Thoughts From the Slots
What Happens In Vegas...
|Love missed Minnesota's final game as a precaution, but he's just fine. Really. Don't even worry about it.|
Minnesota crushed New York 111-91 and lost to Milwaukee 81-67 to finish Summer League at 2-3, which to me was just about what we expected. They might have gone 3-2 on the strength of Kevin Love playing the second half of the Bucks game, but since the results simply didn't matter... we don't care. Summer League is about experience, not W's and L's.
Sidenote: By the way, Love should be just fine. If you didn't see, he was kept out of most of the second half of the Bucks game and all of the Knicks game so that he could rest his legs. Accounts of people who were there say it was simply precautionary to keep him out of the final game after he aggravated his achilles just a bit against the Bucks. He should be practicing with Team USA's Select Team as I type, and we'll make sure to check on it for updates.
Back to the final two games ... Er, on second thought, nothing of note really happened. Corey Brewer, Chris Richard, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Drew Neitzel and Blake Ahearn all played well in the final win while neither team played a ton of defense. That's that. If I missed anything, I'll be talking to Brewer and assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff on the Wolves Caravan to shore up the details. Cool?
Now, in keeping our theme of honesty and candidness in this extended Vegas diary, I can easily dispel the notion that what happened in Vegas needs to stay in Vegas ... for me, at least. Here is a summation of "vices" for my trip:
- Gambling: Known by my friends as neither a particularly good nor energetic gambler (except on side sports bets with friends ... thanks a lot, Lakers and Memphis), it was no surprise to anyone that I barely gambled at all in Sin City. In fact, I gambled for exactly 45 minutes, putting $30 down at the blackjack table on the final night after posting content from Minnesota's victory over Portland.
In fact, even playing in the first place was out of character for me, and took approximately 269 phrases like this: "Come on Trudell, don't be such a wuss" // "Relax Tru, why are you so worried even if you lose your lil' $30" // and "Seriously? You can't sit at the table for 10 minutes? Have some fun!" before I actually conceded. Frustratingly, the cheapest buy in for me was a $10 minimum table, leaving me exactly six $5 chips with which to work. Awesome. Yet in an upset bigger than Giants over Patriots or Appalachian State over Michigan, I nine times staved off elimination on my final two chips, punching blackjack death in the face like I were Jermaine O'Neal after the throw down in Motown. Then, out of nowhere, I won three hands in a row, lost one and won two and was up to $50!!!!
Of course, I immediately quit, content with my $20 coup from Vegas*. Yup, I made money there. Get off me.
*To be fair, I dropped $5 on Lance Berkman for the Home Run Derby.Insert swearword here.
Clubs: Because some friends' friends got us in for free, I went to Body English in Hard Rock and Jet at Mirage for a total of about an hour each. I didn't buy one drink, and didn't even pretend to dance once. I'm lame, what can I say. I did, however, watch episodes of CSI and call my girlfriend from my hotel room while people were having fun in the clubs ... Is that cool?
Thanks for playing,
Kevin Love Joins USA Select Team
|Kevin Love will be charged with getting Team USA ready to play in the Olympics as a member of the Select Squad.|
OK, not going to lie to you. I don't have any of those nice looking date headers for this weekend and need technical wiz Big Teezy at the office to make them. But it's a new day ... Just go with it.
You may have heard about our own Kevin Love, he of 20 and 15 in Las Vegas, being asked to join Team USA's Select Team to help the senior squad prepare for the coming Olympics. When you think about it, Love's game is suited perfectly for the international game ... He's a big that can pass extremely well and shoot with range. Aside from just being good in general, perhaps that's what Team USA GM Jerry Colangelo was thinking when he added some Love to his team.
Here's a link to the release put out by our PR staff:
Joe Maloof Conversation
|This thing is sweet, even if you're not a big X-games type bit guy (like me).|
Before leaving Las Vegas, I had the chance to speak with Kings co-owner Joe Maloof, who perhaps more than anyone can be called the gracious host of the Summer League (wish we had stayed at the Palms this year - no offense, Hard Rock, you're not bad at all). At first, Maloof and I talked about the young talent on both the Wolves and Kings. It's interesting, because right now, the Blazers get the most buzz in terms of having youthful talent that could do something big in a few years ... And rightfully so, perhaps, because their young talent has already produced wins.
But guys like Kevin Love, Randy Foye, Al Jefferson, Rashad McCants, Craig Smith, Corey Brewer on one side, and Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Beno Udrih, Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson on the other could end up looking pretty good in a few years. It's going to be fun to watch.
Maloof was also excited about something that I hadn't yet heard about, but sounds pretty sweet:
The Maloof Money Cup, or the World's Greatest Skateboarding Competition.
The event actually already took place, but is on CBS Sunday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern. Maloof said that he's realized these skateboarders are some of the best athletes in the world, and since they're between the ages of 19 and 35 for the most part, are the same ages as NBA players. If you're like me, you'll check it out.
10:00 P.M. -- Postgame Audio Interviews (Pops, Love, Sichting)
Thanks in large part to a dominating performance on the offensive glass (21-8), the Timberwolves beat the Blazers 88-78 on Thursday, as described in the last blog entry. I mention those offensive rebounds in part because the two guys we heard from - Kevin Love and Pops Mensah-Bonsu - combined for 15 of those 21 glass cleans. Love and coach Jerry Sichting talked on the floor right after the game, and we spoke with Pops in his room for a more in-depth breakdown:
I'm heading back to Minneapolis tomorrow, so this will be the last post for a lil' bit. But we'll be in touch with several of the Wolves still out here - call them Vegas Correspondents - to fill us in on all the action over the course of the team's final two games ... So, check back this weekend for updates. Thanks for playing.
8:00 P.M. -- Wolves Beat Blazers, McCants Interview
|Minnesota pulled away in the third quarter to beat Portland behind 26 and 15 from Kevin Love.|
The most notable in several solid Timberwolves individual performances Thursday evening in Vegas came from Kevin Love, whose 26 points and 15 boards were both team highs in a 88-78 victory over Portland.
There is no question that Love's been terrific all week, but it was the whole of Minnesota's parts that brought the squad some love in the form of its first Summer League victory over the now 1-2 Trail Blazers. Lots of numbers jump out: 11 points and seven boards off the pine from Pops Mensah-Bonsu; 10 points, three boards and two assists from Craig Smith in limited minutes; 14 points from Blake Ahearn; 11 points, two dimes and two boards from Pooh Jeter, and nine points off the pine from Bryce Taylor.
Minnesota took a 40-36 lead into the break at Cox Pavilion, getting 13 points from Love and nine off the bench from Mensah-Bonsu along with nine boards between the two of them.
I got my analysis of the first half from Wolves shooting guard Rashad McCants, in town to support his squad by day and kick back by night. McCants also talked about what he likes about Kevin Love's game, his new teammate Mike Miller, his plans to go see Al Jefferson tomorrow and what party he's heading to tonight.
