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NBA AM: J.J. Barea Believes In The Wolves
Posted By Steve Kyler On August 15, 2013 @ 9:46 am In NBA | No Comments
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Barrera Buying The Hype In Minnesota: Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea likes what’s been happening this summer in Minnesota. While his attention recently has been on the Puerto Rico National team and the upcoming FIBA America’s Cup, he’s watched the moves in Minnesota and is excited about next season.
“I think it’s great,” Barea told HOOPSWORLD after his final training session at IMG Academy in Bradenton yesterday. “Kevin Martin is a proven shooter and scorer, he gets a lot of fouls, gets to the line a lot. We signed [Nikola] Pekovic back that was one of the biggest things we needed was to get our big boy back. He’s a great, great teammate; everybody loves him in the locker room. I think it’s going to be great. Another year with Ricky [Rubio] healthy, he’ll be ready from the beginning. Corey Brewer brings a lot of energy; I think off the bench with me is going to help a lot. So we got a good thing going, we got to stay healthy. I’m excited to go back to Minnesota and see what we can do.”
The Timberwolves were pegged as a borderline playoff team last year but injuries derailed the season and none of the injuries were bigger than losing Kevin Love for what amounted to 64 games.
“I know Kevin is anxious to start the season,” Barea said. “He’s been working hard all year. He’s been staying in touch with his teammates and I think he’s getting skinnier now, so I think he’s ready. He’s had a whole year off, so he’s going to have a lot of energy this year.”
The one thing last’s injuries created was opportunities for other players like Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham and Alexey Shved to develop and play bigger roles, something Barea thinks will pay dividends this season.
“We gave Derrick Williams a bunch of minutes at different positions,” Barea said. “He played 40 minutes in a bunch of games, so that was good for him. [Dante] Cunningham too, and [Alexey] Shved got to start a lot of games. So, I think that’s something good, that’s something that gives the coach a lot of people to use.”
The Timberwolves have made a number of changes this offseason, none bigger that the decision to fire David Kahn as team president and replace him with Flip Saunders.
“It’s a little different,’ Barea said of his new boss. “He had a good offseason, got a couple guys we needed, a couple shooters, got a couple vets like we needed to, a couple guys who have won championships and who look forward to. He signed a lot of guys that wanted to come back like Chase Budinger and Pekovic. I’m going to miss him, [Andrei] Kirilenko did some good things for this team last year, but we got some new guys to fill his spot.”
The biggest hurdle for the Timberwolves this season will be staying healthy.
“Like I talked about, if we stay healthy, we’ll be there, we’ll be in the playoffs,” Barea said confidently.
“I think we’re due for a good season. I think we’re due for a healthy season and I think everybody just needs to take care of their bodies, but we’ll need some good luck too.”
We Want To Know:
Puerto Rico Has Big Dreams: The Puerto Rico National team spent the last week holding an intense multi-session training camp at IMG Academy in Florida in advance of a long stretch of 16 games over the next 27 days.
Puerto Rico is one of ten National teams vying for the four 2014 championship spots winning teams in the FIBA Americas Championship in Caracas, Venezuela next week receive.
Puerto Rico who are anchored by former NBA guard Carlos Arroyo and current NBA guard J.J. Barea are hoping that their new coach and system, along with a softer playing field can lead to the World Championship berth.
“It’s a team that we’re all here because we love it,” explained Barea after an intense three hours intra-squad practice. “We love Puerto Rico and our country and our fans love basketball. It’s a new team; we have a new coach. We have a little bit of everything, we’re athletic, and we have some vets, some young kids, some shooters, and some quick guards. We got a little bit of everything so we’re just working hard and getting better.”
The biggest change for Puerto Rico was the hiring of Francisco “Paco” Olmos as head coach. For the first time in the modern era of Puerto Rico basketball there is an array of offensive plays and sets, totally more than 25 man-to-man plays and more than 8 out-of-bounds plays, almost five times what previous team had to work with.
“Coach has done a good job of putting everything together,” explained Barea. “Having plays for shooters, having plays for big guys, having plays for point guards; we got a lot of options. We’re practicing hard so we’re going to be able to use that in a game. But, I think the best is we’re getting better on defense. Puerto Rico has always been known to score the ball, but we need to get better on defense.”
The coaches at IMG who assisted more than coached, raved about how focused and prepared Puerto Rico has been in their week at IMG. Puerto Rico has been running two-a-day sessions during their time at IMG and late night hard fought scrimmages have become the norm for this group.
“We try to play harder than anybody,” Barea said with a smile. “Especially at the end of games, we’ll be fine because we got a lot of talent and a lot of energy. Coach has done a good job of keeping fresh guys in there all the time and if somebody gets tired we’ll go from there.”
The tempo Puerto Rico played with all day yesterday was impressive, and as Barea explains it, that’s what this year’s squad is going to be about.
“Yeah, we’re going to run, we’re going to run all the time,” Barea admitted. “But, it all starts with defense. If we get stops, we’re going to run and get buckets and do what we do.”
Puerto Rico wrapped camp last night and was headed to the Dominican Republican for a friendly exhibition game against the Dominican Republican National team.
Long-time Puerto Rico captain Daniel Santiago said he for one was looking forward to playing against someone who didn’t know the plays they were going to run.
The 2013 FIBA America’s Cup will feature teams from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and the host country Venezuela.
A top four finish in the Americas Championship earns a spot in the 2014 World Championship in Spain.
The Next Antetokounmpo: By now you’ve likely heard about 18-year old Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo; after all he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 15th overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.
While the Bucks are hopping that Giannis, “The Greek Freak”, turns into the next big thing.
His slightly older brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo, is hoping his brother can pave the way for his own draft day dream.
HOOPSWORLD spent the day with Thanasis yesterday at IMG Academy in Bradenton and it’s hard to imagine that the 6’8 super athletic forward isn’t going to be on the 2014 NBA Draft radar before too long.
Thanasis had declared for the 2013 NBA draft, but being slightly older and not gaining nearly the buzz of his brother, Thanasis opted out of the 2013 draft and has eyes for 2014.
Thanasis put his jaw dropping athleticism on display all day yesterday, throwing down dunks and jamming home lobs from his workout partners.
Thanasis said that he is weighing his options on next year, saying he might chose to play in Europe, but that he was giving serious consideration to staying in the United States and training full time in advance of the draft.
There is something to be gained from both concepts. Going to Europe and playing well will get him some real game film and allow him to show case what he does, but on the flip side Thanasis’ dream is to play in the NBA and full time skill development might give him the best chance at wowing teams in workouts.
So as Giannis begins his rookie season in Milwaukee, keep in mind there is a slightly older version that wants into the NBA next year too.
Did You Miss One: Every offseason we end up with more video interviews than you can possibly have seen so here are a couple of more in case you missed one.
Kings' big man DeMarcus Cousins talks about being part of USA Basketball and what he expects from his team this season.
From Summer League, Kyle Weaver talks about his summer, what he hopes to show NBA teams and how he hopes to get back to the NBA.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton and @YannisHW.
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