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 conclude this long preseason -- three to five games too long, by Flip Saunders' estimation -- with tonight's finale against Chicago in St. Louis.
Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad both would be healthy enough to play in this were Wednesday's season opener at Memphis, but Saunders is staying cautious and keeping both out tonight.
Corey Brewer will start for Wiggins in a lineup beside Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin in the backcourt and Brewer, Nikola Pekovic and Thad Young up front.
This will be the third consecutive game out for Wiggins, who bruised his behind in a nasty fall Sunday in Tulsa against Oklahoma City. Saunders wants him to get two good practice days in before he plays again. Those practice days will be Sunday and Monday.
Muhammad's Achilles grew sore after Wednesday's game in Milwaukee and Saunders decided to rest him too after he played good minutes in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday.
Anthony Bennett says he's feeling better now. He played just eight minutes Wednesday not because of that sore knee but from what he thought was a reaction to something he ate, perhaps a breakfast of eggs.
The Wolves have until 5 p.m. Monday to get their 17-man roster down to 15 men.
Greetings from Target Center for a final time tonight. The Wolves just pasted the injury-riddle Pacers 107-89. Here are some post-game notes for you:
--Coach Flip Saunders said rookie Andrew Wiggins experienced some soreness and swelling in his backside as a result of a fall he took in Sunday’s game. He did not play tonight and likely won’t tomorrow in Milwaukee. The Wolves do not think the injury is serious.
--Don’t look now, but Anthony Bennett is playing with a lot of confidence. Could he, might he, become the steal of the big trade this summer? Bennett scored 17 points in 17 minutes with five rebounds and a steal.
--Ricky Rubio was 1-for-5 shooting at halftime. But, continuing to be aggressive – he got to the free throw line eight times in 22 minutes – and he finished with 16 points on 4-for-8 shooting.
--It’s been so long I’d forgotten what a healthy Chase Budinger looked like. Tonight he was moving off the dribble, getting to places on the court where he likes to shoot. And he had legs beneath his three-point shot (2-for-2).
--I think Mo Williams is a big upgrade at backup guard. He played really well tonight. He scored 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting with a game-high nine assists. But he did have six turnovers.
--You should have seen the Wolves bench explode in celebration when Brady Heslip scored a late basket.
That’s about it for now. Have a good night. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow.
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.
The Wolves finished up practice just after noon on Thursday then headed off to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for tomorrow’s game against the Bucks.
Kevin Martin, who has battled a groin injury, practiced for a second straight day but will not play Friday, according to coach Flip Saunders. Meanwhile, Shabazz Muhammad’s sore heel is better – he is finally rid of the immobilization boot he’s been wearing -- but he won’t play Friday either.
There is a chance both could play Sunday.
“Kevin won’t go,” Saunders said. “He had a good day [Wednesday] and went today. But I want him to get a good practice in Saturday and maybe go Sunday. With Bazz, it’s probably the same thing.’’
Also, center Kyrylo Fesenko, who is sick, missed practice Thursday and did not travel with the team.
Here are some other post-practice nuggets:
--Saunders is still going to try to play a lot of young guys while taking it easy on the veterans, though he didn’t say who might not go Friday. While Saunders said he’s surprised at how much the young players have been able to absorb in two-plus weeks of camp, he’s still looking for much of what is being taught to transfer into games.
--With five preseason games between Friday and Oct. 24, Saunders does not want a tired team entering the regular season. Especially with a lot of travel early in November.
--One area where Saunders wants to see improvement, starting with Friday, is in how the team plays its zone defense, something Saunders plans on using quite a bit.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team in Cedar Rapids tomorrow.
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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