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Orono's Leuer, Rice Lake's Ellenson at Target Center to face Wolves tonight

Because they played last night in Toronto, the Wolves didn’t hold a morning shoot today. But tonight's opponent, Detroit, did. And the Pistons brought a couple of compelling locally-based stories with them to Target Center.

The first is forward Jon Leuer, the former Orono and University of Wisconsin star whose career has gone to another level since signing a four-year $42 million deal with Pistons during the off-season.

Getting consistent minutes from the start – something he didn’t always get while playing for four NBA teams in his first five seasons – he having a career year. He is averaging 26.6 minutes, 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists, all career highs.

“I knew it was going to be a good system for me, that there would be a god opportunity for me to play,” he said. “But nothing is guaranteed. You have to come in and prove yourself and earn minutes in any new situation. That’s what my mindset was, that’s what I came here to do.’’

The opportunity was definitely there. Pistons president of basketball operations and coach Stan Van Gundy had Leuer on his radar for a while. “He’s a guy that, since his rookie year, I’ve really liked,’’ Van Gundy said. “I just think he’s 6-10, 6-11, with very good athleticism. He can put the ball on the floor and play off the dribble. He’s expanded his range. And he can move his feet defensively.’’

Drafted by Milwaukee in the second round of the 2011 draft (40th overall), Leuer has played for the Bucks, Memphis, Cleveland and Phoenix. Given the circumstances, according to Van Gundy, it was sometimes difficult for him to get regular playing time. He was in Memphis when Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were younger. He played behind Markieff Morris and Tyson Chandler in Phoenix. “It was tough for him to get consistent minutes,” Van Gundy said. “We felt if he got minutes every night he could be really productive. And I still think there is a lot more there that hasn’t’ been tapped yet.’’

While they are different players, Leuer and the  Wolves’  Cole Aldrich have similar stories. Both played for a number of teams early in their career before signing a long-term deal. Both paid some Development League dues. Both appear to be in the right place now.

The two are friends. The two played against each other in high school when Leuer’s Orono team would play Aldrich, who was at  Bloomington Jefferson. They played together in AAU ball for the Minnesota Magic. The two work out together during the off-season. “We have a lot of respect for each other,’’ Leuer said.

Leuer will have a bunch of friends and family at the game. But probably not as many as will come from Rice Lake, Wisconsin to watch Henry Ellenson play.

Ellenson, in his rookie year out of Marquette – he was taken by the Pistons with the 18th pick in the draft – said this morning that between 150 and 200 folks would make the trip from Rice Lake to see the game. Plus, apparently, the entire Rice Lake High School band, which will play.

For Ellenson, his first season has been a learning experience. The 6-11 forward has appeared in just five games. He has already had one D-League stint, and could have more.

But Van Gundy said he expects big things from Ellenson down the road.  “He has to work at getting stronger,” Van Gundy said. “And at getting better at the defensive end of the floor. Those are the two things. And he has already been making improvements in both areas. We’ll try to get him some playing time down in the D League. We’re tremendously excited about his future. When he fills out and gets stronger, I think he’ll be a hell of a player in this league.’’

Wolves-Raptors tonight on TNT is one big reunion

PRE-GAME UPDATE, 5:15 p.m. Central time:

Updating the final item below...Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll will play tonight, Toronto coach Dwane Casey said before the game.

That's primarily because Casey will need him to defend the Wolves' wings, namely Andrew Wiggins.

Carroll has not been playing back-to-back games as a precaution while he recovers from a knee injury last season. The Raptors play tomorrow night at Boston.

BTW, I forgetfully left Casey out of the below main item about all the connections in tonight's game.

He, of course, coached the Wolves a decade ago.

The Wolves play their second TNT Thursday game in three weeks tonight in Toronto in a game that has all kinds of connections.

First, it's Andrew Wiggins' annual return home to Toronto, where he was met by another large media contingent at this morning's shootaround.

In games here his first two seasons, Wiggins has averaged 20.5 points on 53.6 percent shooting with 2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

That's not the only reunion of sorts tonight.


* Wolves assistant coach Andy Greer is back in Toronto, where he was an assistant coach last season while Tom Thibodeau was taking a year's sabbatical from coaching. Thibodeau's assistant in Chicago, Greer rejoined his former boss last summer after Thibodeau returned to coaching with the Wolves.

* Former Wolves coach Sam Mitchell will attend the game as a pre- and post-game analyst on Canadian network TSN's game coverage. Mitchell has returned to doing TV and radio work after he was the Wolves' interim coach a year ago.

* Original Wolves broadcast voice Kevin Harlan will call the game with Reggie Miller and Grant Hill for TNT's coverage tonight.

If you didn't see it, here's a story I did for this morning's paper and the web site revisiting with Harlan his nine years with the franchise from its inaugural 1989-90 season until he left in 1998 for network gigs.

* Wolves assistant Ed Pinckney was one of the original Raptors from their inaugural 1995-96 season and veteran guard John Lucas III and assistant coach Rick Brunson also once played in Toronto as well.

One other thing: Still waiting to hear on whether Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll plays tonight.

He has not been playing in back-to-back games while he recovers from last season's knee injury and it's likely the Raptors will hold him out for tomorrow's game against Boston.


TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    6 pm

  • Edmonton at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Detroit at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Georgia Southern at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    2 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    7 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Vikings at Jacksonville

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Gophers women's basketball at South Carolina

    2 pm on SECN, 88.5-FM

  • Northern Illinois at Gophers men's basketball

    4 pm on 1500-AM

  • St. Louis at Wild

    5 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • Golden State at Timberwolves

    6 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Florida at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Chicago

    7 pm on ESPN, 830-AM

  • Belmont at Gophers women's basketball

    12 pm on 88.5-FM

  • LIU Brooklyn at Gophers men's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Wild at Nashville

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

Today's Scoreboard

No MLB games today

No NFL games today

  • Orlando


    6:00 PM

  • Toronto


    6:30 PM

  • Miami


    6:30 PM

  • Atlanta


    7:00 PM

  • Detroit


    7:00 PM

  • Houston

    Oklahoma City

    7:00 PM


  • Indiana


    7:30 PM

  • New York


    9:30 PM

  • Phoenix

    LA Lakers

    9:30 PM


  • Washington


    6:00 PM

  • Columbus


    6:30 PM

  • St. Louis

    New Jersey

    6:30 PM

  • Edmonton


    7:00 PM


  • NY Rangers


    7:30 PM

  • San Jose


    9:00 PM

No MLS games today