The Timberwolves hosted media day at Target Center yesterday. Milt Newton kicked off the interviews while interim head coach Sam Mitchell followed. Each of the fifteen players under contract – excluding Lorenzo Brown, who only has a partially guaranteed contract and did not take part in the interviews – took the podium for questions in ten minute segments afterwards.
I wanted to highlight the most notable quotes by Mitchell and each player.
Here goes nothing.
"You have to earn the right to shoot three's," Mitchell said. "When I was in Toronto we had things that guys had to do on the day-to-day basis as part of practice if you were going to be allowed to shoot three's. Just because you do those things, you still have to shoot a certain percentage in practice.
Once you get to that percentage from that particular spot, then as a coach if you put the time and work in we're going to allow you to shoot that. But guys, there's not a lot of plays that you run to get open three-point shots. They kind of come in the flow. You see this all the time at end of games when a guy needs a three, or a team needs a three, how many wide-open three's do they get? So, not to stick your finger in the door a little bit, but if you got some plays [laughs] that I can come out and design, to get wide-open three's on a consistent basis, your in the wrong job. You need to come sit with me."*
*starts drawing up plays
How has Adreian Payne looked so far?
"Well, he's like all other guys, working hard and getting better," Mitchell said. "But guys, everybody looks good when their out there doing drills. We've yet to play, or practice, or scrimmage, or do anything together. All of the guys look good right now. I can go out there and look good right now. But I know once we start running up and down the court we're going to look totally different."
Kevin Garnett was the first player up to the podium on Monday. He walked into the media room, said hello to some of the familiar faces he clearly hasn't forgotten, and provided his usual genuine answers to each question.
"I'm definitely not the coach on the floor," Garnett said when asked about being the coach on the floor for the young Wolves. "I'll leave that to the guards." He later added, "But, I will say I'm the voice of the locker room."
"I see a lot of myself in some of these guys," Garnett said when characterizing the talent in Minneapolis as "great" and not simply "good."
We were also treated to this wonderful sound bite...
Q: How are your knees?
A: My knees are good, my knees are better than yours.
"I'm in a good place ... my body will tell me when it's time to not do this anymore," Garnett said when asked how his body was feeling.
KG also said he still hates playing center. "Nope, I still hate the center position. I'm 235-240 [pounds]. Guys who play the center, DeAndre Jordan, are 275-280. Like, that's outweighing me by 40 pounds. But what I don't make up in weight, I make up in heart and balls, so it's all good."
"Yeah, that's the plan," Garnett said in response to questions about his plans to own the Wolves once his career ends. He will own the Wolves eventually, that much is clear. As far as (shout-out to Flip!) the details, nobody knows at this point.
"I think Flip put something in my drink before I signed." - KG (!!!)— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) September 28, 2015
Q: What did the Wolves, specifically, tell you to work on?
A: "Change of pace, whether its in transition or coming off the pick-and-roll and making reads like that. It's all change of pace, because you can't go 100 mph," Jones said. "So... change of pace, and also getting up a lot of shots, being able to knock down a lot of shots off the dribble and off the ball as well."
"Man, I think he's going to surprise a lot of people," Miller said when asked about Tyus Jones. "He's way more advanced than a lot of people think. More advanced than I was at 19-years-old."
Q: Anything you wish someone told you when you were 19?
A: Keep your mouth closed and observe what's around you.
Sound advice by The Professor.
"I chased Ty around a little bit a couple times in the last couple weeks and had to take a day or two rest. There's definitely some talent with these young guys that I saw. ... If the team can stay healthy it can definitely be competitive in the West."
"First and foremost, I'll just say this: when you have a young group of guys like this group the most important thing is, when we start training camp, building a chemistry with these guys and building camaraderie. It's important to let these guys know how to get prepared. There's so many things that go on now compared to when I was coming up in the league, so it's more important now more than ever to be able to have guys remained focused on what the task is at hand, whether it's a game or practice. ... It doesn't hurt to have two or three guys to relay that message and get different perspectives from different people."
Q: What are some specific goals or benchmarks you want to meet this year?
A: My biggest goal this year is just an all-around goal for the team... to make the playoffs.
It was classic Wiggins on media day. He never says more than a few words to answer each question. He's focused on basketball. I love that about him. Words means nothing to him and his play means everything.
Q: Did not having a training camp with this team last year, was that hard stepping in (during the middle of the season) into those types of sets?
A: Yeah, coming in and not going through the sets, just trying to pick up as you go, it was a little frustrating but that's a part of being a basketball player and part of the NBA. It was unexpected, but I just tried to do the best I could do.
Q: With the point guard additions, are you exciting for the move off ball and is that more natural to you?
A: Whatever they pick me to do, point guard or off guard, whichever one suits the team better. I practiced working on my shooting guard skills even though that comes a little more natural like you said to me, being a natural leading scorer, but also working on my point guard stuff from last year as well. I'll be comfortable with either one.
