A Look Back At The Wolves' 2012 Summer League
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The 2012 Summer League is over, and the Timberwolves left Las Vegas with a 4-1 record and optimism about the strides taken during the week. Minnesota had been 2-8 overall in its previous two trips to Vegas in 2009 and 2010, but this year’s squad equipped with Wes Johnson, Derrick Williams and a collection of experienced players meshed together and picked made strides both in their own individual games and as a whole.
Here are a few final observations from Summer League:
Key to success:
According to co-head coaches David Adelman and Shawn Respert, the biggest reason for the team’s success was their ability to share the ball and play unselfishly. The main objective this week was to swing the ball and find the open man with the extra pass, and Minnesota was able to do that during their five games plus Wednesday’s scrimmage. With Summer League being essentially a job interview for many of these players, Adelman said sometimes individuals deviate from that team-first mentality with hopes of standing out. But this week, he said the Wolves worked together and the results were victories.
“I thought for the most part the group as a whole shared the ball, especially on the other end,” Adelman said. “They communicated, cared about each other, had each others’ backs. That’s all you can ask for in Summer League.”
Wes finds his scoring touch:
Wes Johnson was another player from last season who needed a little time in this year’s Summer League to work on his offensive game, and after four games in Vegas he showed the athleticism and potential that led to him being the fourth overall pick in 2010. Johnson averaged 20.5 points per game this week, not only driving to the basket with more consistency than he did last year but also producing from the perimeter. He shot 9-of-20 from 3-point range, and at times he took control of games himself. He scored 14 fourth quarter points Tuesday against Charlotte, then followed it up with 28 points the in his next game against the D-League Selects on Saturday.
Johnson said he’s simply going out and playing his game. He said he’s playing with confidence, and he looked the part this week.
“Just relaxed playing basketball,” Johnson said on Saturday. “It feels good for it to go in, so I’m just out there being assertive and relaxing when I’m shooting the ball.”
D-Will attacking the basket:
Second year forward Derrick Williams’ goal for 2012-13 is to be more consistent on the basketball court—during his rookie year, he’d show flashes of his potential by putting up big scoring numbers, but he’d also put together stretches of games where he wasn’t much of a factor. One part of his game that could change that inconsistency is showing more aggressiveness penetrating the lane. When he’s taking the ball to the hoop, Williams can use his athleticism to get more high percentage shots and also get to the foul line. He did that this week in Vegas, forcing the issue and getting to the stripe 57 times in five games. If he’s going to make a smooth transition to the small forward spot, consistency in that part of his game will be essential in the future.
Biggest Standout Performances: Luke Sikma & Kammron Taylor:
The two players who made the biggest impression through their play were forward Luke Sikma and guard Kammron Taylor. Sikma, son of Wolves assistant coach Jack Sikma, is a 6-foot-8 power forward out of the University of Portland who simply willed his way into more and more playing time. He started out playing about nine minutes per night, but through his work ethic and productivity he continued to earn minutes. In his final two games, Sikma played a combined 35 minutes, went 8-for-9 from the field for 16 points and collected 14 rebounds. He showed an innate rebounding ability for which he was known in college—he averaged 10.5 boards per game as a senior—and was consistently around the rim waiting for tip-ins on missed shots. He also made an impact setting solid screens for his teammates.
Taylor has played the past five seasons in Europe after a successful four-year career at the University of Wisconsin. The Minneapolis native played significant minutes at the point guard position this week, and when he was in he played a big role in helping the offense function. Over his final two games, he shot 9-for-18 with 26 points. Adelman called Taylor the surprise of the camp, comparing his game to a combination of Rafer Alston and Aaron Brooks—a knockdown shooter who gets the system. Adelman credited Taylor for keeping the Wolves on track during the win against Cleveland on Thursday.
Notable Veterans Make Impact:
The two oldest members of the Wolves’ Summer League roster really stepped up when called up on both for leadership and in the box score. Forward Mike Harris and guard Coby Karl were each brought in to provide steady guidance to a collection of young rookies, and both played a bit part in the team’s success.
Harris was a steady performer at power forward, finishing the week on a high note with a 22-point, 12-rebound effort against the Grizzlies. Adelman said it was no surprise to the coaching staff what Harris could provide to a team given he played for many of them in Houston, and he not only helped brought an understanding of the team’s offensive system but also played diverse rolls from game to game. Sometimes he would take on larger opponents defensively, and other times he’d move to the wing to give others a chance to get minutes inside.
“I think I did a pretty good job of being vocal,” Harris said. “There are points in time during a game where you know maybe guys are wearing out, so I’m trying to pick up the energy by kind of giving my advice here and there by being a little more familiar with the offense than most guys.”
Adelman said he expects Harris, who has played internationally in recent years, to get another shot at the NBA.
Karl brought a similar combination of leadership and production. Not only did he provide a 3-point threat—he finished 11-for-17 this week from behind the arc—but he also brought NBA experience and a solid grasp for running a team on the floor. Karl played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors between 2007 and 2010, and he said one thing he’s learned is how to help manage a team.
“It’s something I’ve developed over my professional career—I’ve never been too vocal, but I’ve learned the longer I play, the more I play, I do have information that can help a team,” Karl said. “So I try to instill that in my teammates and help guys get better and help win games.”
Karl said the biggest advice he can give to players is paying attention to detail. He played with Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher in L.A., and he cited both as being so very fundamentally sound. He said the little things make the difference in the long haul.
It was certainly noted by the Wolves’ coaching staff.
“He’s like a coach on the floor,” Adelman said after Monday’s win over the Clippers. “I might as well have bought a ticket and sat in the stands.”
Final Game Results
Monday, July 16: Wolves 73, Clippers 64
Tuesday, July 17: Bobcats 81, Wolves 78
Thursday, July 19: Wolves 78, Cavaliers 65
Saturday, July 21: Wolves 86, D-League Selects 78
Sunday, July 22: Wolves 97, Grizzlies 91
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.