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.
Timberwolves rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams went through "practices" with their respective Team Shaq and Team Chuck squads today in Orlando in preparation for tonight's Rising Stars game featuring the league's top rookies and sophomores.
And they talked about facing each other, the game's top pick Blake Griffin and other stuff.
You'll find Ricky talking about Blake and his Rookie of the Year battle with Cleveland's Kyrie Irving right here.
And Williams talks about sparing Ricky no mercy if he gets the chance to dunk on him tonight and just what he thinks of a suggestion Team Shaq coach Steve Kerr, a fellow Arizona Wildcat, has for Williams regarding tomorrow night's slam-dunk contest. You'll find that here.
Rubio made what the NBA is calling a Guinness World Record for most shots made from behind the backboard in a minute.
OK, so maybe it's not a world record quite like breaking the four-mile mile, but...
Rubio set it by making 18 in a minute, including 15 in a row.
Rubio also made three half-court shots while Team Shaq was just messing around.
"Hey, that's my specialty," teammate Kevin Love said.
So what about this notion Rubio can't shoot?
"Well, maybe you just have to make it harder for him," Love said.
Love was looking much fresher today when players selected for Sunday night's actual All Star Game met the media -- well, everybody except for Kobe Bryant, who purportedly was ill -- at an Orlando hotel than he did after Wednesday's last-second victory over Utah.
Love said he got to bed about 8 p.m. last night and "just relax."
"I was so exhausted," Love said. "I wasn't able to sleep the few days prior before that and that day I wasn't able to get my nap in. I finally able to get some rest and now I feel refreshed. I even woke up and worked out this morning. I'm still going to go as hard as I can (in Sunday's game). I want to put on a good showing."
Love says he likes his chances in Saturday's three-point contest a little less now than he did before the NBA made Kevin Durant a late addition to the field.
"When they added him, I said this might be tougher than I thought," Love said. "But I was working on my three-pointer this morning and I'm confident."
Luke Ridnour hit the game-winner at the buzzer Wednesday night for an improbable comeback victory over Utah at Target Center, but Kevin Love sure didn't look like a winner afterward.
Ridnour's running floater from the lane as time expired gave the Wolves their third last-second victory this season, and their second in four days after Love's two free throws with one-tenth of a second left beat Philadelphia on Sunday.
The victory came after the Wolves trailed by 18 points in the second quarter and by 16 with fewer than 10 minutes left and it sends them into All-Star break at .500 with a 17-17, which, you might notice, is the same number of games they won all last season.
The striking scene in a joyous locker room afterward was Love sitting at his locker, his feet soaking in a tub of ice, his posture and voice looking and sounding like he had just gone 20 rounds with a bruising heavyweight and had lost everyone of them.
If you watched the game from the start tonight, you might have wondered if he was injured or ill.
"I thought I was going to die in the first quarter," he said.
He survived, well enough to just reach yet another double-double -- only 10 and 10 this time -- but it looked like the last thing wanted to do was get up early Thursday morning and fly to Orlando for All-Star weekend.
"Exhausted," he said. "Yes, I need a break."
He plans to get as much rest as he can in Orlando, where he will participate in Saturday's three-point contest and Sunday's game.
He'll be going with rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams.
Williams is headed for the Rising Stars game and the slam-dunk contest following the most meaningful performance of his young career.
He played just 20 minutes, but 12 of those came when he played the entire fourth quarter after Rick Adelman went small in an attempt to finally stop Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, who clobbered the Wolves inside for the three quarters.
Williams provided the kind of lively, athletic body that limited Millsap to just four fourth-quarter points after he had scored 21 up until then, and he scored five straight points in the final minute that tied the game and then gave the Wolves a brief lead before Al Jefferson tied it again with a jumper over Love with seven seconds left before Ridnour won it with that floater.
"That's the type of shots he takes," Jazz forward Josh Howard said of Ridnour. "Those one-leggers. I've seen it."
