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 begin a six-game trip that takes them all the way to Mexico City next week and back again tonight at Brooklyn.
It'll reunite Wolves coach Flip Saunders, Sam Mitchell and Sidney Lowe with Nets star Kevin Garnett, whom Saunders and Lowe coached and with whom Mitchell played long ago.
"I'm excited to coach against him tonight," Saunders said before the game. "I'll always have a soft spot. I had him when he was 18 years old. Sam was with us. We've had a huge part in seeing develop as a player, seen him become Da Kid and eventually The Man.'"
Tonight's game also puts together on opposite sidelines Saunders and new Nets coach Lionel Hollins.
Saunders interviewed Hollins for the Wolves' open job last April, but conversations didn't go much further than that.
Saunders said Kevin Love's uncertain future affected his decision not to pursue Hollins any further.
"It was just an interview," Hollins said. "They hired somebody else. That's where it went."
Saunders, of course, ended up hiring himself for the job.
One more thing:
Thad Young is set to start tonight game, four nights after he got knocked out of Saturday's game when he was elbowed in the head. He said this morning he's fine and ready to play.
The Wolves' only injury concern is Ronny Turiaf's still sore hip. He's inactive tonight but Saunders said he was hopeful Turiaf will be available in the coming games at Orlando and Miami.
Wolves guard Kevin Martin has been fined $15,000 for making an obscene gesture during the Wolves’ one-point loss to the Bulls Saturday at Target Center.
The gesture came with 1:37 left in the game, shortly after Martin had made a three-point shot to give the Wolves a two-point lead, which prompted a Chicago time out.
The announcement was made today by Rod Thorn, the NBA’s president of basketball operations.
Here is a link so you can see it for yourself: http://i.imgur.com/n3LNqBS.gif
The Wolves held a brisk practice – one that ended early – before heading out to Memphis for tomorrow’s season opener.
Coach Flip Saunders is still being cagey about who will be the starter at small forward; his standard response the last two days has been, “We’ll wait and see.” I’m not sure it really matters who starts – Andrew Wiggins or Corey Brewer. Because both are going to get significant minutes.
Here are some other tidbits from Saunders today:
--Saunders said he’s confident fans will see a more confident Gorgui Dieng this season. Especially on the offensive end. “He’s more confident in what he’s doing,” Saunders said. “He’s a little more assertive offensively. He’s just going to look more comfortable when he’s out there. The leap [from the first season to the second season] is astronomical.’’
--Because of his confidence in Dieng, Saunders reiterated his pledge to keep Nikola Pekovic’s minutes down, both the total number of minutes played in a game and how long his in-game stints will be.
--Saunders said he has not decided exactly what path Glenn Robinson’s development will take. Specifically, how much time the rookie forward will spend in the development league. The problem? The Wolves are one of 13 teams that will use the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants as their D-League affiliate. So guaranteed playing time for a player going to Fort Wayne might be hard to get. “You don’t want him to go down where he might not play,” Saunders said. “If we find situations where it’s conducive for him to do that we’ll utilize that. If not, he’ll be able to practice with our people, our guys.”
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team in Memphis tomorrow.
Yes, I can confirm ESPN.com's Marc Stein tweets this afternoon that the Wolves are working on an agreement to release veteran guard J.J. Barea by Monday's NBA deadline to submit final rosters.
That decision will get them down to 15 players afterthey waived Brady Heslip yesterday.
It also means they're keeping a roster spot for rookie Glenn Robinson III.
What it likely came down to is this: Flip Saunders wanted Barea on the team and envisioned a role for him, but it wasn't one in which he could guarantee Barea playing time every game.
Barea told me Friday he saw a role for him here but said he wants to play every game.
Inevitably, the two sides probably decided that neither be happy with the role Flip envisioned, hence the decision to pay off probably most of Barea's $4.5 million due this season.
I say probably most rather than all because Stein also reported that Barea is expected to return to Dallas where he won a NBA title in 2011 after/if he clears waivers.
The Mavs, though, would have to clear a roster spot to make way for him.
The Wolves returned to practice Sunday, and the good news is that both Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad were back and going 100 percent.
Wiggins had been bothered by a hard fall on his backside sustained at Tulsa Oct. 19 in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder and had not played since. Muhammad, meanwhile, has been pestered by a sore heel.
But both were good to go today. And coach Flip Saunders said he expects both to be good going forward, though both will be evaluated Monday to see how they responded to Sunday’s practice.
Wiggins, though, didn’t mince words. “I feel 100 percent,” he said. “I’m good. I feel good.”
Here are some other nuggets from today’s workout:
--Saunders reiterated that the Wolves will likely wait until the Monday afternoon deadline before making the move to bring the roster – currently at 16 players – down to the regular-season limit of 15.
--He said that Brady Heslip, who was waived Saturday, has the shooting ability to one day find a spot in the NBA.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after Monday’s practice.
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