Timberwolves' Top Offseason Moments Of 2013
Timberwolves' Top Offseason Moments Of 2013
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The thing I love most about the NBA offseason is that there really isn’t one. Since the Wolves’ final regular season game, we had a sensational postseason (including an unforgettable NBA Finals Games 6 and 7), the entire prospect workout season leading up to the NBA Draft, free agent signings, nearly two weeks of Summer League and all the off-the-court initiatives (Basketball Without Borders, Summer Caravan, etc.) that bring us to today. And at this point, it won’t be too long before players begin to report back to the Twin Cities in preparation for Training Camp, which kicks off Oct. 1.
That being said, welcome to 2013-14—the Wolves’ 25th season in Minnesota.
But before we start moving full speed ahead into what could be the most memorable Wolves season since 2003-04 (I know I said it last year, but no one saw that injury calamity coming…), it’s important to look back at some of the top moments from this summer. A lot took place between mid-April and the end of August, and even though this Wolves team’s core is very much still intact, the complementary pieces added and the moves made could be the difference in taking the next step as a franchise.
There’s a long way to go, but we’re seeing the makings of a fun season right around the corner. Here’s a look back, in chronological order, at the top moments from the offseason so far:
May 3: Flip Saunders Becomes President of Basketball Operations
The Wolves brought back a familiar face in early May as Flip Saunders returned to the organization as the President of Basketball Operations. Saunders has the most coaching wins in Timberwolves franchise history (411-326) and led the team to its only eight playoff appearances—consecutive trips from 1996-97 to 2003-04. He sat next to owner Glen Taylor during his introduction, who said he and Saunders have remained close during the years since he left the organization in 2005. Together the two outlined a plan of attack for the Wolves in the future, including building around their cornerstones Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio while addressing the need for perimeter shooting.
During the press conference, Taylor also announced after about a season worth of contemplating selling the team he decided to stay on as the Wolves’ majority owner. “I think it would be accurate to say I had seller’s remorse,” Taylor said. Taylor announced he’s willing to buy out any limited partners who wish to part ways with the organization.
May 21: Kevin Love Brings Ricky Rubio Figurine To Draft Lottery
Wolves forward Kevin Love represented the Timberwolves at the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery in New York City on May 21, joining Saunders in the Big Apple for a night that represented the start of the next chapter in Timberwolves history live on ESPN. And he did it in style. Love, who missed all by 18 games last season after breaking his right hand twice and undergoing knee surgery to end the year, wore a three-piece suit to the event and brought a figurine for good luck. Since the Wolves were slated for the No. 9 pick, Love brought a Ricky Rubio figurine and showcased it live on national television. “I originally had a doll,” Love said. “This was an action figure I had on stage, but I had a doll that I overnighted to myself and it never came. I called someone from the NBA to help me out, and that was a plus. It still got the crowd laughing, though.” Love said after the lottery that he felt nearly 100 percent and was close to getting back on the court for full basketball activities. By late-June, Love was helping lead an informal practice with many of his Wolves teammates in Los Angeles. All indications suggest Love is more than ready for the 2013-14 season with a full bill of health.
June 27: The Big Draft Night Trade
The Wolves had the No. 9 and 26 picks heading into the 2013 NBA Draft, and after extensive pre-draft workouts the team looked like it would either stay put or try to trade up if the asking price wasn’t too steep to land one of the high-profile shooting guards in this year’s class—Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, C.J. McCollum or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. But when all but McCollum were off the board by No. 9, the Wolves made a decision to trade the No. 9 pick to Utah for the No. 14 and 21 selections. While the Jazz got Trey Burke at No. 9, the Wolves picked up UCLA guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad and Louisville center Gorgui Dieng. Minnesota then traded the No. 26 pick along with Malcolm Lee to Golden State. The Draft night deals essentially ensured they’d end up with Dieng late in the first round, as the shot-blocking big man was not necessarily guaranteed to make it to Minnesota at No. 26. With Muhammad, the Wolves picked up a pure scorer who averaged 17.9 points per game in his lone season at UCLA.
