As the Timberwolves’ roster came together this offseason, everyone who’s played their share of NBA 2K over the years knew that this team was going to be a fun one in this year’s edition, but I’m not sure anyone knew just how eerily the game would replicate real life. The first clip above is from Monday’s Dunks After Dark event, shot with the Phantom Cam and showing in glorious slow-mo one of the first tastes we got of what is sure to be a regular connection: the Rubio-to-Wiggins alley-oop.

But the actual first taste of this came in NBA 2K15’s “Momentous” trailer, which was released earlier this week. Aside from being the reverse angle, it’s almost an exact copy of the alley-oop the pair put together on Monday night.

I wasn’t prepared for how interesting watching an NBA team practice was going to be. When the assembled media was granted access to the Timberwolves’ first day of training camp for the last half hour, we filed in and sat down on the north side of the Taylor Center’s court. The players were going up and down, divided into three sets that matched last night’s squads for the Dunks After Dark scrimmages — black, white and gold.

The coaches on the floor — Flip Saunders, Ryan Saunders and Sidney Lowe — set up a drill on dealing with the pick and roll, working on specific calls and approaches. Some of it may have seemed basic, but training camp is about getting everyone on the same page. It’s a way to say, “This is how we do things.” To that end, it’s not a test just of learning specific things, but a test of how well a player learns things in general, how coachable a player is.

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Dunks After Dark Wrap-Up

Steve McPherson —  September 30, 2014 — 3 Comments

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In the grandest barnstorming tradition, the Minnesota Timberwolves descended on the 4,500-seat Taylor Center on the campus of Minnesota State University Mankato for Dunks After Dark last night. One hundred percent completely sober students filled the arena to capacity quickly once the doors opened at 11 pm and they mugged for NBA TV’s cameras while being entertained for a good hour by DJ Mad Mardigan and an assortment of breakdancers and trampoline dunkers. As anticipation built for the Wolves to take the floor, the energy thrummed and the building pulsed with all the casual fun of basketball without playoff implications, without the pressure of filling a big arena, without the freight of the NBA proper.

But let’s not kid ourselves: in terms of actual basketball, last night meant less than nothing in the grand scheme of things, so let’s celebrate that with a bunch of GIFs of dunks and fun stuff, plus a couple observations. All GIFs are courtesy of the incomparable CJ Fogler. Continue Reading…

Media Day: Quick Hits

William Bohl —  September 30, 2014 — 5 Comments

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Good morning! Prior to all of last night’s “Dunks After Dark” fun, Wolves media day took place deep within the cellar of the Target Center. Here are a few quotes and general observations, in the order the players and coaches went to the podium to talk to those of us assembled:

1. Flip Saunders

– The Wolves’ minority owner/ President of Basketball Operations / Head Coach began with the usual coachspeak platitudes, about being ready to build a contender, being excited to get to camp, and discussing the leadership roles on the team. But he had a few noteworthy quotes that offered a peek into his mindset as the team embarked on its journey to Mankato.

– “One of the great thing about having young players,” Flip said, “is that you have a really significant impact on what they might become down the road.” He also spoke about getting to the grind of camp and working on things with his team daily. “What coaches love are practices. What you have the opportunity to do is mold these players.” But in his mind, it isn’t just up to the coaches to get Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and the other Minnesota youngsters ready to be successful. “The success we have will not (come from) the rookies (alone). It’s the veterans being able to help these rookies out.” Continue Reading…

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People who followed the Minnesota Timberwolves, whether they were fans or media members, so closely last season have widely held the belief that it was the lack of late game execution that ultimately was the undoing of this team in their quest for a return to the playoffs. The 0-11 start in games decided by four points or less was a frustrating run, and it once the Wolves ended that streak with a clutch win on the road against the Golden State Warriors, hopes of the floodgates opening and leading to more wins was the preferred result of getting over that hump.

