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 just finished their morning shoot minus the still-ailing Mo Williams.
Williams, who missed practice Monday and Tuesday, is still questionable for tonight’s game. It will likely be a game-time decision. If he cannot play rookie Zach LaVine would likely move into the starting point guard spot. But then the question is who plays backup minutes there?
There are no other real ball-handling guards healthy enough to suit up. I would imagine coach Flip Saunders would use some combination of Andrew Wiggins, Corey Brewer or Shabazz Muhammad to handle the ball in a pinch.
Perhaps the Wolves could suit up Lindsay Whalen, who will be in the building being honored for her FIBA Gold Medal during tonight’s game. Just a thought.
Also out tonight: Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin of course. Centers Nikola Pekovic (wrist, ankle) and Ronny Turiaf (hip) are also out.
Meanwhile, Thaddeus Young will return to action for the first time in six games following the death of his Mother, Lula Hall, from breast cancer. Young was very honest and well-spoken about his ordeal on Monday, when he returned to practice for the first time.
On Tuesday the Wolves put out a statement from Young thanking friends, teammates and people from all around the league for their well-wishes. He also made a point of advocating for routine breast exams. “It is up to all of us to encourage women to get screened to help avoid the ravages of this deadly disease,” he said.
Tonight, after getting official permission from the league, all of the Wolves will wear pink shoelaces to raise awareness of breast cancer. The idea was spearheaded by team GM Milt Newton, who called the league to ask how the Wolves might honor Young's mother.
“I just thing something needs to be done,” Young said after today’s morning shoot. “A lot of people they go throughout their lives without going to the doctor, without the proper procedures to get tested. … Me, personally, I think something should definitely be done, and people should urge other people to do so.’’
Young said his mother discovered her cancer not during a routine testing procedure but after finding a lump in her breast.
Young thanked Newton for securing permission from the league to wear the shoelaces, and to his teammates for showing their support.
“It was cool the league allowed us to do that,” Wolves rookie Zach LaVine said. “I was all for it, the whole team was all for it. It’s going to be special for [Young], and we’re going to go out there and play our hearts out.”
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you pre-game with an update on Williams.
Greetings from Target Center where, after a relatively brief Wolves practice, Ricky Rubio – still on crutches – talked with the media for the first time since severely spraining his ankle No. 7 in Orlando.
In true Rubio style, over the course of the 12-minute gathering, he remained mostly upbeat about his situation. Yes, it’s been tough, he said. Especially considering how well he was playing just before his injury. “I was feeling good,” he said. “I think the best I’ve felt in the NBA. Especially the game in Brooklyn (when he had 14 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds). I was feeling like I’d found my tempo. I was leading the team.”
But, Rubio said, it doesn’t do anyone any good to dwell on the past. “It is what it is,” he said. “We can’t look back and take the injury back. So we just have to deal with it. It’s been almost two weeks, so just getting to rehab every day, twice, three times every day. And trying to come back as soon as possible to help the team.”
When will that be? Nobody knows for sure, but Rubio hopes by Christmas.
As usual, Rubio was good for a few laughs. He joked about whether he should have taking the jumper rather than drive to the hoop when he was hurt. When asked about what he was doing with his extra time, he said he was reading books. And, though he’s not a huge fan, he’s been playing video games, including NBA 2K. “I play with myself and score 40 points and I feel like I’m playing again,” he joked.
But he’s just trying to stay positive and do what he can to help the team. And that part of it has changed, too. Rubio thinks of himself as a leader by example. But now he’s not playing, so being a mentor is more difficult. “I have to be more vocal,” he said. “My English is improving, so I can talk to [his young teammates] more often and they understand me finally. I just try to talk with them, see what I see, encourage them. Because they’re young.’’
So the big question, of course, is when he might return. Rubio, who has never dealt with a badly sprained ankle before, said he doesn’t know. He did say his family was visiting from Spain at Christmas and he hopes they’ll be able to watch him play. But there are no guarantees. “I don’t know the time,” he said. “It’s going to depend, everybody’s different. As the doctor, and if he answers that question tell me.”
Until then he will do what he can by watching, observing and talking to his teammates. He said Wednesday’s win was definitely an elixir for him; he said he almost retwisted his ankle jumping up to cheer for Shabazz Muhammad on his alley-oop dunk from Corey Brewer.
“I’ll push hard,” he said about his rehab. “But there are limits.’’
Rubio said he was told he could put some weight on the ankle a few days ago. But, after spending time walking around his house without his crutches his foot swelled up again. So the key is, he said, to take things at the right pace.
“ Because if you push too hard sometimes it’s bad,” he said. “So I always want to go fast, but at the same time I want to make sure that the steps I’m taking forward are the right steps. And, first of all, I want to make sure that my ankle is safe and I can play again.’’
Friday morning Thaddeus Young wasn’t with the Wolves in New Orleans. But he was on their minds, and in their prayers.
Young’s mother, Lulu Hall, died Thursday. Young had left the team to travel to Memphis, Tenn. To be with his mother, and was able to see her before she died. Young will remain with his family for the near future, which means he will miss tonight’s game against the Pelicans and Saturday’s game in Dallas at least.
“The last week she took a turn for the worst,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. “So we talked to him, told him that whenever he needed to go home he could go. Fortunately for him, he was able to get home and have a chance to talk to his mother before she passed away. Our sentiments go out to him and his family. He’s part of our family. She was part of our family. So it’s a sad day for everybody.”
Saunders said Hall had been sick for a while. “She had breast cancer a couple years ago,” he said. “I think it just reared its head.”
Young’s teammates said they would support him any way they could.
“I just sent him a text,” Corey Brewer said after the team’s morning shoot finished. “It’s tough. I know from when my dad passed. I can only imagine how he feels right now. I’m with him. I’m praying for him. All you can do is pray and be there if he needs anything.”
Said Zach LaVine: "We're all going to have a prayer for him."
Meanwhile, the Wolves to have to play a game tonight and figure out a way to at least slow down Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis. Saunders wouldn’t say who would start in Young’s place tonight – “You’ll have to wait until 7:05 tonight to find out,” he said -- but you have to figure that, no matter who starts, both Anthony Bennett and Robbie Hummel will get significant minutes tonight and Saturday.
Saunders also said you could see Gorgui Dieng and Nikola Pekovic on the floor together at times.
“It’s an opportunity,” Saunders. “Everybody has to step up. We don’t have Ricky (Rubio) or Thad, two of our most efficient guys. All of our fours are young guys. So it’s a good opportunity for them to play against maybe the best young player in our league right now.”
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you tonight.
Timberwolves forward Thaddeus Young will miss the team's game tonight in New Orleans and Saturday in Dallas because of the Thursday death of his mother, Lula Hall.
The Wolves released this statement: "The Timberwolves organization is deeply saddened to learn of the passing yesterday of Lula Hall, Thaddeus Young’s mother. The Timberwolves send our condolences to the Young and Hall families in this difficult time. Thad will be away from the team with his family for an indefinite period of time, including tonight’s game at New Orleans and Saturday night’s game at Dallas."
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.
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