After six games and 14,000 miles flown from Istanbul to Atlanta and points between, the Timberwolves reach Target Center, a home court where 10 of them have never played wearing a Minnesota jersey, tonight for the first time.
"It doesn't feel like home," said Sebastian Telfair, one of five players acquired from Boston in July for Kevin Garnett, "because we haven't played here yet."
The 2007-08 Wolves took to the Target Center court for the first time Monday, when they scrimmaged for a Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce gathering that kicked off a marketing campaign built upon these five words:
See What They Can Do.
With six preseason games already gone, coach Randy Wittman still isn't quite sure what that is.
In tonight's game against Indiana, the Wolves again expect to be without point guards Telfair and Randy Foye, who both missed all four games in last week's trip to Memphis, Atlanta, Indiana and Milwaukee.
Telfair aggravated an ankle injury in a Monday morning practice just before the team left for Memphis last week. Also that day, Foye, according to Wittman, banged a knee he first injured when he hit the floor in Las Vegas summer league play and that now continues to pain him because of an inflamed tendon.
"Not what I was looking for," said Wittman, whose team's 2-4 preseason record includes a victory over a Turkish team.
Wittman hoped both players would be ready for the final two preseason games tonight and Friday at Target Center. On Monday, he faced the real possibility that neither would be back for meaningful game action before the Nov. 2 season opener against Denver.
"It's real important," he said. "Not only for me, but for each other."
Without them, Wittman tonight will fiddle with varying lineups without two players best at delivering the ball to teammates. Without them this week, Wittman said he might have to reconsider his plans for a week of uninterrupted preparation for the season opener and scrimmage more next week so players can finally familiarize themselves with a complete, healthy lineup, provided, of course, Foye and Telfair are back by then.
"It's hurting me emotionally, mentally, physically," Telfair said. "I put so much effort in during the summer to be ready and I had a good training camp and then I get injured. I tried today. I thought I was more ready than I am right now."
Foye said his work on Monday was the most he has done in two weeks and he remained hopeful he could try to play a "little bit" tonight.
"Ease my way back into it," said Foye, who has only played seven minutes against NBA opponents in the preseason because of that knee. "I don't want to get back out there and put so much pressure on it that it starts acting up again. I need to be ready when the season starts."
Telfair, Al Jefferson and the three other Celtics acquired in the Garnett trade have played on the Target Center floor before, but never coming out of the home team's dressing room.
"First time," Jefferson said. "I've been waiting on this all preseason. When I used to play here, it was always a tough crowd. Now I'm looking forward to the fans to show me love like they used to show love for their team when I played here with the Celtics."
The love might be limited on a Tuesday night in the preseason for a team missing the face of the franchise for the past 12 seasons. Telfair said he knows his new team and his new teammates might have to win back fans now that Garnett is gone.
"We've got to prove to them that there's still hope," he said.