The Timberwolves came back from Europe tighter as a team and closer to what coach Randy Wittman wants on defense, but with a lot of work to be done on offense.
Unfortunately, with two of the three available point guards injured, much of that work will get harder.
Neither Randy Foye nor Sebastian Telfair was able to practice Saturday. Foye has tendinitis in his left knee, a lingering but not serious problem that will require some rest; he was limited to short duty in the Wolves' loss to the Celtics in London. Telfair sprained his left ankle while warming up for practice Saturday and was on crutches by the time it ended. Wittman had wanted to start settling on personnel groups and settling into to the revamped offense in the coming days. Now it appears that the Wolves -- who will play four preseason road games in six days starting Monday in Memphis -- will have to get to that point without one or both of those point guards.
"It's hard to get a whole lot done when you have one point guard [Marko Jaric] for two groups," Wittman said after practice. "So we had to run some other guys that aren't going to play the point. So we didn't do as much as I would have anticipated we would have done if we'd had those two."
The injuries come at a crucial time. Wittman has a bunch of new faces and a new offense to teach them all. He came away from the loss to the Celtics convinced that his team had to do a better job getting the ball into the post. Indeed, that has become a mantra for Wittman, who doesn't want the team to be the perimeter, jump-shooting squad it has been in recent seasons.
Wittman has a lot of options when it comes to folks receiving the ball inside, starting with Al Jefferson. But getting the ball there? Difficult with Foye and Telfair watching from the sidelines.
"Well, the thing is to be healthy on Nov. 2," Wittman said, referring to the regular-season opener. "We were able to get some things done [Saturday], and we'll continue to work. I'm not going to rush people out there who are hurt. We'll play point guard by committee." When asked who might make up that ad hoc group, Wittman jokingly started with Jefferson. But seriously, after Jaric, guys like Ricky Davis, Corey Brewer and Gerald Green will do a lot more ball-handling.
With new people and a new scheme, Wittman said that the players are still thinking too much rather than reacting. What's needed are more practices and more reps.
"It will take time," Brewer said. "It's hard now, with both [Foye and Telfair] down. But I'd rather have injuries earlier than later. Nobody really knows the offense [yet], and we have a bunch of new guys."
Meanwhile, Wittman will look at different combinations of players in the coming games; the Wolves could make some roster decisions after returning from back-to-back games in Memphis and Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday.
The good news? The two-week European trip may have helped the players get to know one another.
"I learned we can be a great team," Jefferson said. "I see that -- if we do what the coaches tell us."
« It's hard to get a whole lot done when you have one point guard for two groups. So we had to run some other guys that aren't going to play the point. »
Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman, on his injury situation at point guard