Archives For Flip Saunders

Early in Minnesota’s 102-86 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Andrew Bogut was hobbling up and down the floor. It was unclear what was wrong at the time, but it was clear he needed to be taken out. Swiftly, new Golden State head coach Steve Kerr moved to put in backup Festus Ezeli. Bogut would not return to the game.

Golden State came into to the game already a man down, having lost David Lee to a hamstring injury during the Warriors’ season opener. This was not an ideal situation for the Warriors, who have faced the consequence of injury struggles come playoff time the past couple years.

Tonight, however, the Warriors faced off against a Timberwolves team that, when fully healthy, is probably still a worse team than Golden State was short-manned. But Minnesota isn’t healthy right now.

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LivingLaVineaLoca

In two weeks, the Minnesota Timberwolves will reevaluate Ricky Rubio’s ankle. He’ll be on crutches during that time and then we’ll see how the swelling and ligaments are progressing. Optimistically, I’d say the Wolves are looking at a four-week recovery overall for the significant/high ankle sprain, and six weeks may even be the more likely scenario. That’s simply a guess based on covering injuries like this and talking to a couple of people who are smarter about it than I am.

In the next 4-8 weeks, or however long Rubio is sidelined, Zach LaVine will likely be the starting point guard. Flip Saunders is wary about playing Mo Williams more than 25 minutes a game due to advanced age in the NBA and not wanting to wear him down. When the Wolves made the decision to keep Glenn Robinson III over J.J. Barea, they knew the risk of injury at the point guard could thrust them into a situation like this. And it’s a great chance at developing LaVine in a way they probably didn’t believe was a likely scenario. Saturday night against the Heat, we saw a lot of what the process should and likely will look like during Rubio’s down time.  Continue Reading…

RubioExtension

About a month ago, maybe even a week ago, the likelihood of a contract extension for Ricky Rubio with the Minnesota Timberwolves seemed very low. Rubio’s agent was asking for a max contract, according to reports and rumors, and the Wolves were never going to pay the max in a rising salary cap situation. Committing that much money to Rubio would be an optimistic investment, considering his scoring woes, to say the least. However with the last couple hours before the extension deadline for the 2011 rookie class, the Wolves and Rubio finally came to a much more manageable compromise.

Reports have come out that Rubio and the Wolves agreed to a four-year, $55 million-plus contract extension that will keep Rubio with the Wolves through the 2018-19 season. Our friend Jon Krawcyznski of the Associated Press has the deal at 4 years and $56 million with the incentives included.

The concept of Rubio, his worth, the market for players of his status/position, and his future with the club appear to be very divisive topics, so let’s try to work this out on the page and come to a consensus on how good of a deal this is for both sides and what it means moving forward.  Continue Reading…

SWORD

“Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

-Hebrews, 4:12

I don’t often begin posts about basketball with quotes from scripture. But when thinking of the term “double-edged sword,” my mind inevitably wanders back to my Catholic education and the place I first heard it, the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews. The quote above is in reference to God’s word, and is often misinterpreted due to the presence of the term “two-edged” or “double-edged” sword. In this instance, it’s merely a noun; it could just as easily read “sharper than any axe” or “sharper than any dagger.”

“Double-edged sword” usually signifies something appearing to be a benefit that can also be a curse. The reason this interpretation applies to the 2014-15 Minnesota Timberwolves is that they have a ton of depth (good), but not nearly enough minutes to make all of the players on the roster happy (not so good). Continue Reading…

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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Media Day: Quick Hits

William Bohl —  September 30, 2014 — 6 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…

FlipSaundersCoaching

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…

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…

RyanSaunders

The Minnesota Timberwolves announced Tuesday morning that Ryan Saunders has been hired on as an assistant coach. If the name sounds familiar to Wolves fans, it should. Ryan played four years at the University of Minnesota and was an assistant coach there under Tubby Smith as well. He was an assistant coach and scout with the Washington Wizards the last five seasons. He’s also minority owner/president of basketball operations/head coach Flip Saunders’ son.

Here is part of the statement from the Wolves on the matter, which includes that David Adelman will remain on the coaching staff:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced Ryan Saunders as an assistant coach, joining David Adelman, Sidney Lowe and Sam Mitchell on head coach Flip Saunders’ staff. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not announced.

“Ryan brings a unique skill set of player development, analytics and team preparation to our team,” said general manager Milt Newton. “He played a key role in the development of Washington’s rising stars John Wall and Bradley Beal, and he served as the primary scout last season as the Wizards won their first playoff series since 2004-05. His ability to develop young talent, as well as his statistical analysis and game preparation techniques, will be an extremely valuable addition to our team.”

On the surface, this hiring looks and feels very nepotistic. This organization is known for going with the familiar rather than the outside help on most occasions, and bringing in the coach’s son to be on the coaching staff certainly goes with the familiar. However, this is not your typical nepotistic hiring in the NBA.  Continue Reading…

LaVineDraft

What does the Zach LaVine pick say about the state of the Timberwolves?

According to Flip Saunders, LaVine was seventh on their board, so getting him feels like a coup to the front office, even if he’s not ready to be an immediate contributor. “Some players you go after, they have the ability to hit a home run,” Saunders said at a brief press conference immediately after the pick. “Some players that are ready-made players, they’re only going to be doubles hitters. This guy has the opportunity to be a home-run type player.”

The pick as it relates to the Wolves right now, though, could go in a couple different directions. On the one hand, it (along with the pick of Glenn Robinson III) signals the Wolves’ desire to fill a need for the team as currently constituted: athletic play on the wing. No one on the roster last year — from Shved to Budinger to Brewer to Martin — was going strong to the hoop from the wing position. Brewer got there on the break, but that was as often a disaster as it was successful.

The problem with this is that in spite of Saunders’ insistence that LaVine can play physical and GM Milt Newton’s belief that LaVine is a guy who can go get a basket or get to the foul line, the fact is that LaVine is more or less the same size as Shved (6-6, 185 lbs) and we’ve seen how physical he can(‘t) be. Also, as Layne Vashro points out in this post for Canis Hoopus, LaVine only got to the rim 1.5 times per 40 minutes, and only shot 46% there when he did. Continue Reading…