiggins is/will be included. From there, things get a little dicey. The Wolves may get back Michael Bennett or Thad Young and then a few random pieces.
Assuming Wiggins winds up in Minneapolis it will be important for him to receiving playing time with the Wolves’ starters and 8 or 9 man rotation. He obviously played for the Cavs in the Las Vegas Summer League so it is important for him to start building a repoirte with his new teammates.
What game or games have your attention? Let’s go Wolves!
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.