LaVine also said he wasn't certain if he would be entering the dunk contest again after winning the event last season, but I have a good feeling he will be defending his title in Toronto come All-Star break.
Q: Was there a period of time last year when you were 100% healthy?
A: [pauses] Ugh, no.
Q: How much faith and confidence do you have that this surgery will let you get back to who you are?
A: They said everything went fine, but I'm always saying I don't believe nothing until I start running. When you start running and you really keep pounding and putting pressure on that area...
Q: Any idea when you'll start running?
A: A few weeks.
Pek said he's maybe 6-7 weeks away from getting back on the court, perhaps, but doesn't exactly know (and his tone didn't seem positive) because things always arise and he won't really know until he starts running and playing again. He's taking it slow and won't be ready anytime soon.
"He's a really really good player and a great addition for us," Pekovic said about Bjelica.
Speaking of bee-ELL-leets-zah...
"I want to be Nemanja Bjelica," the Wolves 27-year-old Serbian point forward declared when asked who he would compare his game to among current NBA players. We've heard that once before, don't you remember? Bjelica said he doesn't like to compare his game to anybody, similarly to Ricky Rubio back in the day (who is not like anybody else).
For the record, Rubio gave Bjelica the standing ovation after his interview ended. I'm serious, he did. Count that as another assist.
Bjelica: "I still can't believe I'm playing with Kevin Garnett."
Me (in my head): "I still can't believe Kevin Garnett is on the Wolves."
Rubio was cleared to play 5-on-5 a month ago and has been working all summer to get healthy. He said he will have to ease into training camp, though his ankle feels strong, since he hasn't played competitive basketball for months and needs to get back in the mix before he feels fully comfortable.
"Every year you have to prove yourself, that's for sure, but I think this is very important for me because last season I really started the season well," Rubio said at one point. "I really felt like it was going to be my season and I went down really quick."
Q: How's that three-pointer coming along?
A: Pretty good. I got 89/100 last night and that was my record, so pretty good. We'll see in the game.
"I only needed two minutes to see he was the guy." - Rubio on Towns
Rubio also mentioned that he will work with shooting coach Mike Penberthy throughout the season when the Wolves are playing at home, as well as West Coast road trips, though Penberthy will only act as a consultant and will not officially be with the team.
I asked Gorgui Dieng what part of his game he needs to improve most and he looked at me and said, "why don't you tell me after I play."— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) September 28, 2015
We agreed that I will indeed tell him after he plays. G didn't have much to say during media day.
"This is the best I've felt since I came into the NBA," Muhammad said about his intense summer workouts.
Muhammad says he expects to be challenged by Mitchell to improve his play on the defensive end, and he's excited for Mitchell to challenge him every single day. He also said he's thrilled for everyone to see the right handed hook he's been working on meticulously. "It looks just as good as my left now," Muhammad said.
"I can't wait to get on the floor and show them that right hand hook because they're really going to be like 'wow'."
(No, seriously, I can't wait to see that)
Shabazz also talked about taking advantage of mismatches when he plays shooting guard. "I really want to try to switch over to the two," he said. "Not a lot of guys can guard me in that position, especially going inside and out."
Q: What do you bring to the table?
A: Three-point shooting is my specialty and it's something that I've found to be my niche during the last couple of years. That's pretty much it, that's something that I know I can bring to the table that can help the team. I'm a team player. I like to pass the ball, and like I said, I'm hoping my qualities are going to be of great use to the team.
On one hand, the Wolves absolutely need shooters and Rudez shot 40 percent on 170 attempts over his rookie season. On the other hand... #TeamLoBro
"I want to give Flip and Milt a special thanks for making me feel young again," Martin jokingly stated when asked about all of the veteran signings in Minnesota. Martin also said he sees himself as a starter again for the Wolves.
No surprises there.
"How did you score 39 points with a broken wrist?" Kevin Martin: "Luck? Nah, I was playing the Knicks."— Steve McPherson (@steventurous) September 28, 2015
To be clear, Martin was clearly joking around.
On Sam Mitchell coaching the team: "We trust Sam. If he does come in there crazy a couple of days, nothing will be wrong with that. You know he was KG's mentor. KG's crazy. But you see he has a first ballot Hall of Fame career, so we're going to rally around Sam and be ready for whatever he's going to bring us."
Martin and Garnett were easily the funniest players during media day.
Q: Ricky said it took him only two minutes to know that you were THE GUY. How long did it take you to know that Minneapolis was the best place for you to start your career?
A: I mean, it was instantly. It's a place I love. For me, being in such an area that resembles my personality so well, and being more of an inside type guy and not very out, it's a place where so much love is built. That's the biggest thing that made me love Minneapolis so much, the fact that I stepped in here and felt so much love. Not just towards me, but towards others. People are treating each other so well, with so much love and compassion. It definitely resonated towards me and was somewhere I wanted to be.