#Twolves Training Camp Central 2010
2010 TRAINING CAMP | Latest News
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30
Wolves Battle Wolves in Training Camp Scrimmage
The reward for four straight days of practice at training camp?
A chance to play a simulated game in front of a real crowd at the Bresnan Arena inside the Taylor Center in Mankato. The Wolves split into two teams on Wednesday night for a scrimmage that concluded a jam-packed training camp.
The team donning the white Life Time Fitness Training Center jerseys featured a starting lineup of Luke Ridnour, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love, and Darko Milicic. On the opposite side of the floor, the Black squad starters included: Sebastian Telfair, Corey Brewer, Michael Beasley, Anthony Tolliver, and Nikola Pekovic.
Wolves' fans relax. Obviously, this was just a scrimmage to check out the different lineups and provide the players an opportunity to work on offensive/defensive sets in a game-like atmosphere. These starting lineups are not a reflection of the opening night five that will step on the floor on October 27.
From an overall perspective, both teams showed an ability to get up and down the court quickly while looking for transition buckets. After the initial fast break was halted, the Wolves offense worked to find open space early in the shot clock. While the final score read 79-73 in favor of the Black team, the entire group of Wolves impressed the head man.
"There was a lot of good things offensively and defensively but throughout the entire ball game, we were taking notes on things that came up that we have to work on and keep mentioning to the players," head coach Kurt Rambis stated. "I thought they did a really good job. They were focused, they were trying to run the offense. A lot of people did a lot of good things out there on both ends of the floor. Very pleased."
One of the performances that caught the eye of fans in Mankato came from rookie Wes Johnson. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 Draft has battled a sore hamstring since early July at Summer League in Las Vegas. Johnson displayed a smooth approach to the game, rising above defenders for several perimeter jumpers.
"It was good to get out there and compete first off," Johnson explained. "I haven't played since July, so finally getting out there and playing organized basketball once again and especially with the team; just trying to get a feel for everybody was good. Finally get back out there and playing; my shot was falling too, so that's always good."
Johnson is not quite 100 percent but the snapshot of his skills on Wednesday night is a positive sign for this Minnesota squad. The Wolves will need to improve on their shooting percentage from the floor and beyond the arc in order to record more victories in 2010-11. Johnson also wowed the crowd with a weak side blocked shot on Pekovic, who seemed to have an open hook shot deep in the paint. The former Syracuse standout is athletic, versatile, and full of upside.
"I'm adapting pretty fast. I see that you have to read what the defense gives you, instead of going out there and getting yours. I'm really trying to learn at a fast pace but I'm getting it," Johnson said.
Aside from Johnson, there were several positive signs from the Wolves that should make the fan base feel optimistic about the upcoming season.
Corey Brewer picked up where he left off last year with a terrific scrimmage on Wednesday night. He garnered national attention in 2009-10 for an improved jump shot and highlight reel dunks over Derek Fisher and Robin Lopez. In the scrimmage, Brewer attacked the rim along with defending newly acquired guard / forward Martell Webster. Both players may end up competing for the starting spot at the shooting guard position.
Moving to the frontcourt, Michael Beasley started at the small forward position for the Black team. Beasley is going to be an essential scoring option due to his knack for creating off the dribble. When the shot clock drips down, Beasley can utilize his step-back left-handed jumper or streak in the lane for a high percentage attempt.
Rambis would like to see Beasley focus on the defensive side floor as well, "He's got to keep himself focused on defense. If he's playing a lot of the three spot, he is going to be spending a lot of time guarding very talented players, so he has to step up and take that challenge."
Love and Milicic are a nice fit on the Wolves frontline. During the scrimmage, both players were extremely unselfish by finding open teammates and shined as interior passers. Pekovic was strong in the paint and seems to quickly grasp the offensive concepts from the coaching staff.
Anthony Tolliver also posted a solid game by drilling shots along the baseline and fighting for rebounds.
The Wolves jumped on a plane today for a trip across the pond to London. On October 4, Minnesota squares off against the Los Angeles Lakers at the O2 Arena before traveling to Paris for another preseason game against the Knicks.
"Welcome to the NBA, I guess, right? Playing against Kobe, so it's tipping off right, so I will just go out and play hard and let everything else fall in place," Johnson said.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28
News and Notes from Tuesday’s Practice
• Kevin Love made a trip back to Minneapolis for an MRI on right knee this morning. Initially the training staff was concerned with swelling but the MRI revealed no issues and he returned to action at the evening practice in Mankato. The Wolves power forward participated in several of the drills, showing the ability to move laterally without too much restriction.
