The Wolves completed their $10 million buyout of Juwan Howard, getting their roster down to the 15-man limit Monday. But only 14 of the players practiced.
Once again tendinitis in Randy Foye's balky left knee kept him out of practice, and now his status for Friday's season opener is in doubt.
"We are concerned, very concerned, I'm not going to lie to you," Wolves coach Randy Wittman said after an intense practice that lasted nearly three hours. "Him coming in today and not being able to do anything? That was a little bit of a shock. I have the concern of, how ready will he be?"
This has been an issue since Foye originally hurt his knee falling to the floor during summer league in Las Vegas. Foye played extensively in the Wolves' first preseason game, then only seven minutes against Boston. He returned to practice days before the preseason finale, then played 16 minutes in that game, a victory over Milwaukee. Foye took part in Sunday's scrimmage at Target Center but fell awkwardly on the knee.
Foye had more tests done on the knee Monday, and the results should be available today.
"I like the blend we have of young guys and old guys," said Wolves VP of basketball operations Kevin McHale on his roster. "The only negative thing now is Foye's knee. We have to get him back in there."
If Foye is not ready by Friday, Wittman would have to do what he did during much of the preseason: go with a point guard-by-committee. The good news is that committee includes Sebastian Telfair, now healthy after missing much of camp (sore ankle). Telfair, Greg Buckner and Marko Jaric would have to pick up all the minutes at point guard.
Meanwhile, the Wolves finalized their buyout with Howard, released newly acquired Wayne Simien and picked up a little cash in a bookkeeping move that helped San Antonio get under the salary cap. The Wolves traded a conditional second-round pick to the Spurs for money and guard Beno Udrih. The Wolves waived Udrih, and the pick will be lost only if the Wolves finish with one of the four top records in the NBA this season.
McHale said he fielded some trade offers for Howard but rejected them. Some of the offers came from non-contenders looking for a veteran leader. Others came with undesirable contracts attached, including some that ran longer than Howard's, which ran out after next season.
Instead, the Wolves owed Howard $14,259,300 over the next two seasons, but negotiated the $10 million buyout, which will be paid over four years, according to Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.
Taylor said the play of veteran center Theo Ratliff and last week's acquisition of Michael Doleac from Miami made him more amenable to buying out Howard's contract.
It's clear McHale has been building his team both for this season and for the future. Especially for the 2009-10 season when the Wolves, without the likes of Howard and Antoine Walker weighing down their salary cap, should have ample money to spend.
But this season? McHale said he expected his team to be competitive out of the gate.
"I like our athleticism and I like a lot of the stuff we can do," he said. "The players seem to get along well and work well together. ... I think over the last few years we didn't have much of that. This seems like a very close group, but we'll see."
Mark Madsen (right shoulder) took part in his first full-contact practice of the season but still is probably two weeks away from a return to game action.