Even without Rubio early, Wolves talking playoffs

Even without Rubio early, Wolves talking playoffs

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Timberwolves spent the entire summer trying to prepare themselves for starting the season without star point guard Ricky Rubio.

Andrei Kirilenko. Brandon Roy. Dante Cunningham. Greg Stiemsma. Lou Amundson. The additions gave coach Rick Adelman a more versatile, better ball-handling, more experienced roster that could handle some adversity the way last year's young team could not.

Then Kevin Love broke his right hand and will miss at least the first month of the regular season. Now the Wolves' mission has changed from keeping themselves in contention to survival.

``Well, my first reaction is when I heard about it, you say `why us?''' owner Glen Taylor said. ``With Ricky out and Kevin of all people. And then I guess I thought about it and just my own personality I don't always look at the negative and I say, `How can we turn this into something positive?'''

They certainly weren't able to do that last season, and Adelman still has a hard time figuring out what the heck happened to his Timberwolves when Rubio went down.

An up-and-coming team that was in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference simply fell apart when their charismatic rookie point guard tore the ACL in his left knee. They lost 20 of their last 25 games, a young team tumbling and unable to pull out of a tailspin.

``He created an atmosphere around our team that gave everyone a belief that they had the chance to win, no matter who we played or where we played,'' Adelman said. ``When we lost him, it was almost like the balloon just deflated.''

Not just offensively, where Rubio made the seamless transition from Spain to the NBA and looked like he'd been playing here for 10 years. His unselfish approach, electric passing and infectious enthusiasm got the young Wolves rolling up and down the court.

But he was also a catalyst for remarkable improvement on defense, with fast hands, sharp instincts and tenacity at the point of attack setting the tone for the Wolves. When he went down, the effort and energy went with him, and the Wolves regressed once again to one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

While the Wolves were ecstatic at how quickly Rubio became an impact player in his rookie season, they were also troubled by how deeply it affected the team when he was injured. David Kahn, the president of basketball operations, set out in the offseason on yet another facelift, looking for experience and depth to help the team overcome Rubio's absence early this season.

The Spaniard has started running, but isn't scheduled to do agility drills until sometime in November. A date for his return hasn't been set, but those in the organization are hopeful he can return by mid-December. That means another six weeks or so without him, and the Wolves feel much better about the roster this time around.

Kahn signed Roy, who is making a comeback after sitting out last season because of chronic knee issues, and Kirilenko, who spent last season playing in his native Russia rather than dealing with the lockout-shortened NBA season. He also signed Stiemsma and Amundson, and traded for Cunningham to add some grit and maturity to a team lacking all three last season.

So even though they will begin the season without their two best players, the goal of achieving the franchise's first playoff berth since 2004 remains.

``I just feel like it's time,'' Love said. ``The players deserve it. The coaches deserve it. The organization deserves it. But most of all the fans deserve it. We sold out a lot of games last year. It was awesome. If we can do that, the Twin Cities, Minnesota, they're ready for a team to breakout and have someone to really cheer for. They're ready and I hope it's us.''

A lot of their success will hinge on three knees - Rubio's left and the two that turned Roy from one of the bright young stars in the game in Portland to a player the Blazers sent packing with the amnesty clause because he wasn't able to tolerate the bone-on-bone pain in both knees.

Roy had a procedure this summer to try to address the problem and said he experience immediate results. He's been practicing full speed and playing in preseason games with little or no discomfort. The Wolves will badly need his shooting and decision-making in the fourth quarter.

The new look has put the curmudgeonly Adelman in a lighter mood leading up to his second season on the Wolves bench. He's smiling more, joking with players before they run conditioning drills in practice and speaking positively about the increased ball-handling, shot-making and basketball I.Q. this group has in comparison to last season's team.

``There's a lot of potential in this group,'' he said. ``They play well together at both ends and it's going to be interesting to watch them go.''


Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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That time new Wizard Troy Brown dunked on No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley


That time new Wizard Troy Brown dunked on No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley

Back in high school, the newest Washington Wizard Troy Brown was an athletic freak. So much so that Brown dunked over the No. 2 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, Marvin Bagley III.

Playing at Centennial High School from Las Vegas, Nevada, the 15th overall pick went straight at the dominating 6-11 Bagley and posterized the man.

Now from the other side: 

Although both were merely kids at the time (an each a few inches shorter), still you cannot question the confidence and athleticism of the Wizards' top pick. 

Heck, Brown is still athletic.

Now Oregon never got the chance to play Duke this past season, but Brown will get two chances for another poster on his wall with Bagley now on the Sacramento Kings. 


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Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”