Tuesday, May. 21, 2019


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Wolves Roster Reshuffling Seems Likely

 

Enjoy a Thursday notes column on Timberwolves, Twins, Gophers and Vikings newsmakers.

The hiring of new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas is likely to reshape the roster for next season but perhaps won’t dramatically change the coaching staff. Rosas is a disciple of analytics and three-point shooting advocate as practiced by the Houston Rockets for whom he has worked as a front office executive.

The Wolves attempted 2,357 three point shots last season, the fifth fewest of the NBA’s 30 teams, per Basketball-reference.com. The roster doesn’t have much in the way of three-point marksmen, although center Karl-Anthony Towns is among the better shooting big men in the league.

Tyus Jones

The expected emphasis on three-point shooting could impact decisions on free agent guards Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones. Neither is known for his three-point game and Jones has struggled with field goal accuracy.

The Rockets have been one of the NBA’s most successful teams in recent years and have done it with a foundation of three-point shooting. Last season the Rockets attempted the most three-point shots in the league (3,721) and were the only club with more three-point shots than two point attempts, per basketball-reference.com.

Interim head coach Ryan Saunders told Sports Headliners awhile ago he is interested in playing an up-tempo style. That seems in his favor as word is awaited on whether Rosas will make him the permanent coach. The Rockets try to get the basketball up the floor quickly and they look for open space to shoot three-pointers.

Saunders’ willingness to communicate and learn also is in his favor for staying on with the Wolves where owner Glen Taylor has expressed his liking for the league’s youngest coach. With Rosas’ input, the assistant coaching staff could certainly change.

Rosas’ hiring is a reminder of how absent this organization has been in making elite personnel moves since its inception 30 years ago. The franchise’s futility (one playoff appearance since 2004 and never a Western Conference championship) is tied to not having an extraordinary talent evaluator leading the basketball front office. While it’s no easy task to hire a talent-finding savant, it can be done—with the Golden State Warriors organization a showcase example.

The Warriors are the favorites to advance through the playoffs and win a fourth NBA title in five years. Their stars include forward-center Draymond Green who was a second round draft choice. Point guard Steph Curry, a perennial league MVP, was available to the Wolves in the 2009 NBA Draft but instead Minnesota chose Jonny Flynn who washed out early in his NBA Career.

The San Antonio Spurs have made the playoffs for 22 consecutive years behind the leadership of general manager R.C. Buford and head coach Gregg Popovich. Their cagey personnel moves include finding future hall of famers and international players Tony Parker (late first round) and Manu Ginobili (late second). They also prioritized Kawhi Leonard, making a trade to choose him in the middle of the first round. After Leonard became one of the top five players in the NBA he decided last year he wanted to move on. In a single offseason Buford and Popovich rebuilt the roster and starting lineup with no-names and surprisingly got the Spurs into this spring’s playoffs.

Wolves fans can only hope the new basketball boss will be special at recognizing talent that others undervalue, or perhaps don’t even recognize.

The Gophers’ Amir Coffey needs to impress at the NBA G League Elite Camp, a three-day tryout for NBA Draft hopefuls in Chicago May 12-14. Those who impress enough will be invited to the NBA Draft Combine (also in Chicago) May 14-19. The Gopher junior wing has until 5 p.m. on June 10 to withdraw his name for the June 20 NBA Draft and still retain eligibility to play for Minnesota next season.

The Twins, leading the AL Central with a 18-10 record, have defeated four former Cy Young pitchers this season, Jake Arrieta, Jacob deGrom, Corey Kluber and Justin Verlander.

Jim Kaat will offer game analysis along with play-by-play partner Dick Bremer on the Fox Sports North telecasts of the Twins-Yankees weekend games in New York. Kaat’s insights have for years made him one of the best analysts ever to work big league baseball telecasts.

Twins general manager Thad Levine is impressed with the work of first-season pitching coach Wes Johnson who since last year has transitioned from the University of Arkansas to the major leagues. Levine refers to Johnson as a “tireless worker” who will partner with pitchers to find strategies and approaches that work.

Rob Fornasiere, the ex-assistant head coach for Gophers baseball who retired last year, misses the relationships he had. “One thing I don’t miss are the cold (spring) games,” he said.

Fornasiere has formed his own company with endeavors that include evaluations of other college baseball programs, mostly on the Division II and III levels.

Brandon Zylstra, the New London-Spicer alum who joined the Vikings as a wide receiver last year, gives free autographs from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 11 at HQ at Eden Prairie Center.

Next Monday is the deadline for reservations to attend the Thursday, May 9 CORES luncheon featuring Pete Bercich at the Bloomington Event Center, 1114 American Blvd. The former Viking linebacker is a game analyst on radio for his former team, and he is also head football coach at Hill-Murray. For reservations and other information, contact Jim Dotseth, dotsethj@comcast.net.

Expectations are that the Vikings-Chiefs game will create extra buzz in Kansas City on November 3 because this is the 50th anniversary of the Vikings and Chiefs teams who advanced to the 1970 Super Bowl. That 23-7 Chiefs win was the last between the NFL and AFL.

Golden Gophers football historian Doug Addison points out it was 50 years ago this year that Judge Dickson had a prestigious White House Fellowship. Dickson, now retired from a long career as a lawyer for IBM, was a prominent halfback on Minnesota’s 1960 national championship team.

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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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