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Q&A: Wolves GM Milt Newton
Timberwolves.com's Mark Remme spoke with Wolves general manager Milt Newton after Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery. The Wolves stayed put and secured the No. 13 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft on June 26.
What were your thoughts on how the Lottery turned out tonight?
When you look at the odds and the amount of ping pong balls available to you, you’re thinking it’s going to go based on the number of balls you have in the lot, and it did do that. But in the back of your mind, you’re thinking it would be great to have the No. 1 pick. My mind started racing a little bit on the podium thinking, I hope we don’t get the No. 14 [If the Wolves had dropped to 14, they would’ve lost their pick to Phoenix].
Any surprises to you on who ended up in the top 3?
Not necessarily. I mean the only big surprise was the fact that Cleveland was able to get up in there, which they have frequently. But not so much excitement or surprises for the other teams.
Was it a unique feeling sharing the stage with Dr. J?
I had a brief conversation with Dr. J and I told him I met him three times before. I met him once when I was a little kid and we took a picture together. He was my favorite basketball player of all time. But at the same time he’s trying to get the same position in the lottery order as I was. So after we had our conversation, it was back to business.
What was this process like for you, and had you ever been part of the Lottery before?
I was supposed to be part of the process in Washington but they made a change at the last second and sent Ernie Grunfeld instead. It was a very harmless situation, a meet-and-greet reception where you get to see a lot of friends in the league that were there. Got to go up and meet a lot of people. And then everyone had to go to makeup because they said the bad thing on television is when you have a shine on your face. So I’m getting a dab here and a there and I said, ‘I don’t think I need this. I’m good the way I am.’ And they say, ‘Yes, you are but let’s get your forehead a little bit.’ [Laughs] It was funny, though. Then we came downstairs and were there for a little bit. It’s a little interesting on the set. I don’t know if Flip can attest to this, but they go live for about 20 seconds and then they cut away for two minutes for commercials. You’re thinking they drag this thing out, but they have bills to pay, too. When they started the process, it went pretty quick.
Any superstitions? Did you know Flip burned incense all over the office for good luck today?
Some of the guys sent me pictures and I responded to one of the guys, ‘Yeah, it’s all fun and games until the sprinkler system goes off.’ [Laughs] But hey, at the end of the day, I don’t believe in good luck charms. I have my faith and I just pray for the will of God to happen, whatever that might be. So I don’t have a rabbit’s foot or anything like that.
How important is this process of setting the Draft order and knowing which assets you have as a team?
Now that the process is over and basically I know we will be contacted by some teams with high picks or what they have to put into trades and things like that, so this is a process that helps facilitate the other parts of the process going forward. As we come up to the draft, we have to do our due diligence for the players we bring in for the workouts. We need to keep doing our background work to see if there’s anything that would prevent us from selecting them. But at this time, we know what the players can do, who they are, their strengths and their weaknesses.
What is your next step as an organization as you get set for Draft workouts and the Draft itself?
We’ve got camps starting out in L.A. over the weekend [the same camps for fringe first rounders and second rounders that Minnesota held in recent years]. They’re hosting that, so we’re going out there and looking at some second round players, and some of the agents have individual workouts also, so we’ll be out there as well.
What did you take away from the Draft Combine in Chicago?
There were a lot of top players that decided not to compete, which is what we want to see at the end of the day. But I think Chicago is getting to the point where the interview process is the most important part. We want to see them do the drills—the 5-on-5 and the competitive spirit—but the interview process is quite revealing and you get to know the guys and how they might react to tough, quick-thinking decisions on the court.
I’ve heard the Wolves asked prospects the question: “How many pennies are in a million dollars?” Is that an isolated question to see how quickly they can process something unexpected?
That’s exactly why we asked a question like that, because you’re having a conversation and we’re asking things like, ‘Tell me about your background, your family,’ and then you throw a question in there out of left field, which is where you look at basketball games. You’ll have a lot of things happen spur the moment. Can you process it? Some guys, it’s out of left field and the first thing that comes to mind is, ‘I don’t know.’ That might be a truthful answer, but it shows us that if it’s a quick situation, can you process it? You do the quick work, and it shows us your ability to think quickly and react quickly. A lot of the other items we know about the players. We know the trouble they might have gotten into in college. Or I might ask a player about a situation that happened his junior year that got him kicked off the team for a couple days. They might not tell you the whole story, not knowing that you know the whole story. It’s all a process of what type of player—who am I getting? Is this a player with high character?
That’s the key, right? Just be honest in whatever question comes up?
Just be honest, because we understand. I think at this point in your career, whatever you’re going to do already had that effect on you. Just be honest about it, and for the most part the players were pretty honest. We had one kid, and we asked him maybe 20 questions. He answered 18 of them, ‘I don’t know.’ So after that interview, we were like we have to be mindful of that kid now.
What philosophy do you guys have at this point? Are you drafting for need or for best available?
At this point, it’s best available. What that allows you to do is if you draft the most talented player, if it’s a position you already have and he’s better than the player at that position already, you can move that current position you have. But I think in the position we’re in, we’re still trying to become a more talented team top to bottom, and that’s one of the conversations I had with the prospects. They asked what were we looking for? I said, we’re looking for talent. The more talent we have, the better we’ll be.