Williams helped the Wolves keep the Jazz without a field goal for six minutes down the stretch, and just one field goal in eight minutes. Afterward, Adelman particularly praised his rebounding in traffic. He had six of his nine rebounds in that fourth quarter, including two offensive rebounds. One of those was the putback basket he turned into a three-point play and a 93-93 tie with 56 seconds left.
Asked what the fourth quarter means for him heading into All Star break, Williams said, "A lot, especially for my confidence. I know what I can do. I know capabilities."
A few other things from tonight:
* The Wolves won while not having to rely on Rubio down the stretch when it really mattered.
Yes, he didn't play all that much in the fourth quarter against Charlotte last week, but the Wolves have that one pretty well in hand coming home in that game.
Wednesday, he played just 3:32 in the fourth quarter after Adelman stuck with Ridnour and J.J. Barea, who led the comeback by tying a career-high with five 3-pointers. Three of those three came in the fourth quarter alone, which the Wolves ended with a finishing 33-15 flourish.
"That's why we're a team," said Rubio, who was one of the first players to rush to Ridnour after he hit the winner.
* Nikola Pekovic started and played 32:29, but just 2:38 in the fourth.
He missed all seven shots he attempted in the first half, made three of four in the second half and reached yet another double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds).
Eight of his 12 rebounds were on the offensive boards.
He said afterward that his sprained ankle caused him some pain, but said it was fine.
He didn't play much in the fourth not because of that injury, but because Williams on Millsap and Love on Jefferson worked for the Wolves defensively, for the first time all night.
* Michael Beasley played just 8:37, all of that in the first half.
He now has played 9, 11 and 9 minutes in three of the last five games.
Adelman instead played Williams and Barea for the entire fourth quarter and Martell Webster for all but one second of the fourth.
*Darko! played more than one-tenth of a second tonight in his first game back after missing Monday's game because of an abdominal strain.
He played all of six minutes and nine seconds, and all of those in the first half.
That's all from Target Center for now.
Love, Williams and Rubio are catching a morning flight to Orlando while the rest of their teammates and coaches scatter all over for four days of rest.
I'll be following those three to Orlando later on Thursday and I'll have reports all weekend from All Star weekend.
The Wolves will reconvene in L.A. for practice Monday evening before they play three games in three nights starting Tuesday against the Clippers.
Blog at you later from Orlando!
It's pretty clear that both coaches involved in today's Timberwolves-Philadelphia game think very highly of each other.
Greetings. Kent Youngblood here. I'll be covering the game tonight, and Mr. Zgoda will pick the team up tomorrow.
Jerry had a nice story today about the job Doug Collins has done with the 76ers who, though they're struggled a bit of late, enter this game atop the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. Both Collins and Wolves coach Rick Adelman have been in the game for a while, and both were asked to talk about the other in pre-game meetings with the media. Here's what they had to say:
First, Collins on Adelman: "Coach Adelman's teams have always been able to score," he said. "They execute very, very well. He runs an offense that guys get very comfortable with. . His big men have always been a big part of what he's done. Like in Sacramento with Brad Miller, Vlade Divac and Chris Webber; high-post, passing, shooting, dribble hand-offs. And he's given Ricky Rubio the ball and the room to make plays, play in the open court, play to his strengths. Rick is a great coach, and David Kahn, to be able to add Rick, with this young team that is building? Rick's done a great job."
And here is Adelman on Collins: "He's got a good basketball mind," he said. "He's very sharp, and I think he's a hard worker. When you get a team like this that's very young, a lot of young guys, he's going to give them an opportunity to succeed. I think that's what he does."
In other pre-game news:
--Adelman talked about -- and I will write more about it in Monday's paper -- how he expects teams to start doubling Nikola Pekovic more with the success he's had. Actually, he expects both Pek and Kevin Love to get extra attention. As a result, both of the big guys will have to be aware of double teams and be ready to pass the ball out of the post to the open man.
