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.
Greetings from Target Center
The Wolves didn’t really do much in the way of practicing today. They watched a lot of film – that couldn’t have been a lot of fun – and walked through a few things on the Target Center floor. Head coach Rick Adelman, who missed Monday’s loss to Houston for personal reasons, was not here today. But acting head coach Terry Porter said he still expected Adelman to coach the team Wednesday against Denver. The team has not disclosed why Adelman is away, but Adelman did miss 11 games last season tending to his ailing wife, Mary Kay.
And, after Monday’s game, Ricky Rubio said Adelman was coming back soon. “But, like everything in this life, family is first,” he said.This is the second practice Adelman missed this season. The other was because of the birth of a grandson.
Also, to nobody’s surprise, neither Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Martin (thumb) are out for tomorrow’s game.
Here are some items from today’s interviews:
--The consensus is the team really needs to win its game Wednesday, not only to break a losing streak, but to give the team something to savor over the All Star break. “You always want to go into the All-Star break feeling confident,” Porter said. “So, hopefully, winning a game gives us a chance to go in there looking at things, then you get a chance to relax. Kind of revamp, review some things.’’
--The break is coming at a good time. Though Kevin Love is going to the All Star game, he should get a good bit of rest over the break and return refreshed. Also, there is a good chance that either Pekovic or Martin could return out of the break. In any event, going a full week without a game should give everyone more than enough rest.
--There is no question that the injuries and the losses are taking a toll on this team. “There are a lot of guys going down and others stepping up,” Rubio said. “But we just have to do it as a team. One player can’t win games. It’s something that this league is about every night. ‘’
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after tomorrow’s morning shoot.
J.J. Barea chatted with reporters after practice on Monday about Saturday night's ejection in the fourth quarter at Atlanta after he refused to quit complaining to the officials about their work and was whistled for two technical fouls.
"I just got a little frustrated with a couple calls," he said. "The first technical was fine. I should have stopped after the first one, you know. I think I was a little frustrated when I got to the locker room, I let my teammates down a little bit by getting that second one. But if something happens to me every once in a while...I'm doing a better job lately. I've only gotten two technicals this year. So I've just got to let that one go."
He said he isn't worried about developing -- or exacerbating -- a reputation.
"No, I'm going to play the game I was raised to play," Barea said. "I care a lot. I compete. I'm going to get mad if things don't go my way. That's what got me here, so I'm going to keep doing it."
One other thing from practice: Nikola Pekovic had the protective boot on his foot at today's practice, but he still needs to be re-evaluated later this week before he'll know when he might play again.
The Wolves are walking that thin line between wanting to get him back ASAP so their chance at the playoffs doesn't slip from sight while he's out and allowing that bursitis enough time to settle down. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if they decide to let him rest through the All-Star break, which is six games away.
On Monday the Wolves won in Chicago against a Bulls team depleted by injuries, a problem magnified when starting center Joakim Noah was an injury-related scratch.
Ditto Wednesday night, when the Wolves finally pushed their way above .500 with a victory over an injury-depleted bunch of New Orleans Pelicans after rising star Anthony Randolph was a late scratch.
It will be far more difficult Friday when the Wolves host a Memphis team that, back to good health, is starting to make a serious run. The Grizzlies have won four straight – including home and away victories over Houston and a 17-point beating of the Blazers in Portland.
The Grizzlies have won nine of their last ten games.
Health? Center Marc Gasol, back after missing 23 games with a knee injury, has been a spark, with the Grizzlies going 7-1 since his return. Gasol and Memphis power forward Zach Randolph are a formidable pair, especially for a Wolves team without center Nikola Pekovic.
“They’ve proven the last two or three years they’re a really good team,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after Thursday’s practice. “They’re a playoff team. Without Gasol they struggled. But right now, they’ve had four really impressive wins. And they’ll defend us. They’re going to take things away from us. So it’s going to be a big challenge.’’
It doesn’t stop there. Memphis point guard Mike Conley – always a thorn in the Wolves’ side – is averaging a career-high 18.2 points per game along with 6.3 assists.
Six of the Grizzlies last eight opponents have failed to score 90 points. They will defend. And they will make it difficult for Kevin Love to get his shots. What can the Wolves do to counter that?
“There has to be more motion,” Adelman said. “Just more activity. [Wednesday] night it was the first game [Without Pekovic]. With Pek, they had to honor Pek all the time. And that would just naturally space the court for us. With Pek out now, if we post up Kevin, they’re going to double him. And so we have to have movement. Take it to one side, then come back.’’