The Wolves pulled away from Portland with their best quarter of the Summer League, outscoring the Blazers 31-20 to build a 71-56 lead from which Portland couldn't dig out.
Here are a few more quick notes:
- The Rhino got loose a little bit in the second half ... In his most impressive play, he showed his Cally-beach training by picking the pocket of Blazers point guard Petteri Koponen, collecting the rock on the other side of the Finnish kid, taking a dribble and finishing with a two-handed Zeus dunk.
- The dunk was almost as fierce as two crazy tomahawk jams from Pops that rocked the rim in the first half. Before the game, Mensah-Bonsu promised me something special near the rim, and he certainly delivered - twice. That's what got fans on his bandwagon back at George Washington.
1:30 P.M. -- Smith Conversation
After the team got back from shootaround, Craig Smith had to get himself a room (he didn't do it himself, to be fair) and take his gear up to the training room to be washed before tonight's game, in which he said he may or may not play. Along the way, Smith told me what he's been up to these past few weeks (hooping, running on the beach, working out, keeping up on L.A. fashion) and how he felt about his new deal (great).
Subsequently, we went to his sixth-floor room from where he ordered room service (breakfast items like French toast and such) and took a few minutes to catch up with timberwolves.com.
For a Smith bonus, we chatted with Summer League point guard Pooh Jeter, who first played with Rhino when they were 11-year-old kids in Los Angeles.
I have to say, Pooh on Rhino is my favorite audio title ever. Anyways, congrats on your deal, Mr. Smith.
1:00 P.M. -- Coach Wittman Weighs In
|Wittman weighs in frequently throughout the team's time in Vegas, but mostly allows his assistants to run the show. After all, it's not just players that are trying to improve.|
Right after Minnesota completed its shootaround Thursday morning, I caught up with head coach Randy Wittman to inquire about his role in Vegas, what he's seen from his players and coaches and his thoughts on the Craig Smith signing. Here's what coach Wittman had to say:
Q: On how his assistants have embraced an increased role in Vegas:
Wittman: They've been very good. This is an opportunity for them to grow as coaches. You gain experience by coaching games, and this is the only chance they have during the year to do that. My job as well as coaching our team and getting our players better is getting my coaches better and to see them advance and grow in their careers. I remember when I was an assistant, and had guys that I was lucky enough to work for that did those things for me. That's what we try to do: Give them the responsibility of running the team for 10 days and allowing them to make many of the decisions.
Q: On his role with the players at Summer League:
Wittman: Just some little things. We don't have a lot of practice time here after we had the three days of mini camp, and their heads are spinning around through those days. Now they're starting to feel more comfortable after playing two games. So it's the things you see sitting up in the stands that a lot of times I don't have the opportunity to see sitting on the bench. I'm trying to help the guys out with little tips.
Q: On it being more of a macro perspective for him:
Wittman: Yeah, I want our coaches to make decisions based on what they think right now. We put our program together in what we want to do offensively and defensively, and I want to see them implement it and make the decisions. We sit after every game and talk about good things and bad things, things they could have done differently or things that were good decisions. This is as much of a development process for our coaches as it is our players.
Q: On his thoughts about Kevin Love thus far:
Wittman: He's been good. What Kevin brings to the table that's hard to coach is the ability to make other players better. He's one of those guys that, as a teammate, if you don't like playing with him, you don't like playing with anybody. That's a skill he has. His basketball IQ we all knew coming into the draft was there and he hasn't disappointed us with that. It's just going to be a matter of him continuing to grow as a player. He's only a freshman, he's a young kid and he's going to have his ups and down just as any other rookie does. He has seen through this play here how much quicker it is than the college game, but it isn't even close to be what it is when November comes. He has to have that in his mind and be ready to go.
Q: On how Love can make Corey Brewer better:
Wittman: Corey is a runner, and Kevin has the ability with his outlet passing and seeing up the floor to take advantage of that. That's one thing that all of our wing guys better understand - If you're not going to run, you're not going to play. With the way he outlets the ball, you can get at least two or three layups a game, and that's huge. In the scheme of things, it's only six points, but it's a huge advantage to have.
Q: On pressure for the guys without contracts battling for roster spots:
Wittman: Sure, there is always a little bit of pressure. A lot of them are coming right out of college and they didn't get drafted. They love the game and want to continue their careers. But it's not necessarily what team you're with and the opportunity you have with that team ... Some of these guys are going to have a chance to come to training camp with us after this week is over, but there are 20 other teams here. All the European scouts are here, so this is an opportunity to showcase yourself not only for the Timberwolves but for the other teams in the NBA and overseas.
Q: On if teams feel obligated to give guys minutes so they can be seen:
Wittman: Well, you want to try to get guys minutes. They have worked just as hard as everybody else and you want them to have the opportunity to be seen. That's the hard thing. We have Corey (Brewer), Chris (Richard) and Kevin (Love) who are on the roster already that we definitely want to see, but we have spots and opportunities for some other guys. This isn't about winning and losing as much as getting a good look at guys we want to see.
Q: On Craig Smith proving to the team in his two years that he's a valuable contributor off the bench:
Wittman: Yes, it's a good thing for us to get done so that we can get Craig back to Minneapolis this summer and get him ready for the start of camp. He's a guy that's proven that he can score on the low post, and when you take Al (Jefferson) out of the game, that's an important factor that you can still get points in the paint. He proved to us last year that he can do that.
11:30 A.M. -- The Rhino's Back
|There's a Rhino lurking in Las Vegas ... One who inked a two-year deal to stay with the Wolves.|
Craig Smith, the leading player-contributor to a team website in 2007-08, signed a two year contract to remain with the Wolves - and we're very pleased.
To our surprise, the Rhino showed up in Vegas this morning at Cox Pavilion, extending about 1,234 daps and mini hugs to teammates, coaches and staff.
Last season, Smith put up 9.4 points on 56.3 percent shooting to go with 4.6 rebounds in 77 games (with 11 starts). His best game came at Washington in December, when he scored a career-high 36 points. It's hard to think of too many power forwards more productive than Smith that come off the pine.
We'll have more on this, including a conversation with Rhino, later today.
10 A.M. -- Nana Papa Yaw Dwene Mensah-Bonsu
|Here's Pops at practice, working on something he honed in Italy last season - his jumper.|
My new favorite player, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, opened his Wolves Summer League experience with 12 points, three rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals Wednesday night in Vegas.
Earlier that day, we went to Mensah-Bonsu's hotel room to talk about his Ghanian heritage, recent career and what he hoped to get out of Summer League. We learned that "Mensah-Bonsu" means that hundreds of years ago, his ancestors killed a whale, and what each of his other names signify as well. Pretty cool stuff from the man who grew up in London, England and played his college hoops at George Washington.
