Rush, Neitzel Show Their Stuff
Kansas guard Brandon Rush and Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel were among six players working out for the Wolves on Tuesday, while Kevin McHale and Jim Stack offered a draft update.
Rush, fresh off a National Title run at Kansas, could be someone Minnesota strongly considers packaging its two second-round picks to move up for, while Neitzel is projected to go in the mid to late second round. Both prospects addressed local media after a productive workout.
We also heard from Wolves assistant coach Jerry Sichting and his former player at Marquette, Dan Fitzgerald of St. Paul, in addition to McHale and Stack.
Kansas Guard Brandon Rush
Q: On the draft workout process:
Rush: It's tiring, traveling so much and being on the road, but you have to go through it because you're trying to interview for the draft. You gotta do it.
Q: On how much better he is from when he started college:
Rush: I definitely feel more confident on the court handling the ball and looking for my own shot, the same things I did at Kansas pretty much. We had a great team, really well-balanced.
Q: On the widespread attention players get at Kansas preparing them for the NBA:
Rush: I think it does. The whole thing was crazy, and I'm still getting a lot of attention for it. I'm enjoying it.
Q: On how his skills translate to the NBA game:
Rush: I think I'll be a pretty good, solid player in the NBA. I can shoot the ball, I can defend and those are pretty much the big keys to playing in the league.
Q: On what to showcase at workouts:
Rush: Stay on attack mode every time. The coaches want to see guys that attack, go to the rim and finish. Make highlight plays I guess.
Q: On his best position in the NBA:
Rush: More of a two than a three, but I'm long enough to play either position.
Q: On going from declaring himself draft eligible out of high school in 2005 (before pulling out) to winning a National Title as a junior:
Rush: It's definitely been a journey, and I loved every minute of it except for the six months I was out with the ACL injury. I'm still living on high right now (thanks to the title) and am just enjoying it right now.
Michigan State Guard Drew Neitzel
Q: On the rigor of draft workouts:
Neitzel: I have three more workouts coming up ... It's been a long month or so, but that's what you gotta do, and it could be worse. Playing basketball is not a bad gig. I've been to seven or eight after today, and it's not necessarily the workouts that kill you but the travel from city to city and living in hotels. But like I said, I'd rather be doing this than anything else.
Q: On how Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo prepared him for the NBA workouts:
Neitzel: He's a great coach. He implements a lot of pro things in the program at Michigan State, whether it's in practice or individual workouts. He's done an unbelievable job preparing me. He has a lot of connections in the NBA so he talks to a lot of people and gets a lot of feedback for me. My agent is doing a good job too.
Q: On what he's trying to show teams other than his shooting:
Neitzel: I'm just trying to showcase my point-guard abilities. I've been a point guard my whole life, but I was more of a shooting guard my last couple years at Michigan State just because the needs of our team. But I'm trying to showcase my leadership skills, coming off screens, directing guys where to be and continuing to knock down shots. When you hit shots and can run a team, you can play in this league.
Q: On where he expects to be drafted:
Neitzel: Somewhere in the second round, if I'm drafted. I'm hoping somewhere in the late 40s. But you never know. The second round is hard, they don't really guarantee things like the first round. A team might guarantee someone at 25 or something like that, but second round is play it by ear. A lot of times teams will just draft the best available player. My agent's been calling teams, and we're going to sit down and talk early next week to see where I stand. So somewhere in the second round but I'm not sure where.
Q: On what happens if he doesn't get drafted:
Neitzel: Whether I get drafted or not it's not the end of my NBA chances. I'll be playing summer league this year and I'll probably go into training camp with a team. There are a lot of ways to get into this league without being drafted. Just because you're drafted in the second round doesn't guarantee a contract. I'm just trying to stay positive and keep working, trying to show my best at every team's workouts. Whatever happens happens.
Q: On working out with Brandon Rush:
Neitzel: This was the first time I've seen him play in person, and I was really impressed. I didn't know he was as good as he was, and he's going to be a good player in the league.
Q: On how he feels about his workout at Target Center:
I've been pretty successful I think in my workouts so far with my ability to shoot the ball and I just try to be solid. You don't want to go out and try to do things you haven't done before to show somebody you can do it. It might end up making you look bad or show that you can't. I just stay solid and compete, try to outwork the other guys in the workout.
Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale
Q: On if Kansas guard Brandon Rush and Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel coming from powerhouse basketball programs is important to their draft stock:
McHale: That all sounds good, but there have been some guys - I'll tell you what, (former Chicago Bulls forward) Scottie Pippen didn't come from a big school and he was pretty good. It's what you do when you step out there. I think probably for a guy like Rush, winning a championship - the same thing I felt about Corey (Brewer) and Chris (Richard) - winning that championship and being exposed to that is really a lot of media, a lot of that stuff. But other than that, probably not. You can either play or can't play.
