Scoops Sept. 20: Wolves Angles/Tubby Smith/Rashad Vaughn/Twins
It should be a December to remember for Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.
In a lengthy phone conversation on Wednesday afternoon in which numerous team topics came up, Wolves owner Glen Taylor said Rubio's visit last week with Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo., "went really good."
Rubio tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on March 9 in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
"He'd like to push it (his left knee) even harder," Taylor said.
When asked if mid-to-late December was realistic for Rubio to play, Taylor said, "It's better than Christmas."
The trade game
While president of operations David Kahn hinted at the possibility of a significant move in late July, Taylor said, "Nobody is talking trade right now."
But Taylor was quick to mention that talks should pick up once teams start the preseason.
With a maximum of 15 players allowed at the start of the season, the Wolves' roster sits at 13 players -- 14 depending, on how you view point guard Will Conroy's partially guaranteed deal -- so there is room to add a player or two.
Taylor said the hope is to find a two-guard and a big man by the start of practice on Oct. 2 in Mankato. There is some reluctance from Taylor to guarantee any more money, but he will if he needs to.
Available veterans Kenyon Martin, Mehmet Okur, Mickael Pietrus, Tracy McGrady andAnthony Tolliver so far want more than the veteran's minimum, which is all the Wolves have to offer barring a trade. Hassan Whiteside, Sean Williams and others remain viable options.
It's also possible that at some point these veterans will get desperate and someone will accept what the Wolves can offer.
Back on the market
In July, Taylor made the declaration he found a minority investment group who would acquire 25% interest in the team and eventually take over as majority owners.
That plan is no longer in place, although Taylor was quick to note he's "still negotiating with them. But I'm now talking to other parties. Several groups."
Taylor has eliminated three groups from consideration after they openly talked about a desire to move the Wolves. Taylor said NBA rules supercede any sort of written agreement about relocation when a sales transaction occurs, but he wants verbal assurance that the team will remain in Minnesota.
Taylor has talked with a few people who are based in Minnesota, but they don't have any interest in majority ownership. That is only from individuals and groups out of state.
However, they might be a good fit.
"I'm not in a hurry (to sell)," Taylor said, adding he could own the team "maybe forever."
Taylor guaranteed he'll be the majority owner for at least the next two years.
Tubby gives back
More often than not, Twin Cities athletes and coaches donate time and money to charitable causes we never hear about. That's because they don't want the publicity. A recent case in point is Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith, who paid for the funerals of two children who were killed in North Minneapolis.
On Sunday night, Smith's foundation held a dinner and silent auction to raise money for underprivileged children in Minnesota. At the golf outing Monday morning at Edina Country Club, word was the two day event would bring in close to $200,000, far exceeding expectations.
Earlier in the day, Gophers great Lou Hudson made it in for a brief time and addressed the team. Smith said it was an honor, especially considering that Hudson not that long ago suffered a stroke and is using a wheelchair for mobility. Hudson also had a stroke in 2005.
I talked with Smith at the course before he greeted each player at the second hole. Among other things, he told me:
• On newcomers Wally Ellenson or Charles Buggs: "I don't know that we'll red-shirt them. They can contribute right away. I don't know how much."
• On the fivesome of Andre Hollins, Julian Welch or Joe Coleman, Austin Hollins, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe: he wants to run more and that lineup can allow that. In other words, it's something we'll see plenty.
• On expectations that they should be really good, maybe even Sweet 16 good: "We should be. We were good last year. We've been good the last two years. We just haven't been able to sustain it."
• On if this is his best team since he's been here: "We have depth at every position. ... We like our team. ... We've got a chance to be better than last year, especially in the Big Ten."
• On Mbakwe's comeback from ACL reconstruction surgery: "So far, so good. His rehab is going well. He's doing individual work, but no contact." Smith then unprovoked gushed about center Mo Walker's comeback from knee and ankle injuries. "He's trimming down. He'll give us a real presence inside."
• On not having any commitments yet for 2013 with four scholarships to use: "We've had some good kids on campus, but until they say they're coming, we're behind the eight-ball. But I like where we are. ... We need post players. ... We may look at junior college players."
