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.
A little of this and that from Wednesday's 106-94 victory over Portland at Target Center.
* Don't look now but if the season ended tonight, the Wolves would be in the playoffs.
The Wolves now have won three straight, five straight at home and eight of their last 11 and at 21-19, they are eighth in the West.
They're tied with Houston there, but the Wolves already have won the season series 3-1 from the Rockets, so if they do end up tied for eighth six weeks from now, the Wolves would win the first tiebreaker for head-to-head record.
* Here's the game story from Wednesday night.
* Wes Johnson's 19 points on 8 for 11 shooting were a season high.He now has made nine of his last 14 threes after going 3 for 4 Wednesday while also scoring on a couple very nice putback dunks.
This was just his sixth double-digit scoring game this season and only his second since Feb. 3 at New Jersey.
And get this: The Wolves now are 8-2 when he scores nine or more points.
Some stuff from Wes after the game...
"I wasn't down, I wasn't losing confidence in my shot, it just wasn't going in. I just tried to stay with it. Tonight, it was going in. I felt it as soon as the first shot, especially in warmups. I had a bounce in my step. I told Luke because he was running around the locker room, `How you feel? and he said, `I feel good,' and I told him, `I do, too.'
"I was just out there playing. My mind was clear of everything, I wasn't thinking about much of anything, just out there playing basketball, that's what I was doing.
"You think about shots not going. You try not to think about it, but when it's out there playing, it kind of messes with me. But now I just have to realize `Don't worry about it,' eventually it's going to go in. After that, the shot was going in. I knew from the first one. You just have to see one."
Adelman on Wes: "He was huge. He made big shots, got the offensive boards(3), defended well. Just had a solid game. He has just got to keep taking his shots. If they are open, he needs to take them. He is capable of making them and it's just a matter of getting comfortable and having the confidence that when it comes to him, he just shoots it."
* Luke Ridnour had yet another productive night -- 22 points, 5 assists in nearly 37 minutes -- and made all the right plays when the Blazers knocked a 14-point deficit down to six midway through the fourth.
He scored seven straight for the Wolves and pushed the lead back to 11.
There's been a lot of chatter nationally about the Wolves acquiring Blazers guard Jamal Crawford before next week's trade deadline since I had a couple items on Saturday that Crawford sounds like he regrets not signing with the Wolves in December and the Wolves definitely still have interest in him.
I don't know if other scribes nationally are putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with Ridnour-for-Crawford talk, but I understand there's been a bit of it and I just don't see the Wolves trading Ridnour, not in that deal.
What would they do if Rubio went down?
Here's my colleague Pat Reusse's column on Ridnour from the game. You can find it here.
J.J. Barea is fragile -- as witnessed by yet another injury tonight -- and much more the world's smallest shooting guard than he is a point guard.
Malcolm Lee hasn't even played an NBA minute yet and Crawford can play some point, but you wouldn't want to have to rely on him much there.
* Barea sprained the same ankle he hurt earlier this season and he did it midway through the fourth quarter.
Afterward, he said he'd be back as soon as possible, but it was swollen and red and he said it hurt worse than the first time he did it.
So this could be another week or two thing.
If it is, expect the Wolves to call Lee back from Sioux Falls in the D League. You might even see him make his NBA debut sometime soon if Barea is out for any significant time.
* Michael Beasley played fewer than eight minutes and you really got to wonder if he's still around when the trading deadline passes next Thursday.
Adelman was asked about Beasley's future with the team after the game and here's what he said, "He's one of the team. There is no, I don't comment on the future. I used him tonight. He made shots tonight (2 for 3). I'm going to play the people who can win the game and Michael's certainly one of them."
* I've already touched on Wes, Ridnour, Beasley and haven't even mentioned Kevin Love.
He had 15 points in the first quarter, 20 by halftime, 24 by the end of the third and finished with 29 and 16 rebounds, which compared to his games Saturday at Portland and Monday against the Clippers seems like just a routine game.
He played 44:34 and Adelman was asked if he can keep playing Love that much.
"He is right now," Adelman said. "He's got tomorrow off."
If you're into those manufactured stats that the Elias Sports Bureau puts out...Love tonight became the first player in NBA history to record 25 points, 10 rebounds and three three-pointers in three consecutive games.
Of course, as my colleague Pat Reusse points out, that NBA history only dates to 1979, when the three-point line was introduced.
Love now has scored 110 points in his last three games. That's one point shy of the club record set by Kevin Garnett, who scored 111 in three straight games once.