8 P.M. -- Love Beastly in Loss
The brightest of several high points Wednesday for Minnesota was the outstanding overall effort from rookie Kevin Love. Here's his line: 18 points on 9-of-18 shooting, 17 rebounds (six offensive), four assists (he had at least six), two blocks, five fouls and six turnovers (a few came when teammates weren't expecting his passes). All that in 30 minutes.
You can check the rest of the stats right here: BOX SCORE.
After the game, Wolves assistant general manager Fred Hoiberg told me he was completely impressed with what Love's shown in his first two games, but not surprised. He noted what a benefit Love's passing is for a guy like Corey Brewer, whom Love found several times in the open court, and praised the former Bruin's tenacity on the glass.
When we got back to the hotel, Love took a few moments to give us his thoughts on the game and his performance.
Note my tremendous opening question: "Back at the hotel, Kevin Love ... Tough loss right at the end, but two belts ... Two games under your belt now." My bad Kevin ... Thanks for bailing me out of my word vomit.
My favorite quote from Love:
"There's no such thing as a selfish rebound, so I'm going after every one. My dad always taught me to be the meanest dude possible under the board - throw elbows, get positioning, use your legs. Cause I have big legs and a big butt to cover my ground. ... And assuming that everything is a miss."
Love it. That's all for tonight, we'll be back in the AM.
5:30 P.M. -- Wolves Fall at the Buzzer
|OK, never said I was a professional photographer. Why are all the action shots blurry. Blah.|
"Love, love me do. You know I love you...
The story early in Minnesota's second game in Vegas was the only Wolf whose last name appears twice in that Beatles song.
Spectators saw a little bit of everything from Kevin Love in his first 10 minutes: a perfect outlet pass leading to a thunder dunk from Corey Brewer; five rebounds; another assist off a curl; and four points, one on a baby hook and the other a face-up jumper. Defensively, Love didn't give up a hoop from his man, and was called for just one foul trying to help on a penetrating Coby Karl. Terrific start for the Beach Boy nephew.
Love got some help from Chris Richard, who made all three of his field goals (plus a free throw) for seven points, and Brewer, who made both of his. The Wolves shot 55.6 percent from the field and totaled four assists to zero by the Lakers ... But L.A. somehow managed to score 26 points (9-of-11 free throws and 12 rebounds to eight helped).
The end of the first quarter and the start of the second belonged to Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who joined Minnesota on Tuesday and spoke to us on camera today (we'll put that up tomorrow). Pops scored eight quick points on 3-of-4 shooting in all different ways and was generally playing "like a madman," as he promised me before the contest.
Then Love checked back in, and began to insert his will offensively, first from the low block with a spin move around UCLA teammate Lorenzo Mata-Real, then again on the block. On the next offensive possession, Love caught a nice pass from Slim Shady (a.k.a. Drew Neitzel if you didn't watch the video earlier) and finished with a reverse layup. After earning a cheap offensive foul, Love finished a Wolves break for his 12th point, to go with seven boards and three dimes in 16 minutes. Solid, to quite solid.
In less important news, the Lakers took a 52-44 lead into halftime. Whatever.
After I gave a stirring, Van Wilder-type halftime speech, Minnesota opened the third quarter on a 13-5 run to tie the score. Here's how it happened: Bryce Taylor's three made it a six-point game (57-51) before a Laker miss allowed Love the chance to grab his 10th rebound at the 6:50 mark. Taylor then contributed an acrobatic tip-in to make it a four-point game, and the Wolves were running like A-Rod from Madonna rumors.
The run continued after another Love board and a Brewer baseline jumper. That's 4-of-5 from Brewer, and a two-point game. Culminating Minnesota's 9-0 burst on the next possession was Pooh Jeter (pronounced jetter), who swished a top-of-the-key jumper after an offensive rebound from Mensah-Bonsu to make it 57-57.
Sidenote: Love had his shot blocked twice in the early goings of the third, but he grabbed the first one and stuck it back in. His shot was blocked here and there at UCLA as well, and will happen from time-to-time due to his under-the-rim play. But that he makes up for it isn't a question. You have to take 16 and 13 in 20 minutes, against whatever competition.
Great series early in the fourth: Love started it by finding Brewer on the baseline, and Corey finished a pretty reverse layup to bring Minny within one. Pops flew in for an emphatic swat off the glass (kid is all over the place) at the other end, before Neitzel sunk a J. Blake Ahearn then took a charge, and Love grabbed an offensive board, up-faked Mata-Real and threw one down. 76-73 Wolves. Both teams are really battling here.
The best play of the game came at the 3:09 mark, and it wasn't from Kevin Love, but Brewer. The Final Four MVP streaked back on transition defense and absolutely annihilated what appeared to be an easy Laker layup, keeping L.A. from taking a three-point lead. Truly an amazing defensive play from Brewer, who started out 6-of-7 for 13 points before missing his next two shots.
85-80 L.A. at the 2:30 mark before a poopy offensive foul call on Pops gave the Lakers the ball back. No worries though, the ref made up for it by blowing a quick whistle on MB at the other end. Boo, hiss.
Brewer drew a foul on the next possession and converted both free throws to close the gap to four, and then switched over to guard Coby Karl, who had been a tough matchup for the much smaller Jeter. However, Pooh swiped the ball away from Brian Roberts, and fed Brewer for a layup at the other end to cut the lead to two. Action is Britney crazy right now...
Roberts provided quite the answer with a corner three to make it 89-84, even as Brewer pulled two points back after getting fouled from behind after flying down midcourt off an inbounds pass. Roberts then went to the rack, drawing a foul from Love, and hitting both shots with 55.3 left. Refusing to die, Jeter dropped a gorgeous hanging rainbow over three defenders, falling to the floor after drawing the foul and sinking the free throw. 91-89, L.A., 48 seconds left. Drama like Johnny, yeah?
An answer came this time from Nik Caner-Medley (never liked him as a Terp, sorry), but he was outdone again by who else but ... Pooh. ANOTHER and-1, this time on the left side of the rim with a beautiful finish and the harm. He nailed the free throw to bring Minnesota within one. Then, in one of the dumbest actions in summer league history, Nik CM idiotically smacked the padding to draw a technical foul. Jeter free throw good = All of a sudden, tie game. Wow. Seven points in about seven seconds from Pooh.
L.A. had a chance to get the last shot with the score tied at 94, and Joe Crawford ... after stumbling in the lane ... managed to drop a little floater with 2.9 left to dagger the Wolves. That hurts in the mind and heart, but nonetheless, a much improved effort from the Wolves in game two. We'll see you back here tomorrow night (we won't see you, actually, but we'll write you).
