Flip Saunders Rumors
One of the best stories going through the grapevine in Vegas was that at some practice, KG ripped into Pek for not getting back on defense — hit him with “motherfucker” and everything. And no one had ever seen anyone talk to Pek like that, because he’s Pek and he’s scary. Do you remember that? Flip Saunders: That happened during the season, in his very first practice with us. People were talking about it in Vegas, because KG came out and did a shootaround with us there, and people couldn’t believe how energetic he was. And we said, “Well, you should have seen him when he ‘motherfucked’ Pek because he didn’t get back on defense during a dummy drill.” No one had ever seen that with Pek. That’s KG. He always said that living up to his contract meant giving everything he had, in practices and games. He expects that from everyone on the team. A guy like Pek has never been pushed. How did Pek react? Flip Saunders: He put his damn head down and started running fast. That’s the thing about KG: He’s running back faster than anyone. If a Hall of Famer, one of the greatest power forwards ever, is doing that at 38, how can you not do it?
OK, so, what stories do you break out when people ask you how nuts the CBA was in the 1980s and 1990s? Flip Saunders: There are so many, some you could never tell publicly. But you’d be doing deals with another GM at like 3 a.m., and there was no trade call like there is today. We’d just call Jim Tooley’s office2 and leave voice mails, and, boom, that meant the trade was done. And then the next day, one GM would try to beg out of the deal. Because, let me tell you, if you get a coach after six beers at 4 a.m. in Cedar Rapids, they will trade you something for nothing. The two times I won championships, I traded for big-time scorers at 3 a.m. and gave up nothing.
Flip Saunders: But you say luck, and maybe I say patience. I didn’t have a problem keeping Kevin into the final year of his deal and coaching him. Guys just don’t turn down the extra year and $30 million. Even though he maybe wanted to leave, I thought we still had an opportunity to re-sign him. When you are patient, you can say, “This is what we need to get something done, and if we don’t get it, we’re keeping him.” Then things kind of fell into place, with LeBron going to Cleveland and [Andrew] Wiggins becoming available. That’s when you can say “lucky.”
Is KG going to start? He’s gonna start. That’s who he is. KG is a starter. He’s the best power forward on our team, actually. No one rebounds better. He’s the best help defender. No one communicates better. He knows the offense, and he can pass it.
How often do you think about Sam Cassell’s injury in the 2004 playoffs — a hip thing, I think, right before the conference finals against the Lakers? Flip Saunders: All the time. It was his hip. He made a shot out of the corner against Sacramento in Game 7 [of the conference semifinals], and he did his little Big Balls dance, and from that, he created a little avulsion fracture in his hip. No question, I think about that dance all the time. But that’s the NBA. I went to four straight conference finals in Minnesota and Detroit, and we had injury issues in each one. The team that wins the title is usually the healthiest team.
“We are excited that KG has decided to continue his career with us,” said Timberwolves president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders. “When we acquired him last year we hoped this would be evolve into a longer term relationship. KG re-signing shows his commitment to our franchise and his belief in the direction we’re headed. I know KG will bring his usual strong work ethic and leadership, and be a positive influence for our young guys as we continue to grow together.”