--Thanks to Brad Miller, there was a little bit of rookie hazing going on Sunday. In the locker room, Miller put children's backpacks in the lockers of the three rookies -- Derrick Williams, Malcolm Lee and Ricky Rubio. They will be expected to bring 'em on the road at least up to the All Star break. Williams got a pink Princess backpack, Lee got a pink Hello Kitty backpack and Rubio got a purple one with Justin Bieber's picture on it.
Trust me, none of the rookies seemed thrilled. Said Adelman: "That sounds like Brad."
--Adelman said there were no changes to the starting lineup or rotation planned for tonight's game.
that's about it for now. I'll get back to you after the game.
Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea walked off the Target Center court not long ago after this morning's shootaround and declared himself fit and ready for tonight's game against the Pacers.
"I'm going," he said. "I've been feeling good the last couple days, I've been working hard. I'm good to go tonight. Maybe I'll get tired pretty quick, but if I'm tired, I'll ask for a sub."
A couple hours later, Ricky Rubio was named the Western Conference's Rookie of the Month for January while Cleveland's Kyrie Irving was named the same in the East.
Rubio is first among all rookies in assists (8.9 a game) and steals (2.24) and fifth in scoring (11.4 ppg).
Irving leads all rookies in scoring with an 18.1 average, is second in assists (4.9) and field-goal percentage (.511) and third in three-point percentage (.411).
Barea said he won't be on a minutes' limit -- like he was in one of hos previous one-game returns, on a 17-minute clock -- but instead will play in six or seven minute bursts until he gets tired. Then he'll rest and be ready to go back in.
He has tried to come back from hamstring and ankle injuries three times before this season and each time played just one game because he wasn't yet ready and missed more time. He has missed 10 of the last 11 games.
"I think this time is the time," he said. "If we would have done this the first time around...I think this is two weeks or something. I think we ewre patient this time and I think it's going to work."
Also, Darko Milicic said he will play tonight even though he still is experiencing dizzyness that a doctor's checkup can't explain.
"I think they're still kind of curious what's going on," he said. "I still feel a little bit dizzy. I can't stay out no more, just got to figure out what's going on. It might just go away."
He said he took some medication for the last three days and that he's supposed to start feeling its effects within four to 10 days.
"It's going to make my head get in the right spot," he said. "I'll play. I'll go as long as I can. I think it's going to go away."
You'd think Nikola Pekovic would start his fourth consecutive game tonight, even if Milicic's length probably is a better match for Pacers 7-3 center Roy Hibbert.
But I probably won't know that for certain until pre game.
Of course, Barea's return -- combined with the return of Martell Webster and Brad Miller last week -- is going to make Rick Adelman's job of finding enough minutes to keep everybody happy impossible.
With Barea and Webster back, that will limit -- or eliminate -- minutes for Wayne Ellington, Wes Johnson, Anthony Tolliver and probably even Luke Ridnour, among others.
And that's still with rookie Malcolm Lee out. He participated in some full court 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 work on Tuesday and looks like he's getting closer to a return, although with everybody else now healthy I'm not sure if that means he'll be able to crack the lineup or not.
The Wolves, btw, are wearing their throwback Minnesota Muskies uniforms tonight for the first time as part of the NBA commemorating the American Basketball Asscoiation's 45th-year anniversary.
First things first after Monday's season-opening 104-100 loss to Oklahoma City at the standing-room only Target Center:
* Rick Adelman will not coach Tuesday night's game in Milwaukee so he can attend his mother-in-law's funeral, the team announced after the game.
Top assistant Terry Porter will coach the team instead back in the city where he was a head coach for the first time, from 2003 to 2005.
* Ricky Rubio's 6-point, 6-assist, 5-rebound stat line isn't why he blew up on Twitter tonight.
Rather, it was those ESPN highlights that caused the masses to start those Steve Nash comparisons and inspired one LeBron James to tweet, "Rubio can pass that rock!"
Well, yes, he can.
