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.
Shabazz Muhammad returned to Minnesota a more confident player than the one who went to play four games with the Iowa Energy of the NBA’s Development League.
And this is coming both from Muhammad -- who averaged 24.5 points on 57.1-percent shooting along with 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game – and Wolves president of basketball operations, who was in Des Moines Sunday to watch Muhammad play.
First Muhammad, who returned to the team for day’s practice: “It felt great,” he said about his extended playing time in the D-League. “It felt a little bit like college and high school. I mean, it was a good thing. It gave me a lot of confidence coming into practice today. And I believe I can really help this team out if I just get the opportunity.”
And now Saunders: “He went down, he played hard, he played team basketball,” Saunders said. “He was aggressive. I wanted to see him run the floor and do the things he can do. I think, no question, he gained a little confidence. When you haven’t played much, it’s nice to get down there and just play. I thought he did a lot of good things.”
All that said, of course, when that opportunity to play extensively for the Wolves is unknown. For the first time in nearly two years Wolves coach Rick Adelman has an entirely healthy roster to work with. With backup center Ronny Turiaf back and a healthy Chase Budinger to help spread the floor for the second unit, it’s going to be hard for Adelman to find minutes, especially for a rookie.
“We have 15 guys,” Adelman said. “Only so many guys can play. But, in this league, things can happy very quickly, and you’ve got to be ready all the time. I think he’s proven with his attitude and everything else.’’
This is a situation Muhammad said he understood. “Whatever the coaches do, I’m going to respect,” he said. “And I’m going to wait my turn.’’
Here are some other items from today’s practice:
--Saunders identified four things that have hurt the Wolves at different times in close losses this season: Free throw shooting down the stretch, getting multiple defensive stops, turnovers, and finding the second option on offense when the first option isn’t there. “Those are the things we continue to work on every day,” Saunders said. “Even though I’ve been a coach, I’m pretty patient on things because I look at this team and I realize we’ve played 37 games. These guys have only played 37 games together. So it’s a work in progress.’’
--Adelman was asked if Budinger might be a candidate to start going forward. The answer: his current 18-minute time limit (though he played 22 minutes in San Antonio. “I couldn’t get him out of the game,” Adelman said, defending himself) would make that a moot point in the short run. “I haven’t even thought about that,” Adelman said.
--The new method for putting together All Star teams will make it harder for Wolves center Nikola Pekovic to make the Western Conference squad. But Pekovic, who has averaged 22.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in January, is definitely worthy, according to Saunders. "I had some people, this was three, four weeks into the season, question me and say, 'How could you be happy with Pek's signing? don't you think you made a big mistake?' At that time, I said no. I knew over the summertime that Pek had not played at all, and when a guy hasn't played for the first time in seven, eight years, it's going to take some time. ... It was just taking time to get his body to where he wanted it to be. Our medical people have worked a lot with him abou this flexibility. There's no qustion right now that if they had not changed the rules on the All Star games that he would be an All Star. So our job now is to push, because I think he's deserving of being an All Star. He's one of the top big guys in the league.''
--Monday was Turiaf's 31st birthday, and the team concluded practice by singing Happy Birthday to him.
That’s about it for now. Have a great rest of your day.
Tuesday morning the NBA announced that the refs had made a mistake at the end of Monday’s Wolves-Mavericks game, that Shawn Marion did foul Kevin Love, and that Love should have had a chance to tie the game with two free throws with 1 second left in a 100-98 loss.
Tuesday afternoon Love and Wolves coach Rick Adelman said, basically: So what?
“It doesn’t matter,” Adelman said, rather gruffly. “It’s over with. It doesn’t do any good to think about it now.’’
Love, while considerably more verbose, essentially said the same thing:
“Coach told me they said they messed it up,” he said. “I said, ‘Well, how does that help?’ We both just shook our heads. But life goes on. We had a good day at practice today. We’ve got another team coming in tomorrow that’s in the same position we’re in. They need a win. And we just need to get over the hump.”
