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.
Not a huge amount of news to be had at today’s shootarounds, other than a confession from Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra that he bussed the short distance to the Target Center from the Heat hotel because of the cold. “I usually walk,” he said. “Not today. I feel a little guilty about that.’’
Everybody was present at the Miami shootaround, but Spoelstra didn’t say for sure whether guard Dwyane Wade would play. Wade has missed a few games with knee soreness and was held out of Miami’s loss in Chicago earlier this week with an illness. My guess is he’ll play.
Meanwhile, over at the Wolves….
Wolves coach Rick Adelman is a grandpa, again. And his son David – a Wolves assistant – and his wife Jenny are new parents to a baby boy.
Adelman doesn’t talk after morning shoots, so we don’t know for sure who will start in place of Kevin Love, who is back home after the death of his grandmother. But the guess here is Dante Cunningham.
I’ll get back to you with more specifics after the coaches talk pre-game. …. Stay warm.
It's game day here in Mexico City, where the Wolves and San Antonio Spurs will tip off at the new Mexico City Arena (I wonder how much the town spent for those naming rights?) Arena at 8:30 p.m. Twin Cities time.
The late start isn't because of a designated time slot for an ESPN or TNT game.
No, rather it's cultural: Mexico City residents work until 6 pm usually and the rush-hour traffic in a metropolitan area of nearly 30 million people is horrible, so dinnertime isn't until 8:30 or 9 and so, too, is the timing for sportnig events.
Tonight's game is on FSN by the way, or NBA TV as well if you're elsewhere.
One thing you watch for: Mexico City is situated at 7,300 feet, a good bit higher than even Denver.
Rick Adelman had his players scrimmage to start Tuesday's practice here, just to see what effect the altitude at this height might have . And he noticed it quickly.
Kevin Martin said he noticed it when the team arrived on Monday. He was just lounging around his hotel room and felt out of breath and knew he wasn't that out of shape.
We'll see if that gives the younger Wolves an advantage.
In case you missed it in the paper or the web site, here's some catching up from the last two days here ni Mexico City:
* Spanish-speaking Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea drew a media crowd at Tuesday's practice. Here's my story for today's paper on the scene and the Wolves getting adjusted to that altitude. There's the Wolves Daily video for this morning -- from high above Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma -- attached as well.
And if you're not on the mobile site, go to the links to the right of the story and click on the photo of Pek and AJ Price showing off the latest in Latin America fashion.
* If you're wondering why the Wolves have gone all the way to Mexico City to play a regular-season "home" game, here's the explanation from Tuesday's paper.
There's also Tuesday's Wolves Daily video attached to that, too.
Look for Thursday's Wolves Daily video and hopefully some post-game locker room video after tonight's game, if the iffy Internet down here obliges.
The Wolves get their second look at the Thunder in a month tonight in Oklahoma City, but this time the Thunder has All-Star guard Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook didn't play the last time these teams played, on Nov. 1 at Target Center because of a second knee surgery that kept him out of the season's first two games.
The Wolves held Kevin Durant to just 13 points that night -- well, Corey Brewer mostly did -- and the Wolves thumped the Thunder 100-81.
He's back now, in a big way after hitting that desperation three-pointer from the corner that beat Golden State by a point on Friday at home.
The Thunder, btw, tonight end a six-game homestand, one of two they have this season.
While they've been home for nearly two weeks, the Wolves will have played eight games in six different cities and six of those games were in three sets of back-to-backs.
"It's good to be home," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, whose team is undefeated at home (8-0).
Rick Adelman didn't plan to play newcomer Luc Mbah a Moute 26 minutes -- and nearly all of the fourth quarter -- in Saturday's victory at Dallas, but did so because his team had the lead and the defense of both Mbah a Moute and Dante Cunningham helped them keep it.
It'll be interesting to see tonight how much he uses Brewer on Westbrook and Mbah a Moute on Durant.
Greetings from Target Center.
Luc Mbah a Moute spent all morning getting checked by doctors and finishing up the paperwork. He barely finished that in time to introduce himself to his teammates at the end of morning shootaround. Tonight, he walked out of the Timberwolves locker room and didn’t know how to find his way to the court.
But there is a chance he could see some action.
Coach Rick Adelman said Mbah a Moute would dress and there is a chance he could play. But I wouldn’t think he’d play much. Adelman sounded happy at the prospect of getting another player who can defend on the ball against multiple positions. And while he doesn’t really know a lot about Mbah a Moute as a player yet, he’s already trying to figure out how another player whose calling card is defense can fit into his rotation.