He outdid Blazers All Star LaMarcus Aldridge for the second straight game. Aldridge scored 22 -- most of them on first-half jumpers -- but the Wolves held him to just five points after halftime, and only two in the fourth quarter.
* The Wolves' 13 threes are a season high. They went 13-for-23 and now have made 36 threes in their last three games.
* When should we start talking about Rick Adelman for Coach of the Year?
* Go figure this: The Wolves hadn't beaten the Blazers in nearly five years, and now have done it twice in five days. "That kind of crazy," Williams said.
* Another good start against the Blazers: They scored 40 in Saturday's win at Portland and had 37 in the first Wednesday.
* The Wolves last won five straight at home from Dec. 26, 2006 to Jan. 7, 2007, when they beat Chicago, Seattle, San Antonio, Philadelphia and Houston.
* The Wolves now are two games over. 500 for the first time this late in the season since they had a winning 44-38 season in 2004-05, the season after that run to the Western Conference finals.
* The Wolves now are a combined 9-2 this season against Portland, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. They were 2-57 against those four teams in the previous four seasons.
* They're now 16-10 against Western Conference teams. They were 15-89 against the West in the last two seasons.
That's it for tonight from Target Center.
The Wolves will practice lightly Thursday -- Kent will blog and write about that -- and then they've got a Lakers team that just lost at Detroit and Washington on consecutive nights coming in Friday night.
The Wolves already have ended long losing streaks against Portland, Dallas and Spurs this season. Can they do it again, this time against the Lakers?
I'll be back Friday for that game and we'll see.
And so, it's now back to work for Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams.
And on to L.A.
Kevin Love completed the Wolves' triple play at All Star weekend with a 17-point, 7-rebound performance that included back-to-back threes in Sunday night's All Star Game that the West won 152-149 in a tense finish after it had led by 20 early in the fourth quarter.
Here's Love talking about the evening and the tuxedo he rocked because, he said, it was Oscar night.
Love shipped his three-point contest trophy home to Target Center right after winning it Saturday night and then caught a small private jet he chartered for family and friends out for L.A. after the game.
Rubio and Williams are shlubbing it to the West Coast by commercial flights, just like a certain intrepid reporter you might know.
Their teammates are gathering back in Minneapolis this morning after a long weekend away and will fly to L.A. this afternoon in time for a 5 p.m. Pacific time as they prepare for a four-game Western trip.
That trip includes three games in three nights, starting Tuesday against the Clippers.
They play the Lakers Wednesday and at Phoenix on Thursday against a Suns team that will be playing its first game back after the break while the Wolves will be finishing their last of two back-to-back-to-back stretches in this demanding season.
All Star weekend's conclusion means we're now fast approaching the March 15 trade deadline.
We'll see if Michael Beasley is still with the team by then and if the Wolves can get themselves involved in brokering a big trade that will send Dwight Howard away from Orlando and possibly to L.A. in a deal that presumably would bring Pau Gasol to the Wolves and his pal Rubio.
A Beasley trade -- which could be part of a bigger deal -- is quite probable, given it's better to get something than nothing if they decide not to pursue re-signing him this summer.
Given his role lately, that pursuit seems unlikely.
A Gasol deal doesn't make sense to me, simply because you'd be investing so much -- assuming his huge $18 million plus salary and likely dealing away No. 2 pick Williams -- for a big man when they already have Love and Nikola Pekovic.
Wouldn't that investment be better placed in a wing player who can actually handle the ball, defend and shoot?
I'll check back with you when I get to L.A. after a 5 1/2 hour flight from Orlando.
Training camp's Day 6 has come and gone.
Here's what came and went:
* The Wolves finally introduced J.J. Barea Wednesday evening, a couple of days after it became clear he was Minnesota bound.
He spoke on a wide range of topics, from his disappointment that the Mavericks didn't offer him more than a one-year contract to his more than willingness to play off the ball with another point guard and lots of stuff in between.
I'm saving most of the personal stuff for another day's story here during the preseason and focused for Thursday's paper on why the Wolves targeted him and how they say they expect to find minutes for all three point guards now.
You can find that story here.
Here's one quote that didn't make the story about the Wolves' courtship of him, that 4-year, $19 million deal they offered and why he's here.
