Category: News/Rumors

Who Coaches the Timberwolves Next Season?


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It’s not uncommon in sports to have the coach become the scapegoat for a disappointing season. The Timberwolves’ Rick Adelman has been no exception with fans. Some have been frustrated by his rotations and questioning his in-game adjustments. There has been speculation that Adelman may walk away from the job after this season after his wife struggled with health issues last season. Consequently, this has led to even more speculation about who would replace him as coach in such an instance.

The first name that many fans have been drawn to is Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg has strong ties to the Timberwolves organization as both a player and management. Given the team’s history for bringing in former associate’s, this makes sense. My only question is would the grass be greener for Fred in the NBA? I’m not so sure. He has built a successful program in Ames, Iowa and was handsomely rewarded by signing an extension worth 10 years, $20 million. On top of that, college coaches have an iffy track record in transitioning in the NBA. It’s really an entirely different animal, but Hoiberg may still be able to reach professional players considering he was one not too long ago.

Secondly, there’s Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. This is one that I personally doubt would happen. I mean, Tom Izzo is the face of the Spartans’ program with a great reputation and financial situation. Unless he’s yearning for the challenge to prove to him that he could be a successful coach at both levels, it’s hard to see.

Then there has been Jeff Van Gundy, who probably hasn’t coached since I was in elementary school. Van Gundy is apparently close with Flip Saunders, so there’s that, but Van Gundy has had a steady, less-stressful gig as a broadcaster, which no former player or coach would gladly choose to give up. After years of being off the court would he want to jump back in now? Is this the right situation for him to return? None of these questions I really have the answer to, but Stan Van Gundy, his brother, would be the more likely replacement than Jeff. Though SVG would require more shooters as he had in Orlando, but may do wonders for this defense. SVG is still a good coach who would probably be coaching had he not been fired by Dwight Howard. I mean, the Magic.

Finally, there’s Saunders himself who is the likeliest candidate at this point. Saunders has had the itch ever since he left Washington and was rumored for the Gophers coaching job before Richard Pitino was hired on. Additionally, he is close to Taylor and this way they wouldn’t have to pay someone else to do it.

Of course some of this will likely come down to Kevin Love. Love’s opinion likely matters and that’s one of the reasons besides being a good coach the team won’t push Adelman out the door. We don’t even know for sure if Adelman is leaving as nothing has been voiced publicly by any party involved. This conversation may very well wind up being for nothing, but this is kinda where we’re at now.

Reasons for the Timberwolves’ variable attendance trends


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Stumbling around the internet can lead you to some interesting places, especially on Basketball-Reference. While randomly looking at the roster of the 2009-’10 Timberwolves, I noticed they were 24th in attendance. Wait a minute. That is a few spots higher than this team and they’ve already won twice as many games as this team. So, I tracked it for the next few seasons and this is what I found.

2009-’10: 24th in attendance; 15-67 record

2010-’11: 24th; 17-65

2011-’12: 15th; 26-40

2012-’13: 20th; 31-51

2013-’14: 28th; 33-32

Now, we have been hearing for three years that the next year is the year that the team puts it all together and makes their triumphant return to the playoffs. Yet, that year hasn’t come yet, so there is the wait of those broken promises. On the other hand, the only two teams that are below them in total attendance are the Hawks and the Bucks. On the other-other hand, the two teams immediately ahead of them are the Sixers and Bobcats; one of which is the co-worst team in the league and the other is a playoff team.

Per ESPN.com, the Timberwolves are 26th at home in terms of average fans per game at home with 14,769, filling 76.3 percent of Target Center. Guess where the disparity is? Hint: it’s not at home. Yes, on the road the Timberwolves are the league’s 11th best draw on average with an average draw of 17,414 and fill the arena to 90.1 percent.

Why the disparity? I mean, this winter was below zero all the time. What else was there for people to do? It’s not like this team is bad, so why are they drawing less than were in years past? There could be a couple of reasons:

1) Raised ticket prices. Some people have told me that the price tag for their seats has risen as much as 600%, which is a lot. And while the Knicks not only are better in attendance, but the cost of living in New York is certainly higher and without looking at the average state salary, the average income is probably higher. Same for the Celtics, who field a far worse team on a nightly basis, but also have a far more loyal fanbase. That’s not a slight, either; few fanbases can compete with theirs.

