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’ victory over Milwaukee Friday was not pretty, but there were some attractive signs of improved team play. Consider:
--The Wolves, even with Andrei Kirilenko (back) our and Kevin Love (flu) ailing, had a season-high 56 rebounds.
--A Wolves team that had been victimized by backcourts much of the season did a wonderful job on Milwaukee’s tandem of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, forcing that duo to take 41 shots in order to score 36 points.
--The Wolves played so well defensively they were able to go for six-plus minutes without a score in the third quarter and never lose their lead.
And then there was Alexey Shved. A rookie in name only, he continues to show a mettle that allows him to play well in tough situations. Friday he had 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, keying a huge 11-0 run that turned a one-point game into a breeze for the Wolves, who have now won two of their last three games.
Shved has now scored in double figures in consecutive games, and has scored 84 of his 156 points this season in the fourth quarters of games.
I know this is not necessarily news, but I can hardly wait to see Shved and Ricky Rubio playing together. “He’s one of those guys, he has the same face, down 20, up 20, tie game,” J.J. Barea said. “He’ll always play the game the same way.”
Friday Shved hit two three-pointers in the fourth quarter – one from downtown with the shot clock about to run out – and made two very nice passes.
--In a statistical oddity, the Bucks got a triple-double out of backup forward Larry Sanders, who tied a Bucks franchise record with 10 blocks to go with his 10 points and 12 rebounds. The Wolves went at him all night and he blocked shots in droves. But it wasn’t enough to stop an ailing Kevin Love (15 points, 14 boards) and center Nikola Pekovic (14-16) to combined for 29 points and 30 of the team’s season-high 56 rebounds.
--Ridnour scored 7 of his points in the fourth quarter on 2-for-4 shooting from the field and three free throws.
--Wolves guards Ridnour, Shved and Barea combined to shoot 17-for-32, score 47 points and dish out 12 assists.
That’s about it for now. The Wolves are not practicing Saturday, so Rubio’s first full-contact practice will come Sunday. Jerry Zgoda will be on hand to bring you the news from that practice.
Have a good night.
Ricky Rubio has been cleared to practice, the Wolves announced this afternoon.
No word on when Rubio might return to games, but it could be next week. The Wolves play host to Milwaukee on Friday night, then have three off days.
Here is the team's release:
Minneapolis/St. Paul – The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that guard Ricky Rubio has been cleared to participate in full-contact practices with no limitations after consultation with Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colorado.
With the final medical hurdle being cleared, Rubio will now practice with the team. Rubio and the Wolves medical staff will assess his ability to participate in an NBA game after monitoring his progress during these practices.
Rubio had surgery on March 21, 2012 to reconstruct a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and a torn LCL (lateral collateral ligament) in his left knee. The surgery was performed by Dr. Steadman at The Steadman Clinic in Vail. Rubio's injury occurred with 16 seconds remaining in the Timberwolves game vs. the L.A. Lakers on March 9, 2012.
Rubio, acquired by Minnesota with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, appeared in 41 games (31 starts) for the Wolves during his rookie season, averaging 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.22 steals. He compiled 12 point/assist double-doubles and dished out 10+ assists on 15 occasions. At the time of his injury, Rubio ranked 3rd in the NBA in steals and 5th in assists.
That Wolves trade that has been in the works for days and days -- shooting guard Wayne Ellington to Memphis for forward Dante Cunningham -- will finally be official later today.
The Wolves are dealing away a 2009 first-round draft pick (28th overall) who was only going to see playing time this season if there were many injuries and getting back a guy who plays both forward spots and is active on defense.
Both players make almost exactly the same salary -- a little more than $2 million a season -- but the deal gives the Grizzlies another shooter and gives the Wolves a needed forward for a team that has added guards Brandon Roy and Alexey Shved but lost Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and quite possibly Anthony Tolliver from the frontcourt.
Portland drafted Cunningham 33rd overall out of Villanova in 2009 -- third pick in the second round, five picks after the Wolves took Ellington -- and traded him to Charlotte in February 2011. He signed as a restricted free agent just before the start of last season.
The Wolves also could officially announce their first free-agent signing -- Shved's -- as soon as Wednesday.
The others, including Boston center Greg Stiemsma, might not come until the Wolves line up any other moves in case they want to fit one signing into an salary-cap exception slot.
While the clock ticks toward 11:01 p.m. Tuesday night on the Wolves' pursuit of Nicolas Batum, Kevin Love's clock is ticking toward 2015 on David Kahn and Glen Taylor.
Strong-armed into taking that four-year contract extension with a three-year out, Love voiced his growing impatience with Wolves management -- the general manager and owner, not the coaching staff.
When he was named to the Olympic team on Saturday night, he was the only one of the 12 players who has never made the playoffs.
In an interview with Yahoo!Sports' Marc Spears, Love had this to say:
"My patience is not high. Would yours be, especially when I'm a big proponent of greatness surrounding itself with greatness? All these (Team USA) guys seem to have great players around them.
"It's tough seeing all these guys that are young and older who have all played in the playoffs. When they start talking about that, I have nothing to talk about. If I don’t make the playoffs next year I don’t know what will happen."
Greatness surrounding greatness, huh?
"At this point, I’m not afraid to go on the record," Love said. "Being around these (USA) guys, they know the situation I’m in and how competitive I am. I want to win. All the players on the Timberwolves feel the same way, as well. The coaching staff is awesome. They want to win and win now. Hopefully, we can make some stuff happen.
"I would say it's coming down to it for sure (next season). It's no secret I was willing to commit to Minnesota for five years. I'm very happy with my contract. I'd love to be in Minnesota. But like anybody else, I want to win.
