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.
Wolves just wrapped up shootaround in Sacramento with Rick Adelman back after he returned from three days away and both Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin said afterward they are well enough to start and play against the Kings.
How much, neither could say.
Both practiced and scrimmaged 5-on-5 with their teammates on Thursday and Friday in Phoenix to prepare themselves to play again after weeks away.
"Two days to work out and I wake up not sore or nothing," Pekovic said. "The pain still is going to be there but hopefully it's not going to get worse. You can handle certain amount of pain. I just hope I don't go over it. For now, it's good. The last few days have been good. My conditioning is going to come, of course. I'll need four or five days to come back to that shape I was before. I'm more concerned about than my conditioning."
Still, he'll have to come back after a month away by banging with big Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who returns tonight after serving a one-game suspension for Friday's game against the Lakers in L.A.
Martin said he'll still have pain, too, in that healing fractured thumb on his left shooting hand and said he used the last two days of practice to figure out how to catch with it.
"I'm sure I'll figure out more during the game," he said. "I have a good idea. Right now, it's just about getting back out there and helping the team in whatever way you can...I feel good enough to play. Couple good days of practice and everything felt good, so I'm ready to play."
Martin said he isn't concerned about his conditioning. He hasn't played since breaking that thumb Feb. 7 at New Orleans. Pekovic has played since Jan. 27 at Chicago because of ankle bursitis.
"Maybe a little but hopefully not once you get in a game and your adrenaline starts going,," Martin said when asked if he thinks conditioning will be a factor. "I'm a little gazelle, skinny guy. I can run all day."
Adelman was back at shoot after he flew home following Tuesday's victory at Phoenix to spend that three-day break with his wife, Mary Kay.
Kevin Martin won't play tonight at Phoenix after visting a hand specialist on Monday in Los Angeles and Nikola Pekovic sounded doubtful that he could play either.
Martin declined an interview request after the team's morning shootaround. A team spokesman said Martin's fractured left thumb is "progressing well" but he won't play tonight and is uncertain for Saturday's game at Sacramento, the fourth game on this five-game trip.
Pekovic worked out hard on his own with the team's coaching and training staff at Arizona State on Monday after the team arrived from Portland and said he needs more treatment and a workout later today before he knows whether he can play "some minutes" tonight.
The team called him "questionable" for the game, but he sounded more unlikely than that.
"I still can't really promise anything, unfortunately," he said. "I would play to play today. Still I got to do some things and we'll see how that goes. I mean, I wish I could tell you 100 percent, but I didn't do know.":
Pekovic played just six minutes in a Jan. 27 game at Chicago and hasn't played since then. Tonight will be his 13th consectuive missed game.
After that Chicago game, the team announced Pekovic had bursitis in his ankle and would be re-evaluated seven to 10 days later.
"It's just tough, going through all this stuff," he said. "I'm trying to make it better. I try to work really hard and I can't really play. All of a sudden, you feel pain and sometimes, you don't feel pain. Sometimes I don't know what's really right or what's not. It has just been really frustrating to em. It was like seven to 10 days and now it has been like four weeks. It's one of those things that's really frustrating. I really want to play."
Somebody asked Portland coach Terry Stotts before tonight's game against the Timberwolves at Moda Center if he wanted to limit things to a 6-feet and under game tonight.
"No, let's play the real thing, " he said.
Expect both teams to go small: The Blazers are missing All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge as well as injured big men Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard while the Wolves once again will play without their top two centers -- starter Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf -- as well as starting shooting guard Kevin Martin.
Martin did go through what looked like a pretty complete workout before tonight's game, putting his fracture left thumb through paces that included regular motions he'd use trying to catch and shoot the ball for the first time since he was injured at New Orleans earlier this month.
He had that left thumb taped only, no splint like he had been wearing because he said he won't be able to catch the ball and put it on the floor wearing a splint in games.
He flies to Los Angeles Monday morning to get a second opinion from a hand specialist there and will rejoin the team in Phoenix Monday night.
Nikola Pekovic worked out at length before tonight's game at Jazz but will not play.
With both Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf out, Rick Adelman instead will start Dante Cunningham in the frontcourt alongside Kevin Love and Corey Brewer and then improvise from there, using rookie Gorgui Dieng as much as Dieng can avoid fast foul trouble.
The Jazz, meanwhile, will play without starting forward Derrick Favors, who will missed his third consecutive game with a hip strain.
Kevin Martin said at this morning's shootaround that he's headed to Los Angeles Monday to get another opinion on his fractured thumb but remains hopeful he'll play before this five-game trip that begins tonight at Utah ends nine days later in Denver.
He won't play at least the first two games, tonight and at Portland on Sunday,
Nikola Pekovic said he'll test his ankle out before tonight's game and decide if he can play limited minutes.
He said he still has pain from bursitis in his ankle, but said his doctor said that's normal and fine as long as the pain doesn't increase.
It hasn't so far after two days of workouts back in Minneapolis on Thursday and Friday, he said.
If he can't play and with Ronny Turiaf out for likely the next three weeks at least, the Wolves will have to do some improvising at center.
They'll have to play Gorgui Dieng more, but just how much Rick Adelman is willing to rely upon remains to be seen. Or they'll have to use Kevin Love and Dante Cunningham there against a Jazz lineup that can go big with Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, although Adelman wants to limit how much more pounding he asks Love to take since he has been banged up pretty good already.
Alexey Shved said he's dumping the protective mask and will play without it tonight for the first time in a month.
He might want to keep it on just one more game: It was right here in Utah a month ago when Rudy Gobert whacked him in the face and broke his nose.
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