Changes in the Twolves Staff, Again

Last year, John wrote about the changes made within the Minnesota Timberwolves front-office. Below is an excerpt from that post. I’m showing you this because I plan to ultimately use the same format as John did last summer.

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.

The Wolves roster is frozen until June 30th, the team cannot make personnel changes until the 2013-2014 season has officially ended. Kevin Love remains with the team albeit the vast amount of rumors swirling regarding his inevitable departure. It’s difficult to interpret appropriate expectations for a coaching staff if the roster isn’t firm, which for the Wolves — it’s not — so there’s a bit of uncertainty to take into account. That said, I’ll do my worst.

By now you’ve heard that Flip Saunders appointed himself as the new head coach. From what I understand to be the consensus, it’s not Flip the coach that concerns fans, but rather, the process in which Glen Taylor sat by, begrudgedly, while Saunders interviewed lesser-qualified candidates to make himself look like the best man for the job.

Opinion: Flip the hire bugs me, too, but in his defense — it remains to be seen how long Saunders intends to coach the Wolves. Will this be a temporary gig? Is Flip’s plan to pocket a few million dollars, that would have gone to someone like George Karl, Lionel Hollins, or Vinny Del Negro [who rank 'meh,' 'eh,' and ick, respectfully], or is it Flip’s intention to become a Gregg Popovich type presence among the Wolves organization? Popovich — with a little help from General Manager R.C. Buford — is the law, law-enforcement, judge, and prison guard of the San Antonio Spurs organization. 

Perhaps a more appropriate comparison for Flip and the Wolves front-office would be Stan Van Gundy, who was recently hired by the Detroit Pistons to become the head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Although, admittedly, as bad as things are believed to be in Minnesota, the Pistons former President of B-Ball Ops., Joe Dumars, left Van Gundy in an ugly situation after signing unproven talents pretentious wannabe-superstars Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to egregious contracts.

The following is from the Wolves press release, announcing the addition of Sidney Lowe as an assistant coach on Flip’s staff.

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced Sidney Lowe as an assistant coach on head coach Flip Saunders staff. This will be Lowe’s fourth time coaching alongside Saunders, previously serving as an assistant under him in Minnesota both from 1999-2000 and 2003-05, and in Detroit from 2005-06. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not announced.

“We are excited to add Sid Lowe to our coaching staff,” said head coach Flip Saunders. “I have great respect for Sid. He has a great basketball mind and an extensive coaching background as a head and assistant coach in both the NBA and collegiate levels, which will be extremely valuable on our staff. Sid relates well with players and will play an important role in the development of talent on our roster.”

Last year, in John’s article titled Changes in the TWolves Staff, alluded to Glen Taylor and Flip staying within their comfort zone after they hired Milt Newton to become General Manager. John was being nice, as it’s no secret the local media refers to this comfort zone as the proverbial Country Club, and, thus far this summer, that zone, or club, is only growing in numbers.

 

Mitchell spent four-full seasons as head coach of the Toronto Raptors from 2004-2008. Two years after being crowned NBA Coach of the Year, Mitchell was fired 17 games into the ’08-’09 season. The Raptors were 8-9 at the time of his termination, and Mitchell was replaced by his assistant coach, Jay Triano. Toronto finished the ’08-’09 season 25-40.

Opinion: Admittedly, I didn’t find Mitchell’s work as an analyst with TNT this season all too admirable, but I am a mere blogger and wouldn’t dare compare my basketball mind to a former NBA Coach of the Year. My only fear is that Mitchell may someday want to become a head coach again, henceforth, how he plans to deal with potential disagreements between himself and Coach Flip is a concern I have with Mitchell on the staff. Also, I don’t believe Mitchell is too keen on his teams attempting copious amounts of three-pointers– which could be death sentence when trying to compete in today’s NBA.

Let’s not forget, Flip isn’t the most vocal advocate of three-pointers, either, as the Wolves consistently dwelled on the bottom of the 3PT Attempt category during his previous tenure as head coach.  

