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 added some size Thursday by signing 7-foot center Miroslav Raduljica to a 10-day contract. Raduljica is a native of Serbia who spent the 2013-14 season with the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds. He was traded to the Clippers last August, waived and had been playing with Shandong of the Chinese Basketball Association, where he averaged 18.3 points and 9.1 rebounds in 14 games this season.
Raduljica will provide depth at center, where Gorjui Dieng has been logging heavy minutes since ankle problems sidelined Nikola Pekovic. The roster spot opened up when the Wolves waived forward Jeff Adrien on Wednesday.
The Timberwolves have waived forward Jeff Adrien. Signed by the Wolves on Nov. 29, he averaged 3.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 12.8 minutes in 16 games. The Wolves needed to waive Adrien by Saturday or guarantee his contract for the rest of the season.
The team can still re-sign him to a 10-day contract. But the Wolves, very much in need of size with Nikola Pekovic still battling a sore ankle, could opt instead to sign free agent Miroslav Raduljica. The 7-foot former Milwaukee Bucks center who was released last month by a Chinese team.
I’ll get back to you after we talk with Wolves coach Flip Saunders pre-game. Stay warm.
A couple quick injury updates now that the Wolves have reconvened from their very brief Christmas break and are about to tip off a three-game Western trip tonight in Denver:
Ricky Rubio ran full court with his teammates today for the first time, participating in some dummy offensive work on that healing sprained ankle at the morning shootaround.
Flip Saunders said Rubio still has a hitch in his gait when he runs, but said he's hopeful Rubio can do some contact work by the New Year, then perhaps can play some limited minutes in games seven to 10 days after that.
Nikola Pekovic has started running on the anti-gravity treadmill -- the machine on which he run without bearing his body weight -- at 50 or 60 percent and will have MRIs done on his wrist and ankle/foot when the team returns home from this trip after playing at Utah on Tuesday.
Saunders said Pekovic likely will go to the D League to play some games when he is ready, but said Rubio will not. The difference: Saunders said Pekovic's injury is a chronic one that will need the benefit of more court time while Rubio's is not. Saunders said the team should have sent Chase Budinger to the D League to get his conditioning and timing down last year with that chronic knee injury.
Kevin Love had hugs and handshakes all around for some of his old mates when the Timberwolves took the floor here in Cleveland for their morning shoot just after the Cavaliers were finishing up.
He chatted with Flip Saunders, the man who traded him to Cleveland last summer, as well as former teammate Kevin Martin and members of the team's training and media-relations staff before his first game against the team for which he played six NBA seasons.
"It always is a different feel," he said about playing against old friends. "It will probably be even more different when we head back and play them at Target Center."
That game is Jan. 31.
On Monday, Saunders said Minnesotans are a loyal bunch who don't forgive when someone turns on them.
When asked about Wolves fans who'll never forgive him and forget that he forced his way out with that August trade,
"I try to stay off that stuff because negative stuff makes for more than what us people have in common," Love said. "So I try to stay off that stuff. I know when somebody leaves, they more often than not don't want to say good things about him. I think (Saunders) was right in a lot of ways, but at the same time I made a lot of great relationships in the Twin Cities that will carry on throughout my career and post career."
Almost forgotten is a homecoming of sorts for Wolves forward Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, if you can call it that.
Bennett played just one season in Cleveland, Wiggins was a Cav for barely a month, two months if you count that 30-day waiting period to announce the trade.
"It was a long 30 days, just waiting for the decision," Wiggins said. "No hate or nothing like that...I'm excited, more excited than usual."
If you haven't seen it yet, I've been in Cleveland since Saturday working on a Love story that ran in today's paper. You can find it here.
Wolves veteran center Ronny Turiaf underwent "successful" arthroscopic surgery today in New York City to repair that hip injury that has kept him out for all but two games so far and will be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Expect that in time to lead to his release so the Wolves can sign another player to add to their injury-depleted roster.
Also, Ricky Rubio is on the trip and looks like he's made some good progress with that healing ankle.
Turiaf's contract -- with a $1.6 million salary -- expires after this season. Flip Saunders said this morning the team would waive Turiaf and pay him his remaining owed money "if there's the right person available."
That could be just keeping around forward Jeff Adrien, whose current 10-day roster exception spot runs through Friday. Or it could be a guard such as D League sharpshooter Brady Heslip, who was with the Wolves in training camp.
In a perfect world, that new player would be a versatile defender who can shoot.
They likely won't release Turiaf at least until Adrien's exception expires. Or they could wait to do until 10-day contracts can be signed until January, although that's some time to wait for a team that needs help now.
"It doesn't mean we'll disassociate ourselves from him," Saunders said about Turiaf. "We'd do it just for the survival of everybody else."
Saunders said Rubio's timeline has "sped up a little bit" recently, since Saunders a week ago said Rubio would be out another four to five weeks.
Rubio has advanced from running on the "anti-gravity" treadmill -- a machine that allows exercise without putting weight on the knees and ankles -- to running and shooting on his own. He's getting some jump into his jump shot.
Saunders said he's hopeful that Rubio by Christmas -- just a week away basically -- can practice in some 5-on-0 work offensively even if he's not facing live action by then.
"He thinks he can play Christmas Day," Saunders said. "But that's not going to happen."
Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic all on this trip to Washington and Boston.
"It's good to keep guys around the team, keep the other guys locked in," Saunders said. "We have so many young guys. They need to have some veterans around, just for leadership, because this is a tough time."
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