Minnesota Timberwolves WiretapNovember 2001 Minnesota Timberwolves Wiretap

Lax defense costs Wolves

Nov 30, 2001 7:26 AM

Minnesota (10-4) has lost two consecutive games for the first time this season because it's struggling defensively, period.

For the second straight game, the Wolves were outshot by an opponent. For the second straight game, and for only the third time this season, a Wolves opponent shot better than 45 percent. And for the second straight game, an opponent's starting shooting guard -- this time Piatkowski -- had a season high (24 points).

"Our scouting report was that we did not want to leave him alone unguarded, and we did,'' Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "It shows we didn't learn much from the Seattle game.''

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Wolves find FTs hard to come by

Nov 30, 2001 7:25 AM

For all the praise for Minnesota's new zone defense, extra depth and franchise-best start, the Wolves are struggling with an old problem: getting to the free-throw line. They are the worst in the NBA, averaging 20.3 attempts per game.

Why? They insist on passing the ball out to the perimeter, instead of completing drives to the basket.

It is one of the many reasons the Wolves, who are 10-4, have lost two consecutive games for the first time this season. It is one of the things they'll have to improve Saturday against the Lakers, if they want to beat the two-time defending NBA champs.

"I think at the end of the day, you're always going to go to your comfort zone,'' said Garnett, who didn't attempt a free throw on Wednesday and didn't appear comfortable with his 7-for-18 shooting performance, either. "For most of us, the comfort zone is hitting that 15-, 16-footer. When it's not clicking, I don't think we think: "Let's get some fouls, let's get some fouls.' "

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Garnett works on simple shooting

Nov 30, 2001 7:24 AM

Catch. Pivot. Dribble. Shoot. Repeat.

What Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett worked on after practice Thursday with Kevin McHale and Jerry Sichting, in instructions form, could have fit on the back of a shampoo bottle. A travel-sized bottle at that.

Garnett has been wrestling with a shooting gremlin lately. Over the Wolves' past five games (including three defeats), the 7-footer has made only 38.4 percent (35 of 91) and has drifted back toward some bad habits.

Too often, Garnett has received a pass and held on, giving the defense time to swarm him. There have been needless fakes and moves, predetermined and not very effective. He has leaned too much on his jump shot, neglecting the inside and not drawing fouls.

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Teams ready for face the Wolves zone

Nov 29, 2001 5:36 AM

Everywhere the Timberwolves go, with every team they face, the lights burn longer at the practice facilities. Inside, opponents are cramming for what generally is considered the most comprehensive zone-defense test of the early season.

The Los Angeles Clippers showed up early Tuesday to work on their outside shooting, the surest way to deflate a good zone.

The Seattle SuperSonics were hyperaware of the strategy, too, and thwarted it 112-102 with quick, long, accurate shots. Still, Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said Wednesday he wasn't worried about the rest of the league catching up to the Wolves' "50" formation. And he backed up his view with numbers.

"In 29 possessions [against man-to-man], they scored 42 points. About 72 percent of the time," Saunders said. "In 30 possessions of zone, they scored 42 percent of the time.

"[Seattle] scored 21 out of 29 times when we were in man. In 20 years, I've never been in a situation where a team has played man-to-man defense and only stopped a team, for a game, eight times. If we wouldn't have had the rule changes, we might have gotten beat by 40. Or 50."

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Barry carries Sonics

Nov 28, 2001 12:21 PM

The Seattle SuperSonics defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 112-102, Tuesday night behind a career-high scoring night and near triple-double from Brent Barry.

But the seeds of this important victory, which got the Sonics back to .500 (8-8), were sown a while ago.

A long while ago.

On Dec. 8, 1999, the Sonics were playing the Timberwolves in Seattle, and the Sonics had a promotion in which every fan in the arena would get a chalupa from Taco Bell if the team scored 110 points.

Barry, always cognizant of what is going on, took a 3-pointer at the end of the 110-94 blowout that sent the fans home with their ticket stub good for a tasty chalupa.

Afterward, though, Wolves coach Flip Saunders accused Barry of intentionally running up the score, then took some personal shots at him by saying the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, insinuating that Barry is as obnoxious as his father, Rick.

Brent Barry was insulted, and wanted to confront Saunders, but Saunders denied saying it - even though a reporter had the comments on tape. In the teams' next game, on Dec. 23, 1999, Barry was ejected for getting into a scuffle in front of the Wolves' bench.

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No questioning Wolves' success

Nov 28, 2001 6:35 AM

Why are the Wolves 10-2 for the first time in franchise history and atop the Midwest Division, entering tonight's game at Seattle?

"Defense,'' Wolves coach Flip Saunders said.

He couldn't help but smile at that one, too.

Saunders' so-called "hyperbolic paraboloid transitional floating zone defense" has worked well as a change-up through the first 12 games. It packs players into the lane, slows pick-and-roll offenses and forces players to shoot from the outside but with a defensive hand still in their faces. The Wolves switch to zone more than any other team in the league. They use it about 35-40 percent of the time, and even though teams are starting to catch on to what they're doing, guard Wally Szczerbiak said, the skills have helped their man-to-man defense, too.

