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.
It was with a seemingly forced jocularity that Kevin Love met with the local media today after Timberwolves practice. Thursday was Love’s first full day back in Minneapolis; Love arrived – after a 3½ -hour travel delay – in town Wednesday evening with just enough time to get to Target Center and watch the Wolves lose to San Antonio.
When I say forced, I don’t mean to imply that he was being insincere. But I do think he was working very hard to convince everybody that he’s glad to be back, glad to be with the team. And, in the larger sense, glad to be with the organization.
Love has been in New York City since his mid-January surgery to repair two broken bones in his right hand. He said by the time he was due to return he was bored there and eager to get back here. He said that a few times.
Jerry was there, too, and he’ll post video of the press conference. But here are some interesting things Love had to say:
--He still hopes to return in mid to late March. But he’s not going to rush himself. Love was asked, again, if he came back too soon from his broken hand the first time. And while he said no, he at least suggested that maybe the breaks didn’t heal properly the first time. “Because, at the time I broke it, I was 10 weeks out (from the initial fractures),” Love said. “So I gave it enough time to heal. … But now that it’s fixed it feels great, and I can continue to progress.”
--Love said the season has been frustrating, given his high expectations coming off the Olympics and the team’s high hopes entering the season. When asked what there was left in the season to salvage, here’s what he said: “I think coach (Rick Adelman) mentioned it today,” he said. “That we can’t look at making the playoffs right now. We can just look at our next game and our next practice and what we can do to get better every single day. Even though myself, and Chase (Budinger) and Brandon (Roy) and (Andrei Kirilenko) are out right now, we can still look at getting back on the court and getting better.”
Love said goals should include getting the fans energized, keeping electricity in the building.
“If we can close out this season in that way, especially getting the fans on our side, getting season tickets renewed, things like that,” Love said, “that’s certainly going to help.”
--Love also reiterated that he’s happy to be in Minnesota, and wants fans to know that. “I think they just need to realize I love being here,” he said.
Like I said before, Jerry will post video. Have a good rest of your day, and I'll get back to you after tomorrow morning's shootaround.
He might not play Wednesday night against San Antonio, but Wolves starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko will receive an award for being soncisdering the best European player in the world before the game.
Kirilenko didn't participate in today's very short practice at Target Center and is considered questionable for Wednesday's game because of that quad strain he sustained in Monday's loss to Portland.
Given the nature of those things, it's probably more likely he doesn't play than not.
Either way, he'll get the Euroscar European Player of the Year award before the game on a night when NBA commissioner David Stern will be in attendance.
The award goes to European player considered the best in the world that year, judged on his both sports club and national team accomplishments and performances. The Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport gives out the award.
A committee of coaches, players and sportswriter from 14 countries chooses the winner.
Kirilenko, after a successful year with CSKA Moscow, the bronze-medalist Russian Olympic team and now the Wolves, joins 6-time winner Dirk Nowitzki, 3-time winner Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Peja Stojakovic on the list of award winners.
It was a fairly newsy Thursday over at Target Center. J.J. Barea reiterated his belief that the team needs to get tougher, and just about everybody on the team agreed. Coach Rick Adelman talked about the need for more patience on defense and a better, more team-oriented approach on offense.
But the biggest news of the day really came from Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio.
--Roy said he had another setback in his quest to return to action over the weekend. It happened Saturday – the day after what he said was a very, very good workout on Friday – when he felt a tweak in his chronically sore right knee.
“I felt I was getting close to being able to play,” he said. “And (I was) just starting to pick up my workouts. I didn’t actually bump anybody, just made a move, and kind of tweaked it. Had a setback.”
There is no question Roy is frustrated about his attempts at getting back on the court. A few weeks ago president of basketball operations David Kahn said a new treatment approach would be used on Roy. It appears that new approach is a knee brace designed to take pressure off the most sensitive part of his right knee.
But Roy said it has been a difficult thing to get used to. As his doctor predicted, Roy experienced hamstring pain soon after donning it, and he has had to work through that, too.
“I still don’t have a timetable,” he said. “Just trying to fight through it and get back on the court. … I am able to work out. But we’re trying to get a new schedule where we don’t pound day to day. Maybe I’ll work hard on Monday, then go lighter on Tuesday, to see if that will get me closer to being able to play games, and get into shape to where I can’t practice as much, but I can play some games.”
Then Roy was asked if he is optimistic about his being able to return this year.
