Training Camp Report: Day 1 | Oct. 1, 2013
Training Camp Report: Day 1 | Oct. 1, 2013
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It’s been two years since Kevin Martin took part in a Rick Adelman-led practice, but fear not for the Wolves’ new shooting guard who is reuniting with the coach he had in both Sacramento and Houston.
New city. New team. Same Rick Adelman.
“Same old, same old,” Martin said with a grin.
And that’s a good thing. That’s the consistency Adelman has brought to every franchise he’s coached in the past two decades, and it’s the familiarity that drew Martin to Minnesota to play for him once again. And in doing so, he’s teaming up with a collection of players—both new to the team and carry-overs from last year—that are finding it pretty easy to mesh together within Adelman’s system.
It was just Day 1, but already you could see the makings of a group that complemented each other well. You saw Martin making cuts that Adelman said still might have the younger defenders shaking their heads about what happened. You saw Kevin Love stepping out to take 3s as well as look to be that facilitator the coaching staff hopes he’ll evolve into. You saw Nikola Pekovic clean up any loose rebounds—and there were plenty being the first day back in the gym together. You saw J.J. Barea providing a spark from 3-point range, and there was a nice synergy between Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer running the fast break off turnovers.
All in all, Day 1 was used to get everyone back on the same page. From a starters standpoint, the coaching staff had Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love and Pekovic on the floor together early and often. After all, the team’s core of Love, Rubio and Pekovic hardly played together last season due to all three suffering injuries at different parts of the year.
That means Adelman is trying to get all of them in together early to develop that chemistry. He said he won’t shy away from keeping their minutes together high simply to gain that cohesive feel.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Between Media Day and the first day of camp, it’s clear the Wolves will be hearing the questions about how well this team can stop opponents from scoring. There are no doubts that this team can put up points, but how will it defend?
The players seem to understand why those questions are arising. When it comes to defense, no one is planning to take over games individually. Everyone understands each player will need to lean one another this year.
“This team is loaded with fire power,” Derrick Williams said. “I don’t think offense is going to be a problem at all. It’s going to be the defense. Through the first 30 games last season we played good defense until the injuries started happening. Like I said, as long as we stay healthy, I think we can be a good defensive team. We’re all locked in.”
Last year, Andrei Kirilenko was lauded as the team’s biggest defensive asset alongside Rubio. Rubio is still there to help snag those steals, but with Kirilenko gone the focus goes to Brewer to be that defensive motor. He said the key for him is to stay in front of the team’s best offensive wing and not take too many chances. Last year he had players like JaVale McGee behind him—true shot-blockers—that allowed him to gamble. This year he’s planning to be a bit more conservative while still taking his chances.
Kevin Martin comes from the offensive juggernaut in Oklahoma City, which also had defensive success last year. The Thunder finished second in the league in opponents shooting percentage (42.4 percent). Although they, too, had a pretty formidable rim protector in Serge Ibaka behind them, Martin said the key was team unity on defense.
“We were always on a string,” Martin said. “But you know we have a solid group here that we should be able to take the next step defensively. We don’t have to be a great defensive team with how good we are going to be offensively, but we can’t be one of the worst defensive teams, either. That’s just going to start with our focus over the next couple of weeks, and then just everybody being on the same page.”
Lean and Mean
Derrick Williams looks slender, Kevin Love looks leaner than he’s ever been and Ricky Rubio, coming off EuroBasket and a summer with Team Spain, looks like he’s in incredible shape.
This Wolves team looks from the outset like a team ready to be in condition and ready to go.
“I think the guys are in pretty good shape,” Adelman said. “There were some guys that were tired—in the last hour that were noticeably tired. But they didn’t give in. As far as losing weight, they look like they are in decent shape.”
With a healthy Ricky Rubio in camp—which wasn’t the case last season—this team can get out and running early and often in transition. That bodes well for this team with Corey Brewer, Derrick Williams, Shabazz Muhammad and Chris Johnson all ready and willing to run the fast break. Toss in some outlets from Rubio and Love, and you’ve got some speedy baskets. We did see Love showcasing those outlet passes during Day 1 of camp.
As for being in shape, Williams said he’s not as fatigued and tired this year. Still, he said he hasn’t lost the strength he had when he was heavier.
Brewer said he’s still getting adjusted from his time in the Mile High City.
“I was out there the whole time,” Brewer said. “So I’m just trying to get back in shape. It takes a couple days. I’ve been in Denver—that altitude ain’t no joke. It’s a little different. It will take a couple days to get back in shape.”