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 Detroit Pistons arrive at Target Center tonight 13 games under .500 and...just three games behind Atlanta for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
The Wolves, meanwhile, are even at 30-30 and five games behind Dallas for the West's final spot and the clock is ticking loudly.
If the season ended today, both Charlotte and Atlanta would make the playoffs in the East with losing records.
And Memphis with a 34-26 record would miss out in the West.
"I just think that's the way it is," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said about the disparity between the strength of the two conferences. "There's nothing you can do about it."
That said, Adelman suggested the league should be "aggressive" in seeking ways to modify the playoffs to make them more equitable.
"You look at each year as it comes and see if there's any way to tweak it," he said. "This is just one of those years you have to deal with."
The Knicks came to Target Center Wednesday with a 21-40 record and yet were about as far away from the playoffs as the Wolves are.
Then the Wolves went out and got run over from the start.
Tonight, they face a physical Pistons team with a talented frontcourt. Another loss could just about end any realistic ambitions the Wolves have to catch up and claim a playoff spot.
The Denver Nuggets went 1-8 without star guard Ty Lawson in the lineup for most of February, but he's coming back from a fractured rib just in time for tonight's game in Denver against a Wolves team looking to end its longest road trip of the season 4-1.
Lawson will start for the Nuggets and he told coach Brian Shaw he's ready to play all 48 minutes, which, of course, he won't do.
Shaw said he expects Lawson to be a "little rusty" but added the response of Lawson's teammates at Monday's shootaround is an indication that whatever Lawson can give will be good.
"Everybody was in a good mood because of that," he said, referring to Lawson's return. "When you add that element of speed, he makes everything easier for everybody else."
Wolves coach Rick Adelman called the Nuggets a "totally different team" with their most explosive player back.
"He's the guy who gets their engine going," Adelman said. "The first two times they had him, we lost. We have to find ways to control him."
The Wolves lost to the Nuggets twice in November when Lawson played and thumped Denver at home last month during that nine-game stretch when he was out injured.
Both Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin said before tonight's game that they came through Saturday's return at Sacramento feeling fine physically.
: it’s a totally different team, he’s the guy who gets their engine going, they’ve got five in a row and 1-8 woithout him, so he’s back, all those athletes they have, he delviers the ball and gets them going, so its first two times they had him, we lost, we have to find ways to cpnotrol him
Wolves just wrapped up shootaround in Sacramento with Rick Adelman back after he returned from three days away and both Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin said afterward they are well enough to start and play against the Kings.
How much, neither could say.
Both practiced and scrimmaged 5-on-5 with their teammates on Thursday and Friday in Phoenix to prepare themselves to play again after weeks away.
"Two days to work out and I wake up not sore or nothing," Pekovic said. "The pain still is going to be there but hopefully it's not going to get worse. You can handle certain amount of pain. I just hope I don't go over it. For now, it's good. The last few days have been good. My conditioning is going to come, of course. I'll need four or five days to come back to that shape I was before. I'm more concerned about than my conditioning."
Still, he'll have to come back after a month away by banging with big Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who returns tonight after serving a one-game suspension for Friday's game against the Lakers in L.A.
Martin said he'll still have pain, too, in that healing fractured thumb on his left shooting hand and said he used the last two days of practice to figure out how to catch with it.
"I'm sure I'll figure out more during the game," he said. "I have a good idea. Right now, it's just about getting back out there and helping the team in whatever way you can...I feel good enough to play. Couple good days of practice and everything felt good, so I'm ready to play."
Martin said he isn't concerned about his conditioning. He hasn't played since breaking that thumb Feb. 7 at New Orleans. Pekovic has played since Jan. 27 at Chicago because of ankle bursitis.
"Maybe a little but hopefully not once you get in a game and your adrenaline starts going,," Martin said when asked if he thinks conditioning will be a factor. "I'm a little gazelle, skinny guy. I can run all day."
Adelman was back at shoot after he flew home following Tuesday's victory at Phoenix to spend that three-day break with his wife, Mary Kay.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman flew home to Minneapolis after Tuesday's 110-101 comeback victory at Phoenix to spend a rare three-day break during a five-game road trip with his wife, Mary Kay.
She has not experienced further issues with a seizure condition that caused him to miss 11 games in January 2013 and a Feb. 10 home game against Houston, a team source said.
The Wolves will not practice Wednesday in Phoenix because they played three games in four nights ending Tuesday.
Assistant coach Terry Porter will coach practice Thursday and Friday in Phoenix before the team leaves later in the day on Friday for Sacramento.
Adelman is expected to meet the team there.
Kevin Martin won't play tonight at Phoenix after visting a hand specialist on Monday in Los Angeles and Nikola Pekovic sounded doubtful that he could play either.
Martin declined an interview request after the team's morning shootaround. A team spokesman said Martin's fractured left thumb is "progressing well" but he won't play tonight and is uncertain for Saturday's game at Sacramento, the fourth game on this five-game trip.
Pekovic worked out hard on his own with the team's coaching and training staff at Arizona State on Monday after the team arrived from Portland and said he needs more treatment and a workout later today before he knows whether he can play "some minutes" tonight.
The team called him "questionable" for the game, but he sounded more unlikely than that.
"I still can't really promise anything, unfortunately," he said. "I would play to play today. Still I got to do some things and we'll see how that goes. I mean, I wish I could tell you 100 percent, but I didn't do know.":
Pekovic played just six minutes in a Jan. 27 game at Chicago and hasn't played since then. Tonight will be his 13th consectuive missed game.
After that Chicago game, the team announced Pekovic had bursitis in his ankle and would be re-evaluated seven to 10 days later.
"It's just tough, going through all this stuff," he said. "I'm trying to make it better. I try to work really hard and I can't really play. All of a sudden, you feel pain and sometimes, you don't feel pain. Sometimes I don't know what's really right or what's not. It has just been really frustrating to em. It was like seven to 10 days and now it has been like four weeks. It's one of those things that's really frustrating. I really want to play."
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