Here are some other items from today’s practice:
--The players had a league-mandated meeting following practice.
--Adelman on Conley: “Conley is really good. He’s really good defensively. He’s got really good hands.’’
--Adelman likes the fact that Kevin Martin is getting more aggressive with his shot. But he still wants more. “I just think he continues to have to be more aggressive,” he said of Martin, who scored 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting Wednesday. Adelman wants Martin to be quicker with his shot. “I call it quicker taking his shot, and not massaging the ball. He’s got that explosiveness that, if he gets a step on a guy, he’s gonna get the shot off. I think he shoots better when he does that.’’
That’s about it for now. Jerry, back from his golfing adventure, will be covering the team tomorrow.
Kevin Martin practiced fully with the Wolves Thusday at Oracle Arena and afterward said he's fine and ready to play the Warriors there on Friday night.
He lacerated the pinkie finger on his shooting hand above the knuckle Tuesday at Utah and after that game said he wasn't sure how much pain he'd have or if he could play in three days.
He said Thursday after the Wolves took Wednesday off that the finger won't affect his shooting Friday night.
"There's pain, but I'm not allowed to take days off right now," he said. "I'm good to go tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Alexey Shved didn't practice Thursday and Rick Adelman wasn't sure if he'd play Friday.
Adelman said Shved felt fine after breaking his nose in that same Utah game, but the team is waiting for a protective mask for that nose and there was no sense risking that it might get whacked again in practice.
Friday's game starts a back-to-back set that ends Saturday in Portland. The Wolves play three games in the next four nights when you factor in Monday's game at Chicago that ends this four-game road trip.
The latest buzzword when it comes to the Timberwolves is: Communication.
As in, the team has to communicate on defense . As in, communication on defense Saturday was a big reason why, in a one-sided route of Utah, the Wolves held the Jazz to 28.8 percent shooting.
There have been other buzzwords the Wolves have latched onto at different points in this up-and-down season. They have needed more energy. They have needed better starts. They have needed to be more willing to foul.
And now, they just need to talk.
After Monday’s practice, with the team about to board a plane to Salt Lake City for Tuesday’s rematch with the Jazz, coach Rick Adelman and star forward Kevin Love both talked about….well, talking.
“It was one of our better games communicating to each other,” Adelman said of Saturday’s victory. “It’s something we have to do consistently, in each game. We’re not that great defensively, but we can get better.’’
Said Love: “If we can do that, get our back line, our bigs, talking – between me and (Nikola Pekovic) and even (Corey Brewer) when we’re switching off – then it just kind of goes all the way through our lineup. It’s pretty contagious. If we do that, communicate, we’re always gonna be a better team.”
We’ll see if they keep talking on the upcoming road trip.
Here are some other tidbits from today’s practice:
--With the deadline for fan voting set for tonight, Adelman once again pumped up the volume for Pekovic and Love.
On Pek: “He’s played well enough for it,” Adelman said. “But who knows? There are a lot of people in the West, a lot of power forwards who are really good. So I don’t know what the coaches will do. But he’s been consistent all year long. He’s really backed up what he needs to do with that contract. He just comes out and plays. You hope he’d get some consideration for that.’’
On Love: “He’s been terrific,” Adelman said. “I mean, he’s played at a high level. He’s had to made adjustments. Other teams are trying to take things out of his hands, so he can’t get the opportunities. But he’s been consistent, night-in and night-out. His rebounding is the same. His assist totals are up. I mean, he’s done just about everything he could do for us.’’
--Adelman on playing the same team in back-to-back games: “I think it’s a hard thing to accomplish, to go out and get two wins,” he said. “It really is. But it’s a good opportunity for us. We know they’re going to come out and their place and be aggressive. So it’s just one of those things. Seems like it’s happening more and more though. As you look around the league, it’s happened a lot this year. So, just the way it is. There are a lot of things about scheduling that you have to wonder about. But you can’t do anything about it.
--Love was asked today for some mid-season state-of-the-team analysis. “I don’t know what to say,” he said. “We just need to start climbing back, and we’ll be good. You can quote me on that.’’
--One last thing: Love is approaching a couple more milestones. He needs three rebounds to reach 4,000 for his career and is 41 points away from reaching the 6,000-point plateau.
When Love gets those three rebounds Tuesday -- a virtual certainty -- it would be his 327th NBA game. Since 1985-86, only Shaquille O'Neal and Dikembe Mutombo have reached 4,000 rebounds in fewer games. Dwight Howard did it in 327 games exactly.
That’s about it for now. Have a great rest of your day
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