Practice Report: Monday, Oct. 29, 2012
Web Editorial Associate
After a successful preseason slate where Minnesota led the league in several defensive categories—including holding opponents to a league-best 3 percent shooting from the field—the Timberwolves still insist that there is room for improvement on both ends of the court.
"I think we are still far from perfect defensively," Andrei Kirilenko said after Monday's practice. "We have had pretty good games during the preseason, and we all know a great offense makes it exciting. But only defense wins the game. We have to stick together with our team defense."
For coach Rick Adelman, defense is something that was a sore spot last year, and he is stressing team-wide improvement going into 2012-2013.
"The last 20 games, we weren't very good defensively," Adelman said. "We're trying to key in that this year. To have a chance to win, you have to be consistent defensively. That's what we've talked about since day one."
Around half the roster is new this year, but there are still plenty of Wolves that remember last season's lockout-shortened campaign--and they are grateful to have a normal preseason this time. Minnesota was only allowed two preseason games last year compared to this year's seven.
"Because of the preseason, we have almost four, five weeks to get ready—compared to last year, when we only got two weeks," center Nikola Pekovic said. “We have time every day to work on defensive stuff, and you can tell from the statistics. We are doing something good, and that's how you win—defensively. Like coach said many times, we need guys to step up; I know guys will. We have a great chemistry this year, and we're going to give 100 percent."
Added pressure without Love, Rubio?
With stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio out for an undefined first chunk of the regular season, Kirilenko spoke about the added pressure that may, or may not, be felt in their absence.
"All my life I've been feeling pressure," Kirilenko said with a smile. "Coming into the NBA as a young guy, you still feel pressure. You don't know what to expect, and it doesn't matter. You try to set up your mind every game the same: you have to win. You have to go on the floor, give your all, pass the ball, and everything falls into your hands."
Coach Adelman mentioned similar confidence when addressing J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour filling in for Rubio at point guard.
Those two guys are very important to us getting off to a good start," Adelman said. "Most importantly, it's how they defend. That's going to be the biggest thing. We play a lot of teams with quick guards, and they've got to maintain a presence defensively out there for us. But they went through a lot of that last year, and they know what they need to do."
"I think he can make that, but I think now he's real comfortable in the post, Adelman said. "He puts a real pressure on the other team just being out there, he puts pressure on everyone else.”