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 released center Chris Johnson Saturday. The decision was prompted both by the strong play of Robbie Hummel and A.J. Price and by the team’s depth in the post.
“We’re going in that direction,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after Saturday’s lengthy practice. “We thought Robbie and A.J. have done a really good job. They’ve earned spots. And we feel with (Nikola) Pekovic and Rony (Turiaf), they have played well, as has (Gorgui Dieng). So we’re comfortable with those guys.”
By waiving Johnson the team will have to pay off his $916,000 salary.
Johnson played sparingly during the preseason, so the move doesn’t come as a big surprise. This move, coupled with the release Friday of Othyus Jeffers and Lorenzo Brown has the team’s roster at the league-mandated 15-man limit. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of the team making a late move to augment the roster.
But Adelman said he liked his roster. “These guys have all earned their spots,” he said. “(Price and Hummel) really earned it. They played well the whole month they’ve been with us.”
In other news from today’s practice:
--The Wolves made it official, exercising the options on Ricky Rubio ($5 million) and Derrick Williams (almost $6.7 million) for the 2014-15 season.
--Adelman has still not decided on who will be his starter at the small forward position in Wednesday’s opener. Or that the Wednesday starter will be the starter going forward. “It’s not written in stone whatever happens,” Adelman said.
--The Wolves practiced extensively Saturday, and will do so again Sunday before shortening it up a bit in the two days prior to Wednesday’s opener.
The Wolves will play on tonight in Sioux Falls, S.D., against the Bucks without starting shooting guard Kevin Martin, who played just six minutes last night in Toronto because of a sore Achilles.
Martin calls himself day to day, but I'll bet you he doesn't play Saturday against the Raptors in a rematch at Target Center, either.
The Wolves don't play for another eight days after Saturday, so that would give him a good 10 days to rest and heal his body.
He said in Toronto his Achilles flared up on Monday, but he appeared not to be feeling well after training camp practices in Mankato last week. He seemed awful sore and was moving kinda slow and spoke about aging.
"I need to get healthy," he said before tonight's game. "I need to get myself right."
Without him, expect Alexey Shved to start at shooting guard but Rick Adelman said he'll look at lots of guys, including Lorenzo Brown, Othyus Jeffers and maybe even Shabazz Muhammad there.
The Bucks are playing without Ekpe Udoh, Carlos Delfine, Ersan Ilyasova and possibly Zaza Pachulia tonight.
The Wolves continue this four games-in-six days stretch tonight with their action against an NBA opponent tonight in Toronto.
Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea both are here with the team and are expected to play some tonight after each missed Monday's preseason-opening loss to CSKA Moscow.
Cunningham missed Sunday's practice and Monday's game because he was feeling ill and Rick Adelman sas no need to push him Monday night even though Cunningham participated in warmups and said he was ready to play. Barea took an absence Monday because of a personal matter.
Also expect rookies Gorgui Dieng and Lorenezo Brown and big man Chris Johnson to play tonight after they sat out Monday just because Adelman can't play 16-18 guys in a game.
That'll mean somebody(ies) sit out tonight. Perhaps that is Othyus Jeffers and A.J. Price after they got relatively long runs Monday.
The Wolves had a brief meeting with NBA officials after shootaround this morning to go over points of emphasis this season.
Some of them also greeted and hugged Raptors assistant coach Bill Bayno, who left the Wolves last summer to become former Wolves coach Dwane Casey's top assistant here.
Bayno said after the Raptors' shoot that it was a tough decision but several factors weighed in his decision: The uncertainty over whether Adelman would return and the departure of David Kahn, who hired him, and arrival of Flip Saunders, a guy who doesn't know well. The chance to work with Jonas Valanciunas, another big man (his specialty) after Bayno worked with big Pek so much in Minnesota. And Toronto is the kind of big, international city that makes him feel at home after growing up near New York City.
Here's a video preview of the game with my Wolves Daily report from Toronto today.
After tonight, the Wolves fly away to Sioux Falls, S.D. for one of the more unusual back-to-back sets -- Toronto, Sioux Falls -- in NBA travel with a game against the Bucks there Thursday night.
The Wolves play the first of seven preseason games tonight against CSKA Moscow at Target Center.
