Q: How do you describe the reaction of your franchise after the Kevin Garnett trade?
Making the decision of trading a player of the caliber of Kevin Garnett, we decided to rebuild and the way we rebuild normally is to do it with youth, a lot of good young players, draft picks and salary cap flexibility; and this trade presented all three of those things for us. The face of our franchise has changed. With any superstar that moves on, all the great ones, you have to start over and that is kind of where we are at, but we feel we got the ability with the young players that we have here that the next two or three years you have two or three of these young players that emerge and rise to the top and now you have a cornerstone from which to build upon and put yourself in a position to be back and competitive.
Q: Could it be easier for the Timberwolves next year without the pressure to be a playoff team?
A: No, there is pressure every year. Whether it is the San Antonio Spurs or one of the worst teams, in your business you still have to win. That is the main focus I think we have to have with our young kids. There are going to be problems presented from the media with a lot of doubts on how well they can play this year and my message to them is that youth doesnít give us an excuse for competing. And we have got enough talent and it is going be more of a team-type thing of different individuals. We have enough talent with the young guys and coming together, if we can play together as a team we can be competitive every night.
Q: The Efes Pilsen coach is an American, David Blatt. He was also the coach of the Russian National Team that caught everyone by surprise in the EuroBasket 07 and won the cup. Do you expect Blatt to surprise everyone again and lead Efes Pilsen to a victory against Minnesota?
A: He has obviously done a great job, not only in the Euro Championship, but also over the course of his career overseas in professional basketball. IĎve met Dave and he is a fine coach that has the ability to bring people together. He got Andrei Kirilenko and his group of players very competitive right from the beginning. I think this is an opportunity for the Turkish team to look forward to playing against an NBA team. It doesnít happen a lot and I am sure this is something there are gonna be looking forward to. Based on that, I got 11 new guys on my team, this is going be as we do in America in our exhibition games, trying to figure out who can play, who canít and not necessarily have a team set up already especially this early as it is going to be our first exhibition game after practicing for five or six days. I will probably play 13, 14, 15 guys in a manner to really evaluate my team rather than really go out to play that but I am sure they are looking at it a little bit differently.
Q: What advice have you had from any other NBA coaches about dealing with the stress of the job?
A: Youíve got to delegate. I talked to all of these coaches that I have been involved with. You are never as good as you think you are and you are never as bad as you think you are; you are somewhere always in between. If you keep that idea when you're riding high and winning, that keeps you kind of humble and hungry. You know when you go on a downturn it's the same type of thing: You're not as bad as you are, you're one step away from turning around. Have an overall picture more than living day to day, game to game. If you live game to game in our business, given that we play over 100 games a year, you are going to get burned out. Keep the long game plan that you have and not look at it day to day. That will help you survive in this league.
Q: What can we expect from the Timberwolves this season? Are the playoffs out of reach?
A: As I told these young kids, we made the different trades and coming over, there is going to be a lot of people saying that we donít have a chance and that we will never reach our full potential. We are going to play as well as we can with that being our goal, making it to the playoffs. Russia was not supposed to win the Euro Championship and what did they do, they won! Last year, Golden State sneaked in to the playoffs and upset Dallas in the first round. Itís just a matter of getting in and then anything can happen. But we have to make sure we are looking at the overall picture. This is a team built for the next year or two, a team being built for the future but there is no question about it, we are going in to make the playoffs!
Q: The newspapers criticized Kevin McHale. Do you think the critics are too harsh?
A: We can all argue the different choices that are made. This is part of our business. There will be guys second-guessing me every game. Why did Coach Wittman substitute this guy for? Why did he play this guy? That is the nature of our business and Mr McHale knows that. He has been in this business for a long time as player and now as a GM. He understands that when things turn bad, you are going to get a lot of criticism and when things turn good, you are going to have a lot of praise. If we wake up every morning reading the Internet and looking at all the negative things that were said about the decisions we took, we are not going to last very long.
Q: Dirk Nowitzki had a great Euro Tournament. Do you think he can repeat as the MVP next year?
A: No question about it, once you have done it! I think that is the hardest part, doing it. Last year, Dirk had a fabulous season. Obviously, it was a disappointment of being upset in the first round but that canít take away anything from what he did throughout the year. As a player, once you reach that level, showing that you can be the best in the league in any given year then I think you can say more easily that you can do it again. I expect Dirk to come in and play at a high level, now he believes he can do it because he has done it. Steve Nash, a couple of years before that, came in and won the MVP title, the year after was even better for him and he went back to back. Dirk is a very confident player, one, I am sure, who took a time-off during this summer to digest the things that went wrong in the playoffs so he could come back hungry.
Q: What do you think of the European game and have you studied the game of your opponent the Efes Pilsen?
A: I donít know a lot about the team. Like I said, I know more about the coach. But we are not really going to worry about the makeup of their team; more about the makeup of mine because I have got so many new players on this team and I got to find out who can play with who and that will be really be more of that type of philosophy, going to the game versus the Turkish team. And even in London, when we are going to meet Boston, everybody is going to build that up as a huge game because of the trade of Kevin Garnett to Boston but I canít look at it that way. I wouldnít give myself and my teammates a service if I am going to play five guys to win the game when Iíve got to figure out the makeup of my team. Thatís what exhibition games and practice are for.
Q: Do you think a player on the roster could be the new leader on this team?
A: I think it is going to be a leader by committee early on. Leaders are born and not made. I truly believe that. Guys that have leadership qualities, you can always improve those. But we gonna find out. Randy Foye was a rookie last year. Kevin Garnett being the leader of this team, he followed and now we donít have that and that will emerge. I donít believe that you seek out somebody to do that. Somebody is gonna show me as we get started, his leadership abilities. There are different kinds of leaders: leaders by example, leaders by word of mouth. I think that is going to emerge as time goes on and as these young kids careers go on. This year could be a situation where I probably might have to be the leader of this team from a standpoint of showing how we are going to do it, why we are doing it this way and trying to nurture some of these guys that have leadership qualities to step forward as time goes by.