Flip Saunders took the podium first today to officially start the Timberwolves media day press conference. He talked about the veterans mentoring the young guys, creating an identity, and molding the team to his desire.
Here's a snippet of his interview:
Saunders talked a great deal about the importance of the veteran players mixing in with the youth. "The success we have is not in the rookies, it's in the veterans. We have to get our rookies comfortable," he said.
Saunders also talked about Kevin Martin, uncharacteristically as he put it, taking a leadership role with some of the young guys like Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. He mentioned that Thaddeus Young and Mo Williams had been taking a clear leadership role as well.
Then he moved to Muhammad and Bennett. "I know the time, effort, and commitment that those guys had. What they went through was hard," Saunders said. In general, he seemed genuinely happy with the work both guys put forth this summer to mold their bodies and become better players.
He moved to discussing his expectations for Ricky Rubio this season, which were simplistic. "To grow," Saunders said. He continued (paraphrased), "I've had great success with guys. I challenge those guys behind closed doors. Ricky wants to be good, Ricky wants to win."
Then he talked a bit about how he's handled point guards throughout his years as a coach, "I give them freedom to go but if I have to, I pull the reins."
Saunders mentioned Williams, Young, and Chase Budinger as players that could help space the defense and shoot when asked if the Wolves had enough shooters. He also added, "This camp is going to be one of the most competitive."
Young was the first player to the podium. He came off as a well spoken veteran that knew what he was in store for this season, as he talked earnestly about adapting to new situations.
Brett Brown asked him to "run and shoot," while his former coach Doug Collins wanted him to "out hustle people and grind it out" during his time in Philadelphia. Young used this as an introduction to his ultimate point about doing whatever the coaching staff asks of him this season. "If you need me to run through a brick wall for you that's what I'm going to do," Young said.
In terms of adapting to a new team, he seemed unfazed.
"This is just another situation I have to adapt to. You know, if you think about it, I've been through so much change in my career this will probably be easy for me. I've been through 5 coaches, 4 GM's, 2 different ownership groups, so (laughs) there's a lot of change there. I'm definitely used to change, it's easy for me to adapt to different types of situations."
Q: Is it daunting at all to fill in for Love?
"Right now it's all about the team. I'm not trying to replace 26 and 12. 26 and 12 hasn't made it to the playoffs. If we can get to the playoffs with me doing 10 to 18 or something like that, I'm great with that. I just want to win basketball games. I'm not trying to come here and be a stat stuffer."
Young also talked about not being able to replace Love's production, so there's not much reason to believe he was taking a jab at the former Wolves superstar. He's not Love, nor is he trying to be. That was the message I heard.
Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett
Most of the conversation was about their new and improved bodies. Shabazz said he lost about 20 pounds this summer, down to 225 today, and feels a lot stronger as a result. He joked that his trainer made him wear a 20 pound vest around to show him how it felt to carry that extra weight on the court.
Bennett lost about 10 pounds and said he feels great too. Both guys look excellent. Now it's time to see whether or not their intense summer training will result in successful sophomore campaigns.
Bennett said, "It's good being under the radar, I've been like this in high school and college." He concluded, "I'm just trying to get back to my UNLV days."
Billy Bohl of A Wolf Among Wolves described the Wiggins presser perfectly with this tweet:
I think Wiggins is really, really tired of talking. I think Wiggins really, really just wants to play some basketball.— William Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle) September 29, 2014
I agree wholeheartedly. Wiggins seemed ready to stop talking about what happened this summer and eager to start letting his play do the talking. Here's some audio:
Robbie Hummel and Glenn Robinson III
Robbie Hummel joked "at least I finished on a strong note," when talking about a rough shooting slump last season. Hummel also said he thought it was "probably 50-50" if he'd return this year, but he's glad to be back.
There's nothing truly notable to report here. It was evident that both players understand the depth and competition at wing and that minutes will be hard to come by. When asked about his willingness to play in the D-League this season, Hummel talked about the pros and cons but ultimately conceded that it might be a good idea.
