Wolves President of Basketball Operations and head coach Flip Saunders held his season-ending press conference early this afternoon at Target Center.
- Saunders confirmed that Ricky Rubio will not play for Spain in the European Championships. "He will not play for Spain," Saunders said. There were no further details about Rubio's surgery or any specific time frames but selfishly speaking I'm happy to hear Rubio will be focusing on getting healthy over the summer after appearing in a career-low 22 games this season.
- Praise for Shabazz Muhammad: "Realistically, of all the guys [until he got hurt], Shabazz might have been the most impressive of all those players with how he had been playing at that point," Saunders said when talking about the youth in Minnesota.
- Saunders was asked what areas the Wolves need to focus on this summer. I asked the same question following the final loss to OKC last week and his response was mostly the same: defense, strength, and 3-point shooting. No arguments here, but then again the Wolves need to improve everywhere.
- "I'll coach until I feel we need to move in a different direction," Saunders said when asked about his coaching plans moving forward. Hmm... 16 wins this season. I wonder when that time will come.
- "I don't want to get to the playoffs, I want to build a team that can win in the playoffs. That's what we're trying to do. If you're going to try to do quick fixes just to get there you might get there, but you might be right back out of it."
- "There's no question that when Muhammad and Wiggins are together that's a nightmare for teams to guard. Someone has to guard Shabazz and get beat up or guard Wiggins with his athleticism."
Q & A:
Do you think you have your starting power forward of the future here?
"I couldn't even say that. I couldn't say I do or I don't." Saunders added: "I'm not going to lock into anything when you win 16 games, to be honest. Guys have to earn spots." I'll field this question for Saunders: NO!
Will you be surprised if KG doesn't come here next year?
"I'd be surprised just because I believe KG is a guy that doesn't like change." My point of view: it seems fairly obvious that Garnett will be back next season.
Is the second round a place to find three-point shooting?
"I'm going to say it right here so you guys don't get on us draft day, I can guarantee you we're probably not going to keep both of those second round picks, just so you understand that. Having two picks like that, having a top pick, with as many young plays as we have, we're going to have to add to this roster and find a way to also bring in some veteran players that can help us."
Will it be a possibility to package either of those picks?
"Yeah, we'll look at everything."
Is [Mike] Penberthy a lock to come back next year?
"We'll talk to him over the course of the summer. We haven't really made any decisions." My thought: if Rubio wants him back the organization should get it done.
What was the most frustrating thing this year?
"Continuity. We had so many players. Not at our choosing but half the time we had to sign guys at the end just to make sure we had five guys on the floor to finish. The key to success in the NBA is accumulating talent, developing that talent and letting them have continuity and grow together."
On Nikola Pekovic:
"I know that he and our medical people, and everybody involved on his side and our side are doing everything we can to put him in a position to be able to perform for us... I'm optimistic he's going to be able to give us those 20 minutes. It's going to take him five or six months for him to get where he needs to be." Saunders added that Gorgui Dieng can be somebody that helps solidify the center position.
Do you think you have to get lucky in the lottery?
"No, I feel very comfortable where we're at that we're going to get a player." He added: "Whoever we draft will be a piece, the draft is that good." I would hope adding a top-five pick would be a serious piece.
Do you like what you saw from Kevin Martin when he was on the floor?
"I really believe he tried to be more engaged defensively than he had been in the past. I'll be honest, I was surprised he played the last game [he had been sick and everything else]. I do believe he showed his commitment to the organization, not wanting to end the year walking away saying that's it. I know everyone said that we should trade him -- they've been saying that for the last five months or whatever -- and I said I've liked what he brings to the team and still believe the same."
Will you consider a different role for Zach, maybe off the bench?
"Eventually that's going to come. A role off the bench doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad role." Then Flip referenced Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford, and being able to play against second-team guys instead of starters, as well as the opportunities that brings. "Zach's big thing, in order for him to continue to play, and to play at that two guard position, is he has to gain strength. That's going to be his big thing. He's got athleticism, he's got quickness, and offensively he can get his shot off on people. But is he going to be able to guard? As I've said, that's going to be a major emphasis when we start [next season]."
Do you see a future here for Justin Hamilton?
"He did some positive things. Like I said, I'm not locking into anybody at 16 wins. Everyone has got to get better -- from the players, to the coaches, to management, to everybody. I liked what I saw and we're hoping he can be with us this summer to play with us. The number one thing for us right now is we're zeroing in on the draft and uncovering everything we need to know about all the players available in the draft, one through basically forty. Once that domino falls the other ones will fall shortly right behind it."
You can listen to the full press conference below.