Training Camp 2012 Report: Day 4

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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The Timberwolves wrapped up Training Camp in Mankato on Friday—the team returns to Minneapolis this weekend with clarity on how this newly-constructed team can work and mesh together heading into the season.

One thing coach Rick Adelman said he noticed above all else this week is how flexible this team could be this season, from its combination of guard play to the scrappiness the front court is showing in the paint.

“It’s a totally different team,” Adelman said. “I think we’ve added some veterans. We’ve added ball handling and shooting. We’ll see how it all works out. That’s what we’re going to figure out. We get through these three more practices and get to our first game and we’ll find out a lot about ourselves.”

He’s planning for bumps along the way. No matter how well a team with this many new components gels during Training Camp, Adelman said there are always going to be problems that arise when the focus shifts from scrimmages to facing other opponents. That will be the telling next step—Minnesota faces Indiana on Wednesday in Fargo, N.D., in its first preseason game of the season.

Adelman said a big step in this team’s development will be learning from those lessons of those preseason matchups. The Wolves have seven exhibition games before the regular season begins Nov. 2.

“The way we move the ball on offense and the way we’re going to play, sometimes there’s breakdowns defensively. That’s why I said I think it’s going to take us playing against other people to find out how we’re going to do,” Adelman said. “I think you’ll see some deficiencies when we play somebody else. But that’s fine. That’s what exhibitions are for.”

In the front court, Adelman said he’s seen improvements every day from players like center Greg Stiemsma. Once considered the thinner part of the team’s lineup, Minnesota’s situation at the 3, 4 and 5 seems to be stronger after Training Camp based on the fact that a lot of players are able to play multiple positions. Center Nikola Pekovic and forward Kevin Love are the anchors, but the combination of Stiemsma, Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham and Lou Amundson are complementing those two at the 4 and 5 spots.

“You have six guys who you can kind of throw out there,” Adelman said. “They all play with each other. It’s a matter of what’s the best combination for us?”

No question, Pekovic is the catalyst. If he can remain healthy—he battled injuries last season but came into camp in exceptional shape, dropping eight pounds before returning to Minnesota—the rest of the rotation will fall into place.

“The guy who is our iron man is Pek,” Adelman said. “He looks like he is right now but I think when we have him he is such a force around the basket.”

Combining Kirilenko and Williams

Two players who have spent time on the court together this week are Williams and Andrei Kirilenko, who have complemented one another and the power forward and small forward positions. Adelman said he’s exploring that option of using the two together because of the defensive matchups it offers.

Kirilenko can defend a range of positions, not afraid to mix and match. Kirilenko’s veteran experience and defensive ability mixed with Williams’ athleticism and youth could pose favorable matchups.

“I think it’s great because defensively Andrei can play a lot of different people. Offensively they both can play two spots and they can mix it up a little bit. We’ve been trying to do that to get a feel for the combinations we can play.”

That opens up an opportunity to play with Love at the 5, too. It’s a possibility Adelman is looking for those combinations and potential lineups during the preseason.

Kirilenko said overall the chemistry on this team has been good overall, and that holds true for he and Williams playing together.

“He’s a talented young kid,” Kirilenko said. “He can do everything on the floor, so it’s just a matter of time when he’s going to blossom.”

Defensively, Kirilenko said he’s comfortable mixing and matching with Williams.

“It doesn’t matter,” Kirilenko said. “I can play 2, 3, 4. I think he can play 2, 3, 4 either. Any position.”

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