It was night two for yours truly at Wolves training camp. A few thoughts:
Al Jefferson sat out the late scrimmage with two gigantic bags of ice taped to his knees. According to Kurt Rambis, this was simply a precaution for Al's knees and that he had shown no signs of limping or favoring the injured leg. Rambis also said that Al participated in the earlier scrimmage game and was able to practice during the day. Whatever the case, Al looked a little ginger after everything was all said and done.
- The 2nd scrimmage saw Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions share the court for a couple of minutes. Not much to report on this front other than that I was witness to a fantastic showing of Small Sample Size Theater against a bunch of training camp reserves. When asked about the amount of time that Flynn and Sessions shared the court together so far, Rambis answered that they have been working together but that it will be a process for them to not force things and simply learn to play together. I'm not really sure what that meant but I nodded anyway.
- The last game of the night featured a black team of Jonny Flynn, Ryan Hollins, Ryan Gomes, Ramon Sessions, and Devin Green against a white squad of Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, Damien Wilkins, Sasha Pavlovic, and Jason Hart. I have no idea who won as I stopped paying attention to the scoreboard about 23 seconds into the action.
- Flynn looked much better tonight than he did during last night's session. He was beyond confident, vocal, and he was able to get pretty much wherever he wanted with the ball.
- Flynn and fellow former Syracuse Orangeman Jason Hart seemed to be having a blast guarding eachother. It was pretty obvious that they each wanted to get the best of one another. I would say they went after one another a'la Syracuse Style but it was man d.
- Corey Brewer looked great running the floor. I caught up with Fred Hoiberg after the practice and he said that Brewer is in fantastic shape and that fans should look to see great improvement in his transition game. Like I mentioned last night, Brewer is going to have all types of open court opportunities in this new offense. His combination of length, athleticism, and speed is pretty rare and if he can ever develop a moderate handle and a moderate jumper to go along with his athletic gifts, he's going to be a solid pro. It is also pretty obvious that Brewer is going to be a defensive stud. The guy is all over the court. I think he has a fairly legit shot at guarding the 1, 2, and 3...which is a good thing if you are thinking about playing Flynn and Sessions together.
- Speaking of my fellow Amesian Fred, NBA rules prevent him from commenting on the guy who supplanted him as the best player from Ames (Harrison Barnes) but he did have several nice things to say about Ryan Gomes and there seems to be a fairly open feeling within the team that this is going to be an important year for a guy who has a non-guaranteed contract that turns guaranteed just after the season ends.
- Hoiberg also said that despite the basketball operation cutbacks of other franchises the Wolves will maintain their regional scouts.
- The last interesting bit of Hoiberg-related news was that he singled out Jack McClinton and Devin Green as the free agents who have caught his eye in camp. McClinton looked much better during today's scrimage, hitting a few open shots and not looking lost with the ball in his hands. I'm rooting for him to make the squad as I really enjoyed watching him play at Miami and I had a chance to chat him up in Little Rock during the NCAA tourney 2 years ago as I was staying at the same hotel as Miami and Mississippi State. I also heard a lot of nice things about Green from other folks throughout the facility.
- David Kahn once again wore shorts.
- After getting run over by Ryan Hollins while sitting in the front row during a previous session, Papa Glen caught this practice from about 10 rows up.
- Brian Cardinal was in mid-season form in terms of attitude, as he jawed at the refs about their lack of calls. Perhaps the janitor has a strictly pro-union stance and was merely against the scabs that were overseeing the scrimmage. Interesting side-question: Does the Players' Union have solidarity with the refs? Is it something of a dick move if they don't support the refs? Moving on...\
- Kevin Love got a brief and mild tongue-lashing/correction from Kurt Rambis about making good passes. Beyond that, Love really showed off his mid-to-long range touch. I can't repeat it enough: Love will be the team's best player this year. He is going to present massive matchup problems and he will put up huge numbers in the gaps of the offense. Even in a short scrimmage, I counted 4 possessions that he kept alive with offensive boards, taps, positioning, etc. He dove after loose balls, made slick passes from the top of the key to wide open outside shooters, and forced the defense to play him honest whenever he had the ball. Best of all, he did something we haven't seen for a long, long, long time with the Wolves: he ate up space in the paint on defense. Throughout the session, Love showed a fantastic ability to absorb contact, remain straight up and down, and alter shots. His lateral movement has clearly improved and he doesn't get caught out of position nearly as much as he used to do. Last year the Wolves had a single functional two-way player: Ryan Gomes. This year I'm pretty confident in saying that they have Gomes, Love, and Sessions.
- Speaking of Ramon, he's a cool customer and he should be in the starting lineup on opening day.
- The following easily qualifies as one of the weirdest things I have heard in a long time: Billionaire owner to front office employee concerning where they would meet for supper: "Just head on up the hill and take a left at the McDonalds." Say what you will about Papa Glen but the guy still has a fair amount of small town guy in him. As something of a neighbor, the guy has kept it local and pumped a ton of money into the community in which I live. It's a good thing.
- Funniest part of being around an NBA team = the number of 40 year-old+ men in tracksuits. It's like a condensed trip to the Jersey shore. If only they could bring an old Camero out onto the court the stereotype would be complete.
Well, that about does it in terms of notable items from practice. I would like to write a few words about blogs and media access before I call it a night...
To put it as simply as possible, Wyn and I do not have the resources to run a truly full-time news operation that covers the Wolves. Between significant others, jobs, and families, this is still a hobby and while we like to think we have passed the legitimacy test in the eyes of the Wolves' excellent PR folks, we simply do not have the manpower or time to do what folks like Jerry Zgoda or Jon Krawczynski do very well: build meaningful behind-the-scene professional relationships with the folks we cover. Actually, that's not completely accurate. Let's throw in a "in a time-sensitive manner" at the end of that sentence. I'm not saying we can't do that sort of thing; it will just take us a lot longer to do so.
Where am I going with all of this?
I understand the importance of verifying legitimacy when working with folks in the new media. My point here is that it is going to take some time for us to build a solid "blog plus" relationship with the team and with the folks on it who we want to get information from. We have started that process and we are grateful to the team for allowing us to do so, but we also want to let our readers know that we still place a big premium on creating content that is focused on opinion, fan-perspective, and as little behind-the-scenes sausage-making as possible. We have made it passed the "dirty blogger" stage but we still have a lot of work to do. We hope you stick with us.