To a degree, it did. After the 0-11 start in games decided by four points or less, the Wolves won six of eight in these close games. But the damage had been done. Missing out on those precious wins early seemed to help lead to players checking out and the effort not being consistent enough in the final two months of the season when the Wolves didn’t have any margin for error. There are plenty of reasons as to why the Wolves were so bad (shooting, player execution, coaching, the bench being so bad it taxed the starters, defense, etc.) and most fans want to jump on Rick Adelman as the primary reason.

So will a coaching change help this Wolves team get over the hump in a close game environment that has plagued them for a decade? In a recent Q&A by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, Flip Saunders mentioned he doesn’t care so much about who starts games as he does which players finish games. He even said that prior to his time coaching the Washington Wizards, his teams had a higher winning percentage than any other team when games were decided by three points or less:  Continue Reading…

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The first true superstar to play for the Wolves was Kevin Garnett, a power forward. Eventually, he was traded for Al Jefferson, a power forward/center, who was eventually (and, arguably, unnecessarily) replaced by Kevin Love, a power forward. Heck, even Tom Gugliotta and Christian Laettner put up big numbers for the Wolves in the early-to-mid 90s.

Power forwards have led the Timberwolves for nearly the entire existence of the franchsie. Thaddeus Young has a chance to lead the team in scoring this year, but for the first time in nearly two decades, the current shape of the franchise does not revolve around the development of a promising young power forward.

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With media day and training camp just two days away, and the first preseason game less than two weeks away, we finally have a (mostly) set roster. Now that the Timberwolves have announced the names off their official training camp roster, the first attempt at a post-Kevin Love era has more or less taken shape.

We start with the group big men that Kevin Love used to lead. Even with a haul as good as the one the Wolves got, replacing a frontcourt presence like Love can’t be done right away.

In short: Minnesota’s frontcourt won’t be as strong as it was a year ago. While the center position may actually be the deepest it has ever been, there are some big question marks, especially at power forward.

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Penberthy The Minnesota Timberwolves have added to their development and scouting departments with the announcement of three hires on Thursday. The Wolves announced the hiring of former Lakers’ shooter Mike Penberthy as the team’s shooting coach, along with Jason Harvey as a scout and the promotion of Derek Pierce to advance scout. From the team:  Continue Reading…

As 2K Sports is wont to do, they’ve been dribbling out bits of footage here and there leading up to the release of NBA 2K15 on October 7. Their latest trailer is called “Momentous” and features lots of pretty visuals, precise details, “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest and — most importantly — a glimpse at this year’s Timberwolves.  Continue Reading…

Bledsoe

All hell broke loose a little bit ago on Twitter with the report from Fox10 in Phoenix and then Brian Windhorst from ESPN.com that the Minnesota Timberwolves were making a run at restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe with a max contract offer sheet. Bledsoe has been battling the Phoenix Suns all summer long, waiting for them to show up on his doorstep with a max offer. The problem is Rich Paul, Bledsoe’s agent, never set the market for his client like what happened with Gordon Hayward, so there hasn’t been any push between Bledsoe wanting the max and Phoenix offering four years and $48 million.

With less than two weeks until training camps start and no resolution in sight, someone decided to put some pressure on the Suns in a last ditch effort to force their hands. Windhorst says sources have told him the Wolves are making a push at a sign-and-trade with a max offer sheet on the other side of that transaction rainbow. From ESPN:

With just days before the start of training camp, the Minnesota Timberwolves are making a final push to acquire restricted free-agent guard Eric Bledsoe in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns, sources told ESPN.com.

The Wolves are offering Bledsoe the four-year, $63 million maximum level contract that he has been seeking, sources said, but because of cap restrictions, the only way he can join the team as currently constructed is through a sign-and-trade deal. Bledsoe and the Suns have been in a stalemate all summer after the team offered him a four-year, $48 million deal in July.

Now let’s talk about why none of this is likely to happen and why it’s being talked about:  Continue Reading…