"I'd be open to it," he said. GRIII quickly concurred. Both players said they spoke to Shabazz Muhammad about his experience in the D-League last season.
Nikola Pekovic and J.J. Barea
Pek talked a ton about his health. "I think he's [Flip Saunders] going to put my minutes a little bit down," he said.
As for his time away from the court, Pekovic mentioned that he had a long rest until August. He couldn't run, but did all sorts of different conditioning workouts in a pool or on an elliptical.
Probably the most interesting part of this interview came when Pek said he welcomes the rise of Gorgui Dieng to help keep his minutes down and preserve his health. "It's a long season," Pekovic admitted. You can tell Pek is as happy about Dieng's development as anyone.
In terms of Barea, well, he didn't seem too delighted to be at the press conference. I thought he was professional and spoke as candid as a he could, but there was an awkwardness that filled the room with all of the rumors circulating.
At least we got a cool photo from the whole exchange.
Barea and Pek in My Giant 2. pic.twitter.com/GMk61etRMu— Steve McPherson (@steventurous) September 29, 2014
"I'm not trying to lose, I know that." - LaVine on tonight's dunk contest in Mankato
Once again, the rookie guard from UCLA showed his self-confidence. You can listen to his interview below.
Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio
Martin sat down with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine around 7 a.m. this morning.
"It would be a disrespect for the game if I didn't show my first phase of leadership with them two just because they're so talented. And I think, at the end of the day, we have to realize their babies." He went on to say, "I told them, it's going to be tough. Flip and the staff is going to be tough on them, but they're up for the challenge and they appreciated the meeting."
Martin also joked about the young talent on the Wolves: "If you asked them how to spell Spalding on the ball they probably wouldn't know how, that's how young they are."
Ultimately, Martin said his message to the rookies was simple: "Respect the process." It's nice to see Martin stepping up as a leader on this team. It was even nicer to hear him say that Wiggins is "filled with Hall of Fame potential." That's an incredible amount of praise for the rookie.
Here's some audio from Rubio:
When asked if he'd look for his shot more with Love out of the picture, Rubio said he's trying to win and he'll do whatever the team needs. Then he joked, "Maybe Wiggins is going to take all of Kevin's shots and I don't have to take more shots."
As for his contract negotiations, Rubio was understandably non-committal. "I mean, I like it here, so we'll see what happens," he said. Rubio also said he didn't want to talk about his contract because it bothers him on the basketball court (not included in the audio above). In that case, it may be a prudent move, if possible, to get a contract extension done quickly so he can focus on having his best season to date.
Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf
I thought Brewer was extremely honest and genuine in his answers. I loved it. You could also hear the leadership in Turiaf's responses. He primarily talked about communication on defense and leading by example.
I especially liked when Brewer said, "We got the #1 pick, let's all be real about the situation." He understands that he'll most likely be pushed to the bench in favor of Wiggins.
Mo Williams and Gorgui Dieng
Mo Williams entered the press conference telling Gorgui Dieng what to say and it was extremely funny. Williams to Dieng: "You set a screen, you roll." Dieng then repeated: "I set a screen, I roll."
"There you go, we learned something today," said Williams.
I could already feel his veteran presence and he should have a positive effect on the team, much like Turiaf did in his first season.
"Would I love to play 48 minutes? Absolutely. But I know that wouldn't be a recipe for us winning a lot of basketball games." That was Mo Williams keeping it real at the press conference.
Dieng was also asked if he envisioned himself playing some power forward this year. He talked about playing it throughout Summer League and the FIBA Basketball World Cup and ultimately doing whatever he can to get minutes on the court this season, whether it's at the 4 or 5.
Budinger primarily talked about the health of his knees. "I feel the best since before the surgery," he said. He talked about getting back to training camp after a 2-year hiatus and sounded like his knees are feeling good. Budinger was excited to get the season started and ready to show his worth to a town that's only seen glimpses.
When asked about his offseason, Budinger said he worked a lot on his ball handling as well as running the pick and roll.
That's all I have for you at this point. Let me know if you have any questions about media day and I'll do my best to respond below.