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.
Wolves forward Dante Cunningham has joined the team in Orlando for tonight's game against the Magic.
Coach Rick Adelman said Cunningham will play and he not only played, he started when Kevin Love was a late scratch because of back spasms following last night's double-overtime victory at Miami.
According to the NBA's labor agreement with its players, Cunningham has a right to go back to work while the legal process plays out in his felony domestic assault charge submitted Friday in Hennepin County Court.
Cunningham declined comment through a team spokesman and almost certainly will not say anything about it while the process progresses.
The NBA doesn't discipline players for their legal matters until a player pleads guilty or is found guilty.
Other news tonight:
* Nikola Pekovic again won't play tonight and with the clock ticking on the season's end, it's getting more and more likely with each passing game that he doesn't play again this season. If he's still going to have to play through pain, what's the point?
* Chase Budinger will start in Kevin Martin's place at shooting guard.
Martin will miss his second consecutive game because of what he calls a shooting pain in his heel that started bothering him after Wednesday's Memphis game.
Budinger is the better fit against Magic guard Arron Afflalo rather than J.J. Barea, who started last night in Miami.
* Shabazz Muhammad won't play tonight because of what he called a sprained knee injured Friday in Miami when Chris Andersen fell into his leg.
Muhammad said he's hopeful the injury heals in a matter of days, but there's not many days left.
Busy news morning on this Thursday for the Wolves...
Forward Dante Cunningham was arrested shortly after 6 a.m. by police in Medina on suspicion of domestic assault. He is not traveling with team on its afternoon flight to Miami today.
Our news story is here.
The team waived little-used veteran point guard A.J. Price this morning, a decision that was made, I'm told, last night before the Cunningham arrest but which clears the way to sign a player to Price's now vacant roster spot for the season's remaining eight games.
It's likely, depending how the Cunningham situation plays out, that player will be a power forward or combo forward type.
Just as FYI: Cunningham's contract -- a $2.2 million salary -- expires after this season and he will be an unrestricted free agent in July. His return next season was a question before Thursday morning's arrest.
Price underwent an appendectomy March 9 and recently was cleared to play again but hadn't made it off the inactive list on game nights.
Wolves center Gorgui Dieng on Tuesday was named the Western Conference’s Rookie of the Month for March for his double-double performances while he replaced injured Nikola Pekovic as the team’s starter for six games.
Dieng is the fifth Wolves rookie to win the award, joining Ricky Rubio (January 2012), Kevin Love (March 2009), Randy Foye (December 2006) and Stephon Marbury (January 1997).
Dieng averaged 8.6 points and 8.3 rebounds during March, but 12.1 points on 64.5 percent shooting and 12 rebounds a game in the month’s last nine games, including those six starts.
He became the first player since Elden Campbell in 1991 to reach 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots in his first NBA start.
His 22-point, 21-rebound game at Houston on March 20 made him the fifth player in Wolves history to reach a 20-20 game. He also became the sixth player in record a 20-20 game within his first three career starts since the NBA started keeping track of starts in 1970. The others: Dave Cowens, Larry Smith, Terry Cummings, Roy Tarpley and Enes Kanter.
Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams was named the East’s Rookie of the Month.
Now Dieng likely will become the team's starter again after Pekovic left Monday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers after fewer than seven minutes and could be sidelined once again because of pain in his ankle.
Wolves center Nikola Pekovic came through Friday night's 21-minute return after six games away injured fine apparently and will start tonight against the Nets in Brooklyn.
Former Wolves Kevin Garnett (back spasms) and Andrei Kirilenko (ankle) are out again for the Nets. So, too, is Nets center Brook Lopez.
The Nets are going for their 13th consecutive home victory, which would tie the franchise record set in 2002.
They're also aiming for the 12th victory in March, which would match the most in the Nets' NBA history.
They haven't lost at Barclays Center since a Jan. 31 loss to Oklahoma City, 120-95.
A couple other things before tonight's 6 p.m. Central time tip:
* Kevin Love sat on a dolly outside the Wolves' locker room before tonight's game and chatted at length with agent Jeff Schwartz, who is based in New York City.
* Corey Brewer sat at his locker room before the game and calculated the Wolves' upcoming schedule to see if he could get to Dallas to watch his Florida Gators play in the Final Four.
The Wolves play Saturday night at Orlando, so the semifinal game is out. They don't play that Monday night -- championship-game night -- but then play San Antonio and Chicago at home back to back Tuesday and Wednesday.
Teammate A.J. Price sat beside him and told him don't worry about Monday because the Gators won't be playing then anyway.
Yes, Price's UConn Huskies advanced to the Final Four on Sunday and will play Brewer's Gators on Saturday.
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.
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