Wolves lose to Sacramento in season opener, Love sits for most of 4th quarter, League source says team asking league to look into whether Portland knowingly traded an injured Webster, Taylor says Wolves not a candidate for contraction and more
From the Pioneer Press:
Sacramento guard Beno Udrih sank four free throws in the final 16.5 seconds Wednesday night to help the Kings spoil the Timberwolves' regular-season opener at Target Center. Wayne Ellington missed a three-pointer with a second left in the fourth quarter that would have tied the score. Wesley Johnson tipped in Ellington's miss as time expired. Luke Ridnour led the Wolves with 20 points. Michael Beasley added 17. Kevin Love finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Carl Landry and Francisco Garcia had 22 points each for Sacramento. Center DeMarcus Cousins, a player the Wolves seriously considered in the draft, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Ridnour kept the Wolves afloat through a couple dry spells during this contest. Several times, Ridnour drilled pull-up jumpers to stop a Sacramento run or give his squad an offensive spark. The Minnesota point guard was extremely efficient, hitting 8-for-13 from the floor and dishing out six assists in the loss.
Rambis liked the effort Tolliver was giving on defense (four blocked shots, seven rebounds and a steal), but Love's absence in a tight game seemed like a sequel to last season.
Several times last season, Love was a spectator in the fourth quarter for various reasons. Either Rambis wasn't comfortable with Love and Al Jefferson on the floor together for extended minutes or Love was having trouble defending.
Jefferson is in Utah now, which doesn't leave much room for other possibilities. Rambis avoided getting into detail about Love's idle time in the fourth quarter, preferring to recognize Tolliver for his performance.
From Jim Souhan/Star Tribune: Beasley's all dressed up but has a long way to go
"He did OK," said Wolves coach Kurt Rambis, after losing to a bad team missing its best player, point guard Tyreke Evans. "Again, this is going to be a learning season for Mike. He's playing a position that is probably not his best position."
Beasley is a natural power forward. That's the position Kevin Love plays. I would have said that's the position Love, the Wolves' best player, occupies, but Rambis shot down that premise in his postgame news conference after Love played just three minutes in the fourth quarter of a close game.
When someone asked why Rambis held out his best player, Rambis said, "That's your opinion."
"It's nothing against Kevin. I thought A.T. was doing a good job. Rather than turning it into a derogatory thing with Kevin, it's a complimentary thing towards A.T."
The message was clear, both in Rambis' words and his choice of lineups in the fourth quarter: Defense is a huge focal point. And Love wasn't playing enough of it.
A message sent to the team?
"Absolutely," Tolliver said. "He's made it obvious to everybody that if you play hard you're going to play, and if you play defense you're going to play."
Meanwhile, Love sat and rookie Wes Johnson played just the quarter's final 35 seconds because of his medical minutes limit (18) after tantalizing an opening crowd announced at 17,067 tickets distributed with a couple of spectacular athletic offensive plays as well a couple of stumbling, bumbling turnovers.
"We scored more than enough points to win the game," said Rambis, who sounded somewhat mystified afterward that his team did wrong defensively most of the things that it had done right in a 6-2 preseason schedule. "But we can't give up that number of points and expect to win."
Love and Beasley left the team's locker room quickly after the loss, exiting before the room was open to reporters.
Rambis said Johnson, who is coming off a lingering hamstring injury, played about the amount of minutes they were looking to get him with the expectation that he will play more as the season goes on.
True to form, Johnson was very nonchalant about his NBA debut. "I thought I played alright," he said.
His coach, on the other hand, had some high praise for the rookie who the Timberrwolves have high hopes for.
"There is a special player in there and someday that special player will blossom out. He will be unique at some point in time," Rambis said.
According to a league source, the Timberwolves have asked the NBA to look into whether Portland knowingly traded them an injured player when the Blazers dealt Martell Webster to Minnesota for the 16th overall pick in last summer's draft.
Webster on Monday underwent surgery to repair a disk in his back and is expected to miss about six weeks. He said the injury dates to last spring's playoffs, when he was undercut and fell hard in a game against Phoenix.
The Wolves are likely looking for a draft pick as compensation.
From Mike McCollow/FOX Sports North: New players, new energy for Wolves
From Tom Powers/Pioneer Press: Timberwolves provide a glimmer of hope in entertaining season opener
From Kyle Porter/Kare11.com: New-look Wolves tip off new season
From Stephen Litel/Downtown Journal: Timberwolves: Questions Need Answers
From Judd Spicer/City Pages: Have you any faith left in the Timberwolves?
From Anthony Maggio/FoxSportsNorth.com: Wolves season preview: A ray of hope
Taylor said on Wednesday night that Minnesota would not be a candidate for contraction if the NBA decided to go that route while negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.
"I can say that Minnesota is not one of the teams that would be contracted, nor do we expect that in the future," Taylor said before the Timberwolves opened the season against the Sacramento Kings.
Commissioner David Stern first brought up the possibility of eliminating a team or teams last week. Stern said it could be one way to solve the league's financial woes.
He said contraction was an issue talked about by owners at the league's regular Board of Governors meeting recently. Taylor is chairman of the Board of Governors.
"We have a serious problem that we have to make the league more profitable," Taylor said. "I don't think that's the preference that we do that (contraction), but I think what David says is we're going to talk about the things with the union. Hopefully, it doesn't come to that.
"At our board meeting, we talked about all the things we should talk about and we talked about that. Nothing in particular. We don't have names of teams or anything like that."
From the Timberwolves:
The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team's regular season local over-the-air television schedule for the 2010-11 season, which includes a new partnership with WFTC My29. The Wolves' television schedule will feature 12 games on WFTC My29, including seven Target Center dates and five telecasts from the road. All 12 games will be available in HD.
From PRNewswire: Above The Rim® Re-Launches, Helping Players Rise Both On and Off the Court
ATR has committed to supporting a roster of rising NBA players who demonstrate relentless commitment to their game, their teams and their communities. ATR has announced two such appointments, Martell Webster of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Will Bynum of the Detroit Pistons. Webster is featured in the first ATR advertising campaign and will debut his signature ATR shoe, the Elevate MW5™ for Spring 2011. The Elevate MW5 will be the centerpiece of the Spring footwear collection, and has been designed to exhibit the same strength, speed, and agility Webster displays on the court. Will Bynum partnered with the brand in October 2010 and like Webster, will serve as on-and-off court ATR ambassador in community, retail and social media programs. ATR expects to announce additional players to its roster during the upcoming season.