2) It’s one thing to price-out your more loyal fans, but like I said above, people have been hearing for years now that they are going to get back to glory and that hasn’t materialized. Minnesotans as sports fans are nowhere near loyal enough to tolerate that, especially with raised prices. Some of these things, like last year’s injuries and Ricky Rubio’s ACL the year before were out of their control, but the product has steadily improved each year. There’s no reason to think they won’t get there, but this team has shot themselves in the foot too many times in late game situations– which is all the more fatal in the Western Conference –to get there this year. Next season, when Flip Saunders has more time to clear out the Kahn guys and vamp up the roster, the team should be even better. I mean, it’s not his fault Phoenix, Portland, and to an extent, Dallas, came out of nowhere to snap up those 4-8 seeds this season.

So, it’s certainly understandable that people are impatient and disappointed, but it is what it is, really. They’re better, but not better enough yet. Still, nearly 3,000 fans per game seems like a lot even with those factors. Fans in other NBA cities are turning out to see the Timberwolves. Despite not being a strong shooting team, they’re still fun to watch offensively. It’s a treat to get to watch Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic do work down low, and Rubio being a triple-double threats on most nights isn’t a bad thing either.

Hearing from Timberwolves fans it sounds like it’s a combination of raised ticket prices and their own disappointment that is holding them back from going more. Yet, the product is undeniably better than in year’s past and fans in other NBA cities are recognizing this more– a lot more. The late-game failures and questioning Rick Adelman’s rotations have been hot-button issues amongst fans this season, but really? Does it all matter that much? I could see a slight drop off in attendance with raised prices, but all the way down to 28th feels like a lot.

I tried finding data for NBA season ticket prices this season, but got last year’s, and the Timberwolves were 24th. Ticket prices did go up again this season, but the value of the ticket did too rise considering the roster’s improvements and I highly doubt they rose them enough (Or were the only team to raise them) to make that much of a difference. Basically, ticket price should matter, but to go from 20th to 28th for a team that is more talented and healthy? Kind of a lot, though we are far removed from the days of buying $8 seats on StubHub. Besides, as of last year, 23 fanbases were paying more for their seats and they’re still turning out more for games.

Maybe it’s just the fans and the way Minnesota sports fans seem to be wired. Being around them all my life, they tend to be fairweather and fickle and not afraid to make teams earn their business. For instance, I recall buying 10 dollar tickets for Twins games walking up to the Dome five minutes before the game, and now they still pack Target Field for a 90-100 loss team. Yet, we’re seeing like with the Wild and their stupid sell-out streak that they will begin to care less-and-less once they realized that the product isn’t worth their time despite the shiny new venue. Even everyone becomes a Vikings fan when the team is 12-4, but look suspiciously like Packers fans like when the team is 4-12.

As for the Timberwolves, they still have a lot to prove. Maybe they have a reputation in the city to overcome and they haven’t proven that image to be false yet. What if they had a shiny new venue that caused them to have to put a 20-win team on the court? Would that do the trick? Because fans from all over the country are seeing value in this team, but the hometown fans sure don’t seem to.

Flip Saunders talks with Colin Cowherd


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Flip Saunders

Flip Saunders appeared on ESPN radio and spoke with Colin Cowherd about his transition from coach to a front-office position, other teams’ interest in Kevin Love, and how well he slept in his days as an analyst.

Click this link to be taken to the interview. 

Cowherd starts things off cordially by asking Saunders about the difference between being a coach, and working in the front office of an NBA franchise.

You sit up in the stands and you really have no control of what your players do on the floor. It’s then the coaches decision; who to play, what plays to run, and how to guard people, defensively. That becomes the most frustrating thing when switching to the front office.”

“When you’re a coach, you live in the present, you live for today. When you’re in the front office; you live for today but you also have to have an eye on the future.

Not long after than Cowherd got to the good stuff.  He went on to ask Saunders whether he feels “more empowered, or powerless, with a star player.” Needless to mention that Cowherd asked specifically about the Kevin Love situation, you know — that thing.

