Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.

Rubio improves, Turiaf out for season and roster move looms

Posted by: Chris Miller under Wolves injury report, Wolves players, Wolves news Updated: December 16, 2014 - 4:24 PM

Wolves veteran center Ronny Turiaf underwent "successful" arthroscopic surgery today in New York City to repair that hip injury that has kept him out for all but two games so far and will be sidelined for the rest of the season.

Expect that in time to lead to his release so the Wolves can sign another player to add to their injury-depleted roster.

Also, Ricky Rubio is on the trip and looks like he's made some good progress with that healing ankle.

Turiaf's contract -- with a $1.6 million salary -- expires after this season. Flip Saunders said this morning the team would waive Turiaf and pay him his remaining owed money "if there's the right person available."

That could be just keeping around forward Jeff Adrien, whose current 10-day roster exception spot runs through Friday. Or it could be a guard such as D League sharpshooter Brady Heslip, who was with the Wolves in training camp.

In a perfect world, that new player would be a versatile defender who can shoot.

They likely won't release Turiaf at least until Adrien's exception expires. Or they could wait to do until 10-day contracts can be signed until January, although that's some time to wait for a team that needs help now.

"It doesn't mean we'll disassociate ourselves from him," Saunders said about Turiaf. "We'd do it just for the survival of everybody else."

Saunders said Rubio's timeline has "sped up a little bit" recently, since Saunders a week ago said Rubio would be out another four to five weeks.

Rubio has advanced from running on the "anti-gravity" treadmill -- a machine that allows exercise without putting weight on the knees and ankles -- to running and shooting on his own. He's getting some jump into his jump shot.

Saunders said he's hopeful that Rubio by Christmas -- just a week away basically -- can practice in some 5-on-0 work offensively even if he's not facing live action by then.

"He thinks he can play Christmas Day," Saunders said. "But that's not going to happen."

Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic all on this trip to Washington and Boston.

"It's good to keep guys around the team, keep the other guys locked in," Saunders said. "We have so many young guys. They need to have some veterans around, just for leadership, because this is a tough time."

Mo Williams could return against Wizards

Posted by: Updated: December 15, 2014 - 3:55 PM

The Timberwolves might get Mo Williams back, at least for spot duty, Tuesday night against Washington. Williams practiced with the team Monday, and coach Flip Saunders said the veteran’s availability would depend on “how his back reacts [Tuesday]. We’ll just have to wait and see.’’

Williams has missed the last six games because of back spasms, leading to a string of 30-plus minute nights for rookie Zach LaVine. The rookie point guard had his first double-double on Dec. 6 with 22 points and 10 assists, logging a season-high 42:28. In 11 starts this season LaVine is averaging 11.0 points, 4.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 33.8 minutes.

Return trip

Saunders will be returning to Washington, where he coached from 2009 through early in 2012. Saunders said he’s looking forward to seeing Wizards coach Randy Wittman and point-guard John Wall, but isn’t too sentimental about the his first visit as a coach.

“Too far removed,’’ Saudners said. “It doesn’t mean much.’’

Nice company

Lakers star Kobe Bryant said after Sunday’s game that playing against Wolves rookie Andrew Wiggins was like seeing a reflection of himself 19 years ago.

Wiggins on Monday called the comparison “motivation to my ears,’’ saying it will make him “work even harder to become something like him.’’

Kobe Bryant makes history

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under Wolves postgame Updated: December 14, 2014 - 10:05 PM

Well, that was interesting.

All people will remember from Sunday’s game is that Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan into third place on the league’s all-time scoring list. What I will remember is Bryant, in his 19th season, hitting the game-winning shot on Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves rookie many think has the talent to become a great player himself.

Indeed, after the game was over, Bryant said that, in Wiggins, he saw a younger version of himself. “It’s like looking at a reflection of myself 19 years ago,” he said. “It was pretty cool.’’

I’ll say. Bryant scored 26 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, including a 26-point three-pointer with 1:02 left that broke a 94-all tie.

Here are some other thoughts on the game

--How about Shabazz Muhammad? Wolves coach Flip Saunders said his sore ankle and a sore back nearly kept him out of this game. Saunders said he didn’t know he’d have Muhammad available until 10 minutes before game time. And then Bazz comes off the bench to match his career high with 28 points in less than 28 minutes played.  He was 12-for-21 shooting, had nine rebounds.

