Column: The 2013-14 Wheels Are In Motion

The 2013-14 Wheels Are In Motion

This is the most active time of the year for movement and mobility around the NBA. When it comes to free agents moving around and teams trying to restructure their rosters, it really doesn’t get much more entertaining than the first week of July. And although no deals can be finalized until Wednesday, it’s a certainty teams are doing all they can to try and take the next step for 2013-14 right now.

And unfortunately sometimes with change it is necessary to part ways with players who were on the roster last season. That was the case on Sunday as the Timberwolves waived Greg Stiemsma and Mickael Gelabale, opening up two roster spots as we head toward next season.

The duo only spent one year in Minnesota—Stiemsma a free agent signing last summer and Gelabale a 10-day contract guy who joined the team in January and remained here through the end of the season—but they both left an impact primarily for the types of teammates they were in the locker room. Neither put up eye-popping numbers, but they were serviceable role players that stayed healthy during a season of incredibly injury turmoil.

Stiemsma initially signed with Minnesota after having earned a spot in the league with the Celtics the year before. The University of Wisconsin product went undrafted and bounced around the D-League and overseas before getting his shot with Boston, and that opened up a chance for him to play back home in the Midwest this past season. With Minnesota battling injuries, Stiemsma stepped into whichever role was needed—off the bench or in the starting lineup. Gelabale, who hadn’t played in the NBA since 2007-08, had his own trek overseas before finally getting another chance to come back to the league.

In the locker room, both embody the type of team-first players that the Wolves have worked toward compiling over the past two seasons.

As the wheel of NBA opportunities continues to turn, these guys will now look for what is the next step in their careers in the league. The Wolves will do the same.

It’s really a chess match this time of year for all NBA clubs. They’re trying to maneuver themselves into positions where they can add just the right piece or two that can boost themselves either from the outside into the playoffs or from a playoff team into championship contention. If you’re a team like the Timberwolves, you’re in a unique spot. By most accounts, last year the Wolves were a playoff team. The trouble is you can’t account for injuries. Now, Minnesota is dealing with a lost year behind them and the hope of moving forward and taking an even bigger jump than before.

The playoffs continue to be the expectation, but is the eighth seed enough? Can this team make a jump from 31 wins into the middle of the playoff pack? Is there a combination of players and roster moves that can complement the core of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio enough to make the leap? Or will another team sneak in and make better moves to leapfrog the pack?

This is an exciting time of year, because we don’t know what lies ahead. All we know is that we’re recycling the process and starting over. The NBA Finals capped off 2012-13. Last month’s NBA Draft and the July 1 opening of free agency started the wheels in motion once again. Now we’ve got Summer League opening up next weekend, followed by continued offseason moves and players beginning to report back in September. Before you know, Training Camp will be here in October. It’s kind of a don’t blink thing, because the NBA really never slows down. There’s always something going on that builds toward the excitement of what lies ahead.

As Minnesota continues to tinker with its roster and gets set for another season, it’s time to start getting excited.

The wheels are in motion toward 2013-14.

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