Practice Report | Oct. 16, 2013

Practice Report | Oct. 16, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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The Wolves are going through a delicate balance of evaluation and building on-court chemistry right now, and it’s happening at a pretty ideal time in their schedule. With a full seven days off between Saturday’s loss to Toronto and this weekend’s trip to Montreal to face the Boston Celtics, Minnesota is using this time for reflection as well as final roster preparations.

As of Wednesday, every minute on the court counts toward making final decisions—that includes practice time. Coach Rick Adelman has made it clear that this decision on who will make the roster’s final 15 is still very much up for grabs, and it will take every bit of time on the court between now and Sunday to make a final decision.

“I don’t think we’ll make any [cuts] before the Boston game,” Adelman said on Wednesday. “After that, I’m not sure. I don’t see us doing anything right now.”

Adelman said from a transactions standpoint, the Wolves will be at the very least keeping their eyes open for potential moves. Adelman said President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders is constantly talking with people around the league to see what options are available. It’s a fluid evaluation process trying to figure out what makes the most sense for this team’s final look. The final decisions will take place sometime next week, and the team’s makeup will be set by the regular season opener on Oct. 30.

That brings us to the other part of this equation. In order to get the team working in unison, the Wolves are trying to learn from their play on Saturday against the Raptors that left Adelman visibly upset.

Minnesota, on paper, has a team that looks like a playoff contender. But in order for that to happen, the Wolves need to have their starting five playing as one at both ends of the floor. Shooting guard Kevin Martin missed time last week with a sore right Achilles tendon, but he’s back this week and is helping get this starting five get used to one another. Everyone needs to be involved in order to start playing as a well-oiled machine, and the Wolves are feeling like that type of learning and progress is happening this week.

“Basically, we’re trying to build great chemistry here,” Ricky Rubio said. “We’re in the right way, and this week it’s going to help us build that and get everybody together and try to reach what we want to do.”

He’s talking about being able to help one another defensively as well as make the right cuts and the right decisions on the offensive end. Rubio admits the team wasn’t accomplishing those goals last week. Perhaps it took those four games in six days, followed by lengthy film sessions, to see how the team can take its next step.

“Maybe we were thinking the time wasn’t yet, but like coach said we are not a good, good team yet,” Rubio said. “I hope one day that we have that kind of team, but right now we have to work since Day 1 and try to build chemistry. And especially on defense, because I think to win games we have to be good on defense.”

Muhammad Continuing To Take Steps

Wolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad is learning day by day. He’s playing a combination of the 2 and the 3, and he’s showcasing the value he can bring to this team by staying focused, working hard and crashing the offensive glass like crazy.

All the while, he’s taking this role as a rookie very seriously. Since the beginning of camp, he’s paid his dues and learned how to approach the game at this level.

The biggest transition?

“I would say you can’t take plays off,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys who are better, that’s the one thing, you just can’t take plays off when you’ve got guys like Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin. Guys who move great without the ball. I’ve just got to improve on my defense and be better as a player.”

Muhammad said he understands he has to build his way up each day—work his way up from the bottom of the totem pole as a rookie. He’s working on that every day.

Adelman said Muhammad is certainly crashing the offensive boards, but he’s got to continuously learn what his strengths are. He competes hard, which is a good first step.

“It’s just a process,” Adelman said. “It’s a process they have to go through. They’ve got to figure it out.”

Quick Hits

  • Rubio admitted while a lot of his fellow starters have been together for two full years, injuries have impeded their ability to play together. This year, it’s like getting familiar with each other all over again: “It looks like I didn’t play with Kevin last year at all, and it seems like it reminds me in the first year when I came here and played with Kevin and I had so much fun. He’s great. He makes me look good, so that’s good for me, good for him, good for the team. We’re going to try to build that chemistry again and try to win games.”

  • Derrick Williams said he’s getting more comfortable finishing at the rim. It’s a process that he’s continuing to learn, but in the past he’s been too focused on initiating contact instead of finishing the play. “I’ve really been looking at film a lot this summer, and it’s really been helping. I’ve gotten a lot of and-1s this season, and I’m looking to continue that. Get the 2 points for sure and knock down the free throw.”

  • Muhammad said the past few days has felt like a second Training Camp: “Oh, it definitely does. These past two days have been really hard on us. It really was like a training camp. I thought we got better as a team.”

  • The Wolves had their annual media training after Wednesday's practice, prompting Rubio to joke around with reporters when he came out of the meeting. What did he learn? "I have to smile...I have to look at you," Rubio said, joking.

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