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 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.
Rick Adelman was upset after this loss. He was angry with his team’s lack of effort out of the gate. He was angry with the lack of defense as his team lost for a third straight time. He actually seemed a bit offended that, at home, a team could come out that flat.
And he said so. He talked about how the coaches can only talk so much, that the leaders on the team have to start policing things on their own.
So, I would imagine the Wolves will have a nice, lengthy practice on Friday, which will follow a long, less-than-fun review of the film of Wednesday’s 117-110 loss to the Nuggets at Target Center.
Here are some final thoughts on the game:
--Ricky Rubio continues to struggle. I don’t care that he actually hit some shots tonight (he was 6-for-12). A starting point guard on a quality NBA team can’t have seven turnovers.
--The Wolves continue to struggle with quick backcourts. Tonight Ty Lawson, Randy Foye (yes, Randy Foye) and Nate Robinson off the bench had their way with the Wolves.
--Eight different Nuggets players scored in double figures tonight. The Nuggets bench outscored Minnesota’s 47-10.
--The Wolves continued to struggle from long range, going 5-for-20 on three-pointers. Kevin Martin was 0-for-5, Love 3-for-9.
That’s about it for now. Have a great Thanksgiving and I’ll get back to you after the Wolves practice on Friday.
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.
Flip Saunders met with the media this afternoon to explain the trade that sent former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams to Sacramento for veteran defensive specialist Luc Mbah a Moute.
Here's the video our shooter David Brewster did from the gathering, including a little standup bit that Jim Souhan and I did. Turned out kind of funny the way David edited it.
Here's a bunch of this and that, most of it taken from my Twitter feed today:
* Mbah a Moute will wear No. 12 for the Wolves after wearing No. 33 in Sacramento.
* Flip said there's a chance LMM plays Wednesday night vs. Denver. "We're hoping," he said. The new guy is due in town tonight and will undergo a physical exam in the morning.
* LMM didn't have a physical done before the league was finalized. Flip said his team had done extensive background on LMM's knees and are confident there's no issue after he underwent surgery in May 2012 to resolve tendinitis.
* Flip said he and Rick Adelman concluded Derrick can't play small forward in Adelman's system -- didn't rule out that he couldn't play it in other coach's system, including Sacramento's. And he asked if Williams's value would be any greater in a month or at the February trade deadline if he wasn't playing much, which he wasn't of course.
* Flip said contrary to popular opinion on Twitter, Adelman actually likes Derrick and think he'll be a good player in this league. Said he doesn't hate him. Implied, though, that Derrick never won Adelman's trust and team needs to find bench guys Adelman can trust to play more to relieve stress on the starters.
* Interesting that when talking about adding one of the league's best individual defenders, Flip singled out Dante Cunningham as the team's best defender pre-LMM.
* I asked Flip if he would have preferred to deal Derrick to add bench scoring and he said sometimes your scoring from your defense.
* Asked Flip about D League for Shabazz or Robbie Hummel but he said notion that they'll sit on bench now isn't necessarily true. Said they want to expand bench play beyond eight guys to help out starters.
And one more thing:
My compatriot Jason Jones of the Sac Bee put up this posting on the trade this afternoon. It's a good read from the other side of the deal.
That's all for now. Carry on...
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