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 Wolves announced Saturday that guard Brady Heslip had been waived.
Heslip, 24, appeared in four preseason games, scoring five points with two steals. The former Baylor player had also played for the Wolves in the summer league.
The Wolves' roster now stands at 16, which means one more move has to be made by the Monday deadline o reach the limit of 15 players,
Greetings from Target Center for a final time tonight. The Wolves just pasted the injury-riddle Pacers 107-89. Here are some post-game notes for you:
--Coach Flip Saunders said rookie Andrew Wiggins experienced some soreness and swelling in his backside as a result of a fall he took in Sunday’s game. He did not play tonight and likely won’t tomorrow in Milwaukee. The Wolves do not think the injury is serious.
--Don’t look now, but Anthony Bennett is playing with a lot of confidence. Could he, might he, become the steal of the big trade this summer? Bennett scored 17 points in 17 minutes with five rebounds and a steal.
--Ricky Rubio was 1-for-5 shooting at halftime. But, continuing to be aggressive – he got to the free throw line eight times in 22 minutes – and he finished with 16 points on 4-for-8 shooting.
--It’s been so long I’d forgotten what a healthy Chase Budinger looked like. Tonight he was moving off the dribble, getting to places on the court where he likes to shoot. And he had legs beneath his three-point shot (2-for-2).
--I think Mo Williams is a big upgrade at backup guard. He played really well tonight. He scored 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting with a game-high nine assists. But he did have six turnovers.
--You should have seen the Wolves bench explode in celebration when Brady Heslip scored a late basket.
That’s about it for now. Have a good night. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of Wolves coach Flip Saunders’s pre-game meeting with the media was his contention that he doesn’t need to work too hard on rotations in the final three preseason games.
Saunders’ stated plan when the seven-game preseason began was to use the first few games for individual evaluation, then spend the final games ironing out his rotations. But, as the preseason has gone on, Saunders has decided that keeping players healthy is the most important thing. That’s why you might not see all the veterans play tonight vs. Indiana at Target Center or Wednesday in Milwaukee.
“My need is to get out [of the preseason] unscathed if we can,” Saunders said. “We’ll have lineups in there, but we’re not going to see an extended lineup. I don’t think we need to do that.”
Well, Saunders said much of the chemistry that is necessary on the court is being built in practices.
But there is another thing. “We’re trying to get our guys to play more conceptually than worry about who they’re playing with.’’
Here are some other pre-game nuggets:
--After missing the last three preseason games with a sore heel, Shabazz Muhammad will play tonight. I talked to him after morning shoot, and he is very, very eager to get out there and play. Muhammad stayed in shape while he was rehabbing the heel, dropping a few more pounds to get to 215. Now he has to go out and make up for lost time while he tries to earn himself minutes when the regular season starts. It won’t be easy.
“You can’t make the team in a hot tub,” Saunders said. “It’s tough to get playing time from there. You have to go out and play. He’s been diligent. He’s worked hard, studied film. We’ll see in the next few days if he’s able to translate that and do it on the court.’’
--Zach LaVine returns to regular minutes after sitting almost all of Sunday’s game against Oklahoma City on the bench. This was by design. After a difficult game against Milwaukee two days prior, Saunders had LaVine sit on the bench next to assistant coaches Sidney Lowe and Ryan Saunders. They talked through what they were seeing, hoping to give LaVine a new perspective on the game.
“We wanted him to get a feel for how we look at the game as it is going on,” Flip Sanders said. “What we’re trying to do, how we’re trying to play. … I thought, by the end of the fourth quarter, he was understanding more of what we’re trying to accomplish.’’
That’s about all for now. I’ll get back to you after the game.
No surprise here, but the Timberwolves today announced they have waived training-camp invitee center Kyrylo Fesenko to get their roster down to 17 players.
Former Baylor guard Brady Heslip remains, for now.
Barring something really unforeseen, he'll, too, be waived, even though Flip Saunders said after Sunday's victory over Oklahoma City in Tulsa that he believes Heslip will play in the NBA because he shoots the ball so well.
The real question is what the Wolves do over the weekend or early next week to get from 16 players down to the maximum 15?
Do they do the most cost-efficient thing and pay off Glenn Robinson III's very small guarantee?
Do they trade or buyout J.J. Barea, the team's third point guard despite what Saunders has called impressive play throughout the preseason.
Do they pay off Robbie Hummel's fully guaranteed but minimum contract instead?
Or do they find a team willing to take Chase Budinger's fully guaranteed contract for the next three years.
I still think the Budinger move is most likely just because of the four options, he's the most expendable if the Wolves can find a willing team.
The Wolves probably keep Robinson because of his potential and cost efficiency.
They probably keep Hummel just because, as was shown Sunday in Tulsa, they'll need him as a third power forward if Thad Young or Anthony Bennett gets hurt. When Bennett's knee proved too sore, Hummel played 19 minutes Sunday and played well.
And Barea might have been the best point guard in training camp and gives the Wolves insurance if something happens to Ricky Rubio and Mo Williams. If one gets injured, do the Wolves at this point want to rely on Zach LaVine as their backup point guard. By keeping Barea, it also keep open the option that another NBA team will lose a point guard to injury, possibly increasing Barea's trade value.
Budinger is experienced and the Wolves sure could use his three-point shooting, but the Wolves already have Andrew Wiggins, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad, Robinson, Hummel and Young who all can play there as well.
That decision could come soon after the Wolves play their final preseason game Friday at St. Louis against Chicago.
The Wolves finished up practice just after noon on Thursday then headed off to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for tomorrow’s game against the Bucks.
Kevin Martin, who has battled a groin injury, practiced for a second straight day but will not play Friday, according to coach Flip Saunders. Meanwhile, Shabazz Muhammad’s sore heel is better – he is finally rid of the immobilization boot he’s been wearing -- but he won’t play Friday either.
There is a chance both could play Sunday.
“Kevin won’t go,” Saunders said. “He had a good day [Wednesday] and went today. But I want him to get a good practice in Saturday and maybe go Sunday. With Bazz, it’s probably the same thing.’’
Also, center Kyrylo Fesenko, who is sick, missed practice Thursday and did not travel with the team.
Here are some other post-practice nuggets:
--Saunders is still going to try to play a lot of young guys while taking it easy on the veterans, though he didn’t say who might not go Friday. While Saunders said he’s surprised at how much the young players have been able to absorb in two-plus weeks of camp, he’s still looking for much of what is being taught to transfer into games.
--With five preseason games between Friday and Oct. 24, Saunders does not want a tired team entering the regular season. Especially with a lot of travel early in November.
--One area where Saunders wants to see improvement, starting with Friday, is in how the team plays its zone defense, something Saunders plans on using quite a bit.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team in Cedar Rapids tomorrow.
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