Wolves take preseason win over Pistons at Syracuse and more
The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Detroit Pistons 99-88 at the Carrier Dome on Friday in Syracuse, N.Y., to improve to 4-1 this preseason.
The night was a homecoming of sorts for Wesley Johnson">Wesley Johnson, Jonny Flynn and Jason Hart -- who all played their college basketball at the University of Syracuse.
The crowd may have been there to see the former Orangemen play, but the night belonged to Kevin Love.
Love scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds before sitting out most of the second half. He also showed the versatility that makes him such a dangerous weapon for the Wolves, shooting 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
On a night when starters Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic and Luke Ridnour each played 18 minutes or fewer, the Wolves' reserves led them back with some comparatively fierce defense and a 14-2 second quarter run that turned the game.
Kevin Love delivered a 21-point, 10-rebound night that outscored all four other starters combined by six points.
In their absence, Nikola Pekovic, Martell Webster, Sebastian Telfair, Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos and Anthony Tolliver stepped forth with energy and pushed the Wolves to a 4-1 preseason record with three games remaining before the Oct. 27 opener against Sacramento.
Minnesota will practice on Saturday afternoon at the Carmelo Anthony Center and board a plane to Sioux Falls for a Sunday contest against Milwaukee.
From Jerry Zgoda/Star Tribune: Wolves' Johnson, Flynn enjoy their homecoming
From Mike Waters/The Post Standard: NBA preseason game at Carrier Dome turns into Syracuse reunion
Wolves coach Kurt Rambis knew Johnson, the No. 4 pick in this year's NBA draft, had good offensive skills. But Johnson's defense has been a revelation.
"I'm more impressed with how well Wes has performed at the other end," Rambis said of the 6-foot-7 rookie swingman. "He positions himself well and covers a lot of ground. He does a lot of good things off the ball. I didn't know what kind of a defensive player I was getting."
Johnson is one of four Wolves players enjoying a homecoming at tonight's game. Point guard Jonny Flynn, a first-round pick of the Wolves in 2009, played two seasons at Syracuse. Free-agent guard Jason Hart starred at Syracuse from 1996-2000 but was not drafted. Rookie forward Lazar Hayward, a late first-round pick of the Wolves this year, grew up in nearby Buffalo, N.Y.
Rambis gave his players Thursday off -- optional practice only -- after he said they suffered a "fatigue factor" in Wednesday's loss at Indiana.
Former Syracuse stars Jonny Flynn and Wes Johnson met with local media at the team hotel to talk about their return to the Carrier Dome, even if Flynn, because of his healing hip, will be there only to offer support. The two players hung out with former No. 1 overall pick Derrick Coleman and were guests of honor Thursday night at both a Syracuse Italian restaurant and a sports bar, which charged $25 a person for a party that welcomed them back.
From Mike Waters/The Post-Standard: Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson are friends first, then Timberwolves teammates
Wolves injured point guard Jonny Flynn is scheduled to return to his Vail, Colo., surgeon for a checkup Wednesday on his left hip, which was repaired there in late July.
He hopes to be clear to run and jump after that checkup, a development that could get him back on the floor playing regular-season games sometime in November.
Meanwhile, assistant GM Tony Ronzone and strength coach Dave Vitel are in Memphis today to visit with second-round pick Nemanja Bjelica and watch him play with his Caja Laboral Spanish club tonight against the Grizzlies.
Vitel was there to give Bjelica -- a point guard in a power forward's body who needs to get much stronger -- with a training program to follow.
Give the Wolves this: They are much more involved in player development -- one of David Kahn's catch phrases when he was hired -- than the team was previously.
This Wolves team is vastly different from the one that stopped by a year ago. And perhaps the biggest change is the trade of leading scorer Al Jefferson. But team president Chris Wright says trading the big man to the Utah Jazz will help the current team's chemistry.
"Al wanted to be sort of a low post, number one option," Wright said. "I don't think that that was going to work out here with our style of play currently. So, he's going to a team he'll be very, very happy with. Utah is perfect for him. Meanwhile, we're going to be young, athletic, quick. We're going to get up and down the court."
John Thomas, 35, the rugged former Gopher from Minneapolis, is still rehabbing after a hamstring injury with the Timberwolves two weeks ago. Thomas, 6 feet 9, 235 pounds with 6.5 percent body fat and who has played five seasons in the NBA, is still on the Wolves' roster.
Before you read any further there is a phrase we all need to say together. Ready?
"It's only preseason."
Whew. Now that the caveat is out of the way, how about those Minnesota Timberwolves?
A chance to see two of the biggest enigmas in recent league history (Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic) join forces with one of my favorite players (Kevin Love, who needs to find a good team soon or I'm going to start shooting hostages); a sneaky-good role player (Corey Brewer); The Guy Who Isn't Ricky Rubio Or Stephen Curry (Jonny Flynn, the league's worst starting point guard in 2010); Sebastian Telfair and Kosta Koufos (OK, now this is getting weird); Martell Webster and Wes Johnson (two lottery picks who are somehow the same age even though Webster was drafted in 2005 and Johnson was drafted in 2010); a new "up-tempo" offense that was a signed, sealed confession that last year's attempt to play the triangle was disastrously dumb; and, on top of all that, David Kahn sitting in the stands with a "Crap, I just realized that I should have drafted Cousins for Darko's spot and spent Darko's $20 million on a swingman" face? Sure. Twist my arm.