--It was a tough night for both Wiggins and LaVine. But especially for LaVine. After the game Saunders said he has to convince LaVine to use his left hand when he drives to the basket on the left side. LaVine keeps wanting to go back to the right hands. But, Saunders said, that’s where the big guys are. But LaVine has time. Saunders said it took nearly 60 games into Steph Marbury’s rookie year to get that same point across.

--Wiggins? He started strong, scoring the Wolves’ first six points. Then he started getting into foul trouble, which hampered him much of the rest of the night. At least until late; Wiggins scored six fourth quarter points as well.

--Saunders said he thinks the Wolves defense, while still a work in progress, is getting better. The Lakers shot 42 percent Sunday. That’s better than a few games ago, Saunders said, when teams were shooting 55 percent.

That’s about all for now. Have a great night and a good week. 

Turiaf to have hip surgery

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under Wolves pre-game Updated: December 14, 2014 - 5:15 PM

After trying a number of different approaches to rehabbing his sore right hip, Wolves backup forward/center Ronny Turiaf traveled to New York Sunday, where he will have surgery on the hip Tuesday.

“He’s been trying the last few weeks,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. “He’s gone through some different situations to try to rehab that. We came to the conclusion that he’s going to have surgery.’’

Turiaf has appeared in just two games this season, getting one rebound and two assists in 18-plus minutes of playing time. He spent the first five games and the last 14 on the inactive list.

Saunders said more would be known after the surgery – which will be performed by Dr. Bryan Kelly at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York – but that Turiaf will be out a long while. “It’s a matter of if it’s going to be a while or be the season,” Saunders said.

Meanwhile, it appears that guard Mo Williams (back spasms) will miss his sixth straight game tonight.

Bryant about to pass a milestone

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under Wolves players, Wolves pre-game Updated: December 14, 2014 - 1:12 PM

Greetings on a very wet Sunday.

The Timberwolves did not hold a shoot-around this morning. So we won’t know until before game time tonight whether veteran point guard Mo Williams (back spasms) will be able to play.

The Los Angeles Lakers did hold a workout this morning. Unfortunately Kobe Bryant declined to talk about the milestone he’s almost certain to pass tonight. Bryant (32,284 career points) needs nine points to pass Michael Jordan (32,292) into third place on the league’s all-time scoring list.

For Lakers coach Byron Scott, he’s all for finally getting it all over with. “I mean, when we left for this trip we knew it was going to happen,” Scott said. “It was just a matter of when. And our main focus is to try to keep winning games. So, after a good win in San Antonio (an overtime win Friday), we want to keep that going.’’

One thing you should see a good bit of tonight, especially down the stretch if it’s a close game, is Bryant playing the point guard position. It’s something Scott says he likes and something he plans on doing more of. At the point, he said, Bryant can still create his own shot, but he also has the skill to find the open man if he is double-teamed. And he especially likes doing it if Bryant is guarded by the other team’s point guard, creating a mismatch.

Meanwhile, Scott talked at some length about the first game between these two teams, the Wolves 120-119 victory in Los Angeles Nov. 28. It was, to listen to Scott, one of his team’s worst games this season. “I looked (at the game tape) pretty much right after the game,” he said. “And I wasn’t happy with it, and I let the guys know the next day how I felt about that game. So we have a pretty good idea what we have to do tonight. It will show how we’ve grown as a team. After a big win, do we come in here and lay a big one, or come out and really go after it?’’

The Lakers come in here having won two straight and four of seven since the loss to the Wolves.

In that Nov. 28 game Wolves rookie Zach LaVine came off the bench to score 28 points on 11-for-14 shooting. Bryant admitted LaVine stunned the Lakers with that performance.

“Yes, he did,’’ Scott said. “He played a whole lot better than we anticipated. So won’t say we’ll be giving him special attention. But he got our attention, let’s put it that way.’’

LaVine has been playing a lot of point guard out of necessity. It’s unclear how much he will play the point when the team is completely healthy. But Scott had some very nice things to say about the rookie. He was asked about the comparison some are making between LaVine and Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook.

Does he see similarities? “Yes, I do,” Scott said. “He’s so young, he’s just a pup. Give him a couple more years, then you can probably make those comparisons a little bit more. But right now, from an athletic standpoint, at point guard, I don’t think there is a point guard in this league who is more athletic than him.”

That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you with an injury update before the game. 


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