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.
The Milwaukee Bucks might be a little tired tonight, playing on the back end of back-to-back games. But they should be confident.
Monday in Milwaukee the Bucks overcame an 18-point first-half deficit to beat Orlando. It was their biggest comeback of the season and it ended a three-game losing streak.
Here are some items from today’s morning shoot:
--Nate Wolters will play his first pro regular season game in Minnesota tonight. Wolters, the former St. Cloud Tech and South Dakota State star, is starting at guard for the Bucks. He was a second-round draft pick by Washington last summer. But, in two separate draft-day trades, Wolters found himself going to Philadelphia, and then to Milwaukee. He is averaging 7.0 points on 42.7 percent shooting for the Bucks. He will be talking with the media prior to tonight’s game, so I’ll have more in tomorrow’s paper.
--Luc Mbah a Moute’s own personal fan club will finally get to see him play tonight. A group of 12 kids ranging in age from 15 to 18 from Basket-Club Nyonsais – a club located near Avignon in the south of France – will be at Target Center tonight.
A friend of Mbah a Moute’s played for the club when he was younger, and he told them about Mbah a Moute. They quickly started following his career and decided to raise some money to come to the United States to watch him play.
That’s when the problems started. They held fundraisers, then bought tickets for a trip to watch Mbah a Moute play in Milwaukee last season. But Mbah a Moute was traded to Sacramento before the trip happened. So the group decided to switch their tickets to watch Mbah a Moute play for the Kings against Brooklyn on Sunday. Problem is, Mbah a Moute was traded again, this time to the Wolves.
Ultimately, the club decided to go through with the trip, which also included watching the Kings play in Philadelphia Wednesday.
But Mbah a Moute made sure they got to see him, too. He paid for tickets to bring the group from New York to Minnesota for tonight's game, then get them to Phiadelphia in time to watch Wednesday's game. He dined with them on Monday night, and they will meet him pre- and post-game.
“I thought it was amazing,” Mbah a Moute said of the club. “I just can’t imagine kids actually coming and doing something like that for someone they don’t know, to just come out and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to watch him play.’ That says a lot about their support and shows me a lot of gratitude. So I think it’s pretty special for me.”
--Kevin Love on breaking the team’s single-season record for three-pointers made, something he did against Toronto Sunday: “I didn’t really know,” he said. “When it popped up on the Jumbotron up there, I didn’t really realize it had happened. It’s cool to be in the Wolves history books like that. Hopefully I can keep getting that number up there to help the team, and also put it out of reach for a few more years.
That’s about all for now. I’ll get back to you tonight.
Toronto makes its only Target Center visit this season tongiht and will be without reserve forward Patrick Patterson, who is a late scratch because of a sprained elbow.
Patterson re-aggravated an elbow he had hurt in the past week during Friday's home victory over Sacramento.
His absence will hurt the Raptors' depth -- which has been the foundation of their 27-13 turnaround since they traded star Rudy Gay to the Kings in December for Patterson and three other bench players -- as well as take away a key defender they intended to use on Kevin Love.
Without him, the Raptors will have to rely on veterans Chuck Hayes (one of those four players acquired in the trade), Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough.
The Detroit Pistons arrive at Target Center tonight 13 games under .500 and...just three games behind Atlanta for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
The Wolves, meanwhile, are even at 30-30 and five games behind Dallas for the West's final spot and the clock is ticking loudly.
If the season ended today, both Charlotte and Atlanta would make the playoffs in the East with losing records.
And Memphis with a 34-26 record would miss out in the West.
"I just think that's the way it is," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said about the disparity between the strength of the two conferences. "There's nothing you can do about it."
That said, Adelman suggested the league should be "aggressive" in seeking ways to modify the playoffs to make them more equitable.
"You look at each year as it comes and see if there's any way to tweak it," he said. "This is just one of those years you have to deal with."
The Knicks came to Target Center Wednesday with a 21-40 record and yet were about as far away from the playoffs as the Wolves are.
Then the Wolves went out and got run over from the start.
Tonight, they face a physical Pistons team with a talented frontcourt. Another loss could just about end any realistic ambitions the Wolves have to catch up and claim a playoff spot.
Greetings again from Target Center. We’re just a few moments away from tipoff of the Wolves-Knicks game, and here is a quick update:
Despite an off-the-charts month of February in which he averaged 34 points and 14.1 rebounds per game, Kevin Love was not named the Western Conference player of the month. The award, announced just now, went to Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who averaged 30.0 points and 10.7 rebounds in 11 games in February.
The biggest difference? Griffin and the Clippers went 7-4 February games while the Wolves – though hot late – won just five of 11 games in February.
--The Knicks will continue with a starting lineup that includes Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, hoping to counter the Wolves one-two punch of Nikola Pekovic and Love.
--The Wolves, as usual, are going with a starting five of Love, Pekovic, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer
Greetings from Target Center.
With the Wolves back in town after a long road swing, and with the New York media in town with the Knicks, the crowd of media at this mornings Wolves shootaround was, as expected, immense.
Also as expected, much of the questions surrounded Kevin Love’s big month of February.
In particular, Love was asked, more than once, whether his wonderful February was the best month of his professional career.
“More than anything it was opportunity,” Love said. “A lot of guys have stepped up, not just myself. The fact that [Nikola Pekovic] and [Kevin Martin] were out, I had to do all that I could just to keep us kind of in the fight. So, yeah, I had a good February. I fought as hard as I could. Having those guys back makes us a better team. But, like I said, opportunity knocked for a lot of these guys and they were up to the challenge.”
We’ll know tonight just before game time whether that big month – one in which he averaged 34 points, 14.1 rebounds and three made three pointers per game – was enough to win him Western Conference player of the month honors. That will be announced tonight just before the 7 p.m. start.
“February was probably, statistically, my best month,” Love said. “But hopefully this month, as far as the team goes, will be a better record. I just tried to do all I could to make sure we could win games. I think a lot of other guys did, too. I’ve had great months of basketball, and that was right up there with one of the best.”
Perhaps surprisingly, there were not a lot of questions regarding Love’s future, a topic that has been hot all season. Love, of course, can opt out of his contract after next season, and speculation is already rampant on what will happen.
The Knicks are in a similar situation with forward Carmelo Anthony. The league’s second-leading scorer, Anthony can opt out of his contract after this season.
The one question Love was asked was whether contract speculation can become a distraction. “Yeah, but Carmelo is a pro,” Love said. “I think he’s probably not worried about it. I’m not worried about it. We just think more than anything, we want to get a win tonight. I don’t think it’s a distraction.”
Here are some other items from this morning:
--Ricky Rubio on the team’s current streak: “We just worry about [the] next game,” he said. “And that’s what we have been doing the last couple weeks. Maybe in the beginning of the season we’re looking too much to the future, and we weren’t focusing on what’s next. Now we have New York here at home. We just have to play good and try to win the next one.”
--Rubio on playing with Love in February: “Unbelievable,” he said. “He makes my job so easy. I never thought a player could play as good as he is doing and control everything – not just scoring and rebounding, assisting and defending much better.
--Rookie Shabazz Muhammad on his recent increase in playing time: “I’ve been playing and we’ve been winning, so I think that is something that is great,” he said. “I think all of us have a part in that. I’m just here and I want to win and make the playoffs. We’re making a pretty good run here.”
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