11 A.M. -- The Camera's Rolling
|Neitzel would fit right into Eminem's old outfit from the MTV Music Video Awards...|
These past two days in Las Vegas, videographer Alex Browning has had the camera rolling at Minnesota's first game, at practice and as we interviewed various coaches and players. To start you off we caught up with D-League star Blake Ahearn - here trying to impress coaches enough for a roster spot - after Minnesota's loss to Dallas, and included some highlights from the action.
The next day at practice, we chatted with assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff to see what the coaches were trying to get out of Summer League - why it's important, what they're looking for, etc...
Finally, when the team got back to the hotel after practice, we spent some time with Drew Neitzel outside the Hard Rock. The former Michigan State star talked about being called "Slim Shady" by opposing Big 10 crowds, due to his shaved head, Michigan roots (he's from Grand Rapids) and ... well ... because he looks like Eminem. Coincidentally, the Hard Rock has Eminem's outfit from his performance of "Stan" at the MTV Music Video Awards a few years back on display.
Here are links to the videos:
9 A.M. -- Rob Babcock: Free Agency
|Babcock filled us in on Wolves and NBA free agency after talking to Kevin McHale.|
Marcus Camby just got traded to the L.A. Clippers for the right to exchange second-round picks in 2010. What? At first glance, it makes no sense to give up one of the NBA's best defensive players, an All-Star caliber guy, for nothing. But of course, that's not the whole story; Wolves assistant GM Rob Babcock explains to us why Denver probably did the deal and what they got in return (namely a huge trade exception).
During Wolves shootaround on Wednesday morning, we also asked Babcock for an update on Minnesota's restricted (Ryan Gomes, Chris Richard and Craig Smith) and unrestricted (Sebastian Telfair) free agents. While he couldn't specifically address how negotiations are going due to league rules, Babcock provided what I thought was a very clear overview of the complicated process.
Take a listen:
6 P.M. -- Notes from the Arena
The Wolves players had the rest of the day off after a two-hour practice earlier, but Minnesota's basketball operations staff didn't go to the Hard Rock pool (which was a tough pass-up for me as well ... it's awesome). Instead, they grabbed a quick lunch (for me, Gardettos and two granola bars) and headed over to the arenas to do some scouting. Milwaukee played Detroit, Philly battled L.A. and San Antonio took on New Orleans. Later, Sacramento will face Portland and Charlotte plays Golden State. I caught the first two games after walking over with Rob Babcock, and later saw Fred Hoiberg, Kevin McHale and Ed Pinckney there doing their thing.
Of course, it's not just Minnesota's basketball staff that's present at these games - certainly every team is represented (or so it seems). Furthermore, you have a slew of foreign scouts (I heard Spanish, Italian, French and Serbian) who are looking to sign some of these kids that don't make NBA squads. As for the action, here are a few observations:
- One note from the first quarter of the Lakers - 76ers game: Philly has three players (Mareese Speights, Thaddeus Young and Jason Smith) that I think can contribute to the pro squad in November. L.A., on the other hand, probably has none, unless you think Coby Karl can earn some minutes. He's pretty solid, but he's not playing over Bryant, Fischer, Vujacic or Farmar.
- Ramon Sessions, Milwaukee's point guard, was easily the best player on the floor in the first game. The numbers were there - 20 points, six boards and four dimes - but it was the ease at which he made plays that was most impressive. He should without question see serious minutes next season, Mo Williams or no Mo.
- Milwaukee first-round pick Joe Alexander did some nice things in spots, but was pretty much as advertised: athletic and raw. He looks lost at times, but makes really nice plays at others.
- Bucks second-round pick Luc Mbah a Moute struggled from the field (2-of-10), but received big minutes (30) towards his six boards. But remember, he played in the frontcourt with Kevin Love at UCLA, so I asked about his Bruin teammate after Milwaukee beat Detroit:
"Kevin's a great player, one of the best I've played with. He's a really good teammate and I think his best is yet to come. He can rebound, pass, shoot, and do all the little things as a big man. He's a good player, and all good players find their niche. He was a big part of what we did going to the Final Four, and he made all of us better. Also, he's a funny dude. A lot funnier than you think."
Pretty standard stuff there, but he wasn't just giving me what I wanted to hear - he legitimately likes and respects Love. Which reminds me ... One of my buddies called me and said, "I heard Love looked pretty slow on defense," referring to an ESPN blog entry written immediately after Love picked up some early fouls. That's definitely misleading, which you can see for yourself if you watch tomorrow. He actually moved his feet defensively much better than most of us expected.
Tomorrow we'll have an interview with Drew Neitzel, in which he describes how opposing fans used to call him "Slim Shady," and J.B. Bickerstaff about what coaches expect to gain from Summer League. The team has shootaround in the morning, and plays the Lakers at 5:30 p.m.
5:30 P.M. -- POPS
|New addition to Minnesota's roster Pops Mensah-Bonsu talks to Rodney Carney at practice.|
I'm going to wait until I talk to Pops Mensah-Bonsu, a late addition to the roster, to report too much about him. I will say one thing: He looked great in practice, and was probably the most active player on the floor. Here's his bio, prepared by our own PR man Mark Rosenberg:
Not drafted by an NBA franchise... Signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Mavericks prior to the start of the 2006-07 NBA season and was assigned to the Fort Worth Flyers of the NBA D-League... Averaged 15.8 ppg and 10.4 rpg while shooting 56.0 percent from the field in 26 D-League games... Named MVP of the D-League All-Star game in 2007 after posting 30 points and seven rebounds... Recalled to the Mavericks on Feb. 8, 2007 and appeared in 12 NBA games, averaging 2.4 ppg and 1.8 rpg... Spent the 2007-08 season with Benetton Treviso in the Italian League, where he averaged 8.3 ppg and 9.2 rpg... Played four seasons of collegiate ball for George Washington University, earning Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team honors as a senior and Second Team honors as a junior... Named the A-10's Most Improved Player following his sophomore season... Averaged 12.6 ppg and 6.7 rpg as a senior.
2 P.M. -- Practice Report
Tuesday morning at 11 a.m., the Wolves hopped on the bus en route to Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy for a two-hour practice while I played Canadian doubles with Andre and wife Steffi. It was fun.
