Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Pistons
The Timberwolves and Pistons met twice a year ago, with Minnesota coming away with victories in games played at Target Center and The Palace of Auburn Hills. But in the six months since their last meeting in April, the Wolves’ newly revamped roster has made things look a lot different on the depth chart heading into tonight’s preseason matchup in Winnipeg.
Right now, the Wolves are battling injuries to Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. But Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said when all the pieces are fit in place, opposing teams should have their hands full with Minnesota this season.
“You better hope they miss and then block out,” Frank said. “They’re going to be a tough team.”
Tipoff for tonight’s preseason matchup is set for 7 p.m. at the MTS Centre.
The key for Frank is being able to neutralize how the Wolves crash the boards, particularly on the offensive end. Minnesota has a rock at center in Nikola Pekovic, who Frank describes as one of the top three strongest players in the NBA, and his perpetual knack for offensive rebounding and the space he takes up in the paint on both ends of the floor gives the Wolves an anchor at the post.
The Pistons combat that with a talented young center of their own, Greg Monroe, who at 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds averaged 15.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game a year ago.
Then, with the upgrades Minnesota made on the perimeter, the Timberwolves are better equipped to stretch the floor and pose problems defensively for opposing teams. In particular, Frank said the additions of Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy, if healthy, make the Wolves a better-rounded team.
“I think they’ve done a really great job,” Frank said. “David [Kahn] and Rick [Adelman] and all the people in the front office have got great depth.”
At small forward, the Wolves and Pistons have veterans who have more than two decades worth of NBA service under their belts and have played their fair share of games against one another over the past 10 years. Tayshaun Prince and Kirilenko both have length and intangible characteristics that make them valuable assets to their clubs both offensively and defensively.
Prince said at this morning’s shootaround that Kirilenko does it all. One night he’ll block shots, another night he’ll score and the next night he’ll impact the game with steals or knock on the doorstep of a triple-double.
“But the things he does most importantly don’t even show up in the stats sheet,” Prince said. “Hustle plays. He thinks the game out very well, and that’s why the Minnesota Timberwolves wanted him, because there are so many things he do on the floor and it shows up every time he plays.”
Frank said the thing that has made both so successful during their careers is their size, durability and range of skills.
“That’s the beauty of Kirilenko and Tayshaun: They can play multiple positions because of their length,” Frank said. “Kirilenko fills up a stat sheet. His ability to not only to score and rebound but block shots, steals, assists, cuts. He’s a very, very good player.”
Prince said the Wolves always had pieces to be successful, but now they’ve rounded out their roster and should be a handful this year.
“Obviously we’ll see some flashes of that in the preseason,” Prince said, “but once the regular season starts they’ll be a really great team.”
- Prince is in his 11th NBA season, all of them with the Detroit Pistons. A first round draft pick out of Kentucky in 2002, Prince had the chance to play in six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals to begin his career, including two trips to the NBA Finals in 2004 and 2005 and an NBA title in 2004. But the Pistons have made the playoffs just once since 2008 and have had three straight losing seasons. He’s the lone member left from that Larry Brown-led 2004 championship, and he said part of the reason he’s still in Detroit is his goal of returning the team to prominence.
“What keeps me going is my love for the game and just trying to win,” Prince said. “I had the blessing to win early in my career and, you know, each and every player who’s been there and done that, once they get to the other end of the stick they want to get back to that. So I’ve been blessed to be with the same team for 11 years now, and I just want to get out there and have fun.”
- Frank was asked if the Pistons will have the opportunity for a better start since this year is not preceded by a locked out offseason. The Pistons started last year 4-20 right out the gate before going 21-21 the rest of the way.
“You’ve never arrived just because your players have been able to overcome something like last year,” Frank said. “[It] doesn’t mean you won’t have to overcome it again. You hope not. You can’t predict that happens in the future, but by having the right habits you can predict how you are going to react to the highs and lows of the season.”
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