• Head coach Kurt Rambis believes Darko Milicic needs substantial court time to get ready for the 2010-11 season. Members of the team have complimented the 7-footer on his passing skills and they would like to see more of an assertive approach to his offensive game. Rambis also did not rule out the possibility of both Nikola Pekovic and Milicic playing in the same frontcourt at times during the season.
• The team participated in a spirited scrimmage tonight. As seen throughout the four days in Mankato, the level of competition was extremely high and Rambis seems to be allowing the players to battle in 5-on-5 games while interjecting at specific moments during the practice.
• The team plans on a morning practice before a public evening scrimmage tomorrow night. Check out the live video of the scrimmage right here on timberwolves.com, starting at 7 PM.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
In contrast to Saturday’s practice, the players worked on various offensive drills to start the Sunday morning training camp session. The new crop of athletic wings got their opportunity to streak down the floor and finish high above the rim. This is the plan. Head coach Kurt Rambis would like to see his squad get out and run more effectively this season. Don’t be fooled, it still starts with defense.
Rambis described the necessary components to a proficient fastbreak team, “Better defense, better rebounding, better running, better ball-pushing."
He also explained how the new additions will help this year, “Luke [Ridnour] historically has been tremendous in pushing the basketball and seeing the open floor and Bassy [Sebastian Telfair] has done a really good job with that. Bigs just rebounding the basketball and our lane runners, we really have guys that can get out and fill the lane, attack the basket and shoot open shots. So, it should all help.”
This Wolves team will certainly look to create easy scoring opportunities on the break but they will also feature a style that does not specifically rely on posting big numbers on the offensive side of the floor, like the Phoenix Suns or Golden State Warriors. Rambis is preaching a flow offense that can quickly adjust to the opposing team’s transition defense.
Ridnour will be an important piece of the offense to start the season as Jonny Flynn recovers from hip surgery. The former Bucks point guard is starting to feel comfortable after the second day of camp.
“Feeling good, you know it’s just going to take us time because we are young and there is a lot of stuff and a lot of reads out of it. But, the offense is not hard; it’s just getting to know the guys more than anything.”
About five hours after the first practice, the Wolves jumped back in the gym for the second workout. The lively session was full of contact and several scrimmages with a referee crew. The coaching staff mixed up different lineups, which created some interesting matchups at each of the key positions. Rambis has stated several times that he is searching for competition at this camp to find out who wants to earn big minutes and a starting spot this upcoming season.
The next three days may go a long way in determining the starting five for opening night.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
While the rain dripped from the sky on a cloudy day in Mankato, the sweat poured off the Wolves players inside the Taylor Center on Monday morning. The first training camp practice featured a few familiar faces but mostly a new cast of members to start a fresh season.
After the players warmed up around 10 AM, the coaching staff quickly assembled the team to begin a set of defensive drills. The focus was clear from the first whistle; attention to the defensive side of the court will be a critical part of the Wolves success this year. Communication, rotation, awareness, and effort were all key defensive philosophies preached during the two-hour practice. Minnesota surrendered 107 points per game last season and the 2010-11 squad seems dedicated to drastically improving that number.
Here are some other news and notes from today’s practice:
No. 4 On The Floor
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury since Summer League. Today, Johnson participated in several of the early drills before sitting out the final scrimmage portion of the practice. The team is looking to keep a careful eye on that hamstring and limit some of his activity as a precautionary measure. In his brief time on the floor, Johnson was solid from the perimeter and squared off against Michael Beasley in a couple of 1-on-1 drills.
Jonny Flynn continues to recover from the offseason hip surgery. However, the second-year point guard was walking around without a noticeable limp or any sign of pain. He watched every second of practice and remained in constant communication with the coaching staff and his teammates. In true Flynn fashion, he was upbeat and smiled throughout the two-hour workout.
A young team featuring a group of new players will need leaders on and off the court. Fresh off winning a gold medal in Turkey two weeks ago, Kevin Love has accepted a leadership role with this team. About 30 minutes into practice, Love was vocal, expressing the need to take open shots when they are available. Love appears to be confident and prepared to become the extension of the coaching staff, which is good to see on day one in Mankato.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
On Saturday morning, the Wolves officially begin training camp in Mankato. Wolves editor / writer Jonah Ballow identified five of the top storylines as a new-look team searches for chemistry prior to opening night.
After the Wolves acquired Darko Milicic prior to the trade deadline, it seemed the former No. 2 overall pick was just about finished with the NBA. Milicic suited up in 24 games for Minnesota and garnered quite a bit of love from the hometown crowd. For the first time in his 7-year career, Milicic felt comfortable with the coaching staff and more importantly, he believed in the Wolves system. Head coach Kurt Rambis has praised the 7-footer for his ability to pass the ball on the blocks and score buckets in the post with a strong hook shot. However, his impact was highly visible on the defensive side of the floor by averaging 1.4 blocked shots per game in 25 minutes while altering numerous shots around the rim. Entering the 2010-11 season with a fresh contract, Milicic will be expected to create a force field in the paint and help a team that surrendered 107.8 points per game last year. The training camp process will allow Milicic time to develop as an offensive threat but there is no doubt, the Wolves will rely on his intimidating defensive skills in order for success this upcoming season.