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Payton is suddenly right for Seattle

Nov 28, 2001 6:34 AM

The downside with Gary Payton -- and the reason the feisty Seattle SuperSonics point guard was shopped around last offseason to teams that included the Timberwolves -- always had been his temper, his impatience and a burning desire to do most things, most of the time, his way only.

That Payton has been largely absent from the Sonics' scene this season, which explains his unavailability despite occasional trade rumors. At age 33, Payton has become the consummate leader and team player. For the past couple of months, anyway.

"There has been a change in Gary," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said Tuesday after a morning shootaround. "He puts so much on his shoulders, wanting to win and trying to do whatever it takes, that it wasn't working. Talking to him over the summer, he understood it was time to do something different."

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A new attitude: With trade talk in the past, Payton a team player

Nov 27, 2001 9:44 AM

When the ball goes up tonight at KeyArena, Terrell Brandon, Wally Szczerbiak and Rasho Nesterovic will be playing for Minnesota.

They could have been starting for the Sonics if a summertime deal had gone down, the one that would have turned Gary Payton into a Timberwolves point guard and sudden Seattle nemesis.

This is a trade that was talked about but never happened. Both teams are delighted that it didn't.

The Timberwolves arrive with a 10-2 record and lead the Midwest Division. The Sonics are 7-8, but have won three of their past four games as Payton flourishes in his new role as goodwill ambassador.

Payton, 33, is averaging 23.5 points and 9.4 assists, showing a willingness to share his thoughts as well as the ball, helping to groom his younger teammates. He is working within the system, patiently enduring short-term setbacks for the betterment of the team's future.

Given his volatile past, it is a startling development, but one that is showing more signs of being permanent than temporary, as November gives way to December. Skeptics insist the other shoe will drop.

"It's so unfair that so much of the conversation about Gary right now is not about how well he's playing, or how well he's leading, but whether or not there's going to be some kind of eruption," said Sonics majority owner Howard Schultz.

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Capsule preview: Sonics vs. Timberwolves

Nov 27, 2001 9:42 AM

When: Today, 7 p.m. Where: KeyArena.

Radio: KJR (950 AM). TV: None.

Records: Sonics 6-8, Timberwolves 10-2.

Notes: The Timberwolves started the season 6-0 and have won four of their past five games, inching past division rival San Antonio 99-94 Saturday. ... The Sonics were 1-3 against the Timberwolves last season, but hold a 20-4 edge over Minnesota at KeyArena. ... The Sonics lost to Minnesota by an average of 8.6 points last season. ... Szczerbiak leads NBA guards in field-goal percentage (54 percent). ... Garnett leads the NBA in double-doubles (10). ... The Sonics defeated the Indiana Pacers 99-88 Sunday. ... Seattle plays at Utah tomorrow.

Injuries: Sonics ? C Jerome James (sprained right ankle) and C Antonio Harvey (patella tendinitis in right knee).

Timberwolves ? G William Avery (patella tendinitis in right knee) and G Maurice Evans (posterior tibialis tendinitis in left knee) are on the injured list.

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When it comes to Payton, no move might have been best move

Nov 27, 2001 5:02 AM

Here is the test, Timberwolves fans. Think back to this summer when the rumor mill kept churning out the proposed trade of Terrell Brandon, Wally Szczerbiak and Rasho Nesterovic to Seattle for point guard Gary Payton and others.

Did you happily envision Payton flying up and down the court, bringing his high energy, surly attitude and ultra-competitiveness to Target Center? Did you call newspapers and radio talk shows wondering why in the world Wolves officials didn't make it happen? Did you view Payton as the guy who could finally get the Wolves past the first round of the playoffs?

OK, now raise your hand if you still feel the same way. There are those who probably would still love to see Payton in a Wolves uniform, but the deal doesn't seem as one-sided as it once did.

Brandon is still Brandon, a point guard who is steady but not flashy. But Szczerbiak appears to be past his knee problems and has blossomed into a legitimate No. 2 scoring option, and Nesterovic, coming off a 24-point outing against San Antonio, continues to surprise.

More importantly and perhaps not coincidentally, the Wolves are 10-2 entering tonight's game at Seattle.

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Forgotten man hurts Spurs

Teammates starting to believe in Nesterovic

'Sho-time: Wolves grab first

Rasho, Rasho, he's our man

Brandon a built-in tutor

J.R. Rider: Gone, but not Forgotten

Wolves face important showdown with Spurs

Rider saves energy for more idle threats

Schedule gets more difficult for Wolves

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Wolves get off with shorts warning

Some think the Smith fiasco was for the best

Preview: Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves tonight

Garnett comes as close as possible to perfection

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Labor concession sinks in

Wolves' reserves making their mark

Hammonds' retirement is official