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.
Expect both Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic back in the lineup for tonight's game against Denver at Target Center.
Pekovic said his hurting ankle feels better after he didn't play Monday and the team didn't practice on Tuesday.
He said there's a "big chance" he'll play tonight, but needs to talk the matter over with the team's staff and warm up before the game to see how it feels.
He said he has begun a new treatment, one he specified only as "some laser thing, whatever, some new machine."
Asked if it has helped, he said, "I don't know, how does it affect you after two days? We'll see. We'll see tonight."
Meanwhile, Martin was back at morning shootaround after he, too, missed Monday's loss to the L.A. Clippers. He was ill that night.
He said Wednesday he feels better after taking the doctor's advice on Monday.
In November, Martin fell ill, took IVs during the day and disregarded doctor's advice that he not play.
He went out and had a big game, but also broke his wrist that night.
"I told him I'm not going to fight him because last time I fought him four hours before the game, I missed 2 1/2 months," Martin said. "So I listened to his words this time."
The Wolves tonight play a Denver team that beat Milwaukee at home last night just hours after the Nuggets fired coach Brian Shaw and replaced him on an interim basis with assistant coach Melvin Hunt.
Kevin Garnett is out tonight in Chicago on the first night of back-to-back games.
There's is an asterisk, though: He will be active and in uniform so...
"You never know with him," coach Flip Saunders said before tonight's game.
Saunders said there are a couple reasons:
1. The team is committed to playing its young players and he considers a Friday night at United Center in Chicago a good experience for them to feel a big-game atmosphere, even if Bulls star Derrick Rose (knee surgery) and Pau Gasol (ill) won't play.
2. They don't want to tax Garnett's body by playing him on consecutive nights. He'll play at home Saturday against Memphis instead.
Adreian Payne will start at power forward instead.
Center Nikola Pekovic said tonight that pain in that ankle is worse and he didn't go out for warmups tonight just so he wouldn't put any undo wear on it.
Saunders said it hasn't gotten to the point yet where they've considered holding him out of back-to-back as well, though.
Flip Saunders says it will be up to Kevin Garnett to decide if he can play games on consecutive nights the rest of the season. Today it appears he's still listening to his body.
Garnett was uncertain at the morning shootaround in Chicago if he'll play against the Bulls tonight.
If you have tickets for Saturday's home game against Memphis, worry not.
"My thing is just being productive," he said. "All year, I've been having issues with back-to-backs. I've tried to practice as much as I can. I want to be productive. The situation, I haven't done most back to backs. This year, I told 'em, we'll see how it goes, be patient with me with that and I don't see that probably changing or nothing."
Asked if he'll play tonight, he said, "We'll see, we'll see. If not tonight, definitely tomorrow. The thing is here is the long haul and the bigger picture here and trying to be productive."
If he does play, he'll face Bulls big man Joakim Noah. The two have a long, competitive history together, most recently in a November game when Garnett looked like he was going to chomp on Noah's fingers as the two pushed for position.
“I know how to bite somebody,” Garnett told reporters that night with a laugh. “Obviously I was messing around in that moment. If I wanted to bite him, I’d have just … shout out to Mike Tyson.”
Chicago reporters this morning tried to get Noah to join in on the feel-good story that is Garnett returning home to the franchise where he played his first 12 seasons.
Like Garnett pretended to bite him, Noah pretended to be touched by it all.
Asked if he didn't think it was a "cool" storyline, Noah answered, "So cool, man. Unbelievable, great story. Puts butterflies in my stomach."
Garnett's return is nothing but an afterthought here in Chicago, where the big news today is that Derrick Rose had another knee surgery this morning but walked out of it on his own and could return in four to six weeks, before the end of the regular season.
Garnett expounded when asked about Rose's third knee surgery in the last few years.
"Oh, man, the D-Rose situation is very unfortunate, man, that type of injury. He's young, such a promising future and a lot of hopes for him. It's just sad to see him have to go through injuries, go through this tough part of his career. I'm just hoping he makes the best decision for himself. Not just for himself, but his family. I know he has kids and a family that loves him and I want him to think about that before basketball.