After the game Adelman talked about how he felt other high-profile players might have gotten the call Love didn’t. Love was asked about that. “I don’t know if it’s a thing about superstar calls or star calls,” he said. “I don’t know what it is. I just think, like I said last night, when you see an obvious foul out there, you call it. We just move on today. (The league) acknowledged it, but it’s not like they’re gonna do anything different now the next game. We’re just gonna keep on playing.’’
Indeed, both Adelman and Love talked about working on things they could change – like better energy to start games, better defense throughout games and doing better at closing out games -- than to free about a call they could not change.
That’s about it for now. Have a great rest of your day.
The good news Thursday was that Chase Budinger, in his first practice since being cleared for basketball activity, reported that his surgically-repaired left knee felt fine.
The rest of his body? Not so much.
“I wasn’t thinking about it very much,” Budinger said of his knee. "I was more just thinking how tired my legs got out there, how my shot became short and my legs and my quads and my feet were burning.’’
No timetable has been set for Budinger’s return to action. But, at this point, the biggest hurdle to overcome might not be the knee at all. It is the rest of his body, which has to get back to game shape.
“It’s kind of a little bit of everything,” he said. “We’ll see tomorrow how my knee feels, how the rest of my body feels. But the biggest thing I felt today was the bottom of my feet. Halfway through out there, my feet were starting to burn. That’s just something that you’ve got to get used to again.”
Here are some other items from today’s practice:
--A day later Wolves coach Rick Adelman was still shaking his head at Portland’s ability to come back. Down 32 points in the second quarter, the Blazers cut it within five points late in the game, primarily on the three-point shooting of Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum.
“With the way defenses are, if you move the ball, somebody’s going to end up with a wide-open three,” Adelman said. “And so (the game) is going that way. But they have five guys shooting 40 (percent) or above. So I’d let ‘em shoot it if I was their coach. They’re a very talented team. That’s what scares you. They can come back quick once they start making their threes.’’
--Both Kevin Martin (sore knee) and Dante Cunningham (ankle) came out of last night’s game feeling fine and were not limited at all in practice.
That’s about it for now. Have a great day.
Chase Budinger was back on the Target Center court Monday, taking shots.
But, at this point, that’s about all he’s doing, at least as far as basketball is concerned. Budinger, the Timberwolves forward, is still working his way back from Sept. 30 surgery on the same right knee he had work done on a season ago.
The good news is that this second procedure was not as extensive, and he should be back more quickly than he was last year. Budinger originally injured the meniscus in the knee on Nov. 10, 2012 in Chicago, and didn’t return to action until March 21, 2013. He hopes to be back more quickly this time, but no timetable has been set for his return.
“I’m just taking it week by week,” Budinger said after practice today. “I am progressing, very well, each week. But I can’t really tell when I’ll be back practicing or playing. Right now it’s going slow, we’re taking our time, getting it right, getting it strong so when I do get on the court it will be 100 percent.’’
Budinger had the surgery done by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. And Budinger remained there for the initial rehabilitation after the surgery before returning to Minneapolis late last week. Budinger made his first appearance at Target Center before Saturday’s game with Boston, when he went around the team’s locker room greeting his teammates.
Budinger, a California native, said he got a bit lonely at times while in Florida.
“It was very difficult when I got the news and how it happened right before the season,” said Budinger, who experienced soreness in his knee as he ramped up workouts before training camp started. “But I’ve been staying positive. I’ve actually had some help from my family. They bought books. I remember my uncle sent me like 10 books, all about the mental game, about staying ready, all this stuff. I’ve been reading those on my down time, and just staying positive knowing I’m going to be back on the court.”
At this point, besides doing some shooting, Budinger is doing a lot of exercises designed to strengthen the knee and the leg. He’s also doing some jogging on a treadmill. “Each week it’s getting better, it’s feeling stronger, and I’ve got to keep continuing that until it gets to full strength.”