In between sets, I took a few amateur-at-best photos of the ongoings.
|One focus of practice today is putting in a few more offensive sets for Kevin Love. The coaches didn't feel like he got the ball enough on Monday, despite his 18 points.|
|Love made 7-of-13 shots from the field, but was the opposite of happy about missing 3-of-7 free throws.|
|Corey Brewer's always good for a laugh or two before practice starts. Here, he's responding to a joke from his BFF Chris Richard.|
|Rodney Carney missed practice again with his right hamstring strain, which is clearly unfortunate for him and Minnesota's eager-to-get-a-look brass.|
|With assistants Ed Pinckney and Nate Tibbetts pitching in, Jerry Sichting and J.B. Bickerstaff ran Tuesday's practice.|
|Minnesota's starting guards, Pooh Jeter and Bryce Taylor, combined for 14 points and five assists. Off the bench, Drew Neitzel and Blake Ahearn put in 27 points without a dime.|
|Sore muscles stretched: hams, quads, calves, hips. Feels good. Real good.|
|Practices last around two hours at this stage of the game, without any wasted time - The coaches have things mapped out minute-by-minute.|
|Wolves head coach Randy Wittman and assistant general manager Rob Babcock discussing something during practice. I'll bet you $10 million it's about hoops.|
1:00 P.M. -- Jerry Zgoda Interview
Also in Las Vegas covering the Wolves is Star Tribune writer Jerry Zgoda, who was kind enough to sit down with me at practice to discuss what he thought about Kevin Love and Corey Brewer and to talk about how much journalism has changed since the last time he covered the Wolves.
In other news, we've been shooting video interviews and highlights and should have some of that available for you shortly on timberwolves.com. Later!
7 P.M. -- Wolves Vs. Dallas
I haven't been this upset since Fox discontinued "The O.C." ... Gerald Green isn't playing tonight. Not only is my over/under on Green's shot attempts (had it at 12) as irrelevant as Tim Mahoney would be in Vegas, but you immediately take out an interesting "I'll show you" game since Minnesota dumped Green for a second-round pick. Oh well.
C: Chris Richard; PF: Kevin Love; SF: Corey Brewer; SG: Bryce Taylor; PG: Pooh Jeter
C: Pape Sow; PF: James Singleton; SF: Shan Foster; SG: Ronnie Seibutis; PG: Keith McLeod
The idea here is not to tell you every little detail, but to point out the most important points that might impact Minnesota's upcoming season. For example, one player's shooting percentage in this game probably isn't as important as how comfortable he looks getting his shots and in what spots. Know what I'm saying?
That said, here are some running, quarter-by-quarter thoughts in A, B, C fashion.
A) Corey Brewer's Aggression: We've spoken all summer about the hours Brewer has spent in the gym working on his game, and certainly he's made some strides with his jumper and handle (he's no Steve Nash yet). But more importantly, Brewer has a skip in his step and a swagger in his stride, resulting in two early jumpers, two offensive rebounds, two assists and swarming defense resulting in a couple swipes. Did he miss some gimmes? Yes (2-of-9). But other than that, he was very good (I know, I know: time to stick a few more jumpers).
B) Where's Randy? The Wolves struggled after opening with an 8-2 lead, scoring only six more points in the first quarter to trail Dallas 21-14 after one. The biggest reason to my eyes was a lack of flow on offense, which might be attributed to new blood at point guard (Pooh Jeter and Drew Neitzel). Those two are still learning Minnesota's offense, not to mention their teammates, a far cry from last year's edition that had experienced Randy Foye running the show with Mateen Cleaves off the bench (and Rashad McCants on the wing). Foye was the best player in Vegas for two straight years, however, so you can't expect that (won the MVP as a rook, should have beaten out Nate Robinson last year but the Knicks were 5-0 to Minny's 4-1).
C) Love-Me-Do? How was the kid early? His first basket came on a baseline baby hook early, and his second on three attempts came on a soft jumper from 17-feet. We've talked a lot about his passing these past few months, and we almost saw the play Chris Richard referred to after shootaround when Love floated a pretty pass to Richard under the hoop - but Richard pushed off. Love grabbed two boards and committed four fouls, but they weren't due to his mistakes with his man but trying to help. The Wolves definitely didn't get him the basketball enough ... But more on the UCLA kid later.
A) Mavericks hotter than I was while walking 500 yards back from the pizza place in 110 degree heat after lunch: Dallas was on a freaking tear to start the second quarter, making its first five shots, including two three-point bombs, to take a 37-16 lead. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why Dallas got so many open looks, other than the fact that Minnesota's team defense was just generally poor. These guys haven't played together much, and it shows. The Mavericks don't have too many notable players on their roster, nationally speaking, but did get 12 points off the bench from North Carolina's Rayshawn Terry.
B) Ahearn Solid in Spots: Among the best players in the D-League last year, Blake Ahearn proved himself to have a pretty stroke, which he showed after a nice dish from Corey Brewer. But it was Ahearn's consecutive drives to the hole during Minnesota's extremely cold second-quarter spell that resulted in four free throws and kept the Wolves within striking distance (kind of). Ahearn was the only player to score off Minnesota's bench in the first half.
C) TO Party: Turnovers killed the Wolves in the first half. No one had more than three (Brewer), but everyone who played except for Dan Fitzgerald (1:13 of burn) had at least one. Turnovers are to basketball teams what alcohol is to John Daly. You know? They were a big factor, alongside that hot Mavs shooting, in a 48-30 deficit for Minnesota. The Wolves shot only 36.7 percent (11-of-30) and blocked only one shot. However, none of these stats are necessarily ones that have any carry over affect into the season. Mostly were due to the offense being pretty out-of-sync, but that is honestly what this guy expected in game one.
A) Outless Pass Alive: We'd heard a lot about Kevin Love's outlet pass, and finally saw one in all of its arching glory after his seventh rebound of the game early in the third. Love turned and lofted a beauty over a Mavs' defender for Corey Brewer to run directly onto, resulting in two Brew free throws. Love was returning the favor after Brewer had found him underneath for a layup, which was Love's 12th point and Brewer's third dime. Good to see these two working together, as they're the two players on this roster most likely to be on the NBA floor together in November. Certainly, Love's game makes Brewer better.
B) Windex Man: Gotta stick with Mr. Love here. By the three-minute mark of the period, Love had already six boards to give him 11 for the game. Rebounding, as they say, is one stat that carries over from level-to-level, and the kid can flat out get on the glass. On more than one occasion, Kevin McHale and Jim Stack referenced Love's "small area quickness," so I've been trying to keep a close eye on what he does in ... well ... small areas. And indeed, he moves his feet very quickly as soon as he thinks the ball is going into the air, and immediately puts his body on somebody. Furthermore, he clearly has good instincts in terms of following the basketball, which is why he gets so many rebounds with no one else around. He beats people to spots. Watch ... This is one of those things that bodes well for the coming season. Meanwhile, Love scored eight points in the quarter to give him 16, a game high.
C) Winning Quarters: The Wolves made up only a point in the game's score, but did play much better in the third than they had since the opening minutes. Minnesota hit 8-of-15 shots, grabbed nine boards (including Love's six), and turned the ball over six times. Love was the story of the period, but Brewer was solid and Chris Richard played tough as well. Ahearn added four points to remain Minnesota's only bench scorer, and he brought the Wolves within 14, as close as they'd get before the Mavs closed the quarter up 66-49.
