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.
I hate to speak too soon but...
It looks like the Wolves are about to finally play in Mexico City.
The 75-minute mark before the game -- the time when smoke billowed into the Mexico City Arena 11 months ago postponing the Wolves-San Antonio game -- has long come and gone and it sure looks like all systems are go.
Zach LaVine again will start at point guard for the Wolves with Ricky Rubio back home in Minnesota tending to his significantly sprained ankle.
Anthony Bennett is expected to play after he missed the two games in Florida with that swollen knee he bumped against Chicago in the season's third game.
Rubio and rookie Glenn Robinson III are the team's two inactive players tonight. Guard Patrick Beverley and forward Terrence Jones.won't play for the Rockets.
Why, yes, Zach LaVine is going to have to grow up now that Ricky Rubio probably at least a month and maybe more with that significantly sprained ankle.
In a hurry.
Flip Saunders is starting him tonight in Rubio's spot against the Heat in Miami and here are a couple reasons why after Saunders said he had a long talk with Mo Williams today:
* He thinks LaVine, a rookie who still is very much learning the point-guard position, will benefit from playing with the team's veteran starters -- Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Thaddeus Young -- rather than playing with other young players on the second unit.
* And he wants to limit Williams -- the team's oldest player at age 31 -- to about 25 minutes a game, no more than 30 per for sure and starting LaVine with the veterans is an organic way to more evenly distribute minutes and keep Williams' playing time down.
As for Rubio, Saunders said he and the team won't know much more until the next two weeks are up. He said he expects Rubio to be on crutches for the next 10 days to two weeks, He said the MRI taken today makes them certain there is no fracture, but he said there's still a chance they could discover in two weeks that Rubio has a "high ankle" sprain, which is a slower healing injury.
A MRI taken in Miami on Ricky Rubio’s injured ankle confirmed a “significant” sprain and he is out indefinitely.
It’ll likely be at least two weeks until the team has a better idea the damage caused when he badly rolled his ankle just before halftime of Friday’s 112-103 overtime loss at Orlando.
The injury was not diagnosed as a “high ankle” sprain, which is good news because that’s a slow-healing injury that can take six to eight weeks or more to heal.
The MRI also confirmed there is no fracture.
Rubio is in Miami with the team, but will not be at the arena for tonight’s game against the Heat.
He is expected to return home to Minneapolis sometime this weekend and will not travel on the rest of this trip that will take the team to Mexico City, New Orleans and Dallas.
If I had to guess, and it’s just me spit-balling here, I’d say he’s out at least three to four weeks.
Rubio was injured late in Friday’s second quarter in Orlando when he drove the lane toward the basket and he badly turned his ankle, it almost bending over and touching the floor. The play drew on a foul, but he also ended up under the basket writhing in pain.
After being attended to, he was helped by teammates and the Wolves’ training staff off the floor to keep weight off that ankle.
He was x-rayed immediately in the arena and made his way back to the locker room on crutches.
We'll get an idea how mature these young-ish Wolves are by the end of tonight's game at Orlando.
We'll see if they can handle a little success.
That success is a 2-2 record that included Wednesday's comeback victory at Brooklyn. Now they've got a game that's eminently winnable, the first night of back-to-back games that take them to Miami Saturday night.
We'll also see how Flip Saunders manages minutes in back-to-back games.
Saunders said he'll coach the game as he normally does and then make adjustments with minutes and rotations in Miami if he needs to do so.
He said the 32 minutes Nikola Pekovic played in Wednesday's dominant performance over Brook Lopez "might be a little high even," but he said the game's moderate pace allowed him to play Pekovic that much.
"It was a slower game," Saunders said. "He didn't have to get up and down the floor as much."
He said he'll play Gorgui Dieng more minutes Saturday if he has to.
He also might call upon Ronny Turiaf that night to play for the first time this season. Turiaf is inactive again tonigjht -- along with Glenn Robinson III -- even though he looked pretty ready to play duriing Thursday's scrimmages in Orlando.
The Wolves begin a six-game trip that takes them all the way to Mexico City next week and back again tonight at Brooklyn.
It'll reunite Wolves coach Flip Saunders, Sam Mitchell and Sidney Lowe with Nets star Kevin Garnett, whom Saunders and Lowe coached and with whom Mitchell played long ago.
"I'm excited to coach against him tonight," Saunders said before the game. "I'll always have a soft spot. I had him when he was 18 years old. Sam was with us. We've had a huge part in seeing develop as a player, seen him become Da Kid and eventually The Man.'"
Tonight's game also puts together on opposite sidelines Saunders and new Nets coach Lionel Hollins.
Saunders interviewed Hollins for the Wolves' open job last April, but conversations didn't go much further than that.
Saunders said Kevin Love's uncertain future affected his decision not to pursue Hollins any further.
"It was just an interview," Hollins said. "They hired somebody else. That's where it went."
Saunders, of course, ended up hiring himself for the job.
One more thing:
Thad Young is set to start tonight game, four nights after he got knocked out of Saturday's game when he was elbowed in the head. He said this morning he's fine and ready to play.
The Wolves' only injury concern is Ronny Turiaf's still sore hip. He's inactive tonight but Saunders said he was hopeful Turiaf will be available in the coming games at Orlando and Miami.
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