Q: On how Rush has improved since declaring for the draft out of high school:
McHale: He's way, way, way better than he was when he came out of high school. He came to the Chicago pre-draft camp (after declaring in 2005), and college helped him so much, I think both physically (and) mentally - I mean, he has really matured his game. Really a nice player. He does what he does - he defends and catches and shoots and spreads the court. And really a good kid. Look, I don't care what you win at, it's hard to win a National Championship and they did it at Kansas. That's very impressive.
Q: On his thoughts from seeing Rush in person on Tuesday:
Very good. He did what he always does. He comes in and doesn't try to do too much. He does what he can. He defends very well. He's attentive to the details of what you want (him) to do. I'm a big fan. I think the guy's a very, very nice player and will have a really nice NBA career.
Q: On where he thinks Rush will be selected in the draft:
McHale: Who knows? That's hard to say. He will get drafted, I can guarantee that.
Q: On how much seeing former USC guard O.J. Mayo and Italian prospect Danilo Gallinari this weekend will help the Wolves' draft preparation:
Mchale: I spent three days in Europe with Gallinari this winter and so (I) got a chance to watch him practice, play, spent a lot of time with him. So you get a good feel for the guy. His English skills are solid and stuff like that. Mayo, you can go back, and I told you this yesterday, Google Mayo (from) third grade and (you can) watch him play. You get a chance to talk to them a little bit, but really you're kind of going there for the interview process of talking to them and stuff like that. You might ask them to do a couple of things, but I don't think O.J. is going to compete against anybody; it's going to be kind of a 1-on-0 (workout).
Q: On how giving players psychological tests impact players' draft stock:
McHale: We look into every (piece of information) that they've got; it's ridiculous. I'm not sure we are doing anything but confusing ourselves. I don't know. Sports is such a different thing. It's such a reactive thing. I think there is more of a sports psychology now. It's getting better, but they would give the same tests to a guy who sat behind a desk and he has three weeks to process a decision, whereas a NBA player ... You're making decisions 'boom, boom, boom, boom.' I haven't figured out if they all work or not. I have figured out one thing, that if you ever could figure out what's (in the mind) and in (the heart), you'd go a lot farther into just really knowing the player.
Q: On how many times he didn't want to draft a player after meeting with them:
McHale: A few. A few this year even. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. Sometimes that kid goes in the right situation and he does better, sometimes those guys go in the wrong situations and implode. But I don't think you ever truly know because with all those guys there is going to come a time (when) their career will be in the flux. Their contract won't be guaranteed, they'll be going some place and they'll be 28 and they won't be 22. There comes a time, and usually that's when those guys make it. But I think pretty much for the most part, you can say 'that guy is going to make it later on in his career when he gets knocked down a little bit; when everything is not given to him, when there is not a guaranteed contract.' But sometimes (they) make it; sometimes they don't make it.
Q: On his reaction to watching Boston win the NBA Championship Tuesday night:
McHale: I'm happy for (Celtics General Manager) Danny (Ainge) and (Celtics power forward) Kevin (Garnett). I think when you watched the first two games in Boston, I think it became pretty evident that with them jamming up and kind of how the Lakers were trying to force the square peg into the round hole, it was just inevitable that (the Celtics) were going to win. I'm happy for those guys. I talked to Danny this morning; he's excited.
Q: On if he had mixed emotions seeing Garnett win a ring:
McHale: No. I was happy for KG. He got in the perfect situation for him. I always said with KG, he needs to be out there with more primary scorers and more people that can do that. I think (Celtics guard) Paul (Pierce) takes a lot of pressure off he and (Celtics guard) Ray (Allen) because he is going (to the basket). Ray and Kevin went through periods where shots aren't dropping and Paul went to the line. It's a good situation. Here we had Kevin in a situation where we were probably asking him to do a little too much scoring, a little too much stuff ... I've often said Kevin is really kind of a pass-first player and out there he's making plays and doing a good job. So I was happy for him.
Q: On former Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel's NBA potential:
McHale: Drew Neitzel is going to get drafted. He's going to have a chance to make a NBA roster. His road to the NBA may be a little of a tricky road, it may not be just dead straight, it might entail the (NBA) D-League, it might entail Europe for a year or two, but I think with his ability to shoot and some of the other stuff he does, I think he'll have a chance.
Q: On if this is the toughest draft pick he's ever had:
McHale: No. There are a lot of guys you like. I think it's the easiest. For that third pick we started off with eight guys, excluding (Kansas State forward Michael) Beasley and (Memphis point guard Derrick) Rose, and we're down to four guys that we really like a lot. Any one of those four guys, you'd be really excited about them.
