Reunited and It Feels so ’Different’
Posted Oct 10 2007 4:45AM
EUROPE LIVE NOTEBOOK - Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves
LONDON, Oct. 9, 2007 -- The Timberwolves and Celtics are sharing the same hotel out on the East End of London, across the Thames River from the state-of-the-art O2 Arena, where they will play a preseason exhibition in front of a sold-out crowd on Wednesday and for the second straight day, the teams shared the court for a portion of the practice session.
As Boston emerged from the locker room late to the media session, Minnesota had already started to change out of its sweats and into its shorts and sneakers to get in a final tune-up practice before the game.
If not for the clashing blue and green jerseys each contingent was wearing, you would have thought you were looking at one big team. Look to the right and there is Kevin Garnett giving Kevin McHale a warm hug. Look to the left and Brian Scalabrine is chiding Al Jefferson and asking him when he's going to see him breakout some left-handed moves on the block. Look straight ahead and Mark Blount is catching up with some of the Celtics' staff.
There is more history between the two squads than between LC and Jason on The Hills.
Everybody knows about the five-for-one deal on July 31 that sent KG to Boston after spending the first 12 years of his career in Minnesota and ended the frustration of dealing with traffic associated with the "Big Dig" for Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff, but the ties run even deeper down the roster. Ricky Davis spent 2003-05 with the Celtics and Mark Blount played 338 games over six seasons in Beantown before both were traded to Minny as part of a seven-player deal on Jan. 26, 2006 that sent Wally Szczerbiak to the Celtics.
"It's different that we're on different sides now," Gomes said. "We're all staying in the same hotel and we're seeing each other coming on the elevator, getting off the elevator, going to meals ... it's just different that we were once all together representing the same team."
Twenty-Five Seconds Left
Boston ended its practice on Tuesday by simulating a game situation. The simulation started with The White team (Eddie House, Leon Powe, James Posey, Dahntay Jones and Brian Scalabrine) tied with the Green team (Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce) with 25 seconds remaining on the clock and House at the line shooting one free throw.
House made the freebie to put White up one. Green brought the ball in and Garnett set a screen for Allen on the foul line extended. Allen curled around the screen and caught a pass as he headed to the hoop for a layup. A White player stepped in to try to draw the offensive foul, but a block was called and Allen went to the line and hit two free throws to put Green up one with 15 seconds left.
Timeout was called. Doc Rivers watched from the sidelines as one assistant coach took each of the teams and prepared them to finish out the simulation.
White inbounded the ball from halfcourt and worked the ball into the post. Nothing was available so the ball was kicked out back to Scalabrine in the high post who jumped in the air, appearing ready to shoot it before thinking better of it when Ray Allen came closing out. Scalabrine swung the ball to the opposite wing and Dahntay Jones calmly canned a jumper to give White a one point advantage with three seconds left.
After another timeout, Allen inbounded the ball to Pierce on the left wing who put the ball on the floor and pulled up from 18 feet for a fadeaway at the buzzer that hit off the back rim and practice was over.
Rivers emphasized the mental toughness the drill requires before the team got together for the final huddle of the day, shouting "1...2...3...Mbutu!" which Garnett described to one of our NBA TV producers as meaning "the whole thing" and pointing to his clenched fist.
Ball Movement is Fun
In the Celtics win over the Raptors on Saturday, Boston had assists on 20 of its 35 field goals (57 percent) which isn't a staggering number, but you could tell by watching the game that passing the ball is a high priority for the team this season to keep everyone involved and make it hard on the defense.
"Guys like Eddie House, Rondo even Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are going to have easier shots," Garnett said. "I think it's my job to initiate and put pressure on the defense but then get the ball to those guys when they're open."
"I'm vibrant, the game is fun and I'm very unselfish," Garnett continued. "I know how to pass, I'm willing to pass."
"If you're double-teamed and there is an open man, the correct play is to pass to the open man," Pierce added. "There isn't a set play where we pass the ball from Kevin to Paul to Ray, it's just the natural basketball instincts taking over and having confidence in one another."
Finding their Spot
Minnesota has 17 players in camp and with only 15 spots available, competition has been fierce. Add in the fact that this a very different roster from a year ago thanks to the Boston trade and the rotation is anybody's guess. In their 84-81 win over Efes Pillsen on Saturday, only 11 Timberwolves saw playing time.
Foye and Davis started in the backcourt, Gomes and Jefferson were the starting forwards and Blount was the starting center.
After that, head coach Randy Wittman played two rookies (Corey Brewer and Chris Richard), two veterans (Juwan Howard and Greg Buckner) and two young guys (Sebastian Telfair and Gerald Green).
Keep an eye out to see how the rotation could change on Wednesday and if Theo Ratliff, Rashad McCants, Mark Madsen, Marko Jaric, Craig Smith or John Edwards get on the court.
A Vet's Perspective
Minnesota center Theo Ratliff is entering his 13th NBA season with his sixth different team, so training camp is old hat to him. The log jam of young talent that will be competing for playing time doesn't phase him.
"That's what camp is all about - you come in vying for a spot," Ratliff said. "You have a lot of young guys with a lot of potential behind their names who have to show and prove that they're worthy of being the starter on the team or being a go-to guy and establishing their reputation in the league."
Ratliff continued to say that what he looks for in a young player is his understanding of the nuances of the game and how he recognizes situations.
"Everybody is going to give effort, but it's the knowing of situations on the floor and how to handle those situations."
A Rookie's Perspective
Speaking of a young player vying for a spot, the Timberwolves' Corey Brewer, the No. 7 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, hasn't been through an NBA training camp before so all he knows is the Europe Live experience.
"It's been different because we've been overseas with the time difference and all that, so the first few days were a little hard trying to get my body used to the time, but other than that it's been good getting to know everybody," Brewer said.
"In college you have to go to class and do all that stuff, here it's just all basketball. You have to focus and you have to learn so much in a little time because we practiced for four days and then we had a game, and now we have another game. You just got to learn, take everything in and be ready to go."
While Brewer already made his preseason debut, netting two points, three rebounds and four fouls against Efes Pilsen, Wednesday will be his first preseason game against an NBA team.
"It's going to be a lot of fun, especially going against [Boston's] caliber of players. You watch them growing up and now you get to play against them."
International Nova Nation
Villanova University has put its stamp on Europe Live as Randy Foye joined the Timberwolves in Turkey and England, Kyle Lowry is with the Grizzlies in Spain and Allan Ray played for Virtus Lottomatica Roma against the Raptors in Italy. Throw in former VU standout Ed Pickney, who left is coaching gig with his alma matter for a job as an assitant coach in Minnesota this summer and you have a pretty strong Wildcat representation.
"It's fun," Foye said. "When I look at [Pickney] working with the big men it just reminds me at being at Villanova sometimes.
"All of us are over here. Mike Nardi is in Italy and Will Sheridan is in Italy too, so the whole starting five is over here in Europe this fall."
Best Answer of the Day
When a member of the international media came up to Paul Pierce and asked Pierce who the team belongs to now that All-Stars Garnett and Allen have entered into the fold, Pierce responded:
"Whose team is it? This is Wyc Grousbeck's team."
Very clever. Grousbeck is the owner of the Celtics.