I’ll parallel the potential loss of Sikma, who worked closely with Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng as an assistant, to the departure of Bill Bayno– Bayno was free to find another job at the end of last season, and ultimately joined Dwane Casey with the Raptors organization. To stress the significance Sikma’s departure may mean for the Wolves, I’ll refer back to John’s post.

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.

As a reminder, the Wolves didn’t seem to be lacking any chemistry issues within the locker room– perhaps if Bayno had been retained said issues, conflicts amongst teammates, may have been prevented.

Also expected to join Flip’s staff is his son, Ryan Saunders. The following is from NBA.com.

Saunders is instrumental in assisting with the preparation for upcoming opponents with extensive scouting reports and statistical analysis. Saunders came to the Wizards after spending a year coaching under Tubby Smith at the University of Minnesota, where he helped the Golden Gophers to an NCAA Tournament appearance. In addition to his on-court work, he helped players with their academic and social development off the court.

Before moving to the sidelines, Saunders played four seasons at Minnesota, where he was a two-time team captain, four-time scholar athlete award winner and 2006 Big Ten All-Academic selection. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in applied kinesiology.

Although most work-type environments in which the son/daughter of The Boss usually result in resentful scenarios among the employees, [Ryan] Saunders deploys a new-age role that’s important in today’s NBA. [Ryan] Saunders and his statistical expertise will provide an analytical perspective to the Wolves front-office. If there is anyone on the staff that can talk Flip and Sam Mitchell out of feebly attempting vast amounts of mid-range jumpers [considered to be the least-effective attempt to score from an efficiency standpoint] it’s going to be Ryan Saunders.

Look for an emphasis on coaching philosophy and/or tendencies from some of the new members of the Wolves coaching staff in a future post, sometime over the next few days.

-zb.

Recap: Wolves Devour Frozen Pelicans 124-112.

Wednesday the Minnesota Timberwolves (15-16) hosted the New Orleans Pelicans (14-15). These teams entered the game struggling to rise above the .500 mark with a combined record of 29-31, but one of them would have the same amount of victories as defeats at the sound of the final buzzer.

The somewhat infamous Pierre the Pelican, New Orleans mascot, did not travel with the team, preventing a certain heated exchange between the Pelican and Crunch. Maybe the Wolves can send Crunch into the Bayou later this season. I only say that because this is a mascot battle I need to see at some point in my life. The spectacle of mascots doing mascot things will always entertain me. [Read more...]

Wolves at Knicks: The First Road Test

The Wolves venture to the Big Apple to face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 CST and will be telivised on FoxSportsNorthPlus where available and on the Wolves radio network, 830AM WCCO (@WolvesRadio on Twitter)

I’ve brought another guest for this one, Brandon Rushie, informally known as Bruce Chillroy (@AyoRush), is a Knicks beatwriter for The Knicks Wall. Rushie and myself both write for www.5thRowJoe.com

The Knicks Wall was founded in January 2012. Since then, the site has grown into the largest independent Knicks site on the web. The Knicks Wall’s main goal is to keep Knicks fans up-to-date on all things Knicks.”

I’ve asked Rushie to provide us with some perspective from the opponents side of things, which should be interesting considering it’s a New York team. Always fun to see what those in the big city think about us here in one of the ‘flyover states’.

Tonight the Knicks take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the West’s young upstarts full of talent. An inexperienced yet still improving core, the promising duo of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love have the Wolves entering the Garden as 1 of the 6 undefeated teams left in the league. Rubio is coming off an ACL tear that ended last year’s campaign prematurely, and Love looking to ready to finally give the Wolves a full 82-game season, it would be a mistake to take Rick Adelman’s squad lightly; especially considering the last three meetings between these teams have been decided by an average of 4 points.

