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.
Anthony Bennett and Robbie Hummel have been cleared and are available to play today at New Orleans.
Their returns mean the Wolves had to let the 10-day emergency hardship contract of guard Sean Kilpatrick expire without renewing it for another 10 days.
Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Kevin Garnett and Gary Neal won't play tonight, but Flip Saunders there's a chance Rubio could play tomorrow against Utah at Target Center.
Garnett is still ill -- has been for the last several games -- and isn't expected at the arena this afternoon.
Hummel hasn't played fracturing his right shooting hand in Jan. 25 game at Atlanta. That night he said he hoped to be back to four to six weeks. It took considerably longer and today he said he probably underestimated how long it'd take to get the right feeling back in a hand immobilized for so long.
Bennett hasn't played since the first game back after All-Star break because of a sprained ankle/calf injury sustained Feb. 20 against Phoenix.
Both Hummel and Bennett said they're not sure how their conditioning is but they'll each find out quickly probably. Each also said they also just hope to see these final 10 games to find their playing rhythm again.
Wolves coach Flip Saunders took a detour on his way to Houston for tonight's game against the Rockets: He stopped in Cleveland Thursday instead to visit his ailing father and scout the NCAA regional that included Kentucky and top draft picks Karl-Anthony Towns and WIllie Cauley-Stein.
He was not at the team's morning shootaround at Toyota Center but is expected in town this afternoon in time for tonight's game.
Nikola Pekovic and Gary Neal did not make the trip to Houston. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Garnett are here but are not expected to play.
Neither is Kevin Martin, who said his strained hamstrings should be better and good to go by next week.
Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad and Robbie Hummel remain out as well.
The Rockets are banged up as well: Donatas Motiejunas (lower back) is questionable, Patrick Beverley (wrist sprain), Terrence Jones (collapsed lung) and Kostas Papanikolaou (ankle sprain) are listed as out, but center Dwight Howard is back for his second game after he missed 22 games because of swelling in his knee.
The Wolves' injuries continue: Lorenzo Brown will start at Kevin Martin's shooting guard spot tonight at Utah because Martin's hamstring is bothering him.
Martin will be in uniform and could still possibly play, although the Wolves might be saying that because they need eight men healthy and ready to play.
Martin's the eighth.
If he doesn't play, that's nine men on the injured list.
Nikola Pekovic, Gary Neal and Justin Hamilton all remained behind in Minnesota and didn't make the trip. Kevin Garnett and Ricky Rubio did travel with the team but will not play.
Neither will Anthony Bennett, Robbie Hummel and Shabazz Muhammad against a Jazz team that has won 13 of its last 18.
Wolves coach Flip Saunders said Garnett's knee is getting stronger and said there's a chance he could play Wednesday against the L.A. Lakers at Target Center, but didn't sound very certain about it.
Hamilton went to Rochester's Mayo Clinic today seeking to get clearance to play again after he was kneed in the back of the head a week against Brooklyn and had headaches for the next several days.
Hamilton had a similar injury before, so Saunders said the team is being cautious.
Saunders said the headaches are gone and if Hamilton gets clearance, he'll work out Tuesday and could play Wednesday.
He also said Bennett has made progress the last few days and could play by Sunday in New Orleans.
Down to just 7 1/2 healthy men last night, the Wolves today signed D League guard Sean Kilpatrick to a 10-day contract before tonight's game at New York.
The Wolves received a hardship roster exception from the NBA to do so because they have so few healthy players.
Kilpatrick, 25, averaged 13.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 42 games with Delaware and Santa Cruz this season. He's 6-4 and played four seasons at Cincinnati, wasn't drafted last summer but played with Philadelphia's summer-league team and briefly was with Golden State in the preseason.
Ricky Rubio played last night's game at Toronto seemingly on one healthy leg. This gives the Wolves another backcourt option once Kilpatrick joins the team.
This time last year, Andrew Wiggins was preparing to play for Kansas in the NCAA tournament.
Tonight, he returns home to Toronto to play as a professional for the first time in a game when Ricky Rubio likely will return to the lineup.
He used the term "mind-blowing" to describe all that's happened in the last year, leading to him being the runaway favorite for what he called this morning his ultimate goal this year: Winning Rookie of the Year.
He was asked about all kinds of things by a big media crowd who turned out at the Wolves' morning shootaround.
Of course, somebody asked him about the possibility of returning to Toronto as a free agent someday -- as soon as possible -- to play for the Raptors.
"I love Minnesota," Wiggins said. "They treat me nice up there, so I plan to be there a very, very, very long time."
Rubio said he isn't sure if he'll play tonight, but he'll likely be the only one from among Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Garnett and Gary Neal -- all four didn't play Monday against Brooklyn -- who'll play against the Raptors.
Tonight's game is also the return of fellow former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, who grew up in Toronto as well, and Wolves assistant coach Sam Mitchell, the former Raptors head coach who will coach tonight's game for Flip Saunders.
Saunders is away from the team to be with his ailing father.
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