Found May 31, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
MINNEAPOLIS A peek between the curtains and into the Timberwolves' training facility on Thursday, and the basketball seems almost an afterthought.Yes, Timberwolves assistant coach Jack Sikma is standing in the center of the court, directing the workouts. Shawn Respert, another Timberwolves coach, trails behind, but these players around them aren't the ones you know by sight. They're numbers read off a list, names that sound familiar from somewhere, varying degrees of unrecognizable.The real show might actually be on the sidelines, the row of folding chairs lining the court. It's a row of suits, of ties and grey hair. It's Timberwolves general manager David Kahn reclining at center court, presiding over his day. It's Larry Bird sequestered at one end, his gaze unflinching, and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak schmoozing further down the line.It's not even 20 hours past the NBA Draft Lottery, yet the machine is in full motion. The GMs are watching, eyeing each other as well as the players. There are hints and murmurs. The business of the draft has begun.On Thursday, the Timberwolves hosted general managers from teams across the league to watch 12 draft prospects work out in two afternoon sessions. These were second-round picks, players on the cusp of being drafted, and though everyone was watching, they really weren't the story.Maybe if Kahn had been willing to comment more on what he saw, this could have been more about those guys. But that's not what's done, far from the protocol of reserved no-comments after these events."Two good workouts," Kahn said of the sessions.And did he see anything he liked?"If there was, I wouldn't say."Thursday's sessions and the two that follow on Friday kick off the Timberwolves' schedule of pre-draft workouts, but they're likely to be the largest and least-relevant groups that the team brings in. Going forward, the workouts will be more specific to the Timberwolves' needs no more Bird sightings and take place in smaller groups. Right now, Kahn said the team is still ironing out names and getting confirmation from players who are likely to come to Minnesota, and that process will last until after the Chicago draft combine on June 7 and 8. The Timberwolves are so uncertain about which players will appear in part because the nature of their pick. At 18, the Timberwolves are just four picks removed from the lottery, and the players who are on the cusp of being lottery picks are at times hesitant to work out for a non-lottery team."A lot of the players still all believe they're in the lottery," Kahn said. "So we've got about 35 players who all think that they'll be in the lottery, and they're a little hesitant to come work out at 18. But those things sort themselves out."When all is settled, the team is likely to bring in between six and eight players in smaller groups. Coach Rick Adelman's son R.J. Adelman, who serves as the team's director of player personnel, and director of basketball operations Rob Babcock will split the work involved with the team's pre-draft preparations, work that former assistant GM Tony Ronzone was in charge of in previous seasons.Much of R.J. Adelman's and Babcock's work will focus on scheduling and working with players' agents, but there's another side of the preparations that Kahn is more concerned with. Because the Timberwolves are such a young team, the general manager can't rule out the idea of trading their pick. Though this year's draft seems deep and Kahn said he believes he can get a quality player at No. 18, he won't rule out trade propositions. In fact, Kahn was pulled aside several times on Thursday by other GMs to discuss business, and he said that he thinks call will come about the pick until and even during draft night."I think we all have to stay open to everything," Kahn said. "As much as we all hope that we can dictate what can happen, there's 29 other teams who are similarly looking out for themselves and have an assortment of cap room and assets and things that they want to do. So it's very rare that you feel that you can start something and not at least have plan b, c, a and so on."Kahn also spoke briefly about possibilities for offseason moves. He said in April that the only two players who would return for certain in 2012-13 were Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, and he reiterated that point Thursday. However, he added that though he won't give names there are five or six players whom he thinks will likely be back."That's not to say that everybody else will be gone," Kahn said. "I do think there will be some turnover, but I do think that the guts of the team will in some respects remain the same."The instant these draft workouts start, it's easy to forget how much time teams have before they must decide upon the players they'd like to pick. With all the speculation, the changing stock and opinions, it's easy to catch a false sense of urgency, and Kahn stressed on Thursday that he and the Timberwolves have a long time to narrow their options. There are four weeks and more than a dozen players to watch between this first day of workouts and the draft, and so much could change. One thing, though, will remain constant throughout the coming weeks."We need to get better," Kahn said. "And we will get better."Thursday marked the first public efforts to do so.Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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