Top 5 Things To Watch For During The Wolves' Summer League
After missing the 2011 summer during the NBA lockout, the Minnesota Timberwolves will return to Summer League action next week with hopes of developing and grooming its young players into viable contributors on the regular season roster. The Wolves made strides as a team last year, going 26-40 during an injury-laden campaign, and as the team continues to bolster its lineup with offseason moves Minnesota hopes to take another major step in its maturity in the 2012-13 season.
That progress begins in Las Vegas, where the Wolves will compete in five Summer League games beginning July 16 and ending July 22. Minnesota opens up its schedule on Monday, July 16 against the Los Angeles Clippers at 9 p.m. CT—a game that will be tape-delayed Tuesday at 8 a.m. on NBA TV. CLICK HERE for the full schedule.
Games will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.
Summer League co-coaches Shawn Respert and David Adelman are looking to at this week from several different aspects. They’re hoping to help young members of last year’s regular season squad—particularly Derrick Williams and Wes Johnson—take advantage of the extra time on the court that all three missed out on during last season’s lockout. They’re also hoping to instill an up-tempo game plan that will push the players’ conditioning, and they’re hoping to take advantage of their invitees’ eagerness to compete at the NBA level.
“The neatest thing about the Summer League is this is the biggest commitment I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been around, from the current players who don’t have to be involved in Summer League that have made commitments to come out during that time and take advantage of having our staff together and work together with us in some individual workouts,” Respert said.
Minnesota opened up its three-day minicamp Friday morning and will wrap up the five-session camp on Sunday. Of the 21 players invited, the roster will be whittled down to around 12 roster spots before the team takes off for Vegas on Sunday afternoon.
The week will be chock full of games, shootaround sessions and opportunities for the squad to learn the Wolves’ game plans and make strides in their on-court game. In preparation for the team’s Summer League trip, here are the Top 5 things to watch for in Las Vegas.
- No. 5: Respert & Adelman take control:
Shawn Respert and David Adelman, the team’s player development coaches during the regular season, will be handling the team’s game planning and activities during next week’s Summer League. The two are new to head coaching at the NBA level, but Adelman was a successful high school head coach in Oregon and Respert has spent four years working with much of the Wolves’ current coaching staff, including head coach Rick Adelman and assistant coaches Jack Sikma and T.R. Dunn.
Respert said this is a great opportunity to test out some of the principles and philosophies he’s learned from that coaching staff over the past four seasons in Minnesota and Houston. They know Rick Adelman's system as well as anyone and have been leading the charge through many of the team's pre-draft workouts this summer.
“I’m extremely excited—very nervous for an opportunity that I’ve always felt like I wanted the chance to do,” Respert said. “But like anything else, you try to prepare yourself as much as you can from the sidelines.”
David Adelman said anytime you have the opportunity to fill a head coaching role—regardless of the level of play—you hold an added level of responsibility. Assistant coach Terry Porter said it’s a good opportunity for both to take the next step in their coaching careers.
“It's fun to watch those guys. Obviously, it's always about a growing opportunity, and for them it is,” Porter said. “Summer Leagues are fun, it gives you a chance to get into the thick of things, so it's fun to see how they're going to react.”
- No. 4: Up-tempo approach:
The Wolves won’t just be settling for half court sets in Vegas. Instead, they’ll be using these games to push the basketball both from a game plan perspective and from a conditioning standpoint. The Wolves plan to help get the players prepped for the 82-game season with a fast-moving offensive.
“You’re going to see us push the ball a lot in transition,” Respert said. “We want to get out early and we want to ultimately see what we can force the defense to respond to, attacking the paint and attacking the basket.”
Part of it is a training regimen geared toward pushing the athletes. Respert said he wants to use the two-a-days to see how players’ bodies respond physically. Aside from the five-session minicamp, the team will play five games in seven days.
This began Friday, as the Timberwolves opened up two courts at the LifeTime Fitness Training Center to maximize their time on the court.
“We’ve got a small amount of time to put a together a lot of details as far as strategies on the offensive end and defensive end,” Respert said.
- No. 3: Invitees to watch:
Several notable names are in the Wolves’ minicamp vying for a spot on the finalized Summer League roster. Not all will make the Summer League team, but several either have noteworthy ties to the region or through name recognition and others have past NBA experience.