“That’s a hard one,” he said. “There are moments when I don’t know if it will happen again. And then I’ll start working out, building and I get to a place where I have a great workout. Friday I worked out great, and Saturday there was a setback. So I’m disappointed right now. But if it settles down, mentally I think I can start building my confidence to hopefully get back out there.”
And now Rubio:
Rubio is good friends with Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who is going through a difficult season with the Los Angeles Lakers – the Wolves’ opponent Friday at Target Center.
Gasol missed eight games earlier in the season with knee tendonitis. More recently he missed five games with a concussion. Upon his return he has been used mainly off the bench. In the Lakers’ victory over New Orleans on Tuesday Gasol did not play in the fourth quarter, and expressed his displeasure about it afterwards. Gasol, 32, is averaging a career-low 12.8 points per game.
Today Rubio was asked if Gasol was being treated fairly.
“I don’t’ think so,” Rubio said. “He proved in the league that he is one of the best. He can pass, he can shoot, he can rebound. He can do a lot of things. I think if you use him in the right way, he is a top player in this league. If they don’t want him, we are more than welcome to get him.”
At this Rubio laughed. But it’s no secret that Gasol’s name has been linked to trade rumors all season.
“He’s been with the Lakers (five-plus) seasons,” Rubio said. “And he’s been a starter since day one. This year – it seems like It’s been the last two years – it seems they don’t want him. But actually they need him, because he’s a great player. He can do a lot of things. He’s had issues with his knees, and it’s been a lot of years without resting for him. But he’s a veteran, he knows how to play. He’s a great player.”
Rubio said he’s in regular contact with Gasol, as he is with other Spanish players playing in the NBA. “It’s hard when you’re hearing things, rumors that you’re going to be traded,” Rubio said. “But he’s a professional. He’s been playing a long time, and he’s going to keep doing what he’s been doing.”
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be covering tomorrow’s game.
Stuff from practice today:
* Neither Nikola Pekovic nor Alexey Shved will accompany the team to Washington, D.C., today for that two-game trip to play the Wizards and Charlotte on Friday and Saturday.
Shved is closer of the two to returning, but not yet.
He stayed well after practicing running and working with the medical staff. He said afterward that he can run straight fine, but still has some pain when he's cutting on it. He says he has been working twice a day to get back.
"I feel like I really want to play, but I'm really not so ready," he said. "But I really want to."
* Terry Porter reports that J.J. Barea was a little stiff, a little sore during practice from that bruised thigh he got late in Wednesday's game.
"But J.J.'s a trooper," Porter said. "I don't know if that's going to hold him out."
* Porter and Ricky Rubio haven't talked yet about last night's finish, when Rubio never got back on the floor in the game's final minutes and clearly was angry about it.
If you missed it, here's the game story from last night.
Porter addressed the team before practice today and talked about respecting teammates and the game.
Rubio said after practice that he and Porter will get through this.
"I've been working with him while I was trying to get back and he helped me a lot," Rubio said. "I trust him a lot. We are adults. Sometimes I can disagree with him or he can disagree with a player, too, on the court. But we just talk and share thoughts and put it all together."
I asked Porter if he has to be more mindful of communication during this time, keeping everybody together, keeping players' respect with Rick Adelman gone and Porter as acting head coach, "I think everything. It's part of being respectful to whoever is in charge, being respectful to the game, being respectful to your teammates. A lot of that boils from frustration, I'm sure. But it's also, hey, this is an emotional game. I get it. I've been there.
"I can't say I played 17 years and haven't been in a situation where I probably said some things. But we have to make sure it doesn't boil over. It has to be addressed."
Both Porter and Rubio said they will discuss the matter.
The Wolves could have one more able body at acting head coach Terry Porter's disposal Monday in Atlanta.
Dante Cunningham, who missed Saturday's victory over Houston with an illness, missed Sunday's brief practice. But he will accompany the team on the trip to Atlanta for Monday's game. The team believes he will be ready to play by then.
That's the good news.
Unfortunately Alexey Shved's sore left ankle kept him at home, so neither he nor Nikola Pekovic will be available.
That means more minutes for everyone else. Including, perhaps, newcomers Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale, who combined to score the Wolves' first 23 points in the fourth quarter Saturday.
Both Johnson and Gelebale were a bit tired but pretty happy Sunday. Johnson said he got a slew of calls and texts from friends after scoring a career-high 15 points against the Rockets.
Meanwhile, Porter just laughed when asked if he was going to get into any trouble for playing Ricky Rubio for 30 minutes Saturday, two over his limit. "We were trying to take him out," Porter said. "We had J.J. (Barea) at the scorer's table in a timely fashion. They should have fouled."
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