Summer League basketball is no joke. It's on-the-job training for some players and a job interview for others.
The Timberwolves opened the first of four Summer League practices on Monday evening in preparation for Saturday's Summer League opener in Las Vegas, Nevada. Two things stood out – first-round draft pick Zach LaVine's speed and athleticism; and the intensity that head coach Flip Saunders brought with him.
“I’ve always believed that basketball is a game of reaction and we have to simulate pressure and demands of what’s going to happen in a game in a practice,” Saunders told Timberwolves.com. “We try to make it as difficult as we can to try and make it as close to a game time setting as possible.”
LaVine will be the starting shooting guard in Vegas, along with fellow starters Alexey Shved, Shabazz Muhammad, Glen Robinson III and Gorgui Dieng. LaVine's explosiveness was evident on day one of practice, according to Dane Mizutani.
“If there’s a competition, I’m someone that wants to win,” LaVine said. “I went out there and did my best to make plays and we won the game. That’s the bottom line for me.”
LaVine and the starters defeated the reserves 22-11 in a 10-minute, post-practice scrimmage.
LaVine and Robinson III highlight Minnesota's Summer League roster. But while both will be playing alongside point guard Shved in Vegas, they're looking forward to running the floor with Ricky Rubio during the regular season.
“I can definitely see that now, us being two dudes on the break who can run, we can jump and we can also spot-up and shoot and create our own shot as well,” LaVine told the Star Tribune. “I could see myself running the lane, not knowing who he is going to pass to and then the ball’s going to be in the air and it’s up for grabs as to who is going to dunk it.
“You’re always going to need to be looking for passes everywhere. He has eyes in the back of his head. I know he’s going to be exciting to play with.”
Fans that want to see some of the new players can do so by attending a free scrimmage at Target Center at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
According to the Pioneer Press, the rest of the 13-player roster includes Kyrylo Fesenko, LaRon Dendy, Mamadi Diane, Brady Heslip, Dennis Horner, D.J. Kennedy, Jordan Morgan and Markel Starks.