Jerry Zgoda's NBA Insider: Wolves crumbling from within

  • Updated: December 3, 2012 - 7:31 AM

You can blame a long casualty list on the Wolves' woes -- or a wobbly foundation from dubious rebuilding.

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Nikola Pekovic

Photo: Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

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Five weeks in, the Timberwolves' list of injured this season just never seems to end.

Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Kevin Love, J.J. Barea, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Nikola Pekovic ... and now, too, Andrei Kirilenko, who has missed the past two games because of back spasms that caused him to shuffle around a Staples Center locker room last week like an old man.

Just when somebody returns, someone else goes down.

Those who believe in such things as curses attribute so many never-ending woes to a stubborn one that, if logically traced, probably goes back 23 years to the franchise's inception.

If you're a believer, you can claim Target Center is built upon the site of an old Indian burial mound. Or you can blame a guy nicknamed Joey Two Step, a former timeout entertainer who presumably exiled the Wolves into oblivion with some damning words muttered after he was let go long ago.

But you also must consider the team's lengthy draft record that has produced Rubio and very little else since 2009.

Injuries have been so commonplace -- and wearing, apparently -- that the team last week told reporters not to ask coach Rick Adelman anymore about when Rubio, Roy and Budinger will play again because he is tired of answering those questions.

The Wolves are battling back: They are installing in their Target Center training room a pricey cryotherapy booth -- a treatment that takes the concept of icing to whole new level -- that eight players tried out during a visit to Dallas last winter.

To be sure, you can call the season-starting absences of both Rubio and Love either bad or dumb luck.

Budinger's torn meniscus, too.

But the Wolves also gambled when they remade their roster yet again last summer by signing veteran free agents -- Roy, Kirilenko and most recently Josh Howard -- who once were among their profession's elite, but arrived with considerable questions because of their age and/or health.

Roy's retirement comeback attempt -- and career -- could very well be over if he doesn't respond to the arthroscopic surgery performed two weeks ago.

Kirilenko ended up in the training room -- and frequently out of the lineup -- during his past 10 NBA seasons and now could be out a week or so because of those back spasms.

They have gambled on the health of Roy and Kirilenko because their four drafts since David Kahn was hired as president of basketball operations have failed so.

The team had 10 first-round picks -- including a No. 2, No. 4, No. 5 and 6 picks -- in those four drafts and all they have to show for it is their starting point guard Rubio and reserves Budinger, Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham.

Jonny Flynn, Wayne Ellington (traded for Cunningham), Wes Johnson, Lazar Hayward and Martell Webster (acquired with a pick they traded Ty Lawson's draft rights for and later released) all have quickly come and gone.

So the Wolves compensated, hoping they can surround their young stars Rubio and Love with former All-Stars who will supply the depth that the team's lottery-rich drafts never delivered, if they remain healthy.

So far, nobody -- young or old -- has stayed that way.

At least it doesn't leave Adelman with the same problem as San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, whose team was fined $250,000 by the NBA on Friday after Popovich sent four of his very best healthy players home early from a road trip rather than play Thursday's TNT game at Miami.

"I haven't had healthy players," Adelman said.

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