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Wolves Rosas Watch Offers Intrigue

 

It’s going to be an interesting June and summer observing new Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas.

Rosas is on record about being aggressive and creative in running the Minnesota NBA franchise that has one playoff appearance since 2004. “One thing I’ll bring from Houston is we’re going to question the norm with everything that we do,” Rosas said at his news conference last month.

By reputation and appearance, Rosas is a confident and determined leader. “He thinks he is the smartest guy in the room,” said an NBA source who asked that his name not be used.

Northing wrong with being the “brightest bulb” in the organization, but that indicates Rosas is likely to have his imprint all over a franchise which again missed the playoffs in 2019. The source mentioned above and others believe Rosas, the former Houston Rockets vice president now in his first all-powerful assignment leading an NBA club, will be giving strong direction to everyone with the Wolves including 33-year-old head coach Ryan Saunders. It’s expected Rosas will have plenty to say about who are Saunders’ assistant coaches with vacancies already in place.

The Wolves have an NBA All-Star for the next 10 years in 23-year-old versatile center Karl-Anthony-Towns who impacts games at both ends of the floor. Despite a heavy payroll expected to pinch NBA salary cap restrictions, the rest of the team’s roster is nothing special and includes liabilities.

Gersson Rosas

Rosas has personnel work to do starting with the June 20 NBA Draft where, other than center, the Wolves can benefit from selecting potential contributors in the first and second rounds. Rosas is known for his analytics background and maybe that experience will help him identify undervalued talent when the Wolves draft at No. 11 and No. 43 in the first and second rounds respectively.

Rosas’ expected aggressive style may result in draft night trades that could see his club changing positions in the selection process. Also, trades involving existing NBA players seem more than a possibility as the weeks progress from summer toward fall. It’s certainly plausible the club wants to move mediocre veterans Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, who are among the more expensive players on the payroll.

After Towns, the Wolves have the most contract money tied up in 24-year-old Andrew Wiggins who was the first player chosen in the 2014 NBA Draft. Wiggins has been mostly disappointing during his Wolves career but the trade market might be too limited and club officials still too intrigued by his potential for Minnesota to give up on him this summer.

A smart move by coaches could be to give Wiggins a long look in training camp and early in the season at shooting guard. He has often been a small forward in his Wolves career but at 6-foot-8 and with superb athleticism, he might effectively exploit smaller defenders at shooting guard. The NBA mantra is take advantage of individual mismatches and the Wolves could be sitting on an opportunity with Wiggins who also needs to become more aggressive on the floor.

Almost six years ago the Dallas Mavericks hired Rosas as their general manager, reporting to the team’s head of basketball operations and owner. A few months later Rosas went back to the Rockets for reasons that are mostly unknown other than reportedly having differences with the Mavericks top decision makers.

This time there is no one above Rosas in the basketball department. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, one of the real gentlemen in the NBA, is most likely an easier guy to work for than flamboyant Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Still, the brief 2013 tenure of Rosas in Dallas just adds a bit of intrigue to the Rosas watch in Minneapolis this summer.

Worth Noting

A CBSsports.com article yesterday said an “advanced computer model” forecasts “under 9 wins” for the Vikings next season. The offensive line is seen as a major liability.

Timberwolves reserve forward Anthony Tolliver will be inducted into the Creighton University Athletics Hall of Fame August 24 in Omaha.

Mark Lundgren, the former Golden Valley football coach, remembers attending college at UMD when the Green Bay Packers trained there. After practice a crowd of young fans were waiting for the Packers players, hoping for autographs. Lundgren said a couple of the pricier Packers avoided the kids but not classy quarterback Bart Starr who spent about two hours greeting them and giving autographs. Starr, who died last month, was a hero’s hero—a great player, a better person.

University of Minnesota athletics director Mark Coyle, speaking at a Gopher fan event this week, said his program is No. 6 in the current Directors’ Cup standings that each academic year ranks the top performing NCAA sports programs across the country.

Talking at the same event, basketball coach Richard Pitino said the Gophers program hasn’t had a player drafted by the NBA since 2004. “We don’t want to be known for those records,” Pitino said.

Pitino is optimistic about his incoming recruiting class and said it’s been ranked as high as fourth best in the Big Ten. Among those getting attention is Isaiah Ihnen from Germany who is ranked a top 100 player. “I think if Isaiah were in the States he would probably be more like a top 50 recruit,” Pitino said. “That’s how talented he is.”

The Gophers have one more scholarship available for next season and speculation is it could go to North Texas transfer Ryan Woolridge, a guard who as a junior averaged 11.7 points, six rebounds and five assists last season. He would be expected to provide immediate impact next fall.

Paul Bunyan’s Axe was on display at the fan event held at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. The Gopher football team defeated Wisconsin to win the rivalry trophy last fall for the first time since 2003. It was also Minnesota’s first victory in Madison since 1994.

The Badgers have been among the elite programs in the Big Ten for years and when Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck spoke to the crowd at the Arboretum he made a bold statement about the surprise win in Madison. “Because that game, in my opinion, set the entire tone for the next two, three decades of Gopher football,” said the 38-year-old coach whose team beat the Badgers 37-15 and then defeated Georgia Tech 34-10 in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Fleck has verbal commitments for future recruiting classes that he referenced in front of the fans including the 2021 group that lists 247Sports four-star quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis from Illinois. That three-man 2021 class has been ranked so far as No. 4 in the nation by 247Sports.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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