July 11-18: A Parade of Signings—Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf
Saunders made a big splash right before the Wolves headed to Las Vegas for Summer League when the team announced signing shooting guard Kevin Martin, swingman Chase Budinger and small forward Corey Brewer. These three signings put to rest some of the question marks surrounding the team on the perimeter. Minnesota has long coveted having an everyday traditional shooting guard—a position undersized point guard Luke Ridnour tackled in the starting lineup much of last season. With Martin, the Wolves get a 6-foot-7 proven shooter/scorer who is incredibly comfortable working within the parameters of Rick Adelman’s system—he played for Adelman in Sacramento and Houston. Brewer brings perimeter defense after Andrei Kirilenko opted to test free agency and signed with Brooklyn. And Budinger is another Adelman guy who proved last year when healthy how athletic he is on the fast break, how valuable he can be shooting 3s and how comfortable he is moving without the ball in half court sets. The Wolves also signed center Ronny Turiaf in July. Turiaf spent last season with the Clippers but has been on six playoff teams in his eight-year career—including a championship with the Heat in 2012. He'll be bringing postseason and championship experience as well as a viable option as Pekovic's back-up to this team, but he also brings what former Wolves player Fred Hoiberg described as an intangible and "glue" presence in the locker room. It's similar to what Hoiberg said Mark Madsen brought to the Wolves in the early 2000s.
The Martin move was part of a three-team deal that sent point guard Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee. Ridnour was the epitome of a team player during his stint in Minnesota—particularly over the last two years when he took on oversized defensive assignments and played primarily out of position at 2-guard. But one of the Wolves’ priorities this offseason was balancing the roster across the board, and that meant trying to add more depth at the 2 and the 3 while moving one of the team’s point guards. This particular roster appears to be the most balanced version in the Adelman era.
July 13-21: Wolves Finish 3-3 At Summer League
Minnesota wrapped up Summer League 2013 with a 3-3 record that included a pair of losses to a more experienced D-League Selects team and a buzzer-beating defeat against Phoenix. Minnesota blew out Sacramento and also beat Miami and Portland. Over the week in Vegas, the Wolves got their first look at their three rookies—Muhammad, Dieng and Lorenzo Brown—and also got a chance to evaluate a few other potential invitees to this year’s Training Camp. Brown might have been the top rookie performer throughout the week. At point guard, he looked comfortable handling the offense, scored 8.3 points per game and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc. In the Wolves’ 92-54 win over the Kings, Muhammad put together his best performance with a 17-point effort—including hitting 3-of-4 shots from 3-point range. But Muhammad and Dieng went through some growing pains throughout the week. That’s what Summer League is for—helping rookies adjust to the speed, physicality and decision-making processes within the game.
Of the players on the roster who have a shot at an invite to this year’s Training Camp, the two frontrunners appear to be guard Othyus Jeffers and small forward Robbie Hummel. Jeffers has NBA experience—including stops in Utah, San Antonio and 16 games in Washington during the 2010-11 season under then-coach Flip Saunders. Jeffers, 28, showed his experienced and strength at Summer League while playing standout defense. He impressed the coaching staff, and it appears he has a shot at that 15th and final roster spot if the Wolves do decide to fill it heading into the regular season. Another player who could have an opportunity is Hummel, the team’s 2012 second round draft pick. He looked far more comfortable in his second trip to Summer League, and he finished the week averaging 8.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 47.1 percent from the field. He, too, took on a bulk of defensive responsibilities during the week. Summer League coach David Adelman noted in some games he guarded at least three positions on the floor.
Aug. 13-15: Hitting The Road On The Summer Caravan
The Wolves rolled across the state in mid-August as part of the 2013 U.S. Bank Summer Caravan supported by Fox Sports North. Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham and player development coach Shawn Respert all took the trip, which began in Rochester before heading to Duluth and Fargo. At each stop, the Caravan put on a youth basketball clinic, met with fans, played a round of golf and got to know different areas of the state outside the Twin Cities. Kids ages 5-16 were welcome to take part in the camps with no registration required. As always, Crunch made the trip and provided additional entertainment—including his famous dunk show.
Aug. 14: Pekovic Re-Signs, Caps Wolves’ Biggest Offseason Priority
Last but certainly not least, the Wolves announced they reached a deal with restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic on Aug. 14, effectively bringing an end to the team’s most desired offseason moves. Pekovic, now entering his fourth year, improved drastically over his past two seasons and became the third piece of the Wolves’ cornerstone franchise players alongside Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio thanks to his physicality in the paint. He’s transformed himself from a rookie who battled foul trouble into a guy the Wolves feel could become a top 5 center in the NBA. That’s why Minnesota spent much of the summer negotiating with Pekovic and his representation hoping they could lock him up long term. In Pekovic, the Wolves have a throwback-type center—a guy who plays a bruising style seldom replicated in today’s game. He averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 boards per game last year and, when healthy, has proven he can be near the top of the league in field goal percentage. With Love, Rubio and Pekovic on board, the Wolves feel they have a trio of players who can lead this team to the next level.
Here are a few key dates you should know as we get set for 2013-14:
- Sept. 30: Timberwolves Media Day
- Oct. 1-4: Training Camp
- Oct. 7: Preseason Opener: Wolves vs. CSKA Moscow (Target Center)
- Oct. 30: Regular Season Opener: Wolves vs. Orlando (Target Center)