"Nobody came even close," Barea said. "Minnesota always wanted me the most, both money-wise and talking-wise. I thought we had a lot of talent here. We can do some good changes. The coaching staff, the sytem they play also came in (to play). I like the way he coached in Houston, the way he coached in Sacramento. I also think that made a big part of it fit."
* As I mentioned in the story, Luke Ridnour has declined interview requests the last two years.
Usually, he's pretty available, if not always the most candid interview.
I read his refusal as his unhappiness with the Wolves getting a third point guard. But as David Kahn says in the above story, Kahn said he told Ridnour the team intends to find enough minutes for everyone at both guard spots when Ridnour asked him if coaches planned to split point-guard time three ways.
* Adelman sure is a candid guy or maybe just a smart motivator..
Today's theme was well familiar to anyone who watched the Wolves last season: Adelman was more than a bit agitated at his team's careless handling of the ball and abundance of turnovers just in the first six days of camp and he said so in the aforementioned story and the notebook that accompanies it.
You can find the notebook here:
* When asked if Ridnour is here to stay even with Barea's presence, Kahn said, "Absolutely."
* Derrick Williams' NBA introduction is having its ups and down, enough so that Adelman said he's asking him now solely to focus on playing power forward.
So much for some fans' expectations I've picked up on Twitter and this here blog that he'd overtake Michael Beasley for the starting small forward job by as soon as opening night.
Remember Beasley was the second overall pick in a stronger 2008 draft and he's played three pro seasons already.
Williams is struggling with defending small forwards -- namely Beasley in practice -- out on the floor and for those who wondered at draft time how much he was a duplication of Beasley for now must ask themselves this.Is he rather a duplication of Love?
Of course, it's early and Williams is oh-so-young.
And the Wolves have plenty of other options at small forward for now: Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Wes Johnson, even Martell Webster if he gets healthy.
* Tweeps have asked me for updates on Darko and Pek.
To be honest, I haven't noticed them much in what little we get to see of scrimmages at the end of every practice.
And Adelman has been pretty blah when asked about both, other than to say Darko came to camp in pretty good shape and Pek is one strong sonofagun.
We should have a better idea of what Adelman's thinking about lineup in these next couple days.
Adelman said he's going to start cutting back on the length of his 3 to 4 hour one-a-day practice probably after Thursday practice and he says he wants to start settling on playing combinations for these two upcoming preseason games so guys have some time to get used to each other before that onrushing Dec. 26 season opener against New Orleans.
* Now that Jamal Crawford is headed elsewhere, I think this is pretty much your Wolves team come opening night, unless something comes out of nowhere.
Just like their fans, I suspect Adelman and Kahn both recognize the need to upgrade shooting guard but they couldn't get in position to upgrade their defense there (see Arron Afflalo) and concluded other options (see Crawford) weren't worth the price.
* The Wolves will hold a free public scrimmage over the lunch hour on Monday at Target Center.
The one-hour event starts at noon.
* This final item has nothing to do with anything else in this post but I overheard it Wednesday night on SportsCenter while they went on and on -- understandably -- about the big Chris Paul trade that sent the All-Star point guard from New Orleans to the Clippers.
In case you haven't noticed, Kurt Rambis is doing some work for ESPN now. The network had him break down the trade and this is the one line I heard pop out over all the others as I busy doing some other things with the TV on in the background:
"And we can't forget that first round pick from Minnesota that you know is going to be a lottery pick."
He's almost certainly right, but for some reason that line just popped out of all the other noise while I wasn't really concentrating on his studio bit.
That's it for Day 6.
More from Mankato on Thursday.
That crowded roster problem the Wolves had after they struck a deal with J.J. Barea isn't quite so crowded anymore.
The Wolves are back to the limit of 15 players now that they've traded Lazar Hayward to Oklahoma City for two second-round picks.
They also acquired guard Robert Vaden and immediately waived him.
Hayward, a 6-5 swingman from Marquette, was the last player taken (30th overall) in the 2010 draft's first round.
Then coach Kurt Rambis was impressed with his shooting during pre-draft workout, but he never really found his position last season and clearly was the odd-man out after the Wolves targeted Barea in free agency.
The Wolves will have to make another move if they sign another free agent such as Jamal Crawford (still a bit of a long shot) or sign a training-camp invitee such as Bonzi Wells or Devean George.
Thunder GM Sam Presti is known for a pretty keen eye for talent and in a released statement he said the team liked him in last year's draft.
He also said Hayward is a player his scouting staff "identified as a potential fit for the culture and identity that we are continuing to build in Oklahoma City. His toughness, length and shooting are attributes that will add depth to our roster while while his professionalism and competitiveness embody the intangibles that we value as an organization."
