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.
Andrei Kirilenko says he's well and ready to play again tonight vs. Philadelphia at Target Center after he missed five games because of a strained quad.
He predicts it will take him a couple games to get back to top form.
"I miss 10, 14 days, it takes you out of the game a little bit, but what can you do," Kirilenko said. "Right now, I feel great."
J.J. Barea also is back, from four days back home in Puerto Rico getting some warm sand therapy on sprained foot.
"It was awesome, awesome man," he said. "Great time, great weather. Spent some time with my family, so it was good times. I feel great. My foot's a lot better. I'm ready to go."
Tonight, btw, is the eve of the NBA's annual trade deadline.
Rick Adelman said before tonight's game that he doesn't expect his team -- reported to have made inquries about players ranging from Denver center Timofey Mozgov to Utah's Paul Millsap and probably every legitimately sized shooting guard on the trading block -- to make a deal.
"I don't think so, but who know," he said. "It sounds like everything's quiet right now...If nothing's out there that makes sense, we have a group that can win games. We have to go out and play like that. Trades, sometimes they happen immediately, sometimes it takes a while, sometimes they never happen at all. You see a lot of stuff in the media, but I'd say 90 is not going to go on at all."
Asked if he would told the team is making a deal, he said, "I certainly hope so. They'd definitely come to me about that."
The deadline is 2 p.m. tomorrow Twin Cities time.
One other thing:
Adelman also said he doesn't expect Brandon Roy to play again, said it'd be a "pleasant surprise" if he did.
If the Wolves don't use Roy's contract to swing a deal by tomorrow, expect them to come to some resolution about his contract and retirement sometime after that.
That Pau Gasol talk just won't go away.
And there's a good reason why the Los Angeles Lakers veteran's name just keeps coming in trade speculation concerning the Timberwolves:
Because the Wolves continue to be interested -- they have been since the 2011 draft -- and they will be until the Lakers finally trade Gasol someplace.
The lastest rumors came here on ESPN.com on Thursday in a piece that said the Lakers continue to turn away Toronto and the Wolves with their trade inquiries, at least until Lakers brass has time to assess their team when Steve Nash comes back from his leg injury.
Don't count Houston out, either, since the Rockets traded for Gasol once before and have been interested as long or almost as long as the Wolves have. I don't believe the latest speculation that the Rockets are no longer interested.
David Kahn chased Gasol three months before he hired Rick Adelman, although who knows what kind of discussion they had by then concerning the team's coaching job and is any such conversations might have included personnel talk such as acquiring Gasol.
Make no mistake: Adelman has been driving the bus on personnel moves since last summer and the Wolves' continued interest in a 32-year-old with knee tendinitis and an $18 million salary means Adelman approves of the idea, if he's not outright pushing for it.
Any such deal would have to include Derrick Williams, Nikola Pekovic as well as J.J. Barea and/or Luke Ridnour just so the Wolves could give back enough salary to absorb Gasol's big contract.
And it might very well have to involve a third or fourth team to make the deal work because the Lakers, if they do indeed trade Gasol, want a power forward who can shoot -- a "stretch 4" -- to put next to Dwight Howard and have other preferred targets in sight such as Toronto's Andrea Bargnani or New Orleans' Ryan Anderson rather than Williams, who indeed is a stretch 4, just not a very consistent one so far.
Why would the Wolves do it?
A few reasons:
* The Ricky Rubio connection, for one.
* Because they believe Gasol is an All-Star calibre talent and they attribute his last couple seasons not to his age or injuries but rather because the Lakers have misused him, because they still consider him perhaps the most skilled, versatile big man around.
He'd be their starting center next to Kevin Love, a one-two All-Star punch of passing big men that, yes, you could compare to the frontcourt pair Adelman had in Sacramento with Vlade Divac and Chris Webber.
Certainly he's not the kind of physical presence inside that Pekovic is, but he is much more offensively talented and you certainly can argue after the last year that Pekovic's healthy is no sure bet even if he's six years younger.
* And perhaps because the Wolves are doing the math in their head and figuring however it works, Pekovic is destined to become overpaid and they believe $19 million on Gasol for next season's final year of his contract is money better spent than a very possible maximum or near max 4-year, $60-million plus deal Pekovic could very well receive from another team next summer.
* Gasol's window -- three, four years max -- fits perfectly with both Adelman, who won't coach more than that, and Wolves owner Glen Taylor, who intends to sell the team by then.
I'd still say it's no better than a 1-in-3 chance that the Wolves make a deal because the Lakers have other, better targets in their estimation, but get used to hearing their name in the discussion because it won't ever be over until Gasol is gone from L.A., if he ever is.
The shelf life on that Wayne Ellington-Dante Cunningham trade sure didn't last long...