"Basketball is always going to be here for him. He can always pick a ball up and go hoop, but to walk around and be who you are and be free, run around with your kids and be yourself is more important. I always say the game of life is bigger than the game of basketball, so D-Rose take care of yourself, man, and do what's best for you.
"The hell with what they're talking about. Do what's best for you and your family and take care of yourself. God bless."
Kevin Garnett will play a game at Target Center in a Wolves uniform for the first time since April 2007 tonight against former teammate Paul Pierce, former coach Randy Wittman and the Washington Wizards.
Talk about a reunion, all around.
"I was telling Flip, if we can get Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Prince and Kevin McHale to come through the doors tonight, it'll be a family affair," Garnett said at shootaround this morning. "I don't think that's likely. It'll be good to see Randy, good to see Paul, see the guys I'm familiar with."
And he'll say hello again to 19,000 of his closest friends.
The Wolves are selling standing-room only tickets for $25 each and have scattered seats still available for Garnett's return.
Flip Saunders on Tuesday said he expected the biggest reception ever heard at Target Center come tonight.
Asked Wednesday what he expects, Garnett said, "You know what? I haven't even thought about that. I've been thinking about the game and preparing for that. I'm figuring it to be a great atmosphere, a playoff-type atmosphere and I'm looking forward to it. I'm just hoping to win the game."
Today's shootaround seems a little louder, chattier than others.
"I haven't been here, I don't know what their shootarounds were like before," Garnett said. "I just know I'm trying to bring some communication and some things I've been successful with throughout my journey and hope they pick up on it."
Garnett, of course, will start at power forward for the Wolves' tonight.
Kevin Garnett's return to Minnesota gets real on Tuesday, when he will practice with his new teammates for the first time and be introduced at a 3 p.m. Target Center news conference.
Garnett needed a long weekend to take care of matters before making the move from Brooklyn back to Minnesota, Wolves coach Flip Saunders said before this morning's shootaround in Houston.
He said Garnett could have made his Wolves' debut tonight against the Rockets and old mentor/pal Kevin McHale and that is wasn't mandatory that Garnett's first game back comes at Target Center.
But he said it'll work out just fine that Garnett's first game back is Wednesday against Washington and his former Wolves coach Randy Wittman and former Boston teammate Paul Pierce.
Garnett has been home in L.A. over the weekend at his Malibu summer place. Just by coincidence, he was in Los Angeles when he waived his no-trade clause and the deal was made on Thursday because Brooklyn practiced there Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for their first game back from All-Star break against the Lakers.
The Wolves acquired Garnett by trading away veteran Thad Young, who reported to the Nets the next day and played Friday night against the Lakers.
Without Garnett, the Wolves beat Phoenix on Friday night and tonight meet the Rockets, James Harden and former Wolves forward Corey Brewer.
They'll do so with Shabazz Muhammad (ruptured finger ligament), Anthony Bennett (sprained ankle), Robbie Hummel (broken hand) and Gary Neal (sprained ankle) all out injured. Muhammad, Bennett and Hummel all are power-forward options.
That leaves Saunders just two real options at power forward until Garnett arrives Tuesday: Center Gorgui Dieng and newly acquired Adreian Payne.
Saunders said he might have to play rookies Andrew Wiggins and Glenn Robinson III some at power forward, if necessary.
"It's OK," he said. "We'll get through."
Saunders wouldn't disclose at Monday's shootaround who will start at power forward that night.
If he starts Dieng beside Nikola Pekovic in the frontcourt, then Saunders doesn't have a legitimate backup center to bring off the bench.
Neal, who sought a buyout when the Wolves acquired him from Charlotte, was limping noticeably at shootaround. He injured his ankle in Sunday's practice -- what he called a "freak" injury on the last play of pracitce -- and when asked how it was Monday, he said, "Bad."
One more thing from this morning:
Wiggins turns 20 tonight and Saunders turns 60.
"I'd rather be 19," Wiggins said. "I miss it."
If you're a believer in signs, stars aligning and such things...today's also the birthday of Ohio State freshman star D'Angelo Russell, a possible pick by the Wolves with a top 5 lottery pick in this summer's draft.
“I’d rather be 19,” Wiggins said. “I miss it.
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