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 likely will start four players with a year's experience or less Wednesday night against New York at Target Center now that starters Nikola Pekovic, Thad Young and, yes, Ricky Rubio aren't expected to play.
Coach Flip Saunders said after Tuesday's practice that Pekovic is out the rest of the week not because of that troublesome sore ankle but because of a sprained right wrist sustained in Saturday's loss at Dallas.
Saunders said managing Pekovic's soreness and pain in his ankle/foot is an ongoing issue, but said his absence for games against the Knicks, Spurs and Kings is due to the wrist injury.
He said Pekovic will be evaluated early next week.
Young also is out at least until Sunday while he's away from the team following his mother's death. Her funeral is Friday.
Rubio was at practice again today, on crutches. Saunders said Rubio's sprained ankle won't be evaluated until he is off crutches and can place some weigh to that foot, which probably will be sometime next week.
For now, the Wolves are expected to start rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine as well as second-year players Anthony Bennett and Gorgui Dieng.
"We'll be a little undermanned, but we'll be ready to go," Saunders said after Tuesday's practice. "No one got hurt today, so that's a positive."
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.
Wolves president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders made it official today, announcing J.J. Barea had been waived after the team reached a negotiated buyout with the veteran guard.
That means Barea will be free to sign with another team, and that Flip decided to go with rookie Glenn Robinson for the final roster spot. For Saunders, the decision came down to the direction he wants to take the team.
“We thought it best to go in a different direction,” Saunders said. “J.J. has been a consummate pro. I thought he had a very good training camp for us, and played really well in the preseason. He’s been a pro, he’s done everything we asked him to do. And so we wish him well moving forward.”
But the Wolves have committed themselves to developing their young roster.
“I think it was a situation that, with Mo Williams coming in, [Barea} didn’t feel he’d get as much of an opportunity,” Saunders said. “ And we also felt that Glenn Robinson has a chance to be a very good player in this league. And so what happens is, when you make a decision as an organization to go in a certain direction… you either have to be committed to it or not.’’
Barea is reportedly interested in signing with Dallas, the team he was with before coming to the Wolves., after he clears waivers.
Barea spent three seasons with the team. He averaged 11.3 points in each of his first two seasons here, 8.4 points per game last season. Barea was due just over $4.5 million this season, the final year of his contract.
That means that Ricky Rubio and Williams will handle the bulk of the point guard duties, with rookie first-round draft pick Zach LaVine as the No. 3, though Saunders indicated that the team likely wouldn’t need a third point guard that often. “But Zach would be the third [point] guard in that situation,” Saunders said. “As we get into it, we simplify game plans as we go in, so it will be easier for Zach to play in those situations as we move forward.’’
In other news, Andrew Wiggins, who returned full-time to practice Sunday, was fine Monday and is set for the opener. Saunders said all 15 players on the roster are healthy.
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.
The Wolves are starting Ronny Turiaf, Thad Young, Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea tonight against an injury-depleted Oklahoma City team in Tulsa.
Where'd that lineup come from?
Answer: From practice yesterday.
That was the team out of three split up for practice that won the most scrimmages at BOK Center Saturday afternoon, so that's who's starting.
Coach Flip Saunders said he'll experiment with different lineups tonight, "depending on how things go"
Martin will play for the first time this preseason now that he's deemed recovered from that groin injury, but Shabazz Muhammad won't play tonight after he returned yesterday for his first hard practice back from that heel injury.
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