A) Get Some, Drew: Former Michigan State standout Drew Neitzel decided he didn't want Ahearn to work alone off the bench, and exploded for 10 points in four minutes, including two three pointers. Piggybacking on Neitzel from distance was Bryce Taylor, who's three near the three-minute mark brought the Wolves to within 12 at 78-66. But still, hopefully Neitzel can take some confidence from his late spurt, because this Wolves team certainly needs him to produce off the pine.
B) Double-double debut: Kevin Love finished his opening professional game with a solid 18 points and 13 boards to lead the Wolves in both categories. I want to analyze what he did further after getting input from other sources, so we'll leave it at that for now.
C) Slop: The final two minutes were by far the sloppiest of the game, and must not have been fun to watch for basketball purist. Unfortunately, the Mavs had the better of those minutes as they had for most of the game, and erased Minnesota's comeback attempt to finish things up at 90-74 Mavericks.
You can check out the final box score right here. It'll tell you that the Wolves did a solid job on the glass (35-30), but turned the ball over 24 times to just 11 assists. Corey Brewer finished with 11 points on 5-of-18 shooting, but had seven boards, three assists and was credited with only one of his three steals to my eyes. Chris Richard had a solid fourth quarter and finished with seven boards, two assists, a block and four points. Ahearn went for 17 off the bench and Neitzel 10, though no bench player notched an assist. After the game, coach Jerry Sichting took some questions about Love, Brewer and the game as a whole.
6 P.M. -- Summer League Rules, History
RULES: There are a few changes in rules from the NBA's regular season to Summer League games, particularly the shorter quarters. Games total 40 minutes, the same as in the WNBA, so keep that in mind when taking a peek at box scores. You decide if the inferior defense makes up for eight fewer minutes in which to rack up stats. Here are the changes:
- Four ten-minute quarters, with an eight-minute halftime and just 10 minutes to warm up before the game
- Two-minute overtime if needed, with each team getting one 30-second timeout (penalty begins on the third team foul)
- Teams aren't in the penalty until the 10th foul
- Players foul out on their 10th personal foul, although oddly, they don't really seem to (Philly's Jason Smith had 11 fouls in the box score of Philly's opening loss to Golden State)
- Each team receives two full timeouts per half, with mandatory timeouts being taken at the first stoppage of play after 5:59 and 2:59 of each quarter
- A 30-second timeout taken by a team will negate the next mandatory timeout due in that quarter; timeouts do not carry over
- All other NBA rules will apply
- Most points in a game: 42, Marcus Banks, PHX vs. CLE 7/9/07
- Most rebounds in a game: 20, Lonnie Jones, CLE vs. PHX, 7/14/04
- Most assists in a game: 11, three times, one being Sebastian Telfair, 7/12/06
- Largest margin of victory: 49, BOS 110, TOR 62, 7/11/06
- Highest-Scoring Game (combined): 225 (ORL 119, BOS 106) 7/17/04
25.7 ppg Nikoloz Tskitishvili (DEN) - OK, Summer League success doesn't always translate to the league
12.7 rpg Lonnie Jones (CLE)
6.2 apg Steve Blake (WAS) and Jameer Nelson (ORL)
20.6 ppg J.R. Smith (NO)
9.8 rpg Josh Powell (DAL)
6.0 apg Sebastian Telfair* (POR)
*Telfair owns three of Summer League's top eight all-time assist totals (11, 10 and 10)
24.8 ppg Randy Foye
13.2 rpg James Singleton (LAC)
7.6 apg John Lucas
42.0 ppg Marcus Banks (PHX) (only one game)
12.0 rpg Amir Johnson (DET)
6.4 apg DJ Strawberry (PHX)
2 P.M. -- Shootaround Synopsis
|You can watch Minnesota's Vegas opener against Gerald Green and Dallas on NBATV or via nba.com.|
I actually didn't make it to shootaround because Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag asked me to come up to Hark Rock's bowling alley suite to chill. That, or they didn't, but wouldn't that be funny? Can you imagine the type of web content one could garner from even five minutes in that situation?
Instead, I hopped the 10:45 a.m. bus to the arena.
Now, the purpose of NBA shootarounds is two-fold (whether during the regular season with the full squads or during the summer): first, to prepare for that night's opponent; and second, to get everybody out of bed in the morning. Now, getting an entire basketball team out of a hotel and to an arena for practice isn't as simple as it might seem.
Rather: the equipment manager has to make sure everyone has all of their gear; the trainers need to loosen up the muscles of certain players, tape others and load all of their gear should they need it during shootaround; the coaches have to prepare (in advance) what to take the players through; the PR guy has to figure out which interviews to set up and when they'll take place ... and so on and so forth. It's complicated. Seriously.
When you're along for the ride, things flow extremely smoothly, and all the players (or reporter) have to do is hop on the bus on time; everything else is already set into motion. Today, things were easy as ever. Well, almost. Trying to shuffle the Portland Trail Blazers out of the arena in time for the Wolves to pass by before practice wasn't quite so simple. One reason for the congestion is that there is only one massive cargo elevator that goes to the arena floor entrance from the underground area where team buses drop off. A better way to picture this? Think 12 blue and green Escalades and five Yukons (the coaches), or the Wolves, running into 12 red and black Hummers and five Ford Exhibitions, or the Blazers. Throw in a few kids (Mazda Miata?) and some peripheral guys like me (Honda Civic?) and you have a traffic jam, to say the least.
Seriously, it was ridiculous.
Inevitably, several of the players know at least one or two (if not 10) guys on the other squad through their years of playing AAU, college and pro hoops, so everybody has to stop for dap, quick hugs and back taps. Scouts say hi to scouts and coaches, assistants say hi to old players, I say hi to my favorite Finnish player (Petteri Koponen - come on, you know Petteri) ... It's just a mess. After at least five minutes, Portland finally got in the elevator and Wolves strength coach Dave Vitale got the Wolves running up and down the floor for warmups.
Assistants J.B. Bickerstaff and Jerry Sichting took the Wolves through shootaround, and one obvious note from my vantage point was how easily everything came to Chris Richard and Corey Brewer, the lone Wolfs who were in Minnesota jerseys for last year's summer league. I caught up with Richard after practice to see what was up.
Richard said his favorite thing about summer league so far was receiving a slew of great passes from Kevin Love, which he has felt obligated to turn into dunks. Also, please forgive the music that started up halfway through our conversation - we tried to speak up. As soon as I finished with Richard, the Knicks AND the Cavs started filing in faster than Ms. USA dropped on her butt during last night's Ms. Universe contest. Over/under on total daps between Minnesota, N.Y. and Cleveland is 123,474.
Back at the hotel, I'll have a brief conversation with guard Blake Ahearn (rumor has it this kid can really shoot the rock) before trying to find a few slices of pizza. Many players will take naps and simply relax in their respective rooms until the bus loads for the Dallas game. I'll check in from there.
