Craig Smith's sprained ankle on Wednesday night created what Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman called "opportunity" for confused veteran forward Antoine Walker, who has been a playing-time casualty of the team's numbers game.
Smith was deactivated for Wednesday's game against the Kings at Target Center because of the ankle injury he suffered Saturday night at Sacramento. Walker responded with 19 points in nearly 30 minutes off the bench as the Wolves won 108-103.
"That's what their jobs are: to plant a seed in my head," Wittman said afterward. "Now he's given me a reason to play him."
On Monday, Walker said he wished someone in the organization would clarify his role -- "I don't know what I'm doing here," he said -- after he did not play in Saturday's loss. Walker said that's the first time in his career that he was active for a game, but didn't get to play.
Before Wednesday's game, Wittman said: "I'm not going to play 12 guys. I can't do it. Nine, 10 guys are going to play. If you're not one of those 10, then you've got to be ready when you're called."
Walker entered Wednesday's game with three minutes remaining in the first quarter and scored eight first-half points -- a steal and runaway slam and two three-pointers. His points and minutes were season highs; he entered with only 14 points in the Wolves' first five games.
Wolves guard Greg Buckner wore a towel over his head and did not look well at the team's morning shootaround, suffering from what he called the early stages of pneumonia. But he was the first player to come off the Wolves bench and enter the game.
"We caught it early, so that's good," said Buckner, an integral part of Wittman's rotation as both a starter and reserve in the season's first five games. He fell ill on Sunday.
A record to forget
Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green -- four of the five players acquired from Boston for Kevin Garnett last summer -- all were part of the Celtics' franchise-record 18-game losing streak last season, a memory that remains painful a year later.
"What we went through that year, we don't want to go through this year," said Gomes, whose current team ended its season-opening five-game losing streak Wednesday. "Never again."
The Celtics didn't win a game from Jan. 5 to Feb. 14 last season.
"This is different," Telfair said. "We're in our games. We're giving ourselves a chance to win, and it's going to come."
Wittman said team officials will meet this weekend to discuss possibly sending rookie Chris Richard, who has played seven minutes in three of the team's first five games, to the NBA's developmental league so he can play more.
"We'll talk about what might be best to help us here and to help him develop," Wittman said.
Wittman also said the D-League might be an option for Randy Foye to play his first games back, depending on how long his kneecap injury keeps him out. "It might not make bad sense to let him play a few games to get his legs back under him," he said.
On the ballot
Jefferson, Walker and Foye are among the 120 players listed on this year's All-Star Game ballot. Walker has played in three All-Star Games (1998, 2002, 2003). This season's game is scheduled for Feb. 17 in New Orleans.
|Los Angeles - LP: H. Ryu||4||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda||6|
|Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman||13||FINAL|
|Detroit - LP: R. Porcello||3|
|Miami - LP: J. Fernandez||1||FINAL|
|Arizona - WP: D. Hernandez||3|
|San Diego - LP: L. Gregerson||2||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner||4|
|Los Angeles||3||Bottom 3rd Inning|
|Washington||0||Bottom 4th Inning|
|Kansas City||1||Top 4th Inning|
|Colorado||1||Top 4th Inning|
|NY Mets||0||Top 4th Inning|
|Pittsburgh||1||Top 4th Inning|
|Tampa Bay||2||Bottom 3rd Inning|
|Oakland - T. Milone||7:05 PM|
|Texas - J. Grimm|
|Chicago WSox - C. Sale||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - K. Correia|
|Milwaukee - K. Lohse||7:10 PM|
|Houston - E. Bedard|
|Chicago Cubs - E. Jackson||7:15 PM|
|St. Louis - J. Westbrook|
|Seattle - J. Saunders||9:05 PM|
|LA Angels - C. Wilson|
|Chivas USA||9:00 PM|
|Montreal||6/20/13 6:00 PM|
|Winnipeg||6/20/13 6:00 PM|
|Calgary||6/20/13 9:00 PM|
|Edmonton||6/21/13 9:00 PM|
|Montreal||6/27/13 8:00 PM|