Meanwhile, the Wolves actually got in a practice Monday before boarding a plane for Washington to embark on another stretch of five games in seven nights. The Wolves finished up such a stretch against Boston Saturday, and coach Rick Adelman continues to be crabby about his team’s early-season schedule. The Wolves have two back-to-backs in the coming week. They will return from Washington on Wednesday to play a Clippers team that had Tuesday off. They will play on the back end of a back-to-back in Houston on Saturday against a Rockets team that had two days’ rest.
“I don’t know if [the league] knows we’re almost to Canada and Houston’s almost all the way to Mexico,” Adelman said. “That doesn’t’ seem like a real good back-to-back to me.’’
Here is Adelman on a few subjects:
On finally getting a practice in: We have five in seven games and four in five days with the travel, so we did some things, but they weren’t real enthusiastic about it,” he said. “We went through some things offensively just to talk about things we need to clean up, and to talk a little about Washington defensively.’’
On the Wizards: “It’s a talented team,” Adelman said. “I think that’s why there’s a lot of frustration there. From what we read, there’s a lot of frustration there. I think they’re going to be a good team at the end, but right now they’re struggling.’’
A couple final things: Adelman had no update on center Ronny Turiaf’s elbow. Shabazz Muhammad, who missed the last two games with an ankle sprain, was able to practice today but was still sore.
That’s about it. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow.
We’ve all been inundated with Kevin Love stats of late in the wake of his great start. But, for all of them, one stat stuck out. Last night Love scored 33 points with eight rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers. And he only needed 16 shots to get to those 33 points. According to a tweet by @statcenter, no other player in modern NBA history has done a 33-8-6-0 with less than 20 field goals attempted.
Yes, this is another stat might be rather arcane. But I think it speaks to the efficiency with which Love is playing at the moment. He’s second in the league in scoring and I don’t remember him taking too many bad shots.
That, coupled with his willingness and ability to pass the ball, has made him even more formidable.
“He’s really taking that on,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after today’s practice. “Every good player or great player in this league gets better every year at something new. They just don’t do one thing and that’s all they do. I think that was his next step, to be a facilitator.’’
Love, meanwhile, said he tries hard not to take much notice when folks start comparing him to Moses Malone and the like.
“It’s definitely flattering to hear those names,” he said. “Guys I grew up either watching or studying tape or just trying to emulate in my back yard. But, more than anything, I’m just excited about winning.”
--Yet another stat: There have been seven first quarters in which 38 or more points have been scored in the league this season. The Wolves have four of them.
--Meanwhile, Kevin Martin was back at practice today and is full-go for tomorrow’s game in Denver. He watched Wednesday’s game on TV and said the way the team played may have cured him. “I started feeling better after the first half last night,” he said. “The team made me feel a lot better.’’
-And yet another stat, tweeted out by Wolves play-by-play man Alan Horton last night. Ricky Rubio had a career-high 16 assists last night. Every one of them resulted in either a three-pointer or a shot from within three feet of the basket.
That is making your team better. It’s not like Rubio was picking up cheap assists by throwing the ball to someone for a 17-footer.
“I just liked the way he played last night,” Adelman said. “He picked and chose his spots. He had a good rhythm to the game as far as the flow for us. He got us up and down the court. There’s times when he tries too hard to make something happen. Last night, I think he just saw what was there and he took it and found the right people. He’ll grow and figure that out more and more as the season goes on.”
-- Robbie Hummel proved Wednesday how important it is for a player to be ready when an opportunity comes along, scoring 10 points in his first NBA start with Martin ill.
“I was proud of Robbie,” Martin said. “The journey he took to get here, and then get an opportunity like that? I was a proud big brother for Robbie last night. That’s why you work hard in practice. You could be the 12th man one night and the sixth man the next. You have to be ready for your opportunity, like Robbie was last night.’’
--One final item: The Wolves expect Chase Budinger to return from Florida this weekend so they can monitor his recovery from October knee surgery here. Budinger has been rehabilitating in Pensacola, Fla., and jogging on a treadmill there, but is not yet cleared or close to practicing with the team or playing, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said.
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