Oh wait! I almost forgot ... Gerald Green is playing for the Mavericks this summer. I'm setting an over/under of 12 shots and taking the over for Green tonight, and expecting at least two massive "Take that, second-round pick!" hammer dunks from G^2.
11:00 A.M. -- Sin City
|Wolves shootaround lasted from 11-12 p.m. at COX Pavilion. Tipoff against Dallas is at 7 p.m. Vegas time.|
And ... We're in Vegas. Shootaround just started, so I'll have a complete update (featuring a conversation with Chris Richard, I think) afterwards to catch everyone up to date. The only thing newsworthy to this point is that Rodney Carney has a strained right hamstring and is not practicing. Whether or not he'll play against Dallas at 7 p.m. has yet to be determined. Here are a few thoughts about the trip here and the hotel just to get things going:
Having arrived at the MSP airport at 6 a.m. this morning - earlier than I've woken up since last year's flight to Summer League - I wasn't surprised that my eyelids collapsed in the middle of a Sports Illustrated article on the flight. With my mind not working at full capacity when the plane landed, it took a rush of heat upon hopping off the plane to remind me that I was in the desert.
Another clue came when Wolves videographer Alex Browning and I descended the escalator into baggage claim, which features giant posters of most shows in town, such as: Penn and Teller, Carrot Top (who wants to pay for that?), and of course, Thunder From Down Under.
Our bags finally arrived about 20 minutes later, so we hopped a cheap cab over to the Hard Rock, learning that noon would be the earliest we'd get in our rooms. As such, we headed up to our buddy (assistant trainer) Anthony Aldridge's room to drop our bags and wait for the bus to morning shootaround.
In between, we took a loop around the hotel (featuring Britney Spears's original school girl outfit from the "Oh Baby Baby" song and a slew of signed guitars from famous musicians), got denied at the pool (not open yet) and looked outside the hotel for potential food spots. At 10:45 a.m., we boarded the team bus to head over to COX Pavilion on UNLV's campus, just a few blocks away from the Hard Rock.
So far, I'm happy not to have spent a single cent, and to have avoided being in the same place as Pacman (sorry Adam) Jones. I'll check back in when we're back at the Hard Rock.
1 P.M. -- An Officer and A Gentlemen
That's right folks ... Andy Baldwin from ABC's "The Bachelor" stopped by Target Center on Friday. When asked if I wanted to interview him for timberwolves.com, my immediate response was "Obviously." Check the main site in a little while for that action.
12 P.M. -- Telfair, Free Agent Talk
|Kevin McHale and the Wolves have repeatedly said they'd love to resign Sebastian Telfair.|
I wish I had more to report on this front ... But free agent negotiations are among the most difficult to report upon, because teams and agents are engaged in a constant back and forth primarily about contract size. Do I have an inkling? Right now, I'd have as much luck randomly guessing the names of Shawn Kemp or Travis Henry's children, or not puking on the Pirate Ship at Valley Fair ... And I work for the team.
That said, now that many of this offseason's top free agents - Gilbert Arenas (Wizards), Elton Brand (Philly), Baron Davis (Clippers) and Corey Maggette (Warriors) - are locked into deals, the action should pick up.
Free agents with lesser names - Michael Pietrus (Magic), Chris Duhon (Knicks), DeSagana Diop (Mavericks), Brent Barry (Rockets) and James Jones (Miami) - have begun to find new homes, so it shouldn't be long before Minnesota goes one way or the other with restricted free agents Ryan Gomes, Chris Richard and Craig Smith, to whom they made qualifying offers. Meanwhile, Kevin McHale and Co. have repeatedly stated their desire to resign point guard Sebastian Telfair, to whom they didn't make a qualifying offer. Still, Telfair proved last season that he's more than capable of shouldering an NBA point-guard load.
McHale had this to say about Telfair on Wednesday, when Minnesota announced its deal with Philly:
"(Point guard) is one of our needs; there is no question. We are going to try and address that need. We really like Sebastian a great deal. I've been talking to Andy Miller, his agent, quite a bit. As you can imagine, it's like everything, they want more than we can give and we want to offer less than they want - somewhere in between there will be a deal hopefully you can get done. We're very conscious of the fact that we have a lot of different stuff going on. And also we want to make sure we maintain our flexibility - in a couple of years, especially. But we also want to give these guys a chance to come out and play."
Sure, it was on a losing team, but Telfair showcased a gear that only a handful of players in the league possess. Though he came in labeled as more of a scoring point guard, he quickly showed an ability to keep his dribble while creating havoc defensively and ultimately dishing off to wide open players for easy buckets. Surely, that was when Telfair as at his best last season. And, after he figured out his teammates and learned coach Randy Wittman's system, Telfair also held down one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the league: he ended up 10th in the NBA at 3.2-to-1. After a Dec. 22 game against New Orleans when Telfair posted six turnovers, he had more than three turnovers just once for the entire rest of his season (36 games). He had games on 12-and-0, 11-and-1, 11-and-3, 10-and-2, 8-and-1 and so forth. When he had to, he showed that he can score the ball as well, erupting for a season-high 27 points against Indiana (with 11 dimes and one turnover), 24 points against New Jersey and 20 against Atlanta.
To be fair, there were two areas in which Telfair's game certainly needed to improve: perimeter shooting and finishing at the rim after taking contact. The former area is one that he did improve as the season went on, and it wasn't like his 40.1 percent shooting was terrible - it just needs to get better to the point that teams can't afford to leave him alone and double in the post. Since he has a good stroke, high level of confidence and a strong work ethic to keep getting better, I'm completely confident that the 23-year-old will keep improving his shot. Then, like several basketball minds greater than me have stated, he has a chance not just to be good, but to be a great player. Now in terms of finishing at the rim after contact, repeated trips to the weight room should help shore that up ... You just don't want to lose any of that explosive quickness in the process.
But the bottom line is, Telfair is a better player than he's given credit for, and the Wolves have made it clear that they'd love to have him back in Minnesota. Hopefully the negotiations - about which I have less of an idea than Paris Hilton has about calc - will prove fruitful for both parties.
Rest assured that I'll post any updates on this front as they're legitimate. If anything happens over the weekend, I'll write about it on the blog or the site, but if not ... We'll see you Monday from Las Vegas.
12 P.M. -- INTRODUCTION
According to our friends at weather.com, it's currently 104 degrees in Las Vegas. Uh huh. Sure, I'm looking forward to having a nice, constant layer of sweat enveloping my body in that desert (live oven) ... However, today in Minneapolis, the 78 degree bit felt pretty $$$$$ on my walk into Target Center.
But come Monday, July 14, timberwolves.com (me) and Wolves videographer Alex Browning will be heading West to cover the Sin City Summer League. Basically, we're there to shoot (not physically), record and write about pretty much everything we see. Well, unless it's boring and has nothing to do with the team. For example:
A) Old ladies playing slots
B) Teeny-boppers using fake IDs to get into clubs like Rain, Tau or Ghost Bar
C) "The Hills" gal Heidi singing at a club at her own birthday party, and being amazingly, spectacularly awful. No really - I think that happened last year around Summer League time.
