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2017 Timberwolves Media Day Notebook
The Timberwolves held their media day on Friday at Mayo Clinic Square.
At media day, there are like a zillion storylines.
Who gained weight?
Who lost weight?
Did someone add something to their game?
How many coffees and sodas will the media members drink?
Why am I sweating?
We could cover all of these. And we probably will at some point, but for now, let’s hammer out a notebook, highlighting the most interesting thing coming from each player.
(These are in order of the press conferences.)
Aldrich believes goals are more realistic for Wolves in 2017-18
Timberwolves center and Minnesota native Cole Aldrich acknowledged the team’s goals are the same every year. Make the playoffs and compete for a championship, but after a busy offseason, Aldrich admitted those goals are a bit more reachable this season than last.
“I think they’re a lot more realistic this year than they probably have been in previous years,” Aldrich said. “With the moves and acquisitions we’ve made.”
Aldrich has appeared in two playoff series and would love to make that three in 2017-18.
Marcus George-Hunt chooses Wolves for opportunity
The shooting guard, has paid his dues in the G-League and finally scratched the NBA surface, playing in five games.
He’s a defensive-minded player, who believes he should fit right in with coach Tom Thibodeau.
“It was a lot of openings and a lot of opportunities at hand and I felt like looking at Thibs being the coach and I know he’s defensive minded and he’s probably my style of coach to play for,” Georges-Hunt said.
Georges-Hunt, 24, has a chance to make the roster and the next two weeks or so are extremely important for him.
Getting the gang back together
The Wolves announced they had signed point guard Aaron Brooks the night before media day. Brooks played under Thibs in Chicago in 2014-15 and averaged 11.6 points per game while shooting 38.7 percent from the 3-point line.
Also on that team? Fellow first-year Timberwolves, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson.
That was a big reason Brooks signed with the Wolves.
“Familiarity,” Brooks said. “Thibs is good. I had a good year with Thibs. I know what to expect. And I’m used to it, you know? The demand is going to be there . . . Jimmy, Taj, getting to be able to play with Jamal (Crawford), finally. I’m excited.”
Brooks also spent last season in Indiana with Jeff Teague, now Minnesota’s starting point guard. What a small and beautiful world.
Brown not sure what to expect with two-way deal and that makes sense
Shooting guard Anthony Brown, 2015 second-round pick, signed the first two-way contract in the history of the franchise, meaning he could spend some time with both the Timberwolves and the Iowa Wolves.
While it’s exciting, Brown isn’t sure at all what to expect.
“Since it’s new, we don’t really know because there’s no history behind it, so as far as that’s concerned, it’s just more of a play it by ear type of thing because there’s no history with that,” Brown. “I think just the opportunity to be in camp is the most important. All the logistics and that will fall into place.”
Brown could give the Wolves some 3-point help if necessary at the wing. In his final two years at Stanford, he shot 45.3 and 44.1 percent from deep, respectively.
The Duke connection
Forward/Center Amile Jefferson spent time this summer on the team’s Summer League squad. He also played for Duke in 2014-15 when the team won the national championship. Who else was on that team? Ah, the famous Tyus Jones.
Jefferson, who averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for that championship team, has been hanging out with Jones and his family during his first few weeks with the Wolves.
“From the first time I came here back in May, in constant communication with Tyus, just letting me know to be ready to work, get ready to play defense and communicate and talk and just come in and you know, go hard every day,” Jefferson said. “So, you know, it was great. Having him around has been cool.”
A familiar face for college fans
Guard Melo Trimble played his called ball at Maryland and is a player Golden Gophers fans are familiar with. Trimble, who along with Jefferson, is battling for a roster spot. He believes his junior year when he was asked to play off the ball, really helped prepare him for this opportunity with the Wolves.
“It was a difference from my junior year to sophomore year,” Trimble said. “My junior year, I was playing off the ball, playing the two. In the NBA, everyone is pretty much interchangeable.”
In Trimble’s last game against the Gophers, he finished with 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Now he’ll try to do that for a Minnesota team.
Patton recovering, still no time table
Justin Patton was drafted No. 16 overall in the draft, was traded to the Timberwolves and everything was going right. Then Patton slipped at a practice and broke his foot. But the center is staying positive and while there’s no time table yet, he seemed pleased with his recovery when talking to us.
“I’m feeling good,” Patton said. “I’m getting to the ending stages of my rehab. I’m getting strength back in my leg . . . Don’t rush anything.”
The G-League seems like a perfect opportunity for Patton to ease into things during his rookie season.
Thibs happy about getting Bazz back
What an eventful offseason it’s been for Thibodeau. My goodness. ALL OF THE MOVES.
One of the latest moves was bringing back wing Shabazz Muhammad, who said he’s at 218 pounds after being in the 230s last season. Muhammad has been with the Wolves since being drafted in 2013 and was a big piece off the bench last season for Minnesota, averaging 9.9 points per game.
“I think it’s critical,” Thibodeau said on getting Muhammad back. “Obviously the Bazz piece was important. We felt fortunate we were able to get him back. He’s an important part of our bench. He’s also young and we thought he made great strides last year. We think he’ll continue to make great strides. He’s in great shape, so that was important to us.”
This is as deep as a Timberwolves team has been in quite some time.
Layden grateful for G-League
General manager Scott Layden seems giddy about the G-League prospects and what the Iowa Wolves could mean for the entire organization. Not necessarily just with players, either.
“You know, we’re going to use that as a great resource that it is,” Layden said. “We’re very fortunate that Glen Taylor stepped up and committed to that league. It truly is a great developmental league and we look at it as an opportunity to develop players there as well as front office and coaching candidates. We’re very happy that Scott Roth is our head coach there. As far as players going there, we will use it. It’s an asset for us. It’s still early to see what players will take advantage of that.”