“Well, I laugh. One, having had, conversations with Kevin –maybe– every week. Having a pretty good relationship with him, you understand where he’s at. There are many things that have been said about the, “Glamour Situations,” but, whereas Kevin said (referring to his recent quote in GQ Magazine); it might not be so glamourous.

“You know good players are going to be wanted. That really comes with the business, so, when you have a player that’s wanted by people; people are going to talk about them because that’s what goes on.”

Cowherd continues talking about Love by asking Saunders; “why hasn’t he (Love) produced more wins with his unbelievable production?”

Kevin has been with a lot of very young players, he’s still only 24-years old. That’s what people don’t understand. He’s still a very young, and talented player. The other thing is, it’s very difficult for a player like Kevin, and the way he plays.

He’s a big player, even though he does shoot the three. Many times players don’t have the ability to carry teams down the stretch. He relies a lot of players, either getting him the ball for a three-point shot or getting him the ball into the post.

So, other players many times, in the fourth-quarter have to help him makes plays. We’re a young team, we’re gettin’ guys that are learning to do that. That’s going to be part of the transition for (Ricky) Rubio.

The final sentence sounded as if it were an admission of confidence. Only speculating, but it sounded as if Saunders believes Rubio is the point guard of the Wolves future. At no point did it seem like Cowherd was insinuating anything Rubio’s way and it was the first mention of his name in the interview.

Two days ago, Minnesota Republican State Representative, Pat Garofalo, tweeted out a controversial opinion. Cowherd asked Saunders about how he deals with those who negatively perceive the NBA without such warrant.

You have to educate the people. When people are educated on what our players do, and how active they are in their community. (Even) Individually, on their own — I know a lot of players go out to hostels and get involved with St. Jude (A Childrens Hospital), that’s a big thing for us this month.

You just have to educate the people and understand that they have to realize that, many times, perception is not reality. We’ve got players that do a lot of positive things in the community.

Cowherd ended the interview by asking if Saunders slept better; as a coach, or as a president, of an NBA team?

As an ESPN Analyst. That’s when we sleep the best. When I can talk to you in the morning and we can talk basketball.

That would be the life, wouldn’t it? Again, you’re able to listen to the interview via ESPN, just click this link.

Kevin Love’s Makeover


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Face-off with Kevin Love
Face-off with Kevin Love

GQ recently did a profile on the Timberwolves’ own Kevin Love. Included was a suave haircut, a beard trimming and a dapper new suit. Gotta admit it, the man cleans up swell.

But as part of his profile, Love sat down for an interview with GQ. Here’s a piece of what Love had to say to the magazine:

“People think it’s so far-fetched that I would stay in Minnesota,” Love told GQ. “And I’m not s——- on the Lakers, but we have the better team, the better foundation. I’m having fun.”

There’s no need to dig too deep into his comments because a lot can change between now and the summer of 2015, when Love’s contract could be up. And he’s not far off by any means. The Lakers are pretty dismal, there’s no lying about that. And the Wolves, despite their record being shy of what they wished coming into the season, are indeed a “fun” team to be a part of. Love’s obviously going through the emotions during the up-and-down season. He’s vaulted his way into race for third place for MVP (First and second is all but locked up, obviously). He’s clearly having the best season of his career, and he’s made huge strides in terms of leadership and intangibles. All in all, Love is becoming a bonafide superstar before our eyes, and it’s about time we give him that respect he deserves.

So don’t think too much about what Love said other than that the kind words are awfully humbling. But Love is doing and saying all of the right things at the exact right time.

Update: Kevin Martin’s Finger


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Per Darren Wolfson:

Good news for the Wolves there. Would’ve been a serious blow to lose Martin with a boo boo to his thumb to go along with Love’s ailments (Which will sideline him for tonight) and Pekovic’s current injury, which sidelines him until after the All-Star break as well. At this point, any luck is good luck for the Wolves.

Nikola Pekovic out 7-10 days with bursitis


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Nikola Pekovic getting an MRI is a nerve-wracking bit of news, and according to the Wolves PR team, the results weren’t great. Not as bad as they could have been, but not as good either.