"If we don’t make the playoffs, I don’t know it’s going to be me or something, but our management needs to step up and make some moves," Love said. "Chase is good for us. Brandon if he can come in relatively healthy and be back to somewhat of where he was … we can be pretty damn good, especially in the fourth quarter with how he used to be (with the Trail Blazers) with LaMarcus (Aldridge) in the pick-and-roll. If Ricky can come back healthy that would be great.
"But I think our front office and ownership needs to step up and get us some pieces. We need to make some moves. We can't just stand still. We have to make this happen."
You can read the entire story, with reaction from Kahn, here.
It sure looks like Kahn still is aiming for a Batum sign-and-trade as this summer's signature move. If he can't pull it off with a Blazers team threatened that Batum doesn't want to be there -- even for $45 million or more -- Kahn will move on to Plans B, C or D, which could be anyone from Courtney Lee to O.J. Mayo to Brandon Rush.
Meanwhie, their other plans -- Lakers forward/center Jordan Hill and Boston center Greg Stiemsma -- wait for Kahn to resolve the Batum dilemma and its accompanying salary-cap maneuvers before he gets to them.
A sign-and-trade would make things a whole lot easier.
If not, the Wolves will have to get creative -- buy out Martell Webster and/or Brad Miller, amnesty Darko! probably - just to sign Batum to that big offer sheet.
Stiemsma's agent says his client wants to play for the Wolves.
Reports that the Wolves offered a one-year, $3 million deal are nonsense.
Yes, $3 million a year is in the ballpark, but you can't offer a one-year offer sheet to a restricted free agent, for one thing.
Hill's agent says the Wolves "absolutely" are in the chase among a number of teams his client is considering that he said is "getting smaller by the day."
Agent Kevin Bradbury said Hill is interested in the Wolves -- as well as the Lakers, although he didn't say that -- because of "the coach, the roster, it's a good, young talented team" and is looking for "the chance to win, playing time."
"He had a taste of the playoffs with the Lakers and he proved he can do it under pressure."
Hill played for Adelman in Houston for a season-plus.
"He learned a lot playing for Coach in Houston," Bradbury said. "He'd liked to play for him again."
The Wolves are the only team Hill has visited so far, Bradbury said.
Hill has his next court date on a felony-assault charge for a February incident with his ex-girlfriend in Houston later this month.
Not sure how that legal issue -- he faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted -- affect the Wolves' thinking and pursuit, if at all.
Bradbury also represents Chase Budinger. He said he and his client are willing to talk contract extension -- Budinger is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer -- whenever the Wolves are, but said they'll wait, see how the summer goes, how the team shapes up and see what kind of cap room the Wolves have left after making their summer moves.
NBA teams can start signing players and making trades at 11:01 p.m. Twin Cities time Tuesday, the end of the league's 11-day moratorium period.
One other thing before I go:
University of Washington coach Lorenzo Romar tweeted Saturday a congratulatory message to former Husky point guard Will Conroy -- a long-time D Leaguer -- for landing with the Wolves.
Summer-league spot, right?
Somebody tweeted back to Romar asking that and he said no.
Yet another point guard?
Conroy was in camp with the Wolves last December and he'd no doubt be a minimum salary player if he indeed is being signed for the long term.
If so, could that mean the Wolves have plans to Luke Ridnour or J.J. Barea soon, even though the timing of Ricky Rubio's return to full health is still uncertain.
This week could bring lots of developments, even if a lot of it officially may be delayed for some time while the Wolves try to put together the pieces.
Brandon Roy wore a Timberwolves cap briefly on draft night 2006.
Now the team that drafted him and quickly traded him in a deal that sent Roy to Portland for Randy Foye and a big chunk of cash appears poised to get in the hunt for the former All Star who essentially retired last December because of bad knees.
The Wolves were interested in making a bid on Roy last December after the lockout ended and it appeared he was amnesty candidate who might keep playing on those bad knees.
The Blazers did use their amnesty clause to wipe the remaining $63 million off his contract, but Roy retired instead.
He recently used a friend's Twitter account to say he is plotting a comeback and expects to play this coming season.
Yahoo!Sports Monday night reported Chicago, Dallas, Indiana, the Wolves and Golden State are seriously pursuing Roy and 1500espn.com here in the Twin Cities reported the Wolves are prepared to offer Roy a two-year deal in a move being pushed by assistant coach Bill Bayno, a former Blazers assistant, and coach Rick Adelman.
Roy is an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team any time now and does not have to wait until the NBA's free-agent moratorium that begins July 1 and end July 11.
Yahoo reported that Roy's bad knees -- he retired basically because he had no cartilage left in either knee -- have been helped recently by the platelet plasma therapy producure that Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and baseball's Alex Rodriguez sought out.
Yahoo also reported the Pacers might have an edge because former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard is now in Indiana's front office and Roy trusts him from their days together in Portland.
Golden State's GM Bob Myers used to be Roy's agent.
The Wolves certainly need a shooting guard and Roy would be worth the risk, depending on the price, of course.
The Wolves will hold their final draft workout on Tuesday, when Syracuse center Fab Melo is one of six players due into Target Center.
On Monday, Memphis' Will Barton was one of four players who worked out.
Melo, Barton and Royce White are the only candidates for the Wolves' 18th pick whom the team worked out at Target Center.
That might suggest how much they intend to trade the pick.
Or it simply could be a symptom of drafting 18th -- and having trouble getting players to agee to come for workouts who believe they're going higher than 18th -- this year rather than second, third or fourth as the team has done in recent years.
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