Minnesota assistant coach Jack Sikma’s son, Luke, is in camp this weekend. Luke Sikma is a 6-foot-8, 235 pound forward out of the University of Portland who averaged 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds during his final season with the Pilots in 2010-11. Coby Karl, son of Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, is a 6-foot-5 guard who is also in camp. Karl has played parts of two NBA seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers—he averaged 4.0 points per game in 2009-10 with the Warriors and Cavs and played one postseason game with the Lakers in 2007-08.
Forward Mike Harris spent time with the Houston Rockets playing for Rick Adelman’s coaching staff. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Harris last played in the NBA in 2010-11 and averaged 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game during 34 career games. Respert said he's a player who should be familiar with the team's system from Day 1.
It will also be the first time the Timberwolves get a first-hand look at forward Lior Eliyahu, whose draft rights were traded to Minnesota in the Chase Budinger deal. Also in camp is guard Jet Chang out of BYU-Hawaii, a standout NCAA Division II player, and Wisconsin guard and Minneapolis native Kammron Taylor.
Taylor, who played for Minneapolis North, has spent the past five years playing in Europe. He said it’s his golden birthday this year, and if he made an NBA roster it would be the perfect gift for himself.
“I’ve just got to take it a day at a time,” Taylor said. “Coming every day, playing hard, especially on defense and just do what I can, do what I do best.”
- No. 2: First Look at Robbie Hummel:
Forward Robbie Hummel made his first appearance in a structured Timberwolves team practice on Friday, marking the beginning of the 58th overall pick’s stint with the club. Hummel was known at Purdue for his smooth shot and his work ethic, and those are two things the Wolves are looking for him to showcase during the Summer League schedule.
“Robbie is such a tough player—he has the ability to really play well in transition,” Respert said. “He seems to have bounced back after some knee injuries, and now he’s looking forward to having a platform to show that he’s on his way back.”
Along with the Wolves’ returners from last year’s regular season roster, Hummel is going to be a player team coaches and fans will keep a close eye on. Leading up to minicamp Hummel looked and sounded confident in his game and is ready to show he’s capable of being a productive player in the NBA. Two knee surgeries affected his draft placement and extended his time with the Boilermakers, but he said after the Draft that he’s close to 100 percent and ready to start his professional career.
- No. 1: Offseason progress for Williams & Johnson:
Forward Derrick Williams and forward/guard Wes Johnson will be the focal points of this year’s Summer League squad. Both are coming off seasons filled with ups and down on the offensive end, and both are coming in with much to prove next season.
Williams has been challenged both personally and by the coaching staff to become a player who can play small forward in addition to power forward. At 241 pounds as a rookie, he’s slimmed down through an offseason regimen. He said he worked out 2-3 times a day in Los Angeles, eating healthier, doing yoga and doing a mix of running on the beach and weight lifting.
- He also said that offseason nasal surgery has really helped his breathing. He said he didn't think his breathing was a big deal until now.
The hope is that Williams will be able to become quicker off the dribble and improve defensively so he will be able to attack and defend at the three—a position that poses a difficult matchup every night in the NBA.
Williams said he and Rick Adelman had mutual feelings about what needed to happen heading into his second year.
“We wanted for me to be more consistent,” Williams said. “I really felt like I had to be more consistent as well, to make shots when I’m open, get to the basket. Just a little bit of everything. Staying ready, I think that’s a big part of it—especially when I was out for periods of time.”
Porter said Williams will get a good chunk of time at small forward in Vegas but will also see some time at power forward, where he played the majority of his minutes a year ago.
The difficulty in returning to the four now is the fact that he’s lost weight.
“It’s going to be a little difficult. You know, you’ve got people like Paul Millsap, you’ve got even people like Pau Gasol,” he said. “Like last season, I think it really did help me when I was a little bit bigger. But I’ve just got to use my quickness and just try to stay in front of guys.”
For Johnson, being part of Summer League is a stepping stone. He was sidelined by a hamstring injury in his first game of the 2010 Summer League and missed last year due to the lockout, so this summer provides him a chance to put in a little extra work.
He said he’s been working out in New York and has focused mostly on simply working on his overall game and playing as much as possible. Getting the chance to work with the coaching staff for the full summer is a bonus, too.
“I think this whole summer and the whole before the summer with the training camp will be good for us,” he said.
Respert said confidence is the biggest thing Johnson needs to address, and that’s something that can come with additional reps and minutes during the summer.
“Here’s an opportunity for them to get comfortable in the same schemes and the parameters that we set,” Respert said. “And be able to be aggressive and look for the shot more often.”