The Timberwolves signed free-agent small forward Josh Howard to a one-year, veteran minimum contract Thursday. And coach Rick Adelman isn't going to waste any time getting him on the court.
"Well, obviously, right away," said Adelman when asked how he would use Howard, who, assuming there were no problems with his physical, will start his 10th NBA season against Golden State on Friday night. Guard Will Conroy was waived to make room for Howard.
The move was prompted by Chase Budinger's injury in Chicago on Saturday. Budinger will be out three or four months following surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. Without Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko has played 44 minutes in consecutive games, and that had to change.
"You don't want to keep playing him those minutes," Adelman said.
The plan is to play the 32-year-old Howard five or six minutes in relief of Kirilenko on Friday. Should Howard prove to be both healthy and in good condition, those minutes could grow. The Wolves worked out Howard while in Dallas on Monday, and Adelman said he looked good.
The 6-7 Howard -- a standout at Wake Forest often remembered by Wolves fans as one of the players the team passed over in 2003 to draft high schooler Ndudi Ebi -- averaged 8.7 points and 23 minutes coming off the bench for Utah last season. He injured his knee in March and had surgery to repair cartilage, but he returned in time for the playoffs.
"He's had some injury problems, but I thought he looked fine in the workout," Adelman said. "He's a versatile player. He's long, he's a good defender. He should fit in and help us."
Adelman said the plan is for Howard to get a crash course in what the team is doing on offense, then get right into action. Howard, an NBA All-Star with the Mavericks in 2007, has been working out on his own but wasn't in a training camp to get into game condition.
"We cut back a lot on what we're doing offensively, so he should be familiar with a lot of stuff we do," Adelman said. "A lot of it is what everybody in the league does. ... A guy who's been in the league as long as he's been in the league, we can run sets that it won't bother him. It's just his conditioning you have to wonder about."
Adelman talked to his team Thursday about the level of intensity it will take to win while waiting for all the injured players to return.
"We can win games," Adelman said. "When we lost [Nikola Pekovic on Monday], we knew if we were going to win games it would be at the defensive end. Offensively we really don't have a lot of firepower. But if you defend well enough, it helps your offense."
Adelman said he didn't expect Pekovic (twisted ankle), Brandon Roy (sore right knee) or J.J. Barea (mid-foot sprain) to play Friday. Pekovic did some running, but Barea did very little.
Roy said Wednesday he hoped to get some contact in practice before returning to action. But with only eight healthy players available, the Wolves did little of that Thursday.
"Our contact was to talk," Adelman joked. "That's all we did. I've got the Magnificent Nine, and now it's eight with Will gone. We talked about situations we thought would be helpful. Then we did some spot shooting and definitely some free-throw shooting."
Pekovic sounded eager to return. "Yeah, I got some chance,'' the center said. "I got some pain, but I'll see. I hope I can play [Friday]. ... I want to play. I got some running in, some drills. So it was good. The pain's going to be there, probably, for a while. If I go [Friday] I can't make it any worse. I'm just trying to help. It was tough to watch [Wednesday's game] from the side."
• The Wolves did take a lot of extra free throws Thursday after hitting on 20 of 37 in Wednesday's loss to Charlotte. "I think it was just one of those games," Adelman said. "Everybody took their turn. Luke [Ridnour] is our best free-throw shooter and he missed two. It just happened."
• Guard Malcolm Lee is OK after experiencing leg cramps late in Wednesday's game. Adelman said Lee would have been in the game on defense in the final seconds had he been healthy.