Three weeks after he resumed practicing with his teammates and a day after he finally passed strength and range-of-motion tests on his healing shoulder, Timberwolves veteran Mark Madsen played in a game for the first time since an August jet-ski accident.
"This is the culmination of a lot of hard work," Madsen said before Wednesday's game against Cleveland at Target Center. "I'm certainly prepared for it. I'm just really excited to get back out there. I hope I can add something. We haven't had as many as wins as we'd like, but I've seen all these guys who have given their blood, sweat and tears and my goal is to join that, to add my contribution hopefully in a small way."
Wolves coach Randy Wittman began the game uncertain if Madsen would play "a little or a lot." But Madsen was the first player off the bench less than eight minutes into the game. Wearing a wrap on his shoulder, he replaced Michael Doleac, a surprise starter at center for injured Theo Ratliff.
"Instant energy," Wittman said about what he was seeking from Madsen. "I know that's who Mark is."
Ratliff had an appointment with renown orthopedic surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday, but Wittman said he had no news on Ratliff's injured knee by game time.
Without a point
Sebastian Telfair's absence on Wednesday night to attend his grandmother's funeral left the Wolves with Marko Jaric as the team's only true point guard, a situation the Wolves faced in preseason play when both Telfair and Randy Foye were injured.
Wittman used veteran swingman Greg Buckner to back up Jaric, as he had done in the preseason, and also asked Rashad McCants and Antoine Walker, among others, to handle the ball as well.
"That's what we did all through preseason," Wittman said. "Different guys will bring it up. I'm not too concerned with that, to be honest with you. We'll be all right there. Cleveland, they're not the classic point-guard system, either, so it's a good time to have it happen, I guess."
The Cavaliers played without injured Larry Hughes (deep leg bruise), former Timberwolf Donyell Marshall (sprained right wrist) and Cedric Simmons (sprained ankle). They also are missing top reserve Anderson Varejao, who remains a contract holdout.
"To have a guy like that off the bench ... he's a 5B," Wittman said, referring to the number given to the center position. "A guy with that kind of size and quickness, he can be a starter."
Wittman on his memories from Cleveland, where he first became an NBA head coach from 1999 until he was fired in 2001: "Good memories. It was my first chance. It didn't work out, but that's our business. You try to get better and move on."