"Defensively, we have to have a mindset to stop people and offensively we are going to score, anyone can look to score," Milicic said.
Six new players and three rookies will hit the floor for Minnesota in 2010-11. The overhaul included a combination of free agent acquisitions and trades that landed Michael Beasley, Martell Webster, Luke Ridnour, Anthony Tolliver, Kosta Koufos, and Sebastian Telfair in the Twin Cities. Rookies Wesley Johnson, Lazar Hayward, and Nikola Pekovic will also look to contribute for an extremely young squad. Most of the roster has spent time in the practice facility over the past couple of weeks for individual workouts and to gain some familiarity with their new teammates. The five days in Mankato will force the entire group to not only build some cohesion on the floor but establish relationships off the court. An added bonus for a young team searching for early chemistry is a preseason trip to London and Paris for NBA Europe Live.
"It's definitely important; we spend more time with each other than we do with our own families during the season," Beasley stated. "So, it's definitely good to get that chemistry to see how we live early on, we know what to be prepared for."
Love on the Rise
Kevin Love returns to his NBA team with a gold medal in hand and priceless memories from a successful run at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey. The Wolves power forward received rave reviews from legendary Duke head coach Mike Krrzyzewski while catching the eye of basketball fans across the world. Coach K believed in Love's ability to dominate the glass, spark fast break opportunities with long outlet passes, and stretch the opposing defense with an underrated perimeter jumper. These qualities led to a roster spot for the Wolves power forward, joining Tyson Chandler and Lamar Odom as the only true big men on the roster.
Love received court time in the games against Croatia and Slovenia, where he posted back-to-back double-digit rebounding games. In a combined 26 minutes, Love hauled down 21 boards in those two contests. Starting guard Chauncey Billups even told Wolves assistant general manager and Team USA director of player personnel Tony Ronzone, "He doesn't let anybody get rebounds."
The minutes declined for Love towards the later stages of the tournament but he became a vocal leader on the bench and provided support for his temporary teammates. Clearly, Love enjoyed a positive experience with Team USA.
"I mean, I can't even put into words how unbelievable this is," Love told usabasketball.com. "Nobody expected this from us. We went out and got the job done. We came together as a unit, as one, as a family, the coaches, staff and players. We'll forever be a part of USA Basketball and forever a part of history."
Love will already be in game-shape with the fresh feeling of winning in his bones. This season, Love becomes the go-to low-post option following the departure of Al Jefferson. The third-year pro will attempt to elevate his play and ride the momentum of a strong summer.
"Wow, that is a big guy," is the instant reaction after catching a glimpse of Nikola Pekovic waltz through the Wolves' offices this past week. In 2008, Minnesota selected Pekovic with the 31st overall pick but the 6-11 bruiser remained overseas for the past two seasons. From all accounts, Pekovic is a top-tier talent and a proficient scorer inside the paint. Most fans are intrigued to finally see the big man in a Wolves uniform as he adds depth in the frontcourt. Mankato will take advantage of the five days in Makato to work with his new teammates and it will certainly be interesting to see his low-post abilities against Love and Milicic.
"Nikola has been regarded as the best center in Europe for the past few seasons and will be a tremendous addition to our club. He is a tough, hard-nosed player who brings an added dimension of physicality to our team. We look forward to him bringing his talents to the United States and the NBA," David Kahn said.
The NBA has removed hand-checking and some of the physical play that bogged down the open-flow of the game. As a result, teams search for a versatile athlete with skills to contribute at multiple positions. This summer, Minnesota acquired Webster, Beasley, and drafted Johnson. Add Corey Brewer to the mix and the Wolves will look to damage opponents with ultra-athletic wing players attacking in the open floor. The expectation for the new-look squad is to turn defense into quick offense and keep the opposition on its back heels.
"He's an amazing athlete [Johnson], with a proficiency to make three-pointers, so from a spacing standpoint on offense, the two kids will help us immediately. Martell is a solid defender, he's had to guard some of the best players in the league already and Martell has done his part to hold his own, and so our defense also improved with those two players," Kahn said.
During the five-day grueling camp, timberwolves.com is the spot for 1-on-1 video interviews, feature articles, pictures, and chat sessions. Wednesday night will feature an open scrimmage with a live interactive play-by-play broadcast from Wolves radio studio host John Focke and Jonah Ballow.