Adelman was actually asked whether he saw his new guy as a starter or a reserve. Way too early for that. But know this: One of the things Adelman is most concerned about when it comes to his team is how to come up with a second unit he can depend on. In some way Mbah a Moute will figure into that solution, whether that means coming off the bench or allowing Mbah a Moute to start and bringing Corey Brewer off the bench.
In other matters:
--Adelman said it wasn’t true that Williams had played his way into the dog house. “I haven’t had a dog in years,” Adelman said. It was just a bad fit for Williams, who was and is a power forward (Adelman said) playing behind one of the best power forwards in the league.
--Adelman said center Ronny Turiaf’s elbow is still bothering him. It would appear his return is at least a couple weeks away.
--The Wolves are playing tonight in their new alternate jerseys. They have short sleeves. I’d be interested in your opinion after you’ve seen them on TV.
That’s about it. Have a good night.
At some point today – if it hasn’t already happened – Kevin Love will welcome back an old friend. Luc Mbah a Moute was not available to the media this morning. I understand he was taking care of some final details, perhaps finishing up his official physical. He is expected to be available before tonight’s game with Denver after coming to the Wolves in the Derrick Williams trade.
But Love knows Mbah a Moute as well as anybody. Love was a freshman and Mbah a Moute a junior on the 2007-08 UCLA team that made it to the final four before, as Love said today, they ran into a guy named Derrick Rose.
Well, officially, they didn’t. UCLA’s Final Four loss to Rose and Memphis in the spring of 2008 was vacated by the NCAA because of rules violations by Memphis.
But I digress.
Mbah a Moute might have been busy, but Love took some time to talk about his once and future teammate. “I’m very happy to have Luc around,” Love said. “Obviously it’s sad to lose D-Will, he’s been here. But we wish him the best – I think everybody does – in Sacramento. But, having Luc around brings a guy who, defensively, is going to be great for us. He can guard multiple positions, can score the ball if need be. Just a great guy to have around, period. He’s really going to help the locker room out, bring an intensity and a defensive presence for us.’’
Love saw Mbah a Moute’s defensive ability at UCLA, and said that hasn’t changed. He also sees his former teammate as a player who, in spots, has shown his ability to take advantage of mismatches on the offensive end as well.
That said, Love admitted that making a personnel change during the season can be difficult. “It’s pretty tough,” he said. “I would say it would be a little bit more tough had D-Will been a starter or something, playing 25-, 30-plus minutes a night. But it’s always tough losing somebody. I really enjoyed having D-Will around. And, like I mentioned, Sacramento will enjoy him. But having Luc, he’ll come in and fit in immediately.’’
Love reiterated his believe that Williams will flourish in Sacramento. “He’ll definitely get a chance there,” Love said. “And I think he’ll have success. If he keeps working hard, keeps his nose to the grind, he has the talent. He just has to go out there and show it.”
--Meanwhile, Derrick Williams did an interview with the Kings’ web site last night. Here are some excerpts.
On the trade: “It’s a new beginning, a new start for myself and the team,” he said. “I feel I can help this team out, we have a young nucleus on this team and I feel I can help a lot.’’
On how he found out in the Wolves locker room: “Some of the guys were like, ‘I heard it’s happening,’ ‘’ Williams said. “They all said good luck and wished me the best and things like that.”
On his fit with the Kings: “I feel like I fit,” he said. “We’re going to run up and down the court, use our athleticism. Like I said, we have a good nucleus on this team, with young guys on this team , and the vets as well. The sky’s the limit.”
On his fit in Minnesota: “Yeah, (the trade) was good for both sides,” Williams said. “Not too many times it’s like that, when you part ways. They have a great team over there, sometimes it just doesn’t work out and I think we all felt that way and that’s the reason I’m here. (It is a) better fit for myself and the style of play that I have. … Everybody knows I’m athletic, run up and down the court, like to shoot. I like to shoot threes, I like to get everybody involved, I like to call myself a game-changer.’’
More on his fit in Minnesota: “I think it was just a bad fit for myself and the situation I was in. I’m here to prove people wrong. Since the day I picked up a basketball I’ve always been like that. I was never in the top 100 for ESPN out of high school and people talked I was going to redshirt my freshman year, and two years later I was the No. 2 pick. … It was tough (in Minnesota). People say I’m a 3 or 4, I just tell people to get me on the court and I’m going to do good things. Playing with Kevin Love is tough. Not too many people can out play him, he’s one of the best players in the world. He’s going to give you 25 or 26 and 15 a night. It wasn’t a great fit but I’m here now and I think it’s going to be a great fit in Sacramento.’’
That’s it for now. I’ll get back to you before tonight's game.
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