Hint: Be on the lookout for Ratke on the Road in Iowa this season.
Jamal Crawford had to sacrifice Capri Suns
The 37-year-old scorer played in all 82 games for the first time in his career last season.
What’s his secret to staying in great shape?
Judging by the headline for this section, you probably have already guessed.
“Well, I had to give up Capri Suns,” Crawford laughed. “It’s a true story. My wife made me give up Capri Suns and drink more water. Before, I remember Whole Foods was foreign to me. Maybe once a month. Now, I’m addicted to Whole Foods. I eat it like four or five times a week.”
It’s pretty remarkable what the body can do when you treat it right (as I drink a coffee and eat a muffin).
A busy offseason for Dieng
Dieng has now played in all 82 games for two-straight seasons. He also played a career-high 32.4 minutes per game last season. Basketball didn’t stop for Dieng after the season. He played for Senegal this summer and is going to camp a bit fatigued, but Dieng has been here before and doesn’t envision it being a problem.
“To be honest with you, I’m pretty tired right now,” Dieng said. “But it’s part of the game. I’ll play until I can’t . . . I love basketball. I love playing. I’ll rest when I’m old (laughs).”
Dieng also said that he isn’t concerned whether he starts or comes off the bench with the recent signing of Taj Gibson.”
Wiggins and Butler together could be scary
We’ve spent the offseason dreaming of what a one-two punch of Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler could mean for the Wolves. We’re not the only ones. So has Wiggins, who is entering his fourth season after averaging a career-high 24 points per game.
“I feel like me and Jimmy are going to be a problem on both the offensive side and the defensive side,” Wiggins said. “Him coming here brings attitude, brings defense, offense, playmaking. He’s a proven player, an All-Star. It’s a major move for us.”
And when Wiggins says a problem, he means for other teams. Otherwise that’d be a weird thing to say at media day. If Butler can help Wiggins crack into his defensive potential, watch out.
Bazz is baaaaaaaack
After a crazy summer for Muhammad, he decided to re-join the Wolves despite plenty of other attractive options.
“I had options,” Muhammad said. “Talking to coach throughout the whole summer and communicating with him and I think he did a good job of the pieces we have here. I just wanted to be part of something that I think is going to be special this year.”
With Crawford and Muhammad coming off the bench, the Wolves should have plenty of fire power with that second unit. We talked about Muhammad’s weight earlier, but the dude looks like he’s in incredible shape.
Gibson was shocked by Butler trade
Gibson and Butler were long-time teammates in Chicago under Thibodeau. You know this storyline. So do we. But Gibson told us at media day that he was a bit surprised by the trade.
“I was shocked,” Gibson said.
It’s a case of two teams going in different directions, but as far as big trades go, this offseason was full of them.
Gibson will wear the very popular No. 67 for the Timberwolves this season. That jersey number hasn’t been worn since 1947. #TheMoreYouKnow
Plenty of time for team building
The day after media day, the Wolves open training camp in San Diego. They’ll practice there for about a week before heading to Anaheim to play the Lakers in preseason. And then it’s off to China for two preseason games against the Warriors.
Third-year point guard Tyus Jones thinks that will be huge for the team, especially with so many new faces.
“I think it’s going to be big for our team chemistry,” Jones said. “Just getting away. Especially the China trip. Getting out of the country. I think it will be big for our team chemistry, team building and bonding for sure.”
Timberwolves.com will be with for this entire road trip. I’m either going to lose five pounds for gain 15. Stay tuned.
Bjelica ready to return
After suffering a season-ending injury to his left foot last season, Nemanja Bjelica hopes he’s ready for the 2017-18 season after a full offseason of rehabbing in Minneapolis.
“I’m almost ready. I spent like all summer here,” Bjelica said. “We will see now for training camp. . . Basically I’m doing everything but contact. I’m doing some stuff. I think I will be ready for the season.”
Bjelica will be a key piece for the Wolves. When he’s at his best, he’s a guy who can handle the ball, launch 3-pointers and rebound. Per 36 minutes last season, Bjelica averaged 12.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
The Wolves have pieces where they don’t need to rush Bjelica back, but the sooner the better.
Towns is working on mysterious move
I can confirm Karl-Anthony Towns will be very good in 2017-18 after averaging a ridiculous 25.1 points and 12.3 rebounds last season.
We saw him with a Dirk-like step-back late in the season last year. What could Towns give us this season? He said he’s working on something, but HE WON’T TELL US!
TELL US, KARL! WE NEED TO KNOW!
Butler is ready to challenge teammates to play defense
Jimmy Butler is considered one of the best two-way wings in the NBA. That was a big reason why the Wolves traded for him and the hopes that he can help the Timberwolves lock things up defensively.
While Butler will no doubt play solid defense, how will he get his teammates to?
“Just go out there and lead by example when it comes to playing defense. Just go out there and guard. . . As long as you guard, you’ll be okay,” Butler said.
Players like Wiggins and Towns have the capabilities to be great defenders. If Butler can help them even a little bit, it’s scary to think of what kind two-way players they could also turn into.
A Mike Bibby reference
Jeff Teague was the last player to talk to the media before things wrapped up.
One topic with Teague was the fact that he wins, a lot. He’s made the playoffs all eight seasons of his career, and while he’s only made one All-Star team, that doesn’t bug him. For him, it’s all about winning, and that’s something he learned from a former teammate.
“Mike Bibby told me he never made the All-Star team. He never really got a lot of credit, but he always won,” Teague said. “And his teams in Sacramento were really good. He said ‘if you’re a winner, you’ll be around.’”
Teague is hoping to make 2017-18 nine-for-nine on playoff appearances.
Stay tuned for all of the coverage from the team’s training camp in San Diego.