From the Timberwolves PR Twitter account:

“The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that Nikola Pekovic underwent an MRI…that revealed bursitis in his right ankle. Pekovic will be withheld from basketball activities for 7-10 days and will be reevaluated at that time. He will be sidelined indefinitely.

This is both bad news and good news, and we’ll start with the bad because everyone likes a happy ending. Er…you know what I mean.

The bad news is that Minnesota doesn’t have a whole lot of breathing room. Continue reading

BREAKING: Derrick Williams traded to Sacramento


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The inevitable dealing of Derrick Williams is now done, this according to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ PR Twitter account:

For more insight about the trade and what Derek thinks (As well as myself), check out this piece or hit us up on Twitter @Howlintwolf and @DerekJamesNBA.

What Luc Mbah a Moute Could Bring to the Timberwolves


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Photo: NBA

If you’ve been on Twitter today and are a Timberwolves fan you’ve undoubtedly heard the Derrick Williams trade rumors. Apparently they spread locally and something was supposed to go down today, and it didn’t Then ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped these nuggets and some validity was added to the speculation:

 

By dealing Williams for Luc Mbah a Moute, the Timberwolves would get the consistent perimeter defender that the lost when Andrei Kirilenko headed east for Brooklyn. Mbah a Moute, averaging just 4.4 points per game, will never be accused of being a great scorer, but will score in the ways that Williams scored best: within the flow of the offense as a cutter/spot-up guy. In fact, MySynergySports.com  says that he has been above average in those categories so far this season.

Mbah a Moute has been damn-near shutdown on the wing so far, holding opponents to just 39.5 percent shooting and a strong 0.84 points per possession. For comparison’s sake, Corey Brewer is averaging 0.80 ppp and with Mbah a Moute, the two would combine to give the Timberwolves another defender on the perimeter. Now, would you ever play the two together? Probably not too much since they could leave the Timberwolves with too few scoring options on the court, but that might depend on the lineup. However, if they did play them both, Mbah a Moute has shown to be a better spot up shooter and Brewer a better transition player, so that could work; the only way to really know is to try it out.

For Williams, he would get the change of scenery that he needs. After a relatively productive season when he was asked to step up, his minutes have fallen and so has his production. Or his production is down because of his minutes…either way. With a healthy Kevin Love and Dante Cunningham, the Timberwolves just don’t seem to have a use for Williams. And without a superstar at either forward spot, Williams will have the opportunity to earn all of the minutes that he desires. Which is good, because he is a useful player when he is used right and can even be a capable defender for spurts.

Williams’ production has been concerning, but that’s more of an effect of the lack of playing time so far. The last time Williams has been asked to play this few minutes was probably, well, never. So, the adjustment to 14 minutes per game has made it difficult for him to get a feel for the game and in rhythm. Williams’ percentages have fallen from respectable averages of around .430 percent and .333 percent from three last season, to .335 and .133 this season, despite taking fewer threes per 36 minutes. For Derrick, he’ll be in a more advantageous position competing with Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson for minutes instead of Love and Cunningham. If he can someday prove to be a serviceable small forward, he’ll only be competing with Travis Outlaw and John Salmons, so this will be a good opportunity for him.

From day one it seemed like it was going to be a challenge for Derrick Williams to succeed here. There was always one too many players in front of him and the Timberwolves tried to get him on the floor where and when they could. Last year, Cunningham joining the team immediately seemed like it was going to push him out of the rotation, and it did. This season, Chase Budinger came back and Robbie Hummel impressed Rick Adelman enough to earn his favor. Adelman spoke of Hummel on Media Day as a solid player that never tried to do anything that he couldn’t do, which was a fault of Derrick’s at times. This isn’t too say that Williams didn’t put in the work, because he absolutely did by losing weight, trying to work on his game and exerting effort on defense. This worked last season and Adelman praised him for it, but it appears this was always going to be his role on this team had everyone been healthy as they are now. It’s just where Derrick is at this point in his career, and he can have success in the NBA, but it just won’t be here.

As Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears reports, the deal will go through tomorrow pending physicals and Derrick Williams’ time as a Timberwolf will be done. Sacramento isn’t traditionally known as a hotbed for player development, but DeMarcus Cousins has made strides and Williams’ attitude and work ethic gives him as good of a chance for success as any. If this goes through, expect it to be a straight deal with no picks or cash being exchanged.

 

 

Updated Roster Moves


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The Minnesota Timberwolves made a few roster moves today. The first was exercising Ricky Rubio’s contract for another season. No surprise here. Rubio is the cornerstone point guard every team wishes they had and he’s only getting better.

The second was another exercised contract, this time for Derrick Williams. Shouldn’t be a surprising move for the sole reason that they had to do it. Williams’ future with the team is quite hazy but if they didn’t re-up on his deal, then trading him for anything valuable would be near impossible. Teams would low-ball Flip Saunders and co. to a degrading level. Now, even with a $6.3 million hit on the cap for the 2014-2015 season, Williams has more value to the Wolves than he does with an unknown contract situation hanging over his head. Plus, with the injury to Chase Budinger, I think Adelman is finally ready to lean heavily on Williams to fill in as the top forward off the bench or even step up as the starter at the small forward spot. We’ll see in just a few days what Adelman’s thinking.

Lastly, the Wolves cut their roster to 15 players by cutting ties with Chris Johnson, Lorenzo Brown and Othyus Jeffers. Johnson posted 3.9 points per game on 64-percent shooting and two rebounds per game in 30 games with the Wolves last season. With Ronny Turiaf and Gorgui Dieng asserting themselves as the back-up center options, Johnson was expendable. Surely a fun player to watch, though, and I hope he finds another opportunity in the NBA elsewhere. As for Brown and Jeffers, they both were long shots to make the squad from the get-go, so it’s no surprise to see them go.

With those cuts, the Wolves’ final 15-man roster shakes out like this:

  1. Kevin Love
  2. Ricky Rubio
  3. Nikola Pekovic
  4. Kevin Martin
  5. Corey Brewer
  6. Derrick Williams
  7. J.J. Barea
  8. Ronny Turiaf
  9. Chase Budinger
  10. Dante Cunningham
  11. Alexey Shved
  12. Shabazz Muhammad
  13. Gorgui Dieng
  14. A.J. Price
  15. Robbie Hummel

Just my own opinion, it’s one of the deeper teams we’ve seen in quite a few years, which helps warrant the preseason optimism for the upcoming season. They’re still young — quite young, in fact. But everyone on this 15-man roster can burn minutes in the NBA without screwing it up too much, if you know what I mean.

Rumor: Timberwolves Considering Bulls’ Teague


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Today, The Chicago Tribune reported that the Timberwovles were possibly interested in trading for the Chicago Bulls’ Marquis Teague. As CBS Sports’ Eye on Basketball’s Matt Moore also noted, Teague has struggled with his execution in preseason, which does not make Bulls coach Tom Thibideau happy.

Teague is another point guard who would interest the Wolves as a third point guard behind Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea. The Timberwolves did bring in AJ Price but this tells me that they haven’t liked what they’ve seen from Price so far. And they would really need a point guard if they plan to move Shved to the off-guard spot and view second round pick Lorenzo Brown as more of the same.

As for Teague, he’s definitely an athlete, but struggled shooting everywhere. Seriously. He shot .381 percent from the floor; .174 from three, which didn’t stop him from taking two per game; and .563 from the free throw line. Even at Kentucky he was an average shooter at best, and on top of all of this he had an incredibly high turnover rate during his rookie season.

Teague was the 29th overall pick just a year ago, so his contract is guaranteed, but he is just 20 years old, so there may still be some hope for him to grow into a serviceable player someday. But, sheesh, AJ Price, you really can’t inspire enough confidence for the Timberwolves to not considering giving anything up for Teague?

That’s the other thing– what would they give up for him? Probably not too much. We’re talking a second rounder, probably, so it’s not like they’d be giving up anything of value.

This is really no big deal and probably just the Timberwolves doing their due dilligence. It’s actually really no big deal even if they do wind up making a move for Teague since he likely wouldn’t matter on a team with this depth and not in the project development business at the moment.