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, where the Wolves will tip off with Miami in about an hour.
Here are some pre-game notes:
--Coach Flip Saunders said Ricky Rubio came out OK from his first action Monday in Dallas. He was asked why he took Rubio out near the end of the game. It wasn’t just a minutes-limit thing:
“He was favoring (his left ankle) a little bit down the stretch,” Saunders said. “So I didn’t want to do anything. When you’re coming back, and you’re rehabbing, and it’s a little bit weak, you don’t want to take a chance. But he seemed OK.’’
Rubio will again be held to a minute limit of between 20 and 22 minutes, Saunders said.
--Center Nikola Pekovic has been experiencing more ankle soreness of late. So Saunders said the team needs to do a better job of monitoring Pek’s minutes. Saunders said he’d even consider not playing Pekovic on the back end of back-to-back games.
--Zach LaVine, who has missed two games with a twisted left ankle, is available to play tonight. But Saunders said he will avoid playing the rookie if he can help it, so that ankle has a little bit more time to heal.
--Saunders is hoping Shabazz Muhammad, who will miss his 14th game tonight because of an oblique muscle strain, could return either Friday or Sunday.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after the game.
Ricky Rubio will play tonight against the Mavericks in Dallas, presumably no more than 20 minutes.
Flip Saunders said that's the minutes limit for his star point guard who hasn't played a game since severely spraining his ankle in a Nov. 7 game at Orlando.
Expect Rubio will start and don't be surprised, if all goes well, if he plays more than that limit.
Rubio talked before the game about the growth he has gained in three months away, as a teammate, a leader and what he called a "coach."
He also said his shot has more arc and is improved from work with shooting coach Mike Penberthy during all that time when his upper body functioned while he healed his leg.
Rubio likely will be matched up against Mavs guard Devin Harris now that Rajon Rondo is out at least three games because of facial injuries sustained in Saturday's game.
One of Rubio's agents and one of his friends from Minneapolis have flown in for the game.
Ricky Rubio participated in this morning's shootaround in Dallas and said he'll play tonight IF his ankle feels right after pre-game warmups.
"I mean, if it feels good, I'm going to be back," he said. "It depends how it goes. If I don't feel ready in the warmups, I won't be playing. I don't know, we'll see."
Rubio has not played since severely spraining his left ankle on Nov. 7 in Orlando. He has missed the last 42 games.
Veteran Mo Williams said he expects to play after missing the last two games because of a hip pointer.
That would give the Wolves three options at point guard tonight against a Mavericks team missing starting point guard Rajon Rondo.
Newly signed Lorenzo Brown had to play all but five seconds in Saturday's home loss to Cleveland because he was the only healthy point guard the Wolves had.
Rookie Zach LaVine won't play tonight, btw. He missed Saturday's game because of an ankle he sprained Friday in Philadelphia.
Flip Saunders said Saturday that Rubio would likely play "a few minutes" in his return.
Apparently, Rubio only returns against the Mavericks. They were the team he faced in December 2012 in his return after nine months gone following knee surgery. He was supposed to be play very limited minutes that night, too, and ended up delivering an 18-minute, 9-assist performance achieved mostly through the rush of adrenaline.
Asked if he was tempted to play Saturday when Kevin Love returned to Target Center on an emotional sold-out night, he said, "As soon as I step up in the warmups, the arena was already full. It was a great atmosphere but I wasn't feeling ready. So let's see tonight."
Rubio and some of his teammates, including Gorgui Dieng and Robbie Hummel, watched Sunday's Super Bowl at former teammate J.J. Barea's place in Dallas.
"We had a bet between him and me," Rubio said. "He bet for the Patriots, I bet for the Seahawks and it didn't go well. It was a straight bet and I almost got it. I don't know they didn't go for Marshawn Lynch, but it was a fun game to watch."
The Mavericks said today that Rondo will miss at least three games because of nasal and orbital bone fractures sustained when Orlando's Richard Jefferson inadvertently kneed him in the face in Saturday's game.
Devin Harris will start in his place.
I'll make this prediction about tonight's game at Philadelphia: I bet tonight's returning son gets more cheers from the hometown crowd than tomorrow night's.
Tonight, it's Thaddeus Young's return to Philly, where he played his first seven NBA seasons.
The 76ers welcomed him back warmly. When he arrived at Wells Fargo Center, he found a hand-written note from GM Sam Hinkie and three of his Sixers jerseys framed set on easels near his locker.
"It was a great seven years, an amazing seven years," Young told reporters before tonight's game. "But it's a business, so you have to move on."
Tomorrow night's game is, of course, Kevin Love's retun to Target Center for first time since last August's trade that sent him to Cleveland.
Anticipating a sellout, the Wolves plan to sell 500 standing-room-only seats -- at $25 each -- Saturday morning starting at 10 am.
A couple other things:
* Veteran guard Mo Williams has rejoined the team after being away Wednesday to attend a funeral, but will not play because of that hip he hurt Sunday in Atlanta.
The Wolves again will go with Zach LaVine and newcomer Lorenzo Brown at the point.
* Flip Saunders ruled out Ricky Rubio for either of this next two weekend games, but left open the possibility that he could return next week, possibly as soon as Monday at Dallas.
* Kevin Martin will come off the bench tonight for second straight game.
Well, it was a pretty busy pre-game period tonight, with a lot of news, notes and quotes. Without further ado:
--Yes, Kevin Martin will play tonight, for the first time since he broke his right (shooting) wrist Nov. 19 against New York. He will not start, but come off the bench. Neither he nor coach Flip Saunders is really sure what his conditioning is like. But, as Martin said, “If my shots are going in, I probably won’t be tired. If they’re not, I’ll be tired.’’
--Yes, recently-signed Lorenzo Brown will play tonight. Has to, with Mo Williams away from the team for personal reasons. Saunders said Brown could play up to 15 minutes tonight. He also said that Brown was the best point guard at the recently-completed D-League showcase.
--Saunders said Rubio could return to action next week. Rubio was doing some reaction drills at midcourt after this morning’s shoot-around. Here’s what Flip said. “We might see him next week some time,” Saunders said. “The end of next week. We’ll play it by ear, and we’ll see.”
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after the game.
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