Of course, some things having nothing to do with hoops may be interesting enough for some blog coverage; I reserve the right to talk about and/or make fun of those occurrences. Por ejemplo:
A) Random celebrity moments/sightings, either boring or inappropriate (Last year we saw Jenna Jamison and Tito Ortiz just hanging out, behaving normally. But you should know these things. Right?).
B) Other NBA players losing money at blackjack, craps or poker.*
B2) Any further information on the "Girls Gone Wild" guy owing the Wynn Hotel $2 million, as reported on www.lasvegas.com.
C) On second thought, if Heidi (or power couple Speidi) is in Vegas, you can bet your life that I'll be recording all public interaction with my Olympus VN-960-PC voice recorder. If Alex is around, better yet.
*After typing that, I received a jolt of electricity in my fingertips from my keyboard, meaning that David Stern is monitoring me and Option B will not be covered by this website.
If there are other things for which I should be looking out, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cool?
1 P.M. -- SICHTING ON THE SQUAD
|Wolves assistant coach Jerry Sichting will be leading the Wolves Summer League squad.|
Although Minnesota's 2008 Summer League squad won't actually touch down in Vegas for two days, we do know who's on the roster.
As such, we thought it prudent to sit down with Wolves assistant coach Jerry Sichting, who will assume coaching duties along with assistants J.B. Bickerstaff, Ed Pinckney and Nate Tibbetts of Minnesota's D-League affiliate (Sioux Falls Skyforce).
Sichting explained to me what's important about going to Summer League in the first place, discussed what the team expects from Kevin Love and took a look at the rest of the roster, which features just three players on Minnesota's current roster (Love, Corey Brewer and Chris Richard*):
*Also playing in Vegas is new Wolf Rodney Carney. I'll have more on that promptly.
4 P.M. -- TRADE WITH PHILLY
|Yup. Carney's got those "mad hops" we've been hearing about. And he's playing in Vegas.|
Even the fiercest Kevin McHale haters are going to be hard pressed to find something negative to say about Minnesota's acquisition of Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth, a first-round pick (from Utah) and cash considerations for a 2010 conditional second-round pick (protected through picks 55-60, meaning it'll be rendered moot unless Minnesota finishes in the NBA's top five or six teams next year).
"We figured there would be either a good player, which in Rodney we got, or an ability to take a salary or two off a teams' hands, and in this deal we got both," said McHale. "We were really excited about that."
And rightfully so, because in short, Philly needed to drop a few million bucks off their cap in order to make room for Elton Brand, and only a few teams in the league (i.e. Minnesota) had the space to take on two contracts. But, in order for one of those teams to be interested, Philly knew it'd have to give something else up. Enter the first-round pick they acquired by sending Kyle Korver to Utah.
The good news for us, and one reason why I'm including all this in "Thoughts From the Slots," is that Carney will be playing for Minnesota in Vegas. Indeed, the Wolves (and I) essentially get a free look at a terrific athlete who will have to prove that he deserves some of the minutes at the 2 or 3 positions that should be divided between Mike Miller, Corey Brewer and Rashad McCants. A former Conference USA Player of the Year at Memphis, Carney was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2006 draft, but saw limited minutes in his first two years in Philadelphia.
How about Minnesota's roster/salary situation compared to where it was in July of 2007 (or especially 2006)? You really have to be thankful to be out of what was an absolute plethora of "tough" contracts (i.e. those of KG, Mark Blount, Ricky Davis, Troy Hudson, Trenton Hassell, Marko Jaric, etc.). Yikes! Now the longest contract is that of Al Jefferson (a bargain at $11 million this year, then adding $1 million until 2012). Kevin Love, Corey Brewer and Randy Foye are on their reasonable rookie deals (the team has options coming up on Brewer and Foye), while Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, Rashad McCants and Mark Madsen's deals go through 2009. We'll see what happens with Gomes, Smith, Richard, Telfair and Snyder in these next few days, but right now, the money situation looks quite good. Come on ... admit it.
First-Round Pick Situation
To clear this up: The Wolves could have up to four first-round picks next season if:
- Boston finishes in the league's top 27 (pick is top three protected)
- Miami finishes in the league's top 20 (pick is top 10 protected)
- Utah finishes in the league's top eight (pick is top 22 protected)
- Minnesota finishes in the league's bottom 10 (pick is top 10 protected through 2011)
Boston is an absolute mortal lock not to be one of the league's three worst teams (it's more likely that Tila Tequila will never again appear on a reality show), while the other three are all toss ups. If I were a betting man, I'd say the Wolves would get three of the four picks next season. Now, even though this material isn't directly related to the Summer League, I'm taking full advantage of having a blog ... Here's some more information for you:
Other Trade Notes:
A) Philadelphia paid a large portion of the salaries coming to the Wolves.
B) Booth is on the last year of his deal. He played only 6.6 minutes a game last year, averaging 0.8 points and 1.2 boards in 31 games. He was included primarily because of his 1.1 million contract.
C) Utah's pick is protected through 22 in 2009, 15 in 2010, 17 in 2011, and 16 in 2012 and 13. After that (very unlikely), it turns into a second-round pick plus significant cash considerations. If you're not familiar with being "protected," it signifies that a team will not have to forego its traded draft pick if it does not finish at a certain spot in the regular season standings. It's basically protection for a team that does worse than it expected. Utah is good, and is generally expected to return to the playoffs next season; but if they do not have one of the best eight records in the league (a tossup), it's likely they won't have to give up their pick to the Wolves. However, if they get into the playoffs in 2010, it's a virtual lock that the Wolves would then get that pick.
D) "Conditional Second Rounder" ... To explain: the conditional second rounder is protected through picks 55-60 in the 2010 draft, so if the Wolves don't have one of the five or six best records in the league, Philly gets nothing. In other words, that inclusion was a mere formality. Or, if Minnesota's that good so soon, Philly is welcome to the second rounder.
E) McHale called Carney a: "Freakish athlete (who) can really get up and down the floor. High-wire act guy. Like all young guys, has stuff to work on. He's been working hard this summer. He went down and spent time with Mark Price at Mark Price Shooting Camp in Atlanta. He spent money out of his own pocket to go down there and spend time with him. I think he played more as a rookie and not quite as much last year and he's hungry." McHale also said that another bonus for the Wolves is that Elton Brand won't be in the Western Conference.
F) The Wolves are by no means done wheeling and dealing. McHale and Co. are targeting both a backup point guard and a backup combo guard. He said the team still really likes Sebastian Telfair and is trying to bring him back.
G) I'll have much more information on Carney up tomorrow, so check back.