Antoine Walker is confused.
That's his word. Note that he didn't use words like angry or frustrated or upset. He is none of those. But Walker, obtained by the Timberwolves in a trade with Miami just before the season started, is confused.
"I don't know what I'm doing, I have no idea what my role is," Walker said after Monday's practice. "I wish somebody would come tell me. It's kind of hard to put it into words. I don't know what I'm doing here."
Walker is a seasoned veteran on a team dedicated to developing its younger players -- a difficult place to be. And, as Wolves coach Randy Wittman has juggled his roster trying to find the right combination of players in his rotation, Walker's minutes have fluctuated wildly, from 22 minutes against Orlando last week to zero at Sacramento on Saturday night. Walker said he was the first time in his career that he was active for a game but didn't get to play.
"I didn't come here for that," he said. "Hopefully, they didn't trade for me to do that. I want to play basketball. I want to be a part of this. I know I can contribute in a lot of different ways. I just have to sit and stay positive, keep working, try to keep my game sharp."
But as Wittman explained, carving out minutes for Walker has been difficult so far.
"You play him and Craig [Smith], who I think has been playing better and better, loses minutes," Wittman said. "If you try to play [Smith and Walker] together, we're small ... [and] we're not a very good rebounding team. If you play him at [small forward], you'll take minutes away from Corey [Brewer]. So it's tough right now."
It appears there should be more minutes available for Walker on Wednesday against Sacramento. That is, unless Smith makes rapid progress from the left ankle sprain he suffered against the Kings on Saturday.
Smith did not take part in practice and was limping. The ankle is the same one he injured during training camp.
Meanwhile, veteran guard Greg Buckner stayed home sick Monday. More will be known about his condition today.
Guard Randy Foye, who was diagnosed with a stress reaction almost two weeks ago, started running in a pool while the team was playing back-to-back games in California over the weekend.
He will continue to test the knee more and more over the next week, at which point he'll have it re-tested.
After watching an hour's worth of tape of their California trip, the Wolves held a lengthy practice Monday, with Wittman focusing on the mistakes that have plagued them late in games so far this season.
"We're doing a lot of good things," Wittman said. "When we traded the last trade, moving Ricky [Davis] and Mark [Blount], we knew there was the possibility, with the experience those two had, that we might get off to a shaky beginning. Forget the rookies, even the veterans, some of them haven't been in [that situation]."
What bothered Wittman in particular was a Sacramento possession late in Saturday's game. The Kings missed six shots but got the rebound each time, eventually scoring and pushing their lead to three.
"That was 60 seconds of one possession," Wittman said. "I don't know if you'll ever see it again. You watch. We have 70-some games left. I don't think you'll see one minute at the same end of the floor again. Now, if you do, remind me."