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.
Yes, the NBA couldn't deny Zach LaVine and the Timberwolves rookie couldn't refuse the league when it came offering a place in All-Star Weekend's Saturday night slam-dunk contest.
He will compete against Orlando's Victor Oladipo, Brooklyn's Mason Plumlee and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Plumlee's home court..
He is the sixth Wolves player chosen to compete in the contest. The others: Derrick Williams in 2012, Gerald Green in 2008, Chris Carr in 1997, Isaiah Rider in 1994 (when he won) and 1995 and Doug West in 1992.
LaVine has 17 dunks this season and recorded a 46-inch vertical leap at one of the draft workouts last summer.
"I'll have something," LaVine said recently when asked about a slam-dunk invitation.
All the injury news is not bad for the Wolves.
Yes, they lost another player on Sunday night when Robbie Hummel broke his shooting hand, but they learned before tonight's back-to-backer at Oklahoma City that Thunder superstar Kevin Durant won't play because of a big toe he sprained on his left foot yesterday in Cleveland.
Of course, that still leaves Russell Westbrook and the others.
Hummel's injury means Chase Budinger will play more and probably means Glenn Robinson III will get some playing time as well.
Flip Saunders is staying with the same big lineup he used last night in Atlanta. That means Gorgui Dieng at power forward beside Nikola Pekovic at center, with Thad Young moved over to small forward while Andrew Wiggins and Mo Williams start in the backcourt.
Kevin Martin returned to shooting and apparently shot the lights out with his limit of 100 shots. He said he is targeting his return Wednesday at Target Center if he gets another good workout in tomorrow.
Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic declared himself feeling good after Wednesday's return to action, but Kevin Martin won't play tonight against New Orleans at Target Center.
Martin (wrist surgery) joins Ricky Rubio (sprained ankle) and Shabazz Muhammad (outer oblique strain) on the list of players ruled out for tonight's game.
Pekovic will be back on the floor after playing nearly 23 minutes in his return Wednesday. He had missed 31 consecutive games until he went 5-for-11 from the floor and had four rebounds and 14 points against Dallas.
Pekovic said he still has some pain in that troublesome ankle, but didn't sound concerned about it. He said he was surprised his conditioning was as good as it was in Wednesday's game.
"I feel better," he said. "If it's going to be like this and if I feel like this, it's going to be good. It's only one game but still today, I feel better. My foot doesn't feel sore. I still got some pain, but it's basically nothing worse than days before."
Martin wore a brace on that shooting wrist at today's shootaround and declared himself not yet ready to play. He had hoped to play sometime on a four-game trip that ended Monday in Charlotte, but hasn't advanced yet through a process he says is all about learning how to play with pain, soreness and pins inserted into the wrist with which he shoots.
His right shooting wrist swelled up on him Tuesday and Wednesday and he had fluid drained from it on Thursday, a setback that has delayed his return from November surgery at least from Wednesday's loss against Dallas until Sunday in Atlanta at the earliest.
He noticed the wrist was not feeling right while shooting on Monday and it continued to bother him on Tuesday and swelled noticeably by Wednesday morning.
* Rookie Andrew Wiggins was one of the players who toured the team's new under-construction practice facility next door to Target Center.
"It looked great," Wiggins said. "They have a great vision for it. It's laid out great. I'm excited for it."
* Zach LaVine wasn't looking too chipper today after shootaround. He went home to sleep yesterday and missed the practice-facility tour. "I'm sick," he told reporters gathered around him after shootaround. "I don't know if y'all want to be this close to me."
He said he was headed home for more sleep so he'll feel a bit better. He's expected to play.
* Pelicans star Anthony Davis, on his way to league MVP status someday, was voted an All- Star starter for the first time, in results announced Thursday evening.
He was voted a reserve last season.
"I'm just excited to be in that game, whether a reserve, starter, being voted in the game," Davis said after Pelicans' shootaround. "Playing on Sunday has always been a dream of mine....It's definitely a blessing. It don't matter if you're a starter or you're a reserve, as long as you get the opportunity to play on Sunday with so many incredible guys, the best players on the planet."
* Tonight is Dante Cunningham's first game back at Target Center since he left the team as a free agent this summer. Last April, his then-girlfriend accused him of trying to choke here. A felony domestic assault charged brought then was dropped by authorities in August. The Pelicans signed Cunningham as a free agent in December.
No Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and, yes, no Ricky Rubio tonight for Wolves at Denver.
Shabazz Muhammad is out, too, against a Nuggets team that is getting former Wolves guard Randy Foye back in the lineup tonight after 26 games out injured.
It's hard to tell with him, but Andrew WIggins apparently is feeling better. At least Flip Saunders said before tonight's game that he believes so. Wiggins played ill last night, but still scored 17 points in 36 minutes before he sat out the game's final six minutes.
Robbie Hummel started tonight's game in place of Chase Budinger.
This is the third game between the teams since the day after Christmas. The Nuggets won the first two meetings and are getting healthier and better, having won five consecutive games before losing at Dallas on Friday night.
The Wolves will stay overnight in Denver tonight and fly to Charlotte on Sunday, where they finish this odd four-game road trip with a MLK Day matinee against the Hornets.
The Wolves will be without their latest starting point guard, Mo Williams, tonight at Milwaukee.
He won't play because of a sprained ankle, which puts rookie Zach LaVine back in the starting lineup and leaves newcomer Troy Daniels and point forward Robbie Hummel as the best backup options.
Meanwhile, newly signed Miroslav Raduljica flew with the team to Milwaukee -- where he played last season -- on Thursday and is available to play tonight, but neither he nor Flip Saunders was certain before the game if he will.
Raduljica was signed to a 10-day contract but he said he hopes to prove he's worth keeping all season. He said he sprained his ankle early in the Chinese season weeks ago, but is fine now, although he acknowledged he signed the 10-day deal so the Wolves would have peace of mind that he's all right before they guarannteed the rest of the season.
Saunders said it was important to add a center with legitimate size as insurance in case something happen to Gorgui Dieng and said the team still will need a 7-foot presence even when or if Nikola Pekovic returns to full health.
Raduljica looks an awful lot like bearded pal Nikola Pekovic, enough so that Williams apologized for not introducing himself because he walked right by thinking it was Pek.
"I'm prettier," Pek said when told the two look alike.
When I asked Raduljica who had more or better tattoos, he said Pek has more of them but his are better.
Other bits of news:
* The Wolves are seeking a D League team where rookie Glenn Robinson III can play meaningful minutes, perhaps as early as Sunday or Monday.
* Pekovic and Kevin Martin did more contact work today and Saunders said there's a chance one or the other could play in a game by next weekend. He again left open the possibility that Pekovic might play first in the D League, though.
* Saunders like St. Cloud's own Nate Wolters -- the second-year point guard waived by the Bucks Friday to make room to sign Kenyon Martin -- but the Wolves have no roster space to claim or sign him, unless they pay off a player for the rest of the season or trade Robinson or someone else without getting a current player in return.
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