 

The Knicks enter tonight with a record of 1-1 after a tough loss in Chicago, though their defense has been a bright spot — allowing a league low 82.5 points per game. Despite a 6th consecutive loss to the Bulls, New York did a solid job of containing Derrick Rose, holding him to 7-of-23 shooting and more turnovers (4) than assists (3). Perimeter defense was a major issue for the Knicks last year, especially when attempting to deny opposing guards entry into the paint. Head coach Mike Woodson’s switch-happy defensive philosophy, while sound in theory, is easy to attack once the pick and rolls start. Look for Rubio to put on show.

 

Although they’ve been defensively impressive, generating points has been difficult for the Knickerbockers — they’re last in points per game and 27th in pace (points per possession) this season thus far. The Wolves put on a superb defensive performance in their last game against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, throwing the kitchen sink at the 3-time scoring champion and forcing someone else to beat them. It worked, as Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka both struggled, and the Wolves pushed the pace, forced turnovers and converted them to easy points on the other end.

 

How does the Turiaf injury play to the knicks favor?

The Wolves were thin in their frontcourt even before Turiaf’s unfortunate injury. I loved watching Gorgui Dieng play at Louisville, however he was unimpressive in limited burn against the Thunder, can’t imagine Adleman wants him spending a majority of his 18 or so minutes tonight against a former DPOY, but his options are limited. Look for New York to attack the young big man and try to get to the line early.

 

What are things that the Knicks do on both ends of the floor that Wolves people should look for? How do they run their offense?

Woodson isn’t the most imaginative fellow on the offensive side of the ball, the bare bones version is get Melo the ball in the post and look for the open man once the double comes. The Knicks can make teams that double hastily pay dearly with their outside shooting, so rotations better be crisp. Defensively the Knicks show good intensity but the challenge is maintaining the mentality for all four quarters. For instance — Opening night the Knicks porous defense almost blew a 20+point lead to the Milwaukee Bucks. They must be able to close out and shut the door on an opponent if the Knicks hope to be a legitimate threat in the East, especially in games at MSG.

 

Your concerns, or lack of concerns about the game.

New York lacks frontcourt depth. Offseason acquisition Andrea Bargnani has underwhelming performed in his first two outings and Tyson Chandler, though a monster, has propensity to rack up silly fouls in a hurry. Banging around with the 290-pound Nikola Pekovic will be a tough test for him. Amare Stoudemire has been officially ruled out for tonight, so Chandler must stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble at all costs.

 

What do you believe the wolves do well (offensively or defensively) that will be effective?

While the Knicks have been doing a solid job defensively, there’s still been instances that display susceptibility to defensive breakdowns against the pick and roll. Rubio is one of the best passers in the NBA, don’t be surprised if Woodson assigns Iman Shumpert -lockdown specialist- the task of corralling the young Spanish point guard. The Knicks are guilty of becoming stagnant on the offensive side of the ball so if the Wolves come with the same level of help defense as they did against OKC, the Knicks won’t have the luxury of passing the ball to Melo and expect a blind double-team to come. The blue and orange must have solid ball movement; they must make the opponent work defensively.

 

On behalf of Timberpups I’d like the thank Rushie for contributing to the preview for this game.

Here’s a few notes of my own.

J.R. Smith will not play for the Knicks tonight, he’s serving a five-game suspension after violating the league’s substance abuse policy during the offseason.

Minnesota has scored 72 points, combined, in the first quarter of games this season and 159 in the first halves. The Wolves have yet to work out all the kinks to Adelman’s offense, there’s room to improve in terms of efficiency but it’s certain — these guys can score in bunches. They’ve scored 72 first quarter points in the first two games, combined but the Knicks have only allowed 34, also through two games, in the opening quarter. The Wolves scored 34 against OKC on Friday night.

It’s going to be two strengths battling tonight, something’s gotta give.

As a reminder, if you’re interested in more Knicks news go to TheKnicksWall.com and follow Rushie on Twitter (@AyoRush).

Keep in touch with us via @thetimberpupsblog and be sure to comment in tonight’s forum, we’ll post the link in a tweet later.

 

Zach.