And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to coach Rick Adelman, who isn't a big fan of international games unless he happens to be overseas.
"If you're going to Europe, it's what you do," Adelman said. "There are a lot of teams in our league. I don't know why or what the reasoning is. Last year, it was Israel (the Wolves play Maccabi Bazan Haifa) and this year it's a Russian team. I'd just as soon play NBA competition. This is supposed to be a pretty good team. But playing NBA teams you get see everybody and what everybody (in the league) is like. It is what it is. You have to go out and adjust to what's going on."
Guard J.J. Barea and forward Dante Cunningham are questionable for tonight's game.
Barea was not at this morning's shootaround because of personal reasons.
Cunningham didn't practice Sunday because of those "flu-like symptoms." He was at this morning's shootaround but still not feeling well and is a game-time decision tonight.
CSKA Moscow -- the team for which Alexey Shved played five seasons -- is one of the richest clubs in Europe and has a roster that includes former NBA players Nenad Krstic, Jeremy Pargo, Sonny Weems as well as Sasha Kaun, Viktor Khryapa, Milos Teodosic and Shved's 2012 Olympic and 2013 Eurobasket teammate Vitaly Fridzon.
This probably was a much more attractive matchup for the NBA and its international sales department when Andrei Kirilenko played for the Wolves.
"I'm sure that's what happened," Adelman said about a game that was scheduled when both Shved and Kirilenko played for the Wolves. "I'd rather be playing an NBA team, but that's not the schedule."
Adelman is ready for his team to be playing someone else, no matter who it is.
"I think we need one," he said. "You don't really get a good feel where you are until you play another team and see how guys respond against another team's offense and running your stuff against their defense."
Adelman said he wants to play lots of people, particularly since tonight's game starts a stretch where the Wolves play four games in the next six nights, including a weird back-to-back set Wednesday at Toronto and Thursday in Sioux Falls.
He intends to play 12 or 13 guys tonight, then will play the other four or five in Toronto.
If Cunningham and Barea don't play, that makes his decisions tonight easier.
Then the Wolves don't play for eight days after Saturday's home game against the Raptors until they go to Montreal to play Boston on Oct. 22.
"That's not the way I'd want to do it, but it's the way they set it up," Adelman said. "Just like I'm not a big fan of traveling to Canada twice in the preseason, going through customs and everything. You don't get seven days off in the regular season, so we'll have a pretty good idea of where we are and have a whole week to look at film and get back ready for the last three games."
Wolves coach Rick Adelman missed this afternoon's training-camp practice -- the third of four here in Mankato before they head for home Friday afternoon -- so he could attend a family funeral.
He is expected to be back for Friday morning's workout, after which the Wolves will head for home to prepare for Monday's preseason opener against CSKA Moscow.
Top assistant Terry Porter and the rest of the staff (including David Adelman) carried on in his absence, conducting a 2 1/2-hour workout that was shorter in duration after the team went three hours-plus each of their first two days in Mankato.
Team owner Glen Taylor again stopped by to watch practice, making the short drive up the hill from his Taylor Corp's North Mankato campus.
One other tidbit:
Chase Budinger will remain in Pensacola, Fla. -- where he had arthroscopic surgery Monday to remove part of his lateral meniscus that was repaired last November -- for the time being to rehab.
He has moved into a condo there and will undergo therapy daily under the supervision of Dr. James Andrews' crew. The fact that Andrews removed part of the meniscus rather than try to repair it again should shorten Budinger's recovery time from months (four months last time) to weeks, probably anywhere from four to eight weeks.
And in case you missed it...
Here's a few links from these first three days here in Mankato:
* I've ripped off colleague's Mike Russo's "Wild Minute" with my very own "Wolves Daily," a quick video hit after each day of practice http://www.startribune.com/video/226372061.html#/226372061/video/1/hpmrt
* For those of you who can't get enough of Shabazz Muhammad news, here's my Day 2 story on him. Adelman -- and others -- have been impressed with his offensive rebounding and Kevin Love calls him a "bull" out there. http://www.startribune.com/sports/wolves/226240271.html
* And from opening day here, a piece about new Wolf Ronny Turiaf and his journey from the heart to Minnesota, made possible in part by his friendship with former Wolf and current Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. http://www.startribune.com/sports/wolves/226066511.html
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