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.
Spurs sixth-man Manu Ginobili is out for tonight's game against the Timberwolves in San Antonio because of a troublesome hamstring.
You might remember he and Tony Parker combined for 28 fourth-quarter points the last time the Wolves played here and they brought the Spurs back to win from a nine-point deficit that night last month.
"It changes things," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said before tonight's game. "With him and Parker, they both us last time, big time in the fourth quarter. He's a guy who can get to the basket and finish plays. But the way they play their system, they just plug the other people in and keep going."
Spurs center Tiago Splitter (sprained shoulder) also won't play in the 6 p.m. start game.
The Wolves, meanwhile, again for the second straight game are fully healthy for the first time since March 3, 2012, Adelman's first season here.
Also, Kevin Love scored 42 points in last month's loss here, and he made eight of nine threes that night before Gregg Popovich put Boris Diaw on him and the Spurs throttled down on him in the fourth quarter.
Diaw will start tonight in Splitter's absence and you can be sure Love will see a good bit of him.
The Wolves this afternoon told little-used rookie forward Shabazz Muhammad he's being assigned to their D-League affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, so he'll get a chance to play.
The Wolves will send a staff member with him to Iowa on Sunday during his D-League stay, which will last at least a week and four games.
He'll play in two games with the Energy at next week's D-League Showcast in Reno, Nevada, and then will play two games the following weekend, including a Jan. 12 game in Des Moines that Flip Saunders will attend.
Saunders called it the "right time" for Muhammad to get some playing time: The holidays are over and Chase Budinger will be back any game now, further crowding that small-forward posotion.
"He can play more minutes in those four or five games down there than he might play here all year," Saunders said.
Saunders said he hasn't considered asking Hummel and rookie center Gorgui Dieng to do the same because both have been part of coach Rick Adelman's rotation and Saunders and Adelman both like Dieng's physical presence in practices because his length and shot-blocking skills challenge big men Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love, among others.
Muhammad has played sparingly in just 11 of 32 games so far this season. He was drafted 14th overall after Saunders swung a draft-night trade that sent the No. 9 pick to Utah for picks 14 and 21. The Jazz took Michigan guard Trey Burke with that ninth pick and Burke recently is playing his way into Rookie of the Year consideration on a bad Jazz team.
The NBA this morning issued a statement from basketball ops president Rod Thorn that says last night's officiaiting crew indeed did screw up at game's end.
Here's what Thorn said in the statement: "“Through postgame video review, we have determined that Minnesota’s Kevin Love was fouled on the right arm by Dallas’ Shawn Marion while attempting a two-point field goal. Love should have been awarded two free throws with one second left on the clock.”
Of course, it doesn't do the Wolves any good now, other than for the NBA to say you were right and officials Ed Malloy and David Guthrie messed up big.
It also probably means no fines for Rick Adelman and Kevin Love, both of whom said as much after last night's game.
You might remember the NBA did the same in a game last March when the next day it said Kobe Bryant fouled Ricky Rubio on a crucial call near the end of the game.
Here's the play if you missed it.
And if you missed it from last night, here's Kevin Love's reaction after the game to the call, or no call.
Ricky Rubio arrived on the team's first bus at Staples Center tonight, shot around some before the game and sat at his locker in his warmups with two pieces of dry toast in his locker 45 minutes before opening tip.
I read all those as signs he'll try to play tonight against the Lakers.
Rubio missed shootaround because he was feeling ill, apparently from something he ate.
Hence the dry toast while teammates were ordering fried food and sweet and sour sauce from the locker-room attendants before the game.
Remember: He had his second career triple-double the first time these two teams played, here at Staples in early November.
Ricky Rubio did not participate in this morning's shootaround in El Segundo because he is feeling ill and is being called a game-time decision for tonight's game against the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant, of course, won't play for the home team because of that fractured knee bone that will keep him out for the next six weeks.
If Rubio doesn't play, that leaves J.J. Barea as the starter and Alexey Shved and A.J. Price as backup options.
The Lakers are down three point guards -- Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar -- and LA coach Mike D'Antoni said before tonight's game that the Wolves should give his team a fighting chance.
When asked if his team catches a break if Rubio doesn't play, he said, "I don't know, (J.J.) Barea's pretty good, too. Maybe both of them. We have three out. At least they can have two."
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