Q: On if the Wolves have received draft offers:
McHale: We've got offers. I would tell you that there is not an offer I'd do today because I think if we do anything, it will be that night because I'd like to see what happens in front of us. Because who knows, there are a lot of strange things happening in this draft ... It's like anybody out there who has bought a house. They don't usually come out with their highest offer right away. I think they kind of wait until the deadline, that's why the realtors tell you 'there is another offer on the table.' They try to get you to throw your best offer out. The (draft) offer on the table will happen on Thursday. But you talk about it - you set the table. We've been talking like that for months now with these teams.
Wolves General Manager Jim Stack
Q: On how draft workouts supplement a teams' impressions of a player such as Brandon Rush:
Stack: Yeah, that's how it goes. For Rush, especially, we wanted to put him in some ball-handling situations because at Kansas he was more of a spot-up guy and a defender. I think he knows who he is and that's what he does well. But he surprised me that he was able to create his own shot a little bit today, got to the basket, and he's really long. He's a tough-minded kid and I think he's learned a lot through the process. Having a brother that played in the NBA, he is probably more aware of what it is going to take for him to make it. This was a supplement, but he showed some other things today that I was really impressed with.
Q: On Rush declaring for the draft on two prior occasions (out of high school and last season):
Stack: I think he realized he wasn't ready, so you give him credit for that. Some guys say 'I'm going no matter what' and they aren't ready and then they stumble and it's tough. But he went back, worked on his game - he's added some stuff to his game. He had the injury, rehabbed like crazy, he came back way sooner than anybody could have projected (and) had a great year. So he's on the upward track in terms of, I think, his draft stock. He's shown well, I think he's going to be a really solid NBA player.
Q: On Rush being able to adjust to being a complimentary player when asked to be:
Stack: He came out of high school as a real scoring phenom and I think he learned how to supplement his skills in with the other guys that he played with at Kansas. That's a very valuable thing to have - where you know where you fit in, but when you get your chance to do it, you do - you're able to do it. So I give him a lot of credit for that.
Q: On if the Wolves could potentially package their two second round picks (No. 31 & 34 overall) to get Rush in the first round:
Stack: Absolutely we could potentially. We'll take a look at that absolutely, yes.
Marquette Forward Dan Fitzgerald
Q: On working out for his hometown NBA team:
Fitzgerald: It was a lot of fun. It was a good opportunity to get my name out there a little bit and see how it goes ... All the stuff we've done here I've done during my four years at Marquette. It was a little nerve-racking, but it was fun.
Q: On his chances of latching on to an NBA team following the draft:
Fitzgerald: We'll see (if) it comes. If not, it's fine, I'll go to Europe and get better and try again next year ... I'm just happy to play and get paid for it; it's a pretty nice job.
Q: On his impressions of Rush:
Fitzgerald: He's good. He's more of a shooter than I thought. He's an athlete. I think he's got it all. I think he'll go far; a nice kid too.
Wolves Assistant Coach Jerry Sichting
Q: On Fitzgerald, whom he coached at Marquette:
Sichting: Well Dan was a real good college player. His senior year he had some injury problems, so he probably didn't have the kind of senior year he wanted to have. But he's a great guy, a local kid here, I think his parents (have been) season ticket holders for the Wolves for a while, so they are big Timberwolves fans. Dan will most probably end up in Europe some place, but he was a solid college player and a great guy and it was fun to coach him.
Q: On under-the-radar college players getting an opportunity to showcase their skills during pre-draft workouts:
Sichting: A lot of guys, what they can do is sometimes hidden in college from the standpoint of the kind of system that they run, or who the other players on the team are and stuff. There are a lot of really good college players out there that don't get the high profile media attention or (are) household names, but are still real good basketball players.
Q: On an assistant coach's role during pre-draft workouts:
Sichting: I don't have a lot to do with it to be honest. I just kind of help out with some of the drills that (Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale and Assistant General Manager Fred Hoiberg run). It's all pretty generic stuff, but you're just trying to evaluate different guys skill levels and you get a chance to see them a little closer in terms of their mechanics on their shooting, how they handle the ball, how they play a little 1-on-1 defense. But you don't get to see how they play in a 5-on-5 situation. You get (to) tell a little bit on how coachable they are, how quickly they pick a couple things up, but its just part of the process. This is just one little part of the evaluation process. If you don't have a pretty good handle on these guys by now - you can't go by these individual workouts because it's just a really small part of it.
Q: On what goes through an assistant coaches' head while watching pre-draft workouts:
Sichting: You're watching, you're evaluating, just like everybody is. Everybody has an opinion on how good somebody is going to be and all that. Everybody has an opinion, just like they have a nose on their face.