Rashad Vaughn busy
Gophers basketball recruit Rashad Vaughn's week: Two North Carolina assistants visited him on Monday. Tuesday it was Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin's turn. Wednesday it was a Wisconsin coach. Then on Friday Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Kentucky coach John Calipari are scheduled to be at Cooper High School. Louisville has offered, while Kentucky hasn't. But that could soon change.
Vaughn is being courted for Minnesota by among others, Cooper alum Rodney Williams. "He comes to open gyms and we talked at the (Gophers) game last weekend," Vaughn said. "He told me it's good at the Barn. That I could fit in well there."
Vaughn can start taking official visits Jan. 1. So, will Minnesota be one of those? "Probably not, because I can just go down there (whenever)," he said.
He listed Baylor as a likely visit spot and Kentucky if they offer. He's allowed to take up to five visits and a new NCAA rule this year allows him to take a parent with the school footing the bill. He said mom or dad will come on all trips.
Vaughn talks regularly with Gophers assistant Vince Taylor and with Smith once a week.
• DeLaSalle quarterback and basketball star Reid Travis, a Gophers recruit in both sports, met with Iowa assistant basketball coach Andrew Francis on Wednesday. He's also bonded recently with Smith, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Stanford's Johnny Dawkins and coaches from Northwestern. He can start taking official basketball recruiting trips in January, and while nothing is set, he mentioned Minnesota, Harvard, Stanford, and USC as strong possibilities. As for football, he'll be a guest of Iowa's Sept. 29 for its game against the Gophers. By the way, Travis is suspended for Friday's football game against St. Paul Academy. After a stiff-arm in retaliation to a St. Croix Lutheran player last Friday going at him, an official stupidly ejected him. Minnesota State High School rules state that if you get tossed from a game, you also have to miss the next week's game too.
• Taylor got back in late August from a two week trip to China with the Starkey Foundation and the NBA Cares campaign. While there, with the help of Chinese legend Yao Ming, Taylor helped hand out 6,000 hearing aids to those in need. He went with Wolves minority owner Bill Popp, Mayo Clinic ear specialist Dr. Susan Pearson and folks from Pentair. Taylor also spent a day talking to employees at NBA China headquarters and took time to check in with two companies he owns there.
• Soon-to-be free agent guard Raja Bell would fit what the Wolves need nicely, but a source close to him said the Wolves have not expressed interest. Same goes for center Chris Andersen.
• Ex-Gophers basketball player Zach Puchtel is doing some acting in commercials in Los Angeles. He even shot one last week with an unnamed Wolves player that will soon air nationally. Puchtel's team won the Venice league recently. He had 22 points, 18 rebounds, and 6 blocks in the title game.
• Northeastern athletic director Peter Roby, who has been added to the NCAA's Division I men's basketball selection committee, is very close with Hamline athletic director Jason Verdugo.
• Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff is back from a Far East trip. He scouted Japanese players that will be posted this winter and the U-18 International Championship in Seoul. He's scouting the Florida Instructional League starting next week.
• Twins pitcher Liam Hendriks, who got his first major league win on Wednesday in Cleveland, will spend most of his offseason working out at the facility in Fort Myers. But he'll be back in his native Australia in December for an engagement party for him and his soon-to-be wife.
• Reader and listener Anthony Hilden passes along that he paid $20 for a ticket in Cleveland's Legends Club for Wednesday night's Twins-Indians game. Included in that price was all you can drink (non-alcoholic beverages) and eat (hamburgers, nachos, pizza, ice cream, salads). If the Twins don't start winning, that could be Target Field in a couple years.
• On Nov. 12, umpire and St. Paul native Tim Tschida will join other Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball Umpires from around the country for the 5th Annual UMPS CARE Charities 100-Hole Golf Marathon. The event raises money to host Build-A-Bear Workshops for kids with cancer, MLB baseball experiences for children in foster care awaiting adoption, and college scholarships for young adults who were adopted from foster care. It's in Mesa, Arizona. For more information, visit http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/tim-tschida/2012-golf-marathon
• Look for Defending The Blue Line to soon announce a charity game for October. They are just waiting on a venue and a final date. Many of the locked out NHL players who reside in the Twin Cities have committed to the game.
• Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert has given zero thought to playing overseas.