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 Wolves are back home tonight, 24 hours after thumping the Pistons in Detroit 121-94.
Tonight, they've got Philadelphia in the second half of back-to-back games.
Before the game, Rick Adelman gave updates on injured Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger, both of whom remain out.
On Turiaf's fractured elbow, Adelman said, "He's not there at all yet. It's just healing a lot slower than they anticipated. It's just a slower process the doctors thought and he thought. He's getting better, but I think it will be a while yet."
He said he didn't know who'd return first, which is a surprising because I -- and others -- had assumed Turiaf will be back before Budinger, who coming off a second knee surgery.
"We're hoping Chase can practice the next couple weeks and then we'll see where he goes from there," Adelman said. "Right now, they're both unknown."
Chase Budinger was back on the Target Center court Monday, taking shots.
But, at this point, that’s about all he’s doing, at least as far as basketball is concerned. Budinger, the Timberwolves forward, is still working his way back from Sept. 30 surgery on the same right knee he had work done on a season ago.
The good news is that this second procedure was not as extensive, and he should be back more quickly than he was last year. Budinger originally injured the meniscus in the knee on Nov. 10, 2012 in Chicago, and didn’t return to action until March 21, 2013. He hopes to be back more quickly this time, but no timetable has been set for his return.
“I’m just taking it week by week,” Budinger said after practice today. “I am progressing, very well, each week. But I can’t really tell when I’ll be back practicing or playing. Right now it’s going slow, we’re taking our time, getting it right, getting it strong so when I do get on the court it will be 100 percent.’’
Budinger had the surgery done by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. And Budinger remained there for the initial rehabilitation after the surgery before returning to Minneapolis late last week. Budinger made his first appearance at Target Center before Saturday’s game with Boston, when he went around the team’s locker room greeting his teammates.
Budinger, a California native, said he got a bit lonely at times while in Florida.
“It was very difficult when I got the news and how it happened right before the season,” said Budinger, who experienced soreness in his knee as he ramped up workouts before training camp started. “But I’ve been staying positive. I’ve actually had some help from my family. They bought books. I remember my uncle sent me like 10 books, all about the mental game, about staying ready, all this stuff. I’ve been reading those on my down time, and just staying positive knowing I’m going to be back on the court.”
At this point, besides doing some shooting, Budinger is doing a lot of exercises designed to strengthen the knee and the leg. He’s also doing some jogging on a treadmill. “Each week it’s getting better, it’s feeling stronger, and I’ve got to keep continuing that until it gets to full strength.”
Meanwhile, the Wolves actually got in a practice Monday before boarding a plane for Washington to embark on another stretch of five games in seven nights. The Wolves finished up such a stretch against Boston Saturday, and coach Rick Adelman continues to be crabby about his team’s early-season schedule. The Wolves have two back-to-backs in the coming week. They will return from Washington on Wednesday to play a Clippers team that had Tuesday off. They will play on the back end of a back-to-back in Houston on Saturday against a Rockets team that had two days’ rest.
“I don’t know if [the league] knows we’re almost to Canada and Houston’s almost all the way to Mexico,” Adelman said. “That doesn’t’ seem like a real good back-to-back to me.’’
Here is Adelman on a few subjects:
On finally getting a practice in: We have five in seven games and four in five days with the travel, so we did some things, but they weren’t real enthusiastic about it,” he said. “We went through some things offensively just to talk about things we need to clean up, and to talk a little about Washington defensively.’’
On the Wizards: “It’s a talented team,” Adelman said. “I think that’s why there’s a lot of frustration there. From what we read, there’s a lot of frustration there. I think they’re going to be a good team at the end, but right now they’re struggling.’’
A couple final things: Adelman had no update on center Ronny Turiaf’s elbow. Shabazz Muhammad, who missed the last two games with an ankle sprain, was able to practice today but was still sore.
That’s about it. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow.
We’ve all been inundated with Kevin Love stats of late in the wake of his great start. But, for all of them, one stat stuck out. Last night Love scored 33 points with eight rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers. And he only needed 16 shots to get to those 33 points. According to a tweet by @statcenter, no other player in modern NBA history has done a 33-8-6-0 with less than 20 field goals attempted.
Yes, this is another stat might be rather arcane. But I think it speaks to the efficiency with which Love is playing at the moment. He’s second in the league in scoring and I don’t remember him taking too many bad shots.
That, coupled with his willingness and ability to pass the ball, has made him even more formidable.
“He’s really taking that on,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after today’s practice. “Every good player or great player in this league gets better every year at something new. They just don’t do one thing and that’s all they do. I think that was his next step, to be a facilitator.’’
Love, meanwhile, said he tries hard not to take much notice when folks start comparing him to Moses Malone and the like.
“It’s definitely flattering to hear those names,” he said. “Guys I grew up either watching or studying tape or just trying to emulate in my back yard. But, more than anything, I’m just excited about winning.”
--Yet another stat: There have been seven first quarters in which 38 or more points have been scored in the league this season. The Wolves have four of them.
--Meanwhile, Kevin Martin was back at practice today and is full-go for tomorrow’s game in Denver. He watched Wednesday’s game on TV and said the way the team played may have cured him. “I started feeling better after the first half last night,” he said. “The team made me feel a lot better.’’
-And yet another stat, tweeted out by Wolves play-by-play man Alan Horton last night. Ricky Rubio had a career-high 16 assists last night. Every one of them resulted in either a three-pointer or a shot from within three feet of the basket.
That is making your team better. It’s not like Rubio was picking up cheap assists by throwing the ball to someone for a 17-footer.
“I just liked the way he played last night,” Adelman said. “He picked and chose his spots. He had a good rhythm to the game as far as the flow for us. He got us up and down the court. There’s times when he tries too hard to make something happen. Last night, I think he just saw what was there and he took it and found the right people. He’ll grow and figure that out more and more as the season goes on.”
-- Robbie Hummel proved Wednesday how important it is for a player to be ready when an opportunity comes along, scoring 10 points in his first NBA start with Martin ill.
“I was proud of Robbie,” Martin said. “The journey he took to get here, and then get an opportunity like that? I was a proud big brother for Robbie last night. That’s why you work hard in practice. You could be the 12th man one night and the sixth man the next. You have to be ready for your opportunity, like Robbie was last night.’’
--One final item: The Wolves expect Chase Budinger to return from Florida this weekend so they can monitor his recovery from October knee surgery here. Budinger has been rehabilitating in Pensacola, Fla., and jogging on a treadmill there, but is not yet cleared or close to practicing with the team or playing, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said.
Productive Wolves shooting guard Kevin Martin will miss tonight's game against Cleveland at Target Center with flu-like symptoms.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman inserted Robbie Hummel into Martin's spot in the starting lineup, giving the rookie his first NBA start.
Martin had scored 20 or more points in seven of the team's eight games, with three 30-point games in that mix. He had scored his 10,000th career point Monday against the L.A. Clippers.
The Wolves' issues with their second unit just got more complicated: Derrick Williams will not play tonight against Dallas at Target Center because of back spasms.
Williams' absence takes away scoring from a second unit that already is struggling in that area. Backup center Ronny Turiaf is out injured, shooting guard Alexey Shved hasn't played well at all so far and other teams are hounding J.J. Barea because he's the best -- and maybe now only real -- scoring option for the reserves.
Let's see if tonight is the night you finally get a good look at Robbie Hummel or Shabazz Muhammad in something more than clean-up time.
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