From: Las Vegas
Another report from the scrimmage:
On the last day of Timberwolves training camp at Mankato, the team held a public scrimmage for their fans to see. The game was sold out and the arena was about 75% full of excited fans. All players and coaches were in attendance (including Jonny Flynn, who was playing cheerleader for the black team). Glen Taylor was there as well. The first and third quarters were set up to be 10 minutes long, and the second and fourth were 8 minutes each. The teams were set up as follows (with the starting five listed first):
(note that Nikola Pekovic switched teams after each quarter, because of the uneven numbers).
Instead of telling you play-by-play what happened, I’m going to highlight what I saw as important, things and players that stood out, and storylines I saw developing.
Nikola vs. Darko: The game started with Nikola Pekovic going up against Darko Milicic for the tip. Darko reached it first, easily and knocked it back to his team’s side. That would be pretty much the only time that Darko outshined Pekovic for the night. Pekovic could surprisingly get up court as fast as anyone and will definitely be able to play this high-tempo offense that is constantly running. And although Darko looked much leaner than last year, he really disappeared throughout the game. Nikola is a huge guy, with soft hands and a nice touch on the ball. I could easily see the two playing together on the court. Nikola ended with 14 points, Darko with 3.
Wes Johnson: Wes Johnson went up against fellow rookie, Lazar Hayward, for most of the evening. Lazar had a solid, but pretty quiet night against Wes. The astonishing part of the scrimmage was how quickly and quietly Wes was racking up points. He made a few shots here and there, nothing special or outstanding. However, by the end of the game I was shocked to hear that he had accumulated 14 points. Wes is by far, BY FAR, going to be the best mid-range jump shooter on this team. He did start out the night by hitting a three. But, other than that, Wes was automatic from inside the three-point line. Wes is a well-poised guy who takes his shot when he can get it and is surprisingly a solid defender.
Lazar Hayward: That brings me to Lazar. Lazar was another guy who I didn’t notice very often during the game. He ended up with 8 points for the game. Lazar will be a solid back up coming off the bench. As many people have noted, he is an extremely hard worker and solid defender. He very much reminds me of Wayne Ellington (who by the way ended the game with 3 points).
Mike Beasley/Kevin Love: I was interested to see how Beasley’s over-the-top joking attitude translated during a game situation. He made a few jokes here and there to teammates, but had a very serious demeanor throughout the game. Beasley is clearly the fan favorite and the potential spark for this team. He brings the energy. Beasley led both teams with 21 points. Beasley went up against Kevin Love most of the night. He clearly did a nice job defending Love, because Kevin ended with only 5 points. The most noticeable thing about Beasley is that he certainly does like to create his own shot and he will find a way to do so, even if the opportunity isn’t there.
Anthony Tolliver/Kosta Koufos: All I can say about these guys is WOW, talk about giving it their all. Like most people, when I found out Kosta was included with the trade, I figured they would be a quick trade or cut away from getting rid of him. However, you can quote me on saying, this guy has talent. He, out of the three true centers playing, got the most rebounds, had the best inside passes, and slammed it home the most times. Now, I understand that this isn’t exactly a real game scenario, but he made me remember his name. And that’s more than Maurice Ager can say. Anthony Tolliver, who most remember from the “Decision: Part 2” was the other player that surprised me the most. Tolliver can shoot it. Other than Wes Johnson, Tolliver shot and made the most mid-range jump shots. He took on leadership qualities while on the court that I didn’t see from others. The effort was there and it paid off, he ended with 15 points (second highest on the team).
Luke Ridnour/Sebastian Telfair: I must start off by saying that this is going to be the best competition in camp. Sebastian, I believe, can be the point of this running team. He had a handle on the ball the entire night and he weaved passes in and out. Luke, on the other hand, had the shot that Sebastian didn’t. Luke made a handful of shots off his back foot. Based off of what I saw, I thought things ran smoother with Sebastian, but it was one game, so who knows. Sebastian: 6 points, Luke: 12 points.
Martell Webster/Corey Brewer: These two guys were the biggest disappointment to me. I had no clue Martell was even in the game for the first two quarters. Corey lost the ball a few times and missed most of his shots. Webster started to warm-up in the second half and finished with 12 points. Corey…. Didn’t and finished with 9.
Biggest Surprise: Anthony Tolliver. This guy either had the night of his life or he should play. He was exciting to watch and brought the much-needed energy. He can play defense and best of all; he can shoot. He was all over the floor (making 3’s and jump shots, lay-ups and slams) the entire game.
Biggest Disappointment: Corey Brewer. He didn’t look like he wanted to be there and wasn’t in to the game like the rest. He scored points, but lost the ball a few times and really just lacked energy. He doesn’t act like he’s in a competition to start.
Offensive Play of the Game: The black team got a quick rebound and brought it up the court on a fast break. Lazar handled the ball, as Beasley ran towards the basket. Lazar threw it up high in the air; Beasley flew off the ground and grabbed the ball with one hand. He went down to slam it home, as the fans watched in anticipation, and it bounced off the rim straight up in the air. Even though this play didn’t actually work, it was EXCITING. These types of plays didn’t happen last year for the Timberwolves.
Defensive Play of the Game: If you didn’t know already, Nikola Pekovic is a giant guy. Nikola was on the offensive end, getting ready to shoot a wide-open 5-footer. Out of nowhere, Wes Johnson came in and BLOCKED HIM. Yes, Wes Johnson blocked Pekovic. It was one of those; wow did that just happen, moments.
After the game, all of the Timberwolves sat down at tables and signed autographs for 20 minutes. What looked to be Michael Beasley’s little girl, was sitting in his lap. All of the players were very friendly towards fans (giving their shoes and armbands). But, I have to say, after that 20 minutes was officially over, there were only two players who stayed and signed. And those two, who were extremely fan-friendly, were Kosta and Martell Webster. Glen Taylor was down on the court talking to fans as well, which I’m sure only happens in Minnesota.
Overall: The potential of this team really lies in Michael Beasley and how he decides to live his life. We have talent, don’t get me wrong, but there is superstar potential in this guy. The team is defensively improved from last year. But, even more importantly, the guys that we brought in can actually shoot! This is a running team with big guys that can keep up, wings that can make the shot, and guys willing to put the effort in and value defense. However, with that being said, if no one steps up as THE GUY, we’ll be an average team with a lot of heart.
Lastly, the final score was Black 77, White 67.