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, Flip Saunders is taking it easy on the old guys here as the Wolves' preseason schedule ticks away.
Flip said before tonight's game that Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin, Ronny Turiaf and Mo Williams all are getting the night off here in Milwaukee on the second half of back-to-back games after last night's home victory over Indiana.
Rookie Andrew Wiggins also will not play because of that bruised butt he injured in a fall Sunday in Tulsa and that kept him out of last night's game, too.
Tonight's likely starters are Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, Chase Budinger, Thad Young and Nikola Pekovic.
Flip hasn't spend much time this preseason trying to build chemsitry by playing his likely starters and probable rotations together a lot, but he didn't sound too concerned when I asked him about before last night's game.
He was more concerned with getting to next Wednesday's season opener at Memphis without a serious injury and said they've had enough time playing guys together in practices to form that chemistry.
No surprise here, but the Timberwolves today announced they have waived training-camp invitee center Kyrylo Fesenko to get their roster down to 17 players.
Former Baylor guard Brady Heslip remains, for now.
Barring something really unforeseen, he'll, too, be waived, even though Flip Saunders said after Sunday's victory over Oklahoma City in Tulsa that he believes Heslip will play in the NBA because he shoots the ball so well.
The real question is what the Wolves do over the weekend or early next week to get from 16 players down to the maximum 15?
Do they do the most cost-efficient thing and pay off Glenn Robinson III's very small guarantee?
Do they trade or buyout J.J. Barea, the team's third point guard despite what Saunders has called impressive play throughout the preseason.
Do they pay off Robbie Hummel's fully guaranteed but minimum contract instead?
Or do they find a team willing to take Chase Budinger's fully guaranteed contract for the next three years.
I still think the Budinger move is most likely just because of the four options, he's the most expendable if the Wolves can find a willing team.
The Wolves probably keep Robinson because of his potential and cost efficiency.
They probably keep Hummel just because, as was shown Sunday in Tulsa, they'll need him as a third power forward if Thad Young or Anthony Bennett gets hurt. When Bennett's knee proved too sore, Hummel played 19 minutes Sunday and played well.
And Barea might have been the best point guard in training camp and gives the Wolves insurance if something happens to Ricky Rubio and Mo Williams. If one gets injured, do the Wolves at this point want to rely on Zach LaVine as their backup point guard. By keeping Barea, it also keep open the option that another NBA team will lose a point guard to injury, possibly increasing Barea's trade value.
Budinger is experienced and the Wolves sure could use his three-point shooting, but the Wolves already have Andrew Wiggins, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad, Robinson, Hummel and Young who all can play there as well.
That decision could come soon after the Wolves play their final preseason game Friday at St. Louis against Chicago.
The Wolves are starting Ronny Turiaf, Thad Young, Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea tonight against an injury-depleted Oklahoma City team in Tulsa.
Where'd that lineup come from?
Answer: From practice yesterday.
That was the team out of three split up for practice that won the most scrimmages at BOK Center Saturday afternoon, so that's who's starting.
Coach Flip Saunders said he'll experiment with different lineups tonight, "depending on how things go"
Martin will play for the first time this preseason now that he's deemed recovered from that groin injury, but Shabazz Muhammad won't play tonight after he returned yesterday for his first hard practice back from that heel injury.
The Wolves have traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to play Milwaukee tonight but those fans who are expected to fill U.S. Cellular Center won't see Ricky Rubio play.
Flip Saunders said before the game that he'll rest Rubio tonight after the team practice hard for three consecutive days this week.
He said those practices Rubio -- coming off last month's FIBA World Cup appearance -- tired out Rubio some and he didn't want to risk a fatigue injury at this point.
Rookie Zach LaVine will start at point guard instead.
"Play the young guys," Saunders said.
Saunders said he would have paused more about not playing Rubio for the Iowa audience if he didn't plan on playing a lot of the other players -- Andrew Wiggins and LaVine, namely -- those fans paid to see play in a city the Wolves haven't visited since 2002.
Kevin Martin (groin) and Shabazz Muhammad (heel) won't play, either, and center Kyrylo Fesenko is home ill and won't play either.
The Bucks will play without injured points Brandon Knight and Nate Wolters, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova among others.
Wolves forward Shabazz Muhammad wore a protective boot on his sore heel, a precautionary measure for the next couple days that Flip Saunders said doctors ordered to calm tendinitis.
He's not expected to do much, if anything at all, at practice until at least Thursday, Saunders said.
That makes him unlikely to play Friday against Milwaukee in Cedar Rapids, Ia.
Meanwhile, Kevin Martin did more today with that healing groin injury. He did some live action and will do more as the week goes on.
Saunders said it's possible he'll play this weekend, which could mean Sunday's game against Oklahoma City in Tulsa at the latest.
Saunders and the Wolves are being cautious because their No. 1 objective is to get through this preseason without a major injury, unlike Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant and Washington with Bradley Beal.
He's measuring practice and playing time for the Wolves players who participated in last month's FIBA World Cup in Spain: J.J. Barea didn't play Friday against Philadelphia and he basically gave Ricky Rubio and Gorgui Dieng off from practice on Saturday.
Also, Anthony Bennett said he went to the eye doctor yesterday and has been cleared to play without those goggles to protect his eyes after Lasik surgery. Although he said he played pretty well with them, so he joked he reserves the right to go back to them if need be.
One other thing before I go: The NBA announced today it will experiment this weekend with a shortened 44-minute game between Brooklyn and Boston.
I polled Flip and some Wolves players on it -- reserve guard Mo Williams didn't like the idea one bit, would rather they play 52 minutes so the reserves get more PT -- and will write about that for Wednesday's paper and the web site.
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