Earlier on Tuesday, as Kent posted a few hours ago, the Wolves waived free agents Dominique Johnson and Shaun Pruitt.
Stuff from training camp, Day 4:
* The Wolves haven't confirmed or officially announced J.J. Barea's signing yet, but...
Their website listed him on the roster for a good while on Monday night.
And Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, speaking to Dallas reporters, talked about Barea's future in Minnesota and wished his well.
See Carlisle's comments in a notebook I wrote for Tuesday's paper.
You can find it here.
* I still don't get the feeling that the Barea signing will lead immediately to other moves.
I could be wrong, but I don't think this means they're shipping out Luke Ridnour immediately. Nor do I think they're lining up to trade for Kevin Martin or sign Jamal Crawford, Rudy Fernandez or another shooting guard.
For one thing, they're pretty close up against the cap and this team at this stage probably isn't going to go noticeably over the cap unless they can use a $5 million mid-level exception for being over the cap to sign a guy like Crawford or swing a sign-and-trade that would send away Michael Beasley or Wes Johnson.
It's a condensed 66-game season and a guy like Rubio has never been through something like this before. There are going to be injuries and probably enough time for everybody if the Wolves keep all three point guards.
If they keep Ridnour for now, it puts them in a position to auction him to the highest bidding contender come March's trading deadline.
* Marc Gasol agreed to a 4-year, $57.7 million deal to stay in Memphis sort of sets the market for Kevin Love to receive a max contract, doesn't it?
Gasol took four years rather than the five he could have accepted, but that $14 million-plus average is the most the Grizzlies could have paid him. He'll get a starting salary of $12.9 million with a 7.5 percent raise each year.
The Wolves can offer a five-year extension and 7.5 percent raises if they make Love a "designated" player and offer him a max contract, which I believe will start higher than Gasol's, at more than $14 million (I think).
The Wolves have until Jan. 25 to sign Love, Beasley and Anthony Randolph to contract extension. If they don't by then, each player will become a restricted free agent next summer.
* Btw, second-round pick Malcolm Lee has agreed to a 3-year guaranteed contract, rare for an American second-round pick.
Don't know the exact money yet, but that guarantee basically gives him more of a guarantee than a guy who was taken late in the first round. (Rookie contracts run four years, but first-round picks can be cut after the second and third year).
They like the guy.
Good size (6-5) for a combo guy. He can play both, including defend both, and he shoots it pretty good, too.
Fans on Twitter and here on the blog are champing at the bit for the Wolves to trade Ridnour and acquire a legitimate shooting guard now that Barea is coming. But I get the feeling the Wolves are planning on relying on Lee more than anyone else expects they might.
He could play A LOT.
Barea's going to play some 2, too, so the Wolves have got Johnson, Lee, Barea and Wayne Ellington all can play there until the team discovers when -- or if -- Martell Webster comes back from a second back surgery.
* They've come through the first four days of camp healthy.
The ones missing are invitees Bonzi Wells and Will Conroy. Both are waiting for FIBA clearance after last playing internationally. Rick Adelman said he hopes both will be cleared to practice on Tuesday.
* The Wolves are going to Mankato Thursday and will return Friday. They'll practice once each day at Minnesota State-Mankato and have dinner at Glen Taylor's house on Thursday night. Adelman didn't want the disruption of going there for longer than that, but think the quick trip will be fine.
* Folks are Twitter are clamoring to know when Derrick Williams will replace Michael Beasley in the starting lineup at small forward and many are certain it will happen by opening night.
Don't hold your breath.
From what little we've been allowed to see of scrimmages so far, it looks to me like he's going to be best playing power forward for some time. Just doesn't look comfortable playing out on the floor at small forward.
Don't forget Beasley was the No. 2 overall pick in a much stronger draft in 2008 and he has played three NBA seasons already.
I'd like to see Williams play power forward, Love center and Beasley small forward for some extended time and see how it goes.
And we will probably see that.
* Adelman was asked after practice who has the most upside, Ricky Rubio or Williams.
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "I hope they both do, for my sake."
* And oh, here's the story I wrote for Tuesday's paper about how the days of young players earning playing time in the name of development are over and how Adelman is eager for Brad Miller's return from injury so his play can teach Love a thing or two.
You'll find the story here.
That's it for Monday, sports fans.
Blog at you Tuesday.
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