For better or worse I went into my first media day without much of a plan, beyond “take an extra hour for lunch.” I wasn’t sure exactly where to go. (Thanks Darren Wolfson for pointing me toward the press room.) Or how to act as a newbie in a room stock full of veteran sports reporters. (Thanks Britt Robson for the pointers.) I had no questions prepared. (So I didn’t ask any!)
But despite my naivete on the logistics and intramedia etiquette, I felt I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of interview answers from the players and the coach. I’ve read enough newspapers and watched enough SportsCenter to know that media day is not usually the time for candor or nuance when discussing a season on the immediate horizon.
Against this backdrop of low expectations, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Sid Hartman asked Coach Adelman for a starting five; a notoriously skirted question for a team about to break for camp. Adelman listed Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic as four locks. After some hemming and hawing, he confirmed what many of us already suspect: Corey Brewer will probably be the starting small forward.
Dante Cunningham was asked about his habit of shooting from the mid-range and whether he might look to expand his skillset. He basically said no — that’s his game. (I was glad to hear this response. Dante’s biggest strength is knowing and embracing his role, and a big part of that is money shooting from the elbows.)
Ricky Rubio said that he can slam dunk again; a sign of a full recovery from his knee surgery. He also admitted that he is not going to change his shooting mechanics, but do the best with what he’s got. Essentially: Get more reps. (Eds note: Oh well.)
Corey Brewer went out of his way to say that he wasn’t very good when he was last a Timberwolf and provided the interesting answer of “Jason Terry” to the question of who helped him the most in his journey away from and back to the Twin Cities.
But the substantive takeaway from media day, in my opinion, involved the team’s coach, its star player, and the style of offense they will look to play in the coming seasons.
Rick Adelman touched on the potential for different sets with his new roster that includes a face well familiar to him, Kevin Martin:
I think it’s even more important when you add Kevin Martin and the things that he can do, it’s a lot different than the people we had last year. We pretty much got to a point where — if you watched us play, you know — it’s just pick-and-roll, pick-and-roll, pick-and-roll, which that’s what the whole league’s about, anyway. But we’ve gotta add more to that. I think it’s really important that our more skilled players become better in a lot of areas. Kevin Love, for example, he can be a real facilitator for the other guys. I think he can be a very good passer, but now we’ve got people he can pass the ball to….
I think you’re gonna try to see us run a lot more motion; lot more things where there’s gonna be movement. We’re still gonna play pick-and-roll, but we’re gonna try to attack the other team in a lot more different ways.
Love spoke after Adelman, and made similar remarks about the adjustments he will look to make with his new surroundings on the wings:
I think what Coach is addressing is two things. I think it’s myself and the entire team getting better on the defensive end and also being more of a facilitator; a guy that’s gonna look for whether it’s Pek ducking in, whether it’s gonna be me kicking it out to the outside when I get double teamed… just… there’s many different ways that we can play with this team that we have and the personnel. I think not only myself included but I think Coach mentioned that we can’t just be complacent and stand still.
It’s so interesting to me that Adelman emphasizes the need for his “more skilled players” to get better. There’s this never-ending Wolves-fan question of whether the team loses because the rotation players are terrible or because the superstars aren’t — you know — really superstars. Adelman’s remark that “now we’ve got people he can pass the ball, too” is a clear suggestion that the supporting talent was lacking. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Rick also expects more from Kevin Love, whose individual accomplishments have always dwarfed his team’s success.
Since Adelman took the reigns as Wolves coach, we’ve seen glimpses — snippits — of high-post and backdoor-cut action. Brad Miller — a longtime Adelman favorite — would immediately start slinging bounce passes from the elbow to the baseline in his limited minutes, two season ago. Andrei Kirilenko was one of the better impromptu cutters — both baseline and right through the heart of the lane — in recent league history. But nothing has seemed particularly orchestrated or systematic. We haven’t seen anything that could fairly be called The Princeton Offense.
More than anything else on media day, I came away with the sense that Adelman wants to see more, and better passes from his forwards. Kevin Love in particular. Let’s not forget that some of Adelman’s very best teams were led by a passing power forward, Chris Webber. Zach Lowe recently wrote that Webber might very well be the greatest passing big man of all time. Considering how sharp a reference point that must be for Adelman, and in light of the comments made today, I’m looking forward to seeing this new team and the possibilities that might exist if Kevin Love becomes a playmaker.