The Scoops: Flip Saunders, Wolves ready for start of free agency
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When NBA free agency begins late Sunday night, Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders will not be at his West Metro palace, or living the life of luxury at his cabin about an hour north of the Twin Cities.
Saunders told a group of reporters Friday that he'll be out of town this weekend, presumably visiting a free agent.
Who? Not sure as of publication. But what is known is that Saunders has strong interest in shooting guard O.J. Mayo. One possibility for Saunders' trip: meet with Mayo in Southern California. Oh by the way, unrestricted free agent Chase Budinger is in that area too.
A source says shooting guard Marco Belinelli is also being considered.
There are probably others too. This is a good free agent class if you're in the market for shooters/wings. Andre Iguodala, a popular name with the Twitter faithful, is unlikely. First, because he, rightfully so, will want a lot of money, more than the Wolves can make work within the confines of their salary cap.
Secondly, the Wolves did a ton of homework on Iguodala last summer when discussing a trade with Philadelphia. A Wolves source said then that Iguodala wasn't a good fit, some because of his hefty salary and some for other reasons. Sure, maybe with Saunders in charge the thinking could change. But remember that the ultimate boss and check-cutter, owner Glen Taylor is still around.
As for whether Saunders will be in Montenegro late this weekend, that's doubtful. Center Nikola Pekovic is a restricted free agent. In other words, the Wolves have the power. One way or another, it seems certain that Pekovic will remain a Timberwolf.
"He wants to be back," Taylor said this week. "I think he'll be back."
Saunders added: "We will have communication with Pek (when free agency opens). He's a high priority. He knows where we're at."
• Taylor passed along that coach Rick Adelman's wife, Mary Kay, is driving again. She continues her battle against seizures. Unless something unforeseen happens between now and opening night, Taylor said Adelman will be back for the 2013-14 season.
• Taylor said the Wolves were comfortable taking Lehigh combo guard C.J. McCollum, and almost certainly there was some internal debate, but ultimately Saunders used his trump card. He wanted more size.
• Taylor on what is holding up the Target Center renovation project: "We've done everything we can. ... It's in the attorneys' hands." When asked if there is a fair amount of frustration since the project should be well underway, Taylor declined to comment.
• Among those who provided a positive report on wing Shabazz Muhammad to the Wolves: Arizona State associate coach Eric Musselman. The Sun Devils played UCLA three times last year.
• Per Wolves' second round pick Bojan Dubljevic's agent, Dubljevic will be in Europe for at least two more years. Then an evaluation will occur.
• A source involved in the Luke Ridnour-Ekpe-Udoh Wolves-Bucks trade talks: "Minnesota likes Ekpe, but they are getting plentiful offers for Ridnour. You may see a larger name in the mix."
• Truth be told: the Wolves were never that close to swapping pick No. 26 for Nets guard Marshon Brooks.
• Wolves center Greg Stiemsma followed fellow Badgers Jon Leuer and Jared Berggren to Priority Sports Agency. He left his first agent, Mike Naiditch. The Wolves have to decide on Stiemsma's approximate $2.2 million option by July 22.
• The Wolves are angling for Israeli point guard Gal Mekel to be a starter on their summer league team. A few other teams, including Milwaukee and Dallas are also interested.
• Former Henry Sibley high school and Wisconsin Badger forward Mike Bruesewitz is a possibility for the Wolves' Vegas summer league team. He'll know in the next few days. Director of personnel R.J. Adelman is in charge of putting the team together.
• Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony when asked if they are taking more trade calls than initiating: "Yes."
• The Twins have seen Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez three times in the last month, per a team executive. Their interest remains high. However, they were not in Tijuana on Friday night to watch him. In the Twins' words, they have enough knowledge of him already.
• Outfielder Micker Zapata, ranked by many experts as the No. 2 international free agent, is not strongly in the Twins' mix. International free agency starts July 2. The Twins have the fourth-most money to spend.
• The Twins have three scouts assigned to this summer's Cape Cod League.
• The Twins haven't made a call on free agent third baseman Ian Stewart. The Cubs cut ties with him in the last week.
• The Twins never made a call on shortstop Reid Brignac, who signed a minor league deal this week with Colorado after the Yankees released him.
• Gophers center Mo Walker weighed in at 268 lbs on Wednesday. Immediately after the season in late March, he got up 310 lbs. He gives a lot of credit to the new Gophers strength coach Shaun Brown, who according to Walker has a deep knowledge of nutrition.
• Gophers center Elliott Eliason said this week that him and guard Andre Hollins were able to find a few pickup games while in Italy. They just got back after spending nearly a month there through a program with the Carlson School.
• Lakeville North Class of 2014 two-guard J.P. Macura took an unofficial visit to the Gophers' offices on Wednesday. Assistant coach Ben Johnson guided him around. A Gophers offer is expected soon. Macura took an official visit to Butler on Thursday. Rivals.com was the first to report. One source said Butler is the favorite.
• Gophers recruit Class of 2014 guard Rashad Vaughn's next few weeks: the Kevin Durant skills academy in Washington D.C., the LeBron James skills academy in Las Vegas and the Nike Global Challenge games in Washington D.C.
• Chanhassen offensive lineman Frank Ragnow spent time with Gophers coach Jerry Kill on Tuesday. "Toured the campus on the golf cart," Ragnow said. "Had good talks." In addition to the Gophers, Nebraska, Florida State, Arkansas and Missouri have made Ragnow scholarship offers.
• Probably always a long-shot because of salary cap restrictions, a source close to soon-to-be unrestricted free agent center Vincent Lecavalier simply said, "No" when asked if the Wild will pursue him.
• In spending time with top Minnesota NHL Draft prospect Tom Vannelli (Minnetonka HS) on Wednesday, his sense is that Chicago, Toronto, and Anaheim are the most interested. The defenseman is expected to go before the second round is over on Sunday.
Vannelli is currently taking summer school courses at Minnesota and working out daily at 7 a.m. with other incoming Gophers. His roommate at Comstock Hall is Hudson Fasching, who will also get drafted this weekend.
• Thomas Vanek trade season is upon us. The Buffalo Sabres are expected to make the star forward available, and when they do, the Wild will have a ton of interest. Vanek has one year left on his contract.
• A good number of Vikings, Cardinals, and Jaguars are expected to workout with local trainer Bill Welle on the University of Minnesota campus starting on July 8.
• Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and his Lead The Way Foundation host their annual charity golf tournament on Monday at Mendakota Country Club. A few of Greenway's teammates, including tight end Kyle Rudolph, are expected to attend.