Remember last Friday's blog post about Andrei Kirilenko?
The Wolves indeed are targeting the 31-year-old Russian small forward and are willing to pay him $18 million over the next two season -- with a player option for a third -- league sources tell me and are trying to deal Wes Johnson and a future 1st-round pick to make cap room for him.
Yahoo!Sports Tuesday evening reported a three-way deal between the Wolves, Phoenix and New Orleans is near.
The Hornets would get center Robin Lopez from the Suns in a sign-and-trade and the Wolves basically, it seems, would give up a first rounder to get the Suns to take the $4.3 million contract of Johnson, who they drafted fourth overall just two years ago.
The Yahoo! story also said Brad Miller would be coming back to the Wolves two weeks after they traded him to New Orleans.
I'm pretty sure NBA rules prohibit that. Miller could be headed to Phoenix instead.
The deal would still work, though, if the Wolves send away Johnson and basically get nothing back but a couple second-rounders.
Here's the story I wrote for the Wednesday paper.
That Wolves trade that has been in the works for days and days -- shooting guard Wayne Ellington to Memphis for forward Dante Cunningham -- will finally be official later today.
The Wolves are dealing away a 2009 first-round draft pick (28th overall) who was only going to see playing time this season if there were many injuries and getting back a guy who plays both forward spots and is active on defense.
Both players make almost exactly the same salary -- a little more than $2 million a season -- but the deal gives the Grizzlies another shooter and gives the Wolves a needed forward for a team that has added guards Brandon Roy and Alexey Shved but lost Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and quite possibly Anthony Tolliver from the frontcourt.
Portland drafted Cunningham 33rd overall out of Villanova in 2009 -- third pick in the second round, five picks after the Wolves took Ellington -- and traded him to Charlotte in February 2011. He signed as a restricted free agent just before the start of last season.
The Wolves also could officially announce their first free-agent signing -- Shved's -- as soon as Wednesday.
The others, including Boston center Greg Stiemsma, might not come until the Wolves line up any other moves in case they want to fit one signing into an salary-cap exception slot.
Two days after the NBA free-agency signing period began, the Wolves are signing Nicolas Batum to that big offer sheet today and when done, Portland will have three days to match.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor said the team will submit the signed $46.5 million offer sheet to the NBA by the end of business today, a distinction that gives the Blazers one last chance to agree to a sign-and-trade.
The Wolves are willing to offer draft picks, but aren't giving up Derrick Williams or Nikola Pekovic.
Taylor said he believes the Blazers have seen the offer sheet. "You call their bluff," he said.
Once submitted, you can bet two things: The Blazers will match and they'll take probably nearly all 72 hours to do it.
This negotiation hasn't yet ended in compromise and a sign-and-trade agreement, so the Wolves are following through with their threat of overpaying a young player whose big contract now almost certainly will go on the Blazers' books.
If the Blazers weren't willing to take a draft pick or picks and Kyle Korver, you know they're not willing to give up Batum for nothing now.
The offer sheet does include some bonuses above the $46.5 million, such as All Star Game appearances, etc.
Once Batum signs the offer sheet, the option for a sign-and-trade is gone.
To make salary-cap room, the Wolves did waive Darko Milicic, ending the Manna from Heaven era by agreeing to pay him $7 million of the remaining $10 million-plus left for the last two years on the contract he signed in July 2010.
Expect buyouts on Martell Webster and Brad Miller for the remaining year on each contract to come as well
Darko's agent, Marc Cornstein, said the move with his client "certainly didn't come out of left field" and he said Darko still wants to play in the NBA.
The Wolves will use their one-time amnesty provision on Milicic, which means that $5 million-plus salary will come off their books this next season.
He now goes on the amnesty waiver wire for 48 hours.
So what do the Wolves do now when the Blazers match the Batum offer sheet?
Taylor said the first priority isn't necessarily a wing playe but "We've got to get some big guys."
They've been pursuing Boston restricted free-agent center Greg Stiemsma and Lakers power forward Jordan Hill and it now looks like those bigs will be the priority over a wing.
As for those wings, their best options are, in this order:
1. Courtney Lee
2. O.J. Mayo
3. Andre Iguodala
Lee makes sense for multiple reasons: Like Mayo, he's an unrestricted but he'll likely come at least a couple of million dollars cheaper. He also has a mutual admiration thing going with Rick Adelman, for whom he played in Houston.
Expect Phoenix to throw money at Mayo after New Orleans matches the Suns' offer sheet for Eric Gordon.
Wolves Nation would do a collective handstand over Iguodala, but the Wolves would have to swallow real hard to accept his $15 million contract for the next two seasons and give up the assets needed to get him, although they probably wouldn't have to give up as much as you might think.
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