You saw that Monday night when he pushed the ball on the break and every turn and already showed him to be something of a master of the bounce pass on a full run.
After just one real game, the bandwagon is already getting a little crowded.
Looking more like the guy who amazed at his DKV Joventut team rather than the guy who looked so stifled with Regal Barcelona, Rubio found Derrick Williams a couple times (including one that gave Nick Colllison a close shave) and Anthony Randolph another time with some fancy passing.
"He was good," Adelman said. "He really sees the floor obviously, everybody sees that. He competes at both ends of the court. We just have to give him a little bit of time to work his way in. It is going to be an up and down situation for him. All rookies face that. He seems to have an awful lot of hype going his way, but I don't see him buying in that. I just see him as a young man who really wants to learn, really wants to do well and he's just going to get better.
"He is really good in teh open court and that is why our guys have to learn they can't walk up the court or jog. They have to run up the court every time."
* Do the Wolves really want Michael Beasley shooting 27 times?
Yes, he led them in scoring with 24 points, but he needed those 27 shots to get there.
Included was the one that could have tied the game at 102 with three seconds left.
That's when Rubio flung a pass to Beasley on the left wing and Beasley went hard to the basket -- afterward, he second-guessed himself and said he probably should have shot the three -- but missed and didn't get the foul call he sought when tried to stick a little shot over converging Kendrick Perkins and missed.
There was contact, but Perkins went straight up his arms and avoided the foul, which is the way Adelman said officials are calling those kinds of plays now.
"He made the right play," Adelman said of Beasley. "He went to the basket agressively trying to get the foul. He didn't get the call. It's the thing this team has got to learn. I really like a lot of pieces that we have, but we have to learn to win these ball games in the fourth quarter.
I asked Adelman if he wants Beasley shooting 27 times (made 11 of 'em), and he said he'd have to look at the game footage first. He also said Beasley wasn't the only one who forced shots in the offense.
* Rubio and J.J. Barea played the entire fourth quarter. So did Derrick Williams when Adelman went to that small frontcourt and played Williams, Beasley and Love for the final six-plus minutes.
Both those backcourt and frontcourt combinations create mismatch problems, both pro and con.
In the fourth quarter, though, it looked like those mismatches played in the Wolves' favor: The Thunder struggled to contain Rubio and Barea on pick and rolls and Barea in 27 minutes showed he's a tough little guy, just like he did for the Mavericks last season.
That frontcourt was effective even though the three combined to shoot 1-for-10 on threes on a night when the Wolves probably win if they do just a bit better than 3-for-22 as a team.
* Adelman praised center Darko Milicic before the game and he showed why even though he played just under 20 minutes a game. He was an efficient 4-for-6 for 12 points from the field, but more importantly, played with some actual fire, flattening Perkins in the first quarter and then glowering at him when the game turned physical almost from the opening tip.
* It didn't take long for tweeps on Twitter to call for the Wolves to trade both Wes Johnson and Luke Ridnour after Monday's game.
Nothing like some patience, huh?
Neither played in the fourth quarter.
It's obvious Ridnour's starting job isn't long for this world, just a matter of when Adelman thinks Rubio has paid his dues and is ready to take over that job.
The fact that Rubio played the final 15 minutes tonight already shows into whose hands Adelman wants to place the ball.
Johnson again looked like that one-dimensional 3-point shooter he was most of the time last year, but it's just one game, sports fans.
Let's give this some time and let it play out.
* This Thunder team is pretty dang good. Start with Kevin Durant (33 points and a lovely spining move and scoop shot around Milicic) and Russell Westbrook, who dueled with Rubio down the stretch and finished with 28, 6 and 6. But don't forget James Harden off the bench or the physical tag team of Perkins and Serge Ibaka that helped hold Love to "just" 22 and 12.
That's enough for tonight. Got a morning to Milwaukee.
Here's the game story from